At a recent tech conference event on diversity and inclusion, one man explained why women don’t hold more positions of power in Silicon Valley. His reason was simple: women don’t band together and support each other in the tech industry.
Immediately, Christa Quarles, CEO of OpenTable, called bullsh*t.
Quarles admitted that older generations of women had to be competitive and hard to make it in the industry, but that was no longer true. In fact, Quarles said she was excited by how supportive millennial women in tech were of each other.
Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon situation. To this day, women still have to overcome misconceptions about what “they’re like.”
Here are three myths it’s time to debunk:
Myth #1: Women are emotional.
The basic gist of this myth is that women are ruled by their emotions, especially in stressful situations. When faced with a decision, they are unable to think rationally. And when they feel slighted, they become catty, particularly with other women.
But that’s not the reality.
“I personally have found that women work well together when they know the boundaries of the work environment and feel empowered to speak up,” said Beckie Manley, founder and CEO of Fierce Strategy + Creative, a strategic branding firm.
“When I ran my previous agency, we had many female employees, both young and old, working together to serve our clients, and they all encouraged each other, worked together, supported each other, and were friends outside of the office.”
In fact, research from the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences shows that when there are strong female relationships in the workplace, there is less conflict. This is particularly true when the workplace is male-dominated.
One of the best ways to create this type of environment is to prioritize respect and kindness. For some employees, these behaviors come easily, but others might need help learning to communicate or better navigate professional relationships.
Tools like career coaching app Boost can provide employees with actionable guidance that helps both men and women from giving into irrational emotions.
Myth #2: Mothers aren’t great employees.
This myth is difficult because it’s more dangerous when women believe it exists. They worry that if they take time off to start a family, they’ll be passed over for promotions and perceived as less dedicated.
“When I was pregnant with my first child, I was concerned I wouldn’t be considered as driven or passionate about what I do by my peers or management after I had my baby,” said Thomai Dion, owner and CEO of td the science mom, a company dedicated to promoting STEM education for children.
Fortunately, her employer at the time did not prove her concerns accurate. But for some women, there are very real consequences in choosing to start a family.
The best way to refute this myth is to continue working hard and looking for your own opportunities, if necessary. For example, Tiffany Coletti Kaiser, executive vice president of marketing and client services at Digital Remedy, a digital media marketing firm, was hired to join an all-male board while she was in her third trimester.
“Own exactly who you are and the stage of your life which you currently inhabit. Never apologize for it,” said Kaiser. “In fact, you should be completely transparent about it. This frankness and no BS approach will be appreciated by anyone — male and female.”
Myth #3: Women are bad with numbers.
For decades, women were often funneled into softer educational routes. And as a result, we ended up with more female educators and very few female scientists. While we’re slowly increasing the number of girls and women who are educated in the STEM fields, there is still a feeling that they’re not as good in these roles as men.
But the truth is, they actually bring extra skills to these roles.
“For nearly three years, we struggled to gain traction with improving our data-informed decisions and increasing the knowledge of our workforce to provide better data insights,” said Brian Elms, director of Peak Academy and Analytics, a government employee training center in Denver. “That is, until we started working with more women.”
According to Elms, female data scientists were much more effective in explaining the numbers to people who were unfamiliar with math.
“I challenge you to look around your office at your data analysts and data scientists,” he said. “I would guess that the best ones… are all women.”