As we’ve just celebrated International Women’s Day, I can’t help but think that there actually should not be a need to have such a day. Women have come a long way. Women pretty much have jobs in any industry. You now see women in politics, as air pilots, women in construction etc.

Yet, there is still a long way to go. Women are still not as represented as they should, especially in higher management positions. There may be different reasons for it, What I have witnessed – and experienced myself – is that we, women, sometimes do or say things we should not, things that weaken our presence, our message and make people wonder whether we have what it takes.

I wish someone had made me aware all these little things 20 years ago. Since I cannot go back in time, I want to share what I learned to help younger women out there.


Watch out for the little words or expressions you say

When you are being asked what you do, don’t reply that you are ‘just a manager’ or ‘just a nurse’ for instance. No. You are a manager, a nurse or any other profession. Be proud of the job you have. You are not ‘just’ something. 

When you want to ask a question, don’t start with ‘Can I ask a question?’ By doing that, you are already giving the impression you’re asking permission. Simply ask your question, it will sound much more powerful. 

Other words you should avoid: ‘maybe’, ‘I think’ (should be ‘I know’ or nothing at all, just your statement), ‘I am not’. When you say ‘I am not…’, take the habit to add ‘yet’. Adding that little word ‘yet’ shows that you are still working on it and that you have not given up. 


Don’t always say you’re sorry

It is ok to be polite, but stop saying ‘sorry’ all the time. Don’t say sorry. if someone wants to sit on the chair next to yours and you have to move a bit. Don’t say sorry if you suggested something and someone else disagrees. And don’t say ‘Sorry, can I ask a question?’ ?


Watch out how you say things

Sometimes we are so excited to say something that our voice goes up. If we ask a question, the tone of our voice should obviously go up. However, if you are making a statement, make sure your voice ends up with your town down. With your voice up at the end of a sentence, you give the impression that you either ask a question or that you are not sure. When you finish a sentence with your voice down, you clearly show you’re making a statement and that you are confident. 


Accept (and appreciate) compliments

This is something I see many women do, and I must say I still sometimes do it, although the older I’m getting, the better I become.

When someone gives you a compliment, such as “oh, nice shoes!’ or “I love your earrings’, or ‘Nice dress!’, don’t say something like ‘Oh but they’re old’ or ‘well, I haven’t worn it in a long time’ etc. Just accept the compliment and say ‘thank you!”, that’s all. We are so used to focusing on the negatives that when we do receive something positive, it looks like we are not able to handle it. So, when you receive a compliment, be grateful and accept it. 


Stop underestimating yourself

This summarizes my previous points. We, women, often have a tendency to underestimate ourselves. When we see a job application or want a promotion, we think we should not apply because we do not have all the qualifications or required skills. The funny thing is that men will apply even if they do not have them all. 

We don’t have to have everything. We are as capable as men. We need to show we are ready to take up the challenge and have the potential to do so, that is what counts. 


This article was also published on Linkedin. Find it here, and Virginie’s other articles here.

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