Perceptions of a Powerful Woman

The perception of a woman is something that I am acutely aware of and have been observing intently for years trying to figure out how to use it to my advantage instead of detriment.

Because of a lot of hard work and determination from the generations that have come before me, my generation of females are extremely lucky and it's quite rare that I will run into a situation where being female is any sort of barrier to what I'm trying to achieve.

If anything, I think a lot of the opportunities that I've received have been because of being female so I'm nothing but thankful for my gender.

Last week I got a really good lesson in both gender equity and the perception of women in business. I applied for a board position in a company that I absolutely adore and believed that I had all necessary qualifications required to fulfil the role of a board member and to deliver quantitative results and objectives.

Unfortunately my application wasn't accepted and for reasons that I can completely understand. Though it was the first time I have come in to contact with having to consider gender diversity and me being on the wrong side of it.

The board I applied for is made up of all women and it's new in QLD. To get the diversity and the reach that the company requires for it's success, it needs a man, and a well connected one at that. I have neither of those things (a penis or a large QLD network) but I of course would have loved the chance to prove myself and think I would have made a tangible difference.

What was most thought provoking for me was the role of the Chairwoman whose job it was to make that decision and deliver the message to me. It couldn't have been easy no matter how much her experience. I remember the first time I met her, a powerful woman right from the first introduction. A fear that she held when having to tell me that I wouldn't be on the board was that her perception would be as a bit of a hard arse by having to make that call. It's a shame she had to feel that way at all. To get to the successful level of business that she's at, requires making hard calls on a daily basis and being completely unapologetic for them. It is what I admire most about really successful women. They've managed to master the art of being certain and confident and still retaining their femininity and compassion that makes them even more successful. Yet she's at the top of her game and worked damn hard to get there, but still feels that reservation of deciding to go against putting a woman on, even though in this case, a man's what's required to gain the right outcome.

I was thinking about that, and about a book I read last year called Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office by Dr Lois Frankel  and it's really interesting how those attitudes develop and how they're perpetuated subconsciously.

Then I saw this video on the Lean In site. So true. Getting around that is something that I'm still navigating and trying to learn. 

Reading Lean In played a part in me applying for the board in the first place. I'm sure in a few years time I'll be more qualified to perform the roles and also better able to communicate the difference that I can bring. What image I, and all women in business project is something that needs to be carefully considered and not so much manipulated, but certainly controlled.

Last week for me was a great lesson in that journey. I would love to hear your thoughts on the perception of a powerful woman after watching the Pantene ad. Leave your comments below.  

The picture featured is of the many wonderfully powerful women at the Commonwealth Bank Women in Focus Conference this year. 

Tina Tower