Six Subtle Moves That Hold Women Back From Success

successful womenIt's not that women are supposed to act, dress and sound like men to get ahead in the workplace, but there are a number of gestures women commonly use that denote vulnerability and fragility, rather than power and authority. In a blog called "7 Behaviors that Keep Women from Getting Ahead," Dan Erwin cites an article by Mary Ellen Drummond many years ago, which still applies to many women today.

I know I'm guilty of several, and have been advised by managers and producers to "cut that out if you ever want to go anywhere." Check out these half-dozen behaviors that prevent you from "looking like you mean it."

1. Nodding your head a lot when listening. Women often nod their heads to encourage the speaker to go on, but this connotes approval and agreement when often none is intended or required, and you can end up looking like a bobble-head doll. Men usually nod their heads only to show agreement, or to indicate that they are about to make a point. Constant head nodding can express encouragement, but not authority.

2. Not taking up enough physical space. By this we mean stand firm and tall, shoulders out, head up. When sitting at a table or desk, spread out -- your papers, you laptop, your pad and pens. Let everyone know you're there -- don't try to blend in. By receding or folding in, it looks as if you're trying not to inconvenience anyone. Take ownership of as much space as possible; that sends a powerful message.

3. "Uptalking." Women's voices often rise at the ends of sentences as if they're asking a question even when making a statement. For example: "On that report I completed? It says that viral marketing is more effective?" It implies you're asking for approval, rather than stating a fact. Most women are not aware that they do this, and it's a particular habit with the young -- students and the freshly graduated. Speak with authority and periods, not with tentativeness and question marks.

4. Fidgeting. Are you constantly adjusting your clothing, hair, jewelry, purse, cell phone, etc.? Although the study was done several years ago, Drummond cites that when women enter a room, they make 27 movements. Men make 12. When you appear calm and contained, you appear powerful. Fidgeting implies nervousness.

5. Tilting your head. Women often tilt their heads when they talk. They think that directing an ear toward someone says that they are listening. Instead, it appears as if you're distracted or trying to deflect the message. If looking directly into someone's eyes is disconcerting, look just below their eyes at their cheeks or nose. But look directly at them and don't tilt your head. This, again, is something most women don't even realize they're doing; but if they watch videos of themselves, they'll note it happening.

More Telling Features:

6. Introducing yourself too quickly. It's common for a woman to say, "Hi, I'm Jane Smith," right off the bat. But studies have shown that people seldom remember anything that's said in the first 5-7 seconds because they're too busy checking each other out, and visually processing whoever is in front of them. When meeting someone new, wait a few seconds before introducing yourself. Instead make a comment about the environment, event, etc. first, then introduce yourself.

The good news is that most of these bad behaviors are learned, so they can also be unlearned. You might want to ask a family member, friend or co-worker to bring it to your attention when some of these negative nuances creep in. They might drive you nuts at first -- but you'll thank them for it later, when colleagues start showing a renewed respect.

Next: The Gender Pay Gap--New Opportunities for Women >>

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Susan Wilson

I'm sure your intentions are good but aren't you tired of the message being women need to change & ignore our natural instincts so we think and act more like men? Nearly 100% of women's initiatives spend money and resources helping (and ultimately hoping) to change women. Is this really progress?

I started FundHer b/c I'm eager for those dollars, resources and programs to pivot their missions so they're focused on helping women change the world. Authenticity should be a core value for any woman and I can tell you from personal experience, the fake it 'til you make it message only serves to make women MORE insecure and confused. I made it and still had to fake it. It's really confusing when you realize nearly everything you thought you knew was actually fairly wrong. AND it's really tough when there are no women really talking about the honest realities that come from being the opposite of authentic.

August 27 2011 at 1:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Carolyn Schmies

The observations are so true. Fortuantely since I majored in speech, many things I knew not to do. Having worked around men all of my life, they do watch what you do and want you to blend in as much as possible.
Very interesting. Carolyn

May 19 2010 at 4:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Look people. If women are going to get ahead in the workplace and start filling up executive positions we have to play by the rules in place until we can make them ourselves. Men presently occupy the great majority senior executive positions such that they are in charge of approving promotions. Men are visual creatures. Whether we're talking about the board room or a club, body communication is very important in how they respect or don't respect you. These tips are subtle ways for women to 'cash in' on regulating their behaviors so the men in charge construct on image of power and respect for them(leading to promotion). These are empowering tips, not slander, or asking women to abdicate on element of 'womanhood.' Play by the rules until you become the boss and can see and actualize potential in people despite whether they exhibit subtle behavioral 'set backs.'This is the state of current affairs if you take a good honest look.

May 12 2010 at 10:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I really hate it that many of the white women with whom I have worked lost all sense of "women's advancement" when it comes to black woman. If white men actually like a black female employee as a competent person, some folks get all tied up in knots. Good grief, how base. I also can't stand it when women get promoted for their sexual favors. That diminishes all women but the favor giver always gets rewarded.

May 06 2010 at 9:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

6 Reasons you're wrong:

1. This is not humanly possible
2. It's not cross culturally relevant
3. This implies that womyn do not have power unless they exhibit these traits/characteristics.
4. Why do womyn need to live up to male standards? If a male is a "bobble head" why are they not criticized for it?
5. Gender is socially constructed
6. These tips have NOTHING to do with womyn

This is from a high school club called Womyn in Today's Society

May 05 2010 at 3:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

perhaps not knowing how to speak proper English is what holds some WOMEN back from success. How embarrassing!

May 05 2010 at 2:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Amen, TY Geeze people ... these are just helpful hints. Take them or leave them! And quit tapping that pen, will ya LOL drives me nuts & it's not a far drive hehehe lighten up, lifes toooooo short :)

May 05 2010 at 2:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I found it helpful. It's hard to get a word in edgewise where I work. Maybe a few of these hints can help. Worth a try. Thanks :)

May 05 2010 at 2:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Average Joe

Why you are all a bunch of whining twisted bobble heads. lol, Make sure you don't move your head, even though most women have smaller muscles in their neck and of course they are going to move more and differently than men, plus most women are more animated and involved, this is not bad its not good or bad, it all depends on the person's ablitity to lead, male or female, how they use their head position doesn't matter as much as their character and the same for the Company they work for either public jobs or private. No one cares anymore, sex as far as leaders for most thinking American's doesn't matter, and how they hang their head, or adjust their clothing, who cares,...its what comes out of their mouths when the meeting begins,...or the work day starts etc....just two cents from the peanut gallery, but this is over thinking nothing. These times are past us, in almost all cases,...but of course another author wanting to see their name in print, none of this new information, its been rehashed over and over,....playing on Female feelings of insecurity, I promise you if you start focusing on little nonsense like this, you do more of it, not less, most cases, and either way who cares, your job and do it well, and good things will happen, if not move on. Sooner or later you will find someone that appreciates your dedication and hard work. If your lazy, it doesn't matter which way you turn your head or how,...

May 05 2010 at 2:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i didnt say anything about bad behaviors i said learned. and children are not only conditioned by their parents i understand that. and im not talking about biology. children learn behaviors through family, friends, television, magazines, other children at school. and the way our society portrays women is cutsy and vulnerable. whether it is conscious or unconscious these things are conditioned in our children. i am in no way blaming parents for the their kids habits. you guys are deviating from the point of the article. it is about how to make yourself appear more assertive. i was merely stating for the people who were overlooking the facts that there are good tips in the article and only they are focusing on the fact that these tips are based off of gender stereotypes.

May 05 2010 at 2:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dani's comment

Thank You, Well Said!

May 05 2010 at 2:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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