Anne Wilson Schaef, in Women's Reality, describes the sense of "innate inferiority" women feel, because we were born female. Different women feel this innate inferiority to different degrees. Many of us have internalized the belief that what we do, what we think, and what we say is less important than what a man does, thinks, or says. Perhaps we reject this intellectually but battle it emotionally. One of the ways this demonstrates itself is in the volume of talking which each sex does. Be leery that you may be automatically "giving the floor" to the men around you. Maybe this is not because you believe they have something more important to say, but merely out of habit. If you are working with men and you continually allow their ideas or requests to take precedence over yours, you will lose their respect and appear to have nothing worthwhile to offer. You will also lose your own respect, making you less effective.

Professors who have taught in both all-female and coeducational universities consistently report that female students are more outspoken, answer more questions, and debate more issues in class when no men are present. In classrooms with men, the women tend to be much more passive, yielding the floor to the male students. Studies have indicated that men interrupt one another, and interrupt women even more so, at an alarming rate. For whatever reason, when men and women are together, men do most of the talking. If you don't believe it, observe the conversation at the next dinner party. Sometimes women retreat to the kitchen just to get a word in edgewise.

If we are operating on such internal programming, we will be less able to make decisions, exert our authority, and plead our case. The men around us have no such conditioning. No one steps aside for them, They have to speak up and stand up for themselves. It doesn't occur to them that others are following different rules of order. Don't expect them to become enlightened.

Perhaps you allow the men around you to dominate situations because you assume they are more intelligent, or at least are more knowledgeable about the subject at hand. Sometimes they are more knowledgeable, but it is not a reflection of their gender. If you listen, you may often find that the person who says the most, knows the least.

David Schwartz, in The Magic of Thinking Big, explains that we make two errors with respect to intelligence: we underestimate our own brain power, and we overestimate the brain power of others.

This is a problem for both men and women, but women are often raised to believe that men somehow are more intelligent than they, especially at certain things. My friend Lilly raised three intelligent daughters, all of whom did well in school and life. When we were talking about women's opportunities, she looked at me and said, "You don't really think that a woman is as smart as a man, do you?" Here was an example of some programming that her three daughters had to rise above.

Halas' book describes our female "body of training" as one that calls for passivity and submission when faced with conflict. There is a generally held notion that men are superior to women, and therefore they will be probably right if we disagree with them. When we are questioned, we doubt ourselves and react even more passively. There is very little place for this in the business world.

Some women do not experience self-doubt but still appear submissive and passive because they believe that behavior is what is expected of them. We somehow think that achievement and leadership are in conflict with what society considers appropriate for us. When assertiveness, boldness, and negotiating are expected, we may give our best submissive, dependent, and accommodating behavior. I cannot tell you how unqualified we appear.

The behaviors we know so well may be rewarded in a female-dominated position. Those of us who work in those fields may perfect the ability to get along with others, work alone, not step on any toes, and do what we are told. This is what we have been taught to do in our "body of training," and, when working with women, this is what is usually expected. Therefore, we continue this behavior when we apply for other positions, or when we are surrounded by men. Again, we are playing checkers to the best of our ability when the rules of chess apply.

Being "nice" is taught much more emphatically to girls than to boys. This philosophy-You be nice to me and I'll be nice to you and we can get a lot accomplished-works with many women in female occupations. However, the men around you may be coming from an entirely different angle. When the people around us do not subscribe to this theory, we decide that either they are jerks or we are wrong.

Frequently, we don't offer what we can, because we think someone else must have thought of it already. Don't think that just because you know something or have thought of something, it must be obvious to everyone. We all have much to offer our employers, and we do an injustice to them and ourselves when we fail to give our best.

Many women severely lack of a sense entitlement, or the inherent belief that we deserve happiness and success. Some men (and women) have too much entitlement, causing them to be lazy and expecting the world to provide them a good living. But to truly qualify for something, we must believe we deserve it. This holds true for a business deal, a job, or a spouse. Only people who believe they are entitled to success, happiness, and peace can hope to attain them. If you don't believe you are entitled, try to evaluate why. Then try to see yourself as entitled, just as much as anyone else. A male employer once told me the women in his employ were much more successful than the men because the women worked harder. He attributed this to an overabundant sense of entitlement in the men, who expected to make high incomes. When he gave women the chance to earn a lot, they jumped in with both feet, and they didn't expect it to come easy. You will find your female body of training can sometimes work to your benefit.


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