Turn Professional Disadvantage into Your Advantage

Thinking of turning a professional disadvantage into an advantage may sound contradictory to you. But, as Malcolm Gladwell proposes in his book David and Goliath, we often underestimate the benefits of the disadvantage.

Gladwell explains it by analyzing the biblical story of David and Goliath from a different point of view. From his perspective, David’s very inferior size, lack of protective armor, heavy weapons and training (which historically was interpreted as a disadvantage) were the reason he won the fight. That is, he did not win it despite being much smaller than Goliath. He won it because he was smaller and more agile and because he had other skills that Goliath didn’t expect from an opponent with whom he was going to have a close range combat.

A professional disadvantage can be your best advantage. Get inspired by David and Goliath's story.

A professional disadvantage can be your best advantage. Get inspired by David and Goliath’s story.

David was not an infantryman like Goliath. He was a shepherd boy used to using a sling to defend his flock from predatory beasts. Therefore, he wasn’t wearing heavy armor that limited his movements and slowed him down, as his enemy was wearing. Moreover, he didn’t occupy his hands with a shield, a spear and a sword. The boy just carried a sling and a bag with five stones.

By skillfully shooting a pebble to Goliath’s forehead, David ended the giant’s life and then cut off his head with the fallen man’s own sword.

Now, think about it. We have spent centuries using this story as an example that sometimes those who are most disadvantaged can overcome those most advantaged (the weakest beat the strongest, the poorest beat the richest, etc.) when statistics show that this turn of events takes place much more frequently than we think. It’s time to review our idea of ​​what a disadvantage is.

Don't miss 4 Simple Actions to Improve your Self Confidence
Identify your professional disadvantage and turn it into your best advantage.

Identify your professional disadvantage and turn it into your best advantage. Here Katy Sullivan, 4 times- US Champion of 100 meters, runs with her prosthetics.

Turning any professional disadvantage into an advantage

In your career it is simple to justify that whatever doesn’t go well for you happens because you have a professional disadvantage (or any kind of disadvantage for that matter.) You don’t have the right education or contacts; you don’t have the proper title; you’re overqualified or you live in the wrong town or country. What would happen if you took this apparent professional disadvantage and let it guide you towards a solution only you could identify? Something that few people without your particular professional disadvantage would even think of.

For example, your apparent professional disadvantage is that you live in an economically depressed area where the economy is broken, it is difficult to get work, and everything is an uphill battle. By carefully observing your situation you realize that the cost of living where you are is so low that you could offer products or services at attractive prices abroad. Can you use e-commerce platforms such as Freelance.com, Outsource.com or Alibaba.com to sell your product or service outside your town or your country?

Or, considering your professional disadvantage is that as the marketplace has changed, your role has been collapsed into other roles and it no longer exists as stand alone. You seem to be overqualified for most of the jobs you apply to. Could you set up a consulting business that offers services to those companies which no longer have your position as they are deemed to have unfulfilled needs?

Or suppose you are interested in running a new project in your job and the other person being considered for the position has much more experience than you. Instead of seeing your lack of experience as a professional disadvantage, take advantage of it to focus on developing good relationships with those with whom you would be working on the project in question. By doing so, you have a chance to share your unique points of view, your great creativity and your social skills. In other words, you demonstrate with facts the great value you would bring to that group if you were chosen. Suddenly, your lack of experience is no longer relevant because the team feels comfortable with you and what you bring to the table so you become the obvious choice.

Let your professional disadvantage guide your success

Let your professional disadvantage guide your success

Lateral thinking can help you figure out best way to leverage your professional disadvantage

You can read this article and say, “Yeah, it’s easier said than done. Not all professional disadvantages can be turned around.” Sure, it’s true that there are situations where you won’t come out on top. But you will always get more benefits from using your professional disadvantage as a driving force to get ahead than by letting it determine a future in which you are not happy.

So try it. You have nothing to lose. Sit down with your perceived or real disadvantage which you consider is responsible for your current frustration and let it guide you into the field with David’s confidence. With no armor, no weapons, just a sling and a bag with five stones. And see what happens.

Shoe Entrepreneurs: Interview to a Successful Shoe Industry CEO

Gitte Sandquist, one of a handful of female shoe entrepreneurs, founder and CEO of Lola Ramona, the Danish shoe brand, is the perfect blend of a rocker and a girly girl. How has she managed to marry these two seemingly opposite styles into a beloved brand? Read on!

Gitte Sandquist one of a handful of shoe entrepreneurs is a perfect blend of rocker and girly-girl

Gitte Sandquist one of a handful of shoe entrepreneurs is a perfect blend of rocker and girly-girl

With over 25 years of experience in the fashion business Gitte was not new to the industry when she launched Lola Ramona in her native Copenhagen, Denmark. Before she became one of the edgiest shoe entrepreneurs in the world, she started her career with Scandinavian giants Bestseller and H&M and with American giant Levi´s. She went on to become an independent agent representing several international brands such as: Pepe Jeans, Lacoste, Paul Smith, Caterpillar, and Paul Frank.

During the eight years she spent as an independent agent, Gitte always felt there was a gap in the market of women shoes. Shoes that were beautiful and comfortable that women could wear every day, and not just for parties. So, she decided to become a shoe entrepreneur and started Lola Ramona.  While still selling these international brands during the day, Gitte planned her new company at night sleeping only a few hours, usually at the office.

A few years ago, we stumbled upon her stunning brand and when we discovered the company’s founder was a one of a handful of female shoe entrepreneurs, we approached her to be a Red Shoe Movement partner. She loved our mission, we loved her shoes, and the rest is history. We had a very successful event at her Copenhagen store and plan to continue doing bigger and more exciting things together. We talked to her about what it means to be a shoe entrepreneur, what’s the hardest thing to give up as a CEO of a small business and what’s up with the Spanish-sounding name of her company.

We recently had a very successful event at Lola Ramona's store in Copenhagen. This shoe entrepreneur knows how to throw a party!

We recently had a very successful event at Lola Ramona’s store in Copenhagen. This shoe entrepreneur knows how to throw a party!

First steps for shoe entrepreneurs: Naming the business

Red Shoe Movement — Your company is Danish, and your business has a Spanish sounding name. Where does the name Lola Ramona come from?

Gitte Sandquist— Well …I did not really think about the name as being Spanish when I invented it. I wanted a first & last name for the brand, so that people would see Lola Ramona as a person and identify themselves with that girl. I chose Lola, because not matter which language you speak, everybody knows that Lola is a female.  Ramona was the more Rock´n´roll part of me 🙂 I love The Ramones and at the same time I thought that Ramona sounded like a beautiful flower.

RSM—You yourself are a mix between a girly-girl and a rocker. Have you always defied stereotypes? What is it like to be a shoe entrepreneur as someone who defies stereotypes?

GS— I guess it’s just my nature. I have always had the urge to express myself on my own terms. Not dictated by fashion, music, culture or sub-culture, but by my own feelings and where I wanted to go. I like the fact that I can be the girly girl one day and the rocker the next.  I am attracted to all kinds of types/stereotypes. My only wish for everyone is that they feel comfortable being the type they are. I like the fact that people respect me for being “in-between.”  My friends often tell me that I collect souls not types. Being in fashion and having that attitude, I can sometimes put people off. Other times it attracts people. I do not see it as a big challenge. I am sure Vivienne Westwood or Betsy Johnson must feel the same way. Yes! It divides groups, but the ones who understand and respect that attitude, get you more than they get much of other fashion.

Learn about the meaning of red shoes for the Red Shoe Movement!
RSM team wearing Lola Ramona shoes

RSM team wearing Lola Ramona shoes

The life of shoe entrepreneurs

RSM— Give us a flavor of what a week in the life of a shoe entrepreneur is like

GS— I never get out of bed before 8.00 AM, and I always stay up until after 2 AM. There is always something going on inside my head. A song, something I am planning, a small discussion or a shopping list. My whole day is filled with shoes: Decisions about shoes, shoe designs, communication concerning shoes. Meetings about how to make and sell shoes and how to market them in the best way. 🙂 I work in a wonderful environment with my dedicated and skilled staff in Copenhagen. In the evening I hang out with my husband and very often I go out with him and friends. I have a lot of input to offer every single day and I like to stay open to as much as possible. I also travel a lot and I love it.

RSM— What’s the hardest thing to let go when you’re the CEO of a successful small business?

GS— Micro management… OMG! I keep disciplining myself. It’s annoying both for the staff and for me.  🙂 Sometimes I do miss specific tasks that I was normally in charge of doing in the past.

But all in all… I feel blessed that I am so incredible lucky to have a successful, small business, and a great staff. And I do not often think that I have to let things go. I try to focus more on how much I am winning and getting.

As a shoe entrepreneur, Gitte Sandquist finds supporting other women is critical. We created this charm to honor our partnership.

As a shoe entrepreneur, Gitte Sandquist finds supporting other women is critical. We created this charm to honor our partnership.

RSM—Humor plays an important part in your brand, something that distinguishes you from other shoe entrepreneurs. How do you imbue humor into your business while building a serious business?

GS—I love a good joke and my staff does too. We often try to do something silly/funny on one of the shoes. Like attaching a moustache or making the design so that it looks like the shoe is laughing at you. Of course we take the business seriously. This is our career and where we earn our money and this is what we are passionate about. But we are aware that these are shoes!  We are not doing life-saving medicine.  If you’re not able to do this work with a smile on your face, I do not think you should be a shoe entrepreneur. When you are able to make people laugh, both in the office and on the streets, I think you have given them space to breathe and in the end you make them stronger.

RSM—How do you stay inspired to come up with new, exciting designs?

GS—Really easy! We flirt with all past decades and add some new features or mix them all. For instance, the 2018 winter collection is both 60ies fashion and 80ies glam, with some sports features.

RSM—You recently launched the LolaRamona hack. How did this idea come about? What were some of the most fun ideas people shared?

GS—IKEA had a campaign which got really close to the Lola Ramona sign off. So I decided to #IKEAhack them which is a really common thing, and again with a touch of humor. We had a lot of fun and success with it, and even IKEA thought it was fun. And since we were working with the #IKEAhack I launched our own #LOLAhack too. We had so many good hacks, but I think the best hack we got was a Christmas decoration with candles and all, made out of one of our stilettos.

#LOLAhack stilettos

#LOLAhack stilettos

RSM— You are half owner of your factory in China and your partner is a woman. We find this most interesting given that the industry continues to be male-dominated and there are few female shoe entrepreneurs who own their factories. Does it make a difference in your final product to have a woman designer and a woman as a head of manufacturing?

GS—There is ONLY differences! Communication is different, the way we see business and interaction is different. We speak so much more the same language when it comes to quality and finish of a product. How we choose to treat the staff, and the list goes on and on. We share the Red Shoe Movement principles that we should aid and help other women to achieve their goals, not just worry about “what’s in it for me.”

Shoe entrepreneurs Gitte Sandquist and her factory partner discuss new designs.

Shoe entrepreneurs Gitte Sandquist and her factory partner discuss new designs.

Don't miss the story of this Nigerian shoemaker!

Making mistakes, at the core of most successful shoe entrepreneurs

RSM—Can you share one of the worst mistakes you made and how you fixed it or got over it?

GS—Hmmm… I have made thousands of mistakes! Selling the company (I bought it back, though.) Letting friends down, not listening carefully enough, doubting myself, doubting others, and so on. I think the biggest mistake you can make is to not make mistakes. You learn more from making mistakes than from most other things in life. Afterwards you just have to be able to say I’m sorry. And off course not consciously hurt other people.

RSM—Which one of Lola Ramona shoes would you say best reflects your inner red shoe?

GS—Without a doubt: It has always been Angie Hero!

Angie Hero the choice of the shoe entrepreneur behind the Lola Ramona brand

Angie Hero the choice of the shoe entrepreneur behind the Lola Ramona brand

RSM—What do you value about the partnership with the Red Shoe Movement?

GS— The enthusiastic approach you are always met with. The network that stretches all over the world. The beautiful, strong women who aim to empower other women. It’s a beautiful concept and it sits very well with me.

Follow Lola Ramona on social media:

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4 Simple Actions to Improve Your Self-Confidence

At the core of most successful people there’s self-confidence. This doesn’t mean they were always (or even that they are still always) self-confident. But that they built their self-confidence enough to get them where they are. And that they continue to reinforce it so they can keep going. Don’t miss these 4 simple actions to improve your own self-confidence.

Definition of self-confidence

self-con·fi·dence

ˈˌself ˈkänfəd(ə)ns/

noun

  1. a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment.
synonyms: morale, confidence, self-assurance, assurance, assertiveness, self-reliance, self-possession, composure

Differences between self-esteem and self-confidence

 

Knowing your power helps strengthen your self-esteem. Believing in what you can do and proving yourself increases your self-confidence.

Knowing your power helps strengthen your self-esteem. Believing in what you can do and proving yourself increases your self-confidence.

So that we are all on the same page, let’s start first by understanding the differences between self-esteem and self-confidence, the subject of today’s post.

Self-esteem is the confidence in one’s own worth or abilities. It refers to your self-respect. It’s slightly different from self-confidence in the sense that self-esteem refers to how much I value myself. Example: I deserve/don’t deserve to be successful. Whereas self-confidence refers to how much I believe in myself. Example: I can /can’t reach my goals.

It is useful to recognize that all of us at some point may falter in our conviction and need someone to remind us of our value, be it our families, friends, colleagues or social media followers. Someone who tells you: “you deserve it,” “you are worth it.”

But one thing is to have a moment of weakness and another is to harbor constant doubts about your worth, your knowledge, skills, etc. This is a feeling that fosters anxiety and can prevent you from developing a fulfilling career. So if you suffer from chronic low self-esteem, you may need to consult a specialist such as a therapist or a coach.

Today’s conversation focuses on self-confidence, a state of being that occasionally, even the most successful people also need to reinforce.  And the good news is that there are very effective ways to give yourself a shock of self-confidence whenever you need it.

Self Confidence Definition

Self Confidence Definition

Let’s explore these four self-confidence boosters.

1Powerful appearance

Many experts will recommend that you explore the root of your lack of self-confidence. And looking inside is always a good way to go. But today I suggest that you begin working from the outside in. Starting off with what is generally considered “superficial”. Your appearance.

There are many studies that indicate that clothing affects how we feel. And feeling good is an important step when it comes to building or reinforcing your self-confidence.

Choose a look that suits you well and with which you can connect with the world. That in itself will affect your attitude. It will give you the courage that you may lack to face certain situations or to accept a challenge. Carefully consider every detail of your outfit, including accessories, shoes (and if they are red even better!), Purse, briefcase, or bag, etc.

The same goes for grooming. A good haircut can renew your image and help raise your self-confidence. A little makeup, lipstick, and a good manicure can have a very positive effect on how we face the world. These seemingly superficial changes have a very favorable impact on how we see ourselves and therefore, how we feel.  I for one, don’t feel the same when I wear sneakers than when I wear high heels. When I wear sweatpants than when I wear a dress pants. It’s not better or worse, just different. And as different situations call for me to feel and project something specific, I always wear outfits that help me feel my best in that particular situation.

Here's a great post on how to use color to dress for success!

2Powerful postures

Amy Cuddy did the research around power poses ability to increase your self-confidence.

Amy Cuddy did the research around power poses ability to increase your self-confidence.

Maybe you heard about certain power postures that send the message of self- empowerment to the brain. Try them every day when you get up and also just before an event in which you want to stand out.

  • Hands at the waist, legs separated in superhero style.
  • V-shaped arms, legs separated in the style of a sprinter who just won a Gold Medal.
  • Standing in front of a desk or table, hands on the table, legs apart, a defiant boss-style look that says: “This is the right thing to do”.

3Powerful words

Human beings are verbal beings. We are the stories that we tell ourselves and others. The words we use to define ourselves, explain situations, and make sense of life determine who we are and the results we get.

If you want to increase your self-confidence, watch your words and eliminate from your vocabulary those that disempower you. So instead of saying: “I’m not good at this,” you can say: “I choose to take on this challenge and learn what I need to conquer it.” And very concretely, instead of “I can’t speak in public,” you can say: “I will find a coach to help me develop my public speaking skills.”

Getting rid of disempowering words will also help you find new actions that will help you achieve your goals. New actions lead to new results and positive results breed self-confidence. You see, as you repeat this cycle and build on small successes, you will continue to boost your self-esteem.

Get rid of words that disempower you. Acquire new ways to talk about yourself and what you want.

Get rid of words that disempower you. Acquire new ways to talk about yourself and what you want.

4Powerful mantras

And keeping with the theme of words, it is very valuable to create a mantra that you can repeat daily. Particularly just before a situation when you are about to get relevant exposure. Some examples:

  • I achieve everything that I set my mind to
  • I choose to be successful
  • I am an excellent negotiator
  • I give myself permission to make mistakes and learn from them
  • I got this!

I assure you that if you consistently repeat these four actions you will reap the benefits of a strong self-confidence.

And if you are looking to build your self-confidence alongside a community of like-minded professionals, join our Step Up program where we work on all the soft-skills needed to take you to the next level. Get a dose of daily inspiration on Instagram.

Join the Step Up program and be you, amplified!

Join the Step Up program and be you, amplified!

Breaking into Tech: 7 Tips For Women to Make it into this Space

Breaking into tech is not easy – and being a woman doesn’t make it any easier. There are a plenty of roadblocks on the way including a hyper competitive culture, unconscious biases and a strong boys club culture.

The great news, however, is that quite a few women have succeeded breaking into tech lately. They had the passion, knowledge and patience to push forward and now they are doing what they love.

If this is truly your passion, here are some of the things that you can do to break into tech.

For women breaking into tech can present a challenge. Be prepared!

For women breaking into tech can present a challenge. Be prepared

1Differentiate yourself

When it comes to breaking into tech, being different is always welcome. To do this, you’ll need to get creative and think about the future of IT. Trends that are popular now may not be so popular in the future. Talk to some experts, read as much as you can, watch technology shows and listen to tech podcasts to find out what’s the next trend. Reflect on it and see if you can envision what that future looks like. That will help you be a step or two ahead of the competition.

Differentiating yourself can also mean that you have your own, specific niche. This is a good strategy because you’ll become an expert in that niche.  As an expert, you’re likely to have a much easier time breaking into tech.

Another thing you could do is look for companies where you could present your skills, point of view or your background in a new and unique way. In a way that could benefit the company’s short or long term objectives. This will require gathering insights into your target company to come up with the right pitch on why they’d benefit by hiring you.

2Write compelling resume and cover letter

You resume and cover letter to the organization you’re applying to are both extremely important for breaking into tech. Your resume should look good and you should take the time to customize it to each specific job. Cover letters are a bit more complex as they require more familiarity with the company to address exactly what they are looking for.

Don’t write about yourself too much. Instead, write about how you can help the company and what you can do for them.

That being said, cover letters and resumes need to be perfect. They have to display your best skills, virtues and highlight all of the ways that you can help that company. This is essential for breaking into tech. Check out any online platforms like State of Writing and Ukwritings that offer resume and cover letter writing services.

Don’t miss Susan Landon’s expert advice on how to write your resume particularly if you’re a woman.

 

With the right tools and connections, you can break into tech as into any other field.

With the right tools and connections, you can break into tech as into any other field.

3Identify right mentors and sponsors to help you break into tech

You know how important mentors and sponsors are for your career advancement, right? Well, to break into tech they become even more so. Being such a highly competitive, male dominated industry, you need to have people in your corner to help you understand the unwritten rules of the industry or the particular company you seek to work for. You may have several mentors of all different backgrounds as long as they are well established professionals in the tech industry.

People who can make the right introductions to those who have decision-making roles and to those who can offer great assignments. Start by joining professional organizations and attending industry conferences to expand your network. Establish connections on Linkedin, seek out informal interviews to learn as much as you can about your field of interest or the company of your dreams.

Once you break into tech, continue developing mentorship relationships and actively seek sponsors, those high level executives who can open the best opportunities for you.

4Breaking into tech takes a lot of networking

Most job opportunities come about through networking. Often the people who get the jobs in tech are men because they are in the network of the men making the decisions. So, as I was mentioning in the previous point, if you want to break into tech, you’ll have to expand your network to include a lot of the professionals who are already in the field, which happen to be men. Make sure to get introductions to decision-makers through your Linkedin contacts and by attending conferences and events where you can meet new people.

Maria Dingess, an HR Consultant at Academized explains: “You can’t just sit at home and wait for the job to come to you. You have to find connections, make acquaintances, meet different people that can help you achieve your goals. Attend seminars, webinars, visit forums or platforms where people from the tech industry gather – be present.”

You’ll break into tech much easier if your name is somewhat familiar to the company to which you’re applying.

For breaking into tech successfully, nothing beats developing a strong network.

For breaking into tech successfully, nothing beats developing a strong network.

 

5Keep improving your skills. Something that was the norm two years ago may be old fashioned and forgotten by now. Just think about how much the technology has changed in the past decade, year after year.

Don’t stop learning after you are done with your formal education. To break into tech, you’ll have to keep learning and improving your skills every day. It’s a growing industry, changing daily and you need to be flexible and keep up with that.

There are plenty of online courses, platforms, websites, seminars, webinars and other methods of learning that you can use to expand your knowledge. If you have a strong basis, it shouldn’t be that hard.

6Work on projects that you find interesting

A lot of people settle for work that they find boring. They keep grinding and getting through the day. The result of this is visible in the projects that they create – projects that are bland and just as boring as they think their work is.

“Don’t end up being that person. Your life will be so much better if you work on projects that you find interesting, challenging and fun. Breaking into tech as a woman will take a lot more than just a few bad projects. You have to show your passion through your work – show them how great you are and how good your ideas are”, – says Renee Prather, a Recruiting Manager at Paperfellows and Studydemic writer.

Don’t settle for anything you find less than exciting and challenging.

If tech is your dream, don't ever give it up.

If tech is your dream, don’t ever give it up.

7Don’t give up on breaking into tech

Maybe you’ve already been rejected a few times and after your latest rejection all that you want to do is go home, sleep and forget about it. Maybe those rejections have broken your spirit a little bit.

If that’s the case, do go home, relax and rest. Allow yourself some time to decompress, engage in activities that are energizing and inspiring to you. But limit the “break” time that follows any setback and quickly get back in the game. You should never give up on your passions. If you truly love tech and you want to work and create in this space, giving up is not an option for you.

Read inspirational quotes, read about women who have succeeded breaking into tech, watch motivational videos – anything to get you going.

Final Thoughts

Breaking into tech as a woman is a challenge. It takes a lot of hard work, overcoming unconscious bias and rejection. But if you are truly passionate about tech and you care about producing quality products or services for consumers, don’t let anything break you. Keep trying because once you do, the feeling of accomplishment will be amazing. Believe in yourself, your ideas, your skills and your knowledge. People appreciate confidence and stamina. Most importantly, remember to enjoy your work and have fun creating.

Microaggressions: Those Pesky Slights That Damage Workplaces

When someone asked Carol, (not her real name) “Have you eaten dog?” she felt deeply offended. As she spoke up and let her feelings be known, she was furthered hurt by having her feelings minimized. How do we stop this kind of microaggressions that permeate our organizations and society? Here are some key insights.

The woman in the story is an Asian – New Zealander who lives in New Zealand, a country where 74 % of the population is of European descent, 14.9% of Maori descent, 11.8% of Asian descent and 7.4% are non-Maori Pacific Islanders. But this kind of microaggressions based on cultural differences and, I pose, on power differences, happen all the time around the world.

What are microaggressions?

Comments, questions and behaviors such as the one Carol shared with us are commonly referred to as microaggressions. This is a term coined in the 70s by psychiatrist Dr. Chester Pierce and borrowed more recently by Teachers College, Columbia University psychologist Derald Wing Sue, PhD.

Here’s Dr. Sue’s definition: “Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”

I believe that when some people are faced with any sort of difference they don’t clearly understand (or admit,) they may perpetrate microaggressions. And although microaggressions are often unintended that doesn’t minimize their impact.

In the workplace today many people suffer microaggressions on a daily basis as a result of their gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, a disability or any number of reasons. It makes diverse talent feel unwelcomed and pushes them out the door.

What are microaggressions? A definition

What are microaggressions? A definition

Now, in most microaggression situations there are at least two forces at play:

1The aggressor is someone in an ethnocentric stage of intercultural sensitivity. (Read my post, What is cultural sensitivity? for a full understanding of Milton Bennett’s theory of intercultural sensitivity.) And although Bennett’s theory refers to intercultural sensitivity, I believe the stages he described apply equally well to sensitivity towards other people’s gender, sexual orientation, etc.

So, being in an ethnocentric stage means being in one of the following stages:

Denial—people don’t recognize cultural differences and experiences.

Defense— people recognize some differences, but see them as negative because they assume their own culture is the most evolved, the best one. Equally, I pose, they may feel their gender or their sexual orientation is superior.

Minimization—Individuals at this stage of cultural sensitivity are unaware that they are projecting their own cultural values. They see their own values as superior. They think that the mere awareness of cultural differences is enough.

2In the context of the microaggression, the aggressor has more power than the person on the receiving end of it. And this is what I’d like to focus on here, as I believe many microaggressions experienced by women are due to their low power in organizations and society.

Power balance and microaggressions

As social psychologist Adam Galinsky’s research has demonstrated, when it comes to women, many of the differences in performance attributed to gender can be traced back to power differences.

In most of our societies, women have less power than men. And, as most people with less power, they are expected to behave in a certain way: Be nurturing, conciliatory, submissive, etc. So when women show ambition, assertiveness, confidence, competitiveness, and so on they are often penalized. (And this happens despite current efforts to get more women into leadership roles.) In other words, they are subject to a double bind. Otherwise known as: “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

What I’m posing here is that many of the microaggressions directed to women in the workplace come not from the fact that they are women but from the fact that they have less power in the company. The same can be said for all the other non-majority groups. It’s always been easier to prey on the weaker members of society, hasn’t it?

Having a diverse leadership team should lead to an increase in acceptance of others and a reduction of microaggressions

Having a diverse leadership team should lead to an increase in acceptance of others and a reduction of microaggressions

Microaggressions directed to people with less power

So let’s look at a couple of examples.

You are in a team meeting with 10 people, 8 men and 2 women. Julie, a manager and the person with least seniority in the meeting, voices her opposition to a new strategy and is interrupted several times while doing so.

When 2 of her male colleagues speak, everyone listens attentively even though they take much more time than Julie to explain their points of view. These interruptions are the kind of frequent microaggressions people like Julie experience daily. Now, my question is, Was Julie interrupted because she was a woman or because she had less power than anyone else, therefore they felt entitled to interrupt her?

Another example. In Latin America, women say that if they seek career sponsors they are perceived in their company as seeking special favors. Yet men don’t have the same issue with seeking sponsors. Is the perception connected to women seeking sponsors due to the fact that they are women or because they have less power and fewer connections in the organization? So if a woman is sponsored to a leadership level, people in the organization feel that the only way for someone with such low power to get to that position were through favors?

Microaggression are damaging to our workplace environment

Microaggression are damaging to our workplace environment

How to help your team move away from microaggressions and embrace a more inclusive culture?

There are two good ways to stop microaggressions.

1Educating your team members to help them move to an ethno relative stage of cultural sensitivity. As follows:

Acceptance — People are able to shift perspectives to understand that the same “ordinary” behavior can have different meanings in different cultures. They are able to identify how experiences are influenced by one’s culture, background, gender.

Adaptation— People become more competent in their ability to communicate with people who are different.

Integration— People are able to shift easily from one frame of reference to another. They develop empathy for people who are different.

2Having a diverse and inclusive leadership team. One that is made up of similar parts of men, women, people from various ethnic and racial backgrounds, with different levels of ability, who come from a variety of schools of thought, socio-economic backgrounds, and so on.

When everyone feels represented, the workplace becomes more welcoming of differences and as people become more curious about each other, the threat of the unknown starts to disappear and so do microaggressions. The best part is that your talent feels valued which in turn helps improve engagement, retention, and promotion.  A win-win all around. Ready to try it?