Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How do I establish credibility when I'm the only woman in the room?

There are plenty of professions, meetings and situations where you'll find yourself the only woman in the room. Many times, you'll get the sense right away that being the "other" in a group is uncomfortable, without the shared experience you might expect from a room with women in it. Take these factors into consideration to establish and hang on to your credibility:
  1. Don't give your credibility up in the first place: If you apologize too much, tell jokes that deprecate yourself, or avoid the bold for the tentative, you'll give away your authority and credibility, fast--and that would be true of a man as well as a woman. 
  2. Target the decision-maker: When you're presenting, make sure you know who's the decision-maker in your audience and gear your remarks in their direction. If you can establish yourself with that person, you're 99 percent of the way there. Too many work presentations fail to do this, whether by men or women. Make it clear you know the score.
  3. Find out what you do have in common with the guys: You may be the "other" when it comes to gender, but that doesn't mean you don't share experiences or expertise to which the group can relate. Use your commonalities to establish your cred.
  4. Jump right in: As Madeleine Albright counsels, women need to learn to interrupt. Her suggestion: Use a question to do so. 
  5. Know your personality preference: If you've taken the Myers-Briggs assessment (or a similar one), you can find out whether you prefer a more analytic style of processing information--more typical of men than women--or an emotional approach to information, more typical of women. Factoring your personality preference and style into your presentation will only help you communicate more clearly.
How do you establish your cred when you're the only woman in the room? Leave word in the comments.

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