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Introversion is not a disorder and femininity does not equal weak

I have continued to receive messages from women who could relate to The double glazed glass ceiling and Are you ‘covering’ your quieter self?  All five of the Quietly Powerful Women’s Breakfasts are now booked out and more women are interested. So what’s going on?

 

There’s frustration stirring in these women, about being misunderstood, being under-valued or having to adapt to fit into a masculine, extroverted workplace.

 

Unfortunately, the extroverted, masculine dominant environments repeat messages as if introversion is a disorder to be corrected and femininity is weak and needs fixing or protecting.

 

How often have you heard the following?

“She’s a bit quiet. She needs to speak up more.”

“She is a reflective type. She needs to take more action.”

“She likes to think over things before making decisions. She needs to get better at being decisive.”

“She is overly accommodating. She could be more assertive.”

“She’s not very social and shy. She needs to build her inter-personal skills.”

 

The big problem is that with all the reinforcing messages out there, the quieter women internalise the messages – often without realising – and somehow feel inferior. As quieter professional women, this internalisation is dangerous and damaging. We end up either hiding these qualities that are deemed as inferior to get ahead (see Are you ‘covering’ your quieter self?) or hide behind roles that keep us invisible, believing that we are not good enough.

 

What if these women were complimented for their qualities?

“She allows others to speak and is a great listener.”

“She thinks through things and doesn’t take unnecessary or impulsive actions.”

“She makes considered decisions.”

“She is collaborative. She finds solutions that works for everyone.”

“She is independent and connects deeply with selected people.”

 

This does not mean that quieter women should stay as they are and not develop and evolve. The problem is when they internalise these messages of ‘less than’ and/or work on themselves so much that they marginalise the precious qualities that make them uniquely who they are. Matthew Kuofie, Dana Stephens-Craig and Richard Dool write in their paper, An Overview Perception of Introverted Leaders, “Just like any stereotype that has held humans back from their full potential (ie. racism, sexism, ageism, homosexuality, religious beliefs, etc.) the ‘label’ of introversion in business carries that same type of oppressive nature.”

 

Some of these qualities are exactly what we need more of in the world right now. Why not encourage people to leverage their introversion and femininity more powerfully in the workplace?

 

I will be organising more Quietly Powerful Women’s Breakfasts, so please join us to explore being quietly powerful. Please add your name on the waitlist HERE to join us or share with others who you think would benefit.

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