Being More Assertive: Finding the Sweet Spot

To be successful you must be assertive and confident. Women, however, tend to shy away from being more assertive for fear of being labeled as aggressive.

Assertive women support other women and men

Assertive women follow the 7 Red Shoe Movement Principles

This is similar to the behavior women exhibit when negotiating for themselves. A topic I discussed in the post: 3 Key Negotiating Strategies for Women.

As a result of avoiding being more assertive, women pay a harsh price— they receive negative evaluations, negative attributions and they miss major career opportunities. Watch this video clip “A Man’s a Boss, a Women’s Bossy” for a series of examples of how similar behaviors are perceived as negative in women and celebrated in men.

To avoid being penalized for behaving in ways that are contrary to feminine stereotypes, women hedge their assertiveness and use fewer competitive tactics. Inevitably, these adjustments have a backlash effect that hinders women’s effectiveness in their careers.

What is Assertiveness?

Assertiveness is a communication style in which people put forward their own needs, ideas, and feelings, while respecting the right of others to do the same. Different levels of assertiveness can be applied depending on the situation.

The challenge is that being more assertive goes against the training most women have received from birth – to defer to men and to stay in the background. This passive stand renders women ineffective and denies them of the opportunity to reach their unlimited potential. And even though as women grow these passive behaviors may change, in a professional setting women still tend to defer to men.

Assertive women quote by Lily Benjamin - Assertive women have found the sweet spot in the communication spectrum

Being more assertive offers enormous career advantages for women.

This accommodating behavior is very subtle and mainly communicated via non-verbal messages, which constitutes 93% of any communication (55% body language and 38% tone.) Several specific examples of body-language messages where women miss the chance to be more assertive are: Smiling too much, nodding in agreement even when they are not, little cooing, supportive noises (“mm hmmm, mm hmmm,”) and presenting a tilted head to signal listening, a pose that is recognizable in puppies.

A common example of how tone sends a message that lacks assertiveness is the odd upward lilt that transforms every statement into an insecure-sounding question.

And to briefly touch on the verbal aspect of communication (which only represents 7% of any communication,) a typical example is the use of ego-soothing expressions such as: “Just following up, or piggy backing, on what YOU said….” and so on.

All of these subtle cues, particularly those involved in non-verbal communication, sway women’s communication style to the passive side of the spectrum. As a result of being passive, women get themselves in a position of violating their own rights.

What is the Difference Between Being More Assertive and Being Aggressive?

Assertive quote by Sharon Anthony Bower

It’s critical to avoid confusing being more assertive with being aggressive.

On the other side of the spectrum lays aggressiveness, which is what happens when people (and in the case of this post, women) veer 180 degrees away from a passive style and they come across as forthright and blunt. Aggressive women try to get the upper hand in the conversation and attempt to punish others usually using a lot of “you…” messages and blame. They are often trying to cover their own feelings of inadequacy, frustration, and powerlessness. These women aim to win even if this means disregarding others’ rights, needs, or feelings. As a result of being aggressive, women get themselves in a position of violating the rights of others.

Take the RSM Communication Style Quiz and see where you are in the spectrum.

Key Distinction Between an Aggressive vs. Assertive Woman

There is a misconception that for women to effectively climb the corporate ladder they have to be like men. They need to dress, speak, gesture, use cursing words, have a masculine style of commanding others, etc. Those who give into that stereotype can be easily spotted when they overdo it and end up “eating their own” – being catty and stepping over other women. These individuals can be their worst enemies, sabotaging and undermining their own authority and effectiveness due to their inability of being assertive.

A good way to distinguish aggressive vs assertive women is that assertive women do not “eat their own;” they are actually very supportive of other women, as well as very supportive of men.

Check out the 7 Principles of the Red Shoe Movement

Assertive women don’t blame others, they own their viewpoints by using “I” statements (“I like,” “I want,” “I don’t want,”) they use cooperative phrases (“What are your thoughts on this?”) they make distinctions between facts and opinions (“My experience is different,” “In my opinion…”) rather than using “should” they make suggestions (“How about”, “Would you like to…”), and they seek others’ ideas (“How does this fit with your ideas?”) Assertive women have found the sweet spot in the communication spectrum.

The Sweet Spot: Being More Assertive and Improving Your Effectiveness

Assertive women are keenly aware of the gender-based effect whereas women are often misunderstood and penalized for behaviors accepted in men. They understand the importance of reading their audience, environment, and circumstances. They are like chameleons able to assess the social situation and adapt accordingly, oscillating within the communication spectrum to be more or less assertive. Notice that I didn’t say, “becoming more or less passive, or even more or less aggressive.” Those are never good options. Effectiveness resides on balancing the degree of assertiveness based on the circumstances.

Assertive definition Merriam Webster dictionary - Confident in behavior and style

Find the sweet spot in the communication spectrum to find your assertive style

Strategies to Find the Sweet Spot

Being assertive is not necessarily easy, but it is a skill that can be learned.

Don’t miss this Harvard Business Review article, How to Be Assertive (without loosing yourself).

Developing your assertiveness style starts with a good understanding of who you are and a belief in the value you bring.

1First, “know thyself”

Awareness is 50% of the change. Clarity of your strengths and opportunities always raise your confidence level, giving you a specific direction on what to work on. Here is an assertiveness assessment you can try.

2Learn assertive communication skills

Communicating assertively will give you confidence, strengthen your relationships, and help you be more effective. When done well, you gain the support and respect of others. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ or ‘yes’, just do both taking others into account.

  • Reflect confidence: stand up straight, look people in the eye, and relax
  • Use a firm, but pleasant, tone
  • Check and validate your assumptions; avoid jumping to conclusions
  • Seek to understand other people’s point of views
  • Think in win-win terms and seek win-win situations

3Debunk myths about assertiveness

The Centre for Clinical Intervention trains on three myths that can be used as a tool to help you know the differences between assertiveness and aggressiveness.

Myths about Assertiveness
Myth Reasoning Fact
“Assertiveness is basically the same as being aggressive.” Some people who are aggressive think they are being assertive because they are stating what their needs are. Yes, both assertive and aggressive communication involves stating your needs. There are very important differences, however, in the words, the tone and in the body language used.
“If I am assertive I will get what I want.” Being assertive does not mean that you always get what you want. There is no guaranteed outcome. Being assertive is about expressing yourself in a way that shows respect for your needs and the needs of others. Sometimes this means you get what you want, sometimes you won’t get what you want, and sometimes you will come to a mutually satisfactory compromise.
“If I am assertive I have to be equally assertive in every situation” Understanding how to be assertive, gives you the choice to critically judge the circumstances and appropriately balance your degree of assertiveness. Sometimes, you may realize that you need to adjust the degree of assertiveness in order to be effective. Learning to be assertive is about providing yourself with a choice!


Everyone has the ability to learn how to be assertive, or effective when being more assertive than they currently are. The key is to self-monitor and adjust according to the situation, remaining fair and empathetic. Your power comes from your self-assurance and not from intimidation or bullying. When you treat others with such fairness and respect, you get that same treatment in return, you are appreciated, and sought out as a thought leader.

13 Ways in Which Men Are Sexist

I don’t believe that all men are sexist. But after you hear time and again certain kind of comments and experience certain behaviors you can’t help but wonder if the men behind these comments and behaviors are inveterate chauvinists or if they are completely unaware of their impact.

Men are sexist quote by Mariela Dabbah - Sometimes men are unaware of how their sexist comments or behaviors affect the women the love most: their wives and daughters

Men are sexist when they behave according to old social norms and subconscious mandates that call for unequal treatment of women

Its true that there are some men out there who mean every chauvinist word they say. But for the most part, I’d like to believe that often the reason men are sexist is that they are plainly unaware of how their words and actions affect not only women in general, but also the most important ones in their lives: Their daughters, wives, mothers and sisters.

As with women, men too are subject to social norms and predeterminations that encourage male chauvinism. They were educated to adopt certain values, behaviors, and emotions in order to be accepted in society and prosper. For generations and generations they have been raised to control power and dominate others and although a lot of that education continues unchanged in many areas of the world and of our own country, things are slowly changing. (Emphasis on “slowly.”)

And as things have gradually changed for women both in the home and work fronts, many men are having a hard time keeping up. Even when they have the best of intentions, many of them lack practice in the nuances of treating women as equals.

So just as I wrote about things women do to perpetuate male chauvinism, this one is for the guys. I’m here offering 13 ways in which men are sexist, ideal for you to pass on to your male colleagues.

13 Ways in which men are sexist that can be easily changed

1Getting upset when wives or girlfriends make more

money. When instead of feeling happy because she got a substantial raise, a woman is worried about her husband’s reaction, you know something is off. Women are graduating with advanced degrees at a faster pace than men and have increasingly more access to higher positions. Don’t be surprised if at some point your partner earns more than you. Support her. Be happy for her. It has nothing to do with your masculinity. And now you can let go of the age-old mandate that made men responsible for the financial stability at home. Read below.

2Assuming men are responsible for financial stability of home. A very old mandate dating back to the time when only men worked and women were housewives and probably much earlier, when men where food providers and women kept the children safe from predators. Men can now relax a bit and share in the responsibility.

3Assuming a woman with children can’t take a job because it requires travel. This is a clear case when men are sexist under the cover of being understanding of a woman’s life stage. Rather than assuming that because she has young kids she’ll say no to a job that requires travel, ask. Let her make that decision. You’d never make the same assumption about a guy, would you?

4Assigning women to support duties. Nothing wrong with assigning support duties if it’s what your team needs. Just make sure you rotate that assignment so it doesn’t only fall on the women.

Sexism cartoon women serving coffee at office meeting by Natchie-2

Men are sexist when they always assign support roles to women rather than rotating the responsibility

5Making comments on women’s appearance in professional setting. I’m not saying you can’t compliment a colleague once in a while. But when you only comment on women’s appearance and on men’s performance, you fall in the “men are sexist” trap.

6Dismissing a woman as potential candidate because she “lacks executive presence.” Yeah, meaning she actually doesn’t look like the men who currently have most of the executive jobs in your organization. Embrace women’s different leadership styles and appearance as a diversity advantage. Studies show that companies with larger number of women in corporate boards and in executive roles do much better than those with fewer women.

Sexism cartoon men playing golf while women work in office by Natchie

Don’t leave women out when planning outings with colleagues or business partners- Drawing for The Red Shoe Movement by Natchie –

7Assuming women will not want to participate in sports events. Don’t leave women out when you plan your golf outing or when you buy tickets for a football or baseball game. Always ask, never assume. And if most of the women in your organization are not fans of these type of outings, why not alternate the kind of activities you do for team-building and business development with things everyone can enjoy?

8Assuming women will be in charge of “taking care of others” at home and in the office. This goes from buying, preparing and serving food, organizing parties, events, etc. Men who are sexist stay away from this role and keep other men away as well. Don’t. Share in the responsibility.

9Complaining about women being “aggressive” when they behave assertively. Before you say anything negative about a woman, change the sex of the person you’re about to discuss and answer this question: “Would I make X comment if Mary were John?” If the answer is NO, keep your lips sealed.

10Offering less money to women because they often don’t negotiate. Research shows that one of the reasons why women don’t negotiate as often as men is not connected to lack of skill but rather to a concern for being stereotyped as pushy. Yes. When women negotiate for themselves they are penalized, yet when they do so for others, they are rewarded. So, men are sexist when they take advantage of this stereotype, which they helped establish, and offer women less money than they would a man for the same position.

Cartoon of sexism with men and women in a scale by Natchie -

If you want to avoid being labeled a sexist, value all candidates equally. Drawing for the Red Shoe Movement by Natchie –

11Hire and promote men on potential and women on experience. New research keeps confirming that male job applicants who are perceived to have high levels of leadership potential are rated as better prospects than women with proven leadership track records. And it’s often the case that men are promoted and hired on their potential while women have to show a vast track record to even aspire to the same opportunity. Watch out for this bias and bet on women’s potential as much as you do on men.

12Interrupting women way more often than men. It’s a known fact that women get interrupted more often than men. And for many of them, it’s hard to push back without being charged a penalty for being aggressive. Similar to what happens in negotiation situations, women try to avoid the stereotype and allow the interruptions to avoid the label. Let them finish. Hear them out. Validate their points as you do with your male colleagues and employees.

13Penalizing women who take advantage of flex work policies with less career opportunities. Your organization may have amazing policies in place but if women, who tend to adopt them more often are not offered the same career opportunities because they don’t put in the same amount of face time, they are just window dressing. As a matter of fact, the best thing you could do is make sure men and executives take advantage of these flex work policies to set an example.

3 Key Negotiation Strategies for Women

Can women ever know enough negotiation strategies and tactics to ensure they get what they bargain for?

In this article, I share three negotiation strategies that women can use to get what they bargain for.

The gender pay gap is real and pervasive, and it affects all women. On average, full-time workingwomen earn just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. Though Asian women are also impacted, for Latinas and most women of color is a lot worse.

Negotiation quote by Lily Benjamin - 'Generally speaking, while men negotiate salary, women compromise to avoid being stereotyped."

Being aware of your subconscious need to avoid being stereotyped, will help you improve your negotiation outcomes.

Latinas make 54% of what a white male makes. African-American women make 64%. This substantial gap persists even after education, industry, and work hours are taken into account.

Why women don’t negotiate salary offers?

Research shows that women are more reticent than men to negotiate salary offers. Women may fear being perceived as “pushy,” a social stereotype attributed to women who advocate for themselves in the workplace. This is interesting because studies show that the opposite occurs when women advocate for others; they are rewarded! Generally speaking, while men negotiate salary, women compromise to avoid being stereotyped.

Several studies reveal that the difference in men and women’s propensity to initiate negotiations may be explained by how each gender is treated when they attempt to negotiate. In other words, the propensity to negotiate salary is not necessarily linked to a lack of confidence or negotiation skills on the part of women, but to avoid being stereotyped as pushy.

Three key negotiation strategies that women can consider to successfully advocate for themselves

1Be aware of your personal negotiating style

Because I am a big advocate of self-awareness, I will first suggest that you become aware of your personal negotiation style. There are many negotiation style assessment tests, but a very common one looks at two dimensions: concern for the relationship or cooperativeness and concern for the outcome or assertiveness.

Negotiation diagram by Lily Benjamin

By identifying your negotiation style you’ll be able to devise negotiation strategies that suit you best

Look at the diagram and try to identify your negotiation style. Learn as much as possible about it, and learn different strategies on how to flex it depending on the situation. No one style is superior to another. What is important is that you know the style you are most confident with, and ideally that you have a sense of your counterpart’s style as well. Being able to identify a counterpart’s preferred style and to adapt your own style accordingly can be incredibly helpful in building productive relationships.

The Red Shoe Movement has an online Negotiation Style Quiz. Take it now!

2Know your BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement)

Knowing your own BATNA is basic to negotiating salary an anything else you wish to negotiate. But knowing your counterpart’s BATNA is also critical to the success of your negotiation. After you know both parties BATNAs the best way to aim for a Win-Win is to find the Zone of Possible Agreement (ZOPA.)

BATNA diagram

Finding the Zone of Possible Agreement (ZOPA) is your best negotiation strategy for a win-win outcome


Here’s a great Harvard Business Review article about BATNA

3“Think personally, act communally”

After you identified your negotiating style and both parties’ BATNAs what is left is the dialog where you negotiate. Let’s learn from Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and one of the highest paid executives in Silicon Valley, who once suggested that during negotiations you should “think personally, act communally.”

Sheryl Sandberg negotiation quote- Of course you realize that you're hiring me to run your deal teams, so you want me to be a good negotiator

When negotiating salary, make the value you will add to your organization known

This means that you should communicate your intent to negotiate and the value that this skill will add to the potential employer. For example, after stating her counteroffer, during her negotiations with Facebook Sandberg told them, “Of course you realize that you’re hiring me to run your deal teams, so you want me to be a good negotiator. This is the only time you and I will ever be on opposite sides of the table; I am clear that we are on the same team here.”  This was a persuasive “think personally, act communally” approach of her negotiation process.

Don't miss this earlier post on Salary Negotiation Strategies.

Another way of paraphrasing this dialog is, “This is a very appealing and competitive offer, and this part (be specific) of the compensation is short of my expectation by X amount. (Thinking personally.) Please understand that negotiating is one of the skills I will add to your team and one of the contributions I’ll make in the best interest of the company. (Acting communally.)”

Woman and Man shaking hands cartoon by Natchie

Aim for win-win situations. Drawing by Natchie for Red Shoe Movement. –

This “think personally, act communally” or “I-We” strategy will help you not only reach the ZOPA, but also show your confidence and leave a strong impression. Remember, preparation is the key to success. Prepare thoroughly, be clear about your choices, practice your pitch, and celebrate your success!

6 Steps to Get Over Your Fear of Public Speaking

For many people, fear of public speaking is a strong career limitation. And for women, it’s even worse. But if you want to grow professionally it’s well worth facing this fear.

I wasn’t born a public speaker. As a matter of fact, you can find out how I bombed one of my first public speaking appearances in my post How a Latina speaker is born. But I have to say that even though at the beginning of my career as a public speaker I was very nervous, I was never terrified.

Fear of Public Speaking Quote by Mariela Dabbah

When you focus on the present and you engage with your audience, there’s really nothing to fear

Now, there are many, many people whose fear of public speaking is such a phobia that they pass up promotions because they entail speaking in public. And others who won’t even speak up in a meeting. They are afraid of sounding stupid, of not being able to answer questions, of making fools of themselves and ruining their reputation. They imagine that they’ll freeze. They will forget everything they know. They’ll stutter. They’ll have a dry mouth. People will notice they are nervous.

What is fear of public speaking, really?

The fear of public speaking or of speaking in general is called glossophobia. And according to David Carbonell, Ph.D., “fear of public speaking is one of the most common phobias, a sort of fear of performance, where the person is concerned about looking nervous and tries to either avoid the situation or struggle with the speech anxiety, making it more chronic and disruptive.”

Read about the science behind fear of public speaking here.

Unfortunately for women, the fear of public speaking colludes with old subconscious mandates  they grew up with, like being “the perfect little girl,” which results in many women avoiding certain situations altogether. These are situations where women perceive their performance might not be perfect. And so they tend to stay quiet during team meetings, and avoid raising their hand to ask questions, voice a difference of opinion, or pursue speaking engagements. All actions that would increase their visibility therefore raising their profile for career opportunities.

Trust me, running away from your fear of public speaking will only limit your professional choices. And waiting until you overcome your fear to accept a public speaking engagement doesn’t really work. No. The best way to overcome a phobia is to be exposed to what you fear most. So let’s face the fear with courage and specific steps.

Six fundamental steps to get over your fear of public speaking

1Admit it

Drawing of public speaker imagining the six steps

Follow these simple steps and you’ll soon overcome old fears of speaking in public- Drawing by Natchie for Red Shoe Movement.

Rather than spending energy and effort in hiding your fear of speaking in public, (which brings the additional anxiety of being found out!) you’d be better off admitting it, embracing it, learning all you can about it. And yes, looking for opportunities to practice it.

2Be present

We are only anxious about the future or about the past. Never about the present. So if you focus on this very moment when you are presenting or sharing your opinion in front of your colleagues rather than in what they will think about you or how fast you can finish your thoughts, you will be fine. To anchor yourself in the present, learn to breathe from your stomach, or what is called diaphragmatic breathing. Done well, deep breathing helps to calm you down.

3Turn your internal dialog into a conversation

When you are in your head, you feed your own fear of public speaking by imagining dozens of terrifying scenarios. What if my comments fall flat? What if I forget the main point I’m trying to make? What if my mouth is so dry I can’t speak? Etc. etc. The more you question your abilities and the more negative you get, the more you block your energy flow and what you put out there. So instead of having an internal monologue, talk to the people in the room. Share some of your anxiety and let their empathy make you feel more comfortable with the situation. When you don’t have to pretend, you can focus on what you really want to say. It’s amazing what happens when you’re honest. People naturally want to help you. Let them.


A common behavior of those who fear public speaking is to rush through their presentation just to get it over with. They either cut their speech short or they go a mile a minute. But as you talk faster and faster not only do you start breathing shallowly, which generates more anxiety, but you also lose clarity. (If you have an accent, like I do, this is the kiss of death!) Your audience becomes disengaged and the more disengaged they become, the more anxious you get. Do you see how this quickly turns into a negative vicious circle? Rather than speeding up, pause. Silence is golden. It lets people process your words. It lets you think, regroup, stay calm. Used strategically, silence is one of the best tools of a public speaker.

In addition, an important way to connect with your audience is to make eye contact, something else people with public speaking phobia tend to avoid at all cost. Don’t. This is your lifesaver. When you look at people in the eye you feel a connection that sustains you. They feel your words more deeply. They feel you’re talking to them. They engage with you.

Fear of Public Speaking picture of person with brown bag over the head

There’s no need to continue fearing public speaking. Follow these 6 steps!- Illustration by Natchie for Red Shoe Movement.

5Drop the gimmicks

All I’ve been sharing with you up to now comes down to this: Drop all those gimmicks you have developed over the years to get through any public speaking fast. Stop squeezing your hands under the table, stop snapping the rubber band, stop drinking water every two sentences. Engage with the present, with the idea you’re sharing, with the audience right in front of you. Feel the fear and realize that it can’t kill you. That the best way to overcome any fear is by experiencing it often.

6Relax— The worst is happening

Like most phobias, the fear of public speaking focuses on the future. The what ifs. So when you realize that the worst thing that could happen —you speaking in public— is actually happening, you can relax. What’s important is to remember that the fear you’re feeling is not for any mortal danger but for a situation that makes you uncomfortable. And you can survive almost any discomfort. You can actually thrive by learning to be in and by seeking uncomfortable situations.

Fear of public speaking illustration - Tiny speaker in front of group of oversized people

Focus on each person and connect so that the audience looses its intimidating power- Drawing by Natchie for Red Shoe Movement. –

What else can you do to overcome your fear of public speaking?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that there are also other important things that I do as a public speaker to get ready every time I present. Like rehearsing my presentations, visualizing the situation and the successful outcome, wearing clothes that make me feel confident, breathing exercises, and power poses ahead of the event. But these are all easy to master tactics that won’t help you unless you first take these six fundamental steps. So, go ahead try them. And let me know how you do!

Check out Nadia Ackerman's online store Natchie Art for amazing illustrations like the ones on this post.

12 Ways in Which Women Perpetuate Male Chauvinism

Most women know intuitively what male chauvinism stands for. What few of us are ready to admit is how much of a male chauvinist we have in us.

Yup. You read correctly. Women have contributed to the education and socialization of generations and generations of men, inadvertently perpetuating male chauvinism in the messages, values and attitudes they passed down to their children. Even today they contribute to the same male chauvinism that affects them so much and about which they constantly complain! And although it’s true that it’s often hard to break with the rigid and powerful social structures that support male chauvinism in the first place, (the subject of a future post) today I focus on how women help to keep it going.

What is male chauvinism?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, male chauvinism is: “Male prejudice against women; the belief that men are superior in terms of ability, intelligence, etc.” Naturally, the dictionary says nothing about how much women internalize male chauvinism and turn it into self-aggression after years of growing up in a society that still condones variations of this behavior.

And before you say, “I’m not a male chauvinist” let me show you 12 ways in which women perpetuate male chauvinism even when we don’t realize we are doing it.

Male chauvinism quote by Luis Vidales -  Male Chauvinism started when they invited that God was a man

Women can inadvertently support male chauvinism

1Expecting your male partner to protect you. When you look for protection you assume that because you are a woman you are weak and because he is a man he is strong. You put both sexes in an unfair situation that is not really “natural” for either one. It’s just a male chauvinist stereotype you learned very early on.

2Assuming your male partner is in charge of your home’s financial stability. Why does this responsibility fall on a man’s shoulders and not on the shoulders of both partners? Or even, when the family-stage so requires, on the woman?

3Assuming that you are the person responsible for the home and for the children. Why not assume shared responsibility? When you continue to assume this role unquestioningly, you reinforce the male chauvinist stereotype that says that home chores are a woman’s job.

4Being always the one who takes care of your partner. This includes serving him first, offering food and beverages, laying out his clothes in the morning. Nobody says you can’t be kind towards him. But in order to avoid a behavior that reinforces male chauvinism, make sure he practices the same kindness towards you.


Read about achieving work-life balance (or rather, integration) here!

5Volunteering (always) to make coffee in the office. Or any equivalent activity that puts you in a supporting role rather than in a role of high visibility. Whatever enables only the men in your office to shine while you remain hidden behind the scenes tends to reinforce an old male chauvinist idea. Stay away from it.

Read about the benefits of engaging men in your career.

6Assuming that you only deserve what you are offered. Very likely you have internalized so perfectly the message that your boss will give you what you deserve that you don’t negotiate as much as you could. Studies show that given the same job, women ask for less salary than their male counterparts.

Male chauvinism quote by Mariela Dabbah - Women have contributed to the education of men for generations, perpetuating male chauvinism in the messages and values passed down to their children

Being aware of cultural ideas and stereotypes can help you avoid perpetuating male chauvinism

7Making disparaging comments about successful women. Saying things such as, “Who knows who she slept with to get there.” Every time you discount another woman’s ability to get to the position she’s in, you’re perpetuating male chauvinism by reinforcing the idea that only men reach powerful positions through merit whereas women can only get promoted by using sex.

8Making critical comments about women who don’t wear makeup. Let’s be honest: Men don’t wear makeup and nobody would dream of saying they look bad because of that. If you don’t want to continue supporting male chauvinist attitudes, avoid making these observations, particularly in public.

9Criticizing women who choose to remain single or childfree. We live at a time when women can choose the lifestyle that best suits them. For many, getting married and having children is not the path to happiness. Why force them to continue with a tradition that was imposed by male chauvinism centuries ago? Don’t judge them. Live your life and let others live theirs.

10Criticizing a successful woman for not “paying attention to her family. “We wouldn’t dream of judging successful men for working long hours, travelling, and having serious responsibilities that don’t allow them to spend as much time with their families as they wished. Why won’t we extend the same courtesy to successful women? Why do we make them pay such a high price for their success?

11Sending opposite messages to your sons and to your daughters. You could inadvertently be passing on to your children many verbal and non-verbal messages that perpetuate male chauvinism. Here’s a short list to make you more aware of them:


• Educating your daughters to obey or serve their brothers

Male Chauvinism definition - Male prejudice against women

There’s nothing biological about ideas of what men and women should be like

• Only asking girls to set the table and wash the dishes

• Encouraging girls to behave well and stay clean and tidy

• Punishing girls when they get dirty or break the rules

• Forbidding girls from going out unless a brother supervises them

• Minimizing the importance of girls’ opinions

• Paying boys for home chores —washing the car, mowing the lawn— and never girls

• Allowing boys to play violent sports, impose their own rules and be independent

• Congratulating boys when they break the rules to achieve their goals and when they are competitive

• Congratulating boys when they go out with more than one girl at a time

• Telling your sons “boys don’t cry”


12Not reporting a man who is violent against women. Gender violence is a world epidemic. Remaining quiet when faced with a violent situation against yourself, your daughters or other women is the best way to guarantee that male chauvinism will be live and well for many more generations. Your silence only allows the guilty to continue behaving with impunity. Look for help now!

Male Chauvinism Tarzan rescuing woman

Do you still hope for a man to rescue you?

If you grew up in a culture such as the Hispanic (and many, many others) that still tolerates male chauvinism, you have absorbed a series of “truths” from a very young age. It’s easy to believe these “truths” are unquestionable and that the only way to belong to society is to abide by them. The problem is that behind these apparent “truths” is the false idea that there’s a biological reason for the different roles, behaviors and emotions of each sex. That it’s natural (and innate) for men to show superiority, dominance and aggression. And that it’s natural for women to be weak, servile, emotional, and so on. But the reality is that these are all stereotypes and cultural ideas that can be changed.

And the first step to make this change effective is for you to review your own beliefs, your attitudes, and your words so that you stop perpetuating this male chauvinism that only limits your opportunities.