Confidence is confidence, no matter your “gender”

wanderluster co. founder, sheena fronk

TL;DR: Why are women labeled bossy and aggressive, but men are confident? A few tips on how I maintain my confidence in a world where confident women are “a problem.”

Bossy. Aggressive. Intimidating. The list of labels attached to confident women is never-ending. And when a confident woman is in a position of power? Watch out!

We tout bold titles like SheEO (she + CEO), boss babe, and head bitch in charge (HBIC) as empowering, but they’re nothing more than labels. Labels that minimize our intelligence and ambition by highlighting that women don’t belong in powerful positions—we’re not the norm for such roles as CEO.

Men, however, can lead fearlessly and express disagreement confidently, safe in the knowledge that no one will judge them for being bossy, rude, or too masculine. Why is that?

As young girls, the media, our parents, boys, men, and even total strangers teach us that our role as girls and women is to be respectful (aka quiet) to everyone—especially men. Everyone tells us not to celebrate how incredibly amazing we are because that’s unattractive.

If we’re smart, we’re nerdy. If we’re unafraid to lead, we’re domineering. If we stand up for ourselves, oh boy! If we’re all-star athletes, we’re too masculine. Everywhere a woman looks, we see messaging telling us not to be confident. Unfortunately, the same can be true in the workplace.

Have you ever been in a meeting when a woman shares her thoughts, and a male coworker interrupts and talks over her? Or have you observed your male (and sometimes female) coworkers’ faces when a woman vehemently disagrees with her male boss?

When a man does the above, nothing happens. It’s not crazy or shocking. But the only difference is that one involves a woman standing her ground, and the other is a man standing his. Confidence is confidence, regardless of who is expressing it.

So, instead of silencing yourself or dimming your light to make others comfortable, let your light shine through. Speak your mind, share your thoughts, stand your ground, and, above all else, celebrate the incredible badass woman you are.

And if you’re not sure how to do that, here are a few ways I started building my confidence in the workplace.

infographic on how to express confidence in the workplace
  • I stand up for myself when colleagues try to micromanage me or do my job (because they think they can do it better). I am my greatest advocate.
  • I fight for pay raises and promotions for myself and other women on my team.
  • I call out and celebrate my female coworkers’ successes.
  • I assert my expertise and am unwavering in the confidence I have in my abilities—even when others question them.
  • I question decisions when I think they’re poor choices or ideas regardless of where the idea came from (man, woman, coworker, boss).

I still have a lot of work to do to build my confidence, especially in the workplace, but I am proud of how far I’ve come.

I choose every day to be confident (or fake it until I make it). And you can, too! And you can too! At the very least, you deserve to be unapologetically confident without lame labels—like bossy.

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