Beyond Words: Developing an Authentic Image
By Lauren Middour
In the workplace, image can be a differentiator. Popular opinion declares female leaders struggle with image in business, but should we deem that as the truth? Are women as insecure as probable belief sets us up to accept? I don’t think so. But unfortunately this idea drives insecurity among female executives who might not have otherwise felt anxious about what people think.
According to the Institute of Leadership & Management, 73 percent of women managers believe barriers prevent them from progressing to top levels. Women can and do break barriers being polished and professional without sacrificing self, style and individuality. The secret to success is finding an authentic image and becoming more of who you are.
The reality is, today’s businesswomen find powerful ways to express themselves beyond a shallow fashion statement. Communicating an individualistic and strong image is key to this power and essential to success. In a recent national survey, one of the biggest problems women report is being taken seriously. Following the confines of stereotypes isn’t the way to go.
At Speakeasy, Inc., one thing we hear often from our female clients is that they have a difficult time asserting themselves. When you’re in a leadership role, it can be a challenge to find the balance between being direct and tough, and being labeled “the B-word.” But when you build a connection between your passion and conviction, you’ll find that balance comes easy.
Often women tend to dress down in the workplace. Dressing down won’t make your coworkers take you more seriously. Some industries are more operational or male-dominated by nature, and it’s especially within these companies that women struggle to find an authentic image. They fear a polished edge might stand out next to the khaki button-down environment. Finding the balance between looking vanilla and being polished and feminine is tough, especially when you feel pressured to dress like everyone around you. It shouldn’t be about fitting in. It should be about standing out.
If you only envision yourself in your current capacity, you handicap your future. So if that means bringing your black-suit silhouette around khakis and button-downs, then good for you. You deserve to be where you are, without acting shy about being in a leadership position.
Besides, feeling insecure gives others too much power. You have to ask yourself, “Do I look like I care about my position, company and myself?”
Lauren Middour is vice president of Business Development at Speakeasy Inc., an executive communication firm that works with C-Suite executives from Fortune 500 companies such as Wells Fargo, CSX, The Coca-Cola Company and The Home Depot.
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