This Simple Exercise Helps Women Overcome Stereotype

He guffawed at my suggestion because he thought I was joking. I wasn’t.

An operations supervisor position had become vacant and I’d express interest in having a crack at it. When my manager realised I was serious, he blushed, dropped his eyes and murmured something about it ‘not being an environment for a woman.’

I felt myself shrink and disappear into the small child who lives inside me. ‘Maybe he’s right. It’s a tough environment,’ I thought. It wasn’t as if the position would’ve been a promotion (I was already at a higher level). I was interested in the development opportunity it presented. But at that moment I decided to let it go.

My manager’s response was nonsense. I know it now, and I knew it then. I’d already been working in the environment negotiating workplace agreements with some tough unions and alongside the supervisors who would’ve be my peers. I’d gained respect from all sides and had achieved much for the business.

Those events took place 20 years ago. If they happened today my reaction would be different. Why? Because I’m more confident now: clear of who I am, aware of my strengths and weaknesses, and comfortable with the knowledge some things are right for me, and some things aren’t. As a result, I have less self-doubt.

The good news is, you can reach that place within yourself by a shorter route than the one I’ve taken. Recent research has found reflecting on personal values can help women deal with these situations better. It’s like getting an inoculation against negative stereotypes. This is important because negative stereotypes hold women back, an effect known as ‘stereotype threat’. Situations where there are few female role models can lead to self-defeating thoughts such as, ‘If other women aren’t good enough, then why am I?’

Would you like your inoculation?

Great, then try this exercise. List your top 5 values. Write down why each value is important to you. You can also download the values reflection exercise from my self-coaching journal for women.

By reflecting like this, you’ll strengthen your sense of self even further. If you’d like to exercise

I’d love to hear how it worked for you.

Post a comment below or e-mail me at





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