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Don’t Let Workplace Labels Hold You Back

Categories: Women in Business

Why is it that if a man is passionate and persuasive, he’s called a brilliant leader? But if a woman is passionate and persuasive, she’s bossy.

Why is it that if a professional man takes care of his appearance, he is known as meticulous? But if a woman takes care of her appearance, she is called vain.

It’s that old double standard ... shrinking perhaps, here at the tail end of 2013, but still too alive and kicking us where it hurts.

This phenomenal video from the hair-care company Pantene is currently creating a stir online. If you haven’t seen it, please take a look right now, and then let’s continue our conversation.

Although this video was produced for audiences in the Philippines, the message it conveys is also still very relevant in the U.S.

Have you ever experienced a double standard in the workplace, where women are judged differently than men? Can you relate to this commercial?

As a woman, do you try to dial back some of your power or your drive, because you are afraid of being labeled as “pushy”? Do you play down your natural beauty, afraid to be labeled “too pretty” if you let it shine?

Labels have a dangerous power to diminish our behaviors and whole being.

Because we’re bombarded with so much stimulus in any given moment, our brains frequently resort to labels to categorize something easily, to make sense of it.

That’s fine if what we are categorizing is a pine tree, abstract art, or an action/adventure flick.

When we fall into the trap of categorizing and labeling people, we are doing both them and ourselves a grave disservice.

And it’s not just men who are labeling women in all the ways shown in this video. Women can be equally guilty. Here’s what best-selling author Michelle Perry Higgins has to say in her new book, Stocks, Bonds & Soccer Moms: 7 Steps to a Balanced Life:

“We’re just as guilty as men are for permitting words like bossy and b*#ch to become associated with the female of the species. It’s time to STOP using those words and start thinking about how this kind of stereotypical labeling affects all of us. When men are powerful, there’s an endless array of positive words to describe them.

Doesn’t it just make you mad?

Men have high-fived and butt-slapped one another since they played sandlot baseball, encouraging and spurring each another on. How about us? Why can’t we just admire those women who get ahead or accomplish great things, instead of thinking of them in derogatory terms? A strong, powerful woman can be a brilliant leader, but using those positive descriptors begins with us. This is the time to lend a helping hand to other women, sharing our talents and life experiences.”

It's important for women to remember that they can and should own their power and achievements -- not to be afraid to take risks. We just need to be mindful that these misperceptions do still exist and look for ways to rise above them.

What do you think? How do you feel about powerful women in your workplace, or showing your own power in the workplace? Let’s have a discussion.

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