I just got back from a weekend conference in Washington DC. It was great to meet new like-minded individuals and to reconnect with some old friends. Many of these folks were people I have met online somewhere and had built a relationship with, but had never met in the ‘flesh’.
Now since I am a conference veteran (with two under my belt in as many months), I’ve noticed how different being at a live event can be. You need to use different tactics to be heard above all the pitches, hype, and general babble about how to be a success.
And one thing I notice is how most people fall into one of two categories: passive or aggressive. And most women are falling into the passive category, which surprises and saddens me. Many of these woman are real successes in the online world but they’re quiet, almost submissive when facing a crowd.
Why does this happen? Well, it’s easy to figure out: stereotypes. It’s acceptable for a man to be out there, even aggressive, in person. He looks strong, confident and successful. I’ve even seen some men insult the audience over and over again without repercussions – and even get admiration in the process.
But a woman could never do that. She’d be considered a… well, (PG rating now coming up) a bitch.
Take what’s happening with Supreme Court candidate Judge Sonia Sotomayor. She’s being publicly ridiculed by many men who accuse her of fiercely standing her ground. Even National Public Radio (NPR) is asking the question if Sotomayor is mean.
I am certain if she were a man, no one would ask if he was mean or not. Because it is ACCEPTABLE for a man to refuse to back down or even be aggressive. Besides, what may be seen as merely “confident” or “strong” behavior in a man, is often perceived as “pushy” or “aggressive” in a woman.
The lesson here is that to really make an impact, a woman must find a way to bridge the gap. Don’t be aggressive or passive: be assertive. Don’t start fights, but don’t back down to bullies. Fight for what’s fair. Stand true to your beliefs. You are a success because you assert your worth and your values. And your values include standing up for what’s right and fighting for fair treatment for others — and for yourself.