Sit at the Ta­ble

Suc­cess Se­cret #1

Cosmopolitan (India) - - CAREER -

A few years ago, I hosted a meet­ing for US Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Tim Gei­th­ner at Face­book. Af­ter the usual milling around, I en­cour­aged ev­ery­one to take a seat. Our in­vited guests, mostly men, sat down at the large con­fer­ence ta­ble. Sec­re­tary Gei­th­ner’s team, all women, took their food last and sat in chairs off to the side of the room. I mo­tioned for the women to come sit at the ta­ble, wav­ing them over pub­licly so they would feel wel­comed. They de­murred and re­mained in their seats. Af­ter the meet­ing, I pulled them aside to talk. I pointed out that they should have sat at the ta­ble even with­out an in­vi­ta­tion, but when pub­licly wel­comed, they most cer­tainly should have joined. It was

Mul­ti­ple stud­ies show that women of­ten judge their own per­for­mance as worse than it ac­tu­ally is, while men judge their own per­for­mance as bet­ter than it ac­tu­ally is.

a wa­ter­shed mo­ment for me. A mo­ment when I wit­nessed an in­ter­nal bar­rier al­ter­ing women’s be­hav­iour. A mo­ment when I re­alised that women face a bat­tle from within. We con­sis­tently un­der­es­ti­mate our­selves.

We hold ou­selves back in ways both big and small, by lack­ing self­con­fi­dence, by not rais­ing our hands and by pulling back when we should be lean­ing in. We in­ter­nalise the neg­a­tive mes­sages we get through­out our lives. We lower our own ex­pec­ta­tions of what we can achieve. We con­tinue to do the ma­jor­ity of the house­work and child­care. We com­pro­mise our ca­reer goals to make room for

part­ners and chil­dren who may not even ex­ist yet. Com­pared to our male col­leagues, fewer of us as­pire to se­nior po­si­tions.

In­ter­nal ob­sta­cles are rarely dis­cussed and of­ten un­der­played. Th­ese in­ter­nal ob­sta­cles de­serve a lot more at­ten­tion be­cause they are un­der our own con­trol.

I know that in or­der to con­tinue to grow and chal­lenge my­self, I have to be­lieve in my own abil­i­ties. I still face sit­u­a­tions that I fear are be­yond my qual­i­fi­ca­tions. And I still some­times find my­self spo­ken over and dis­counted while men sit­ting next to me are not. But now I know how to take a deep breath and keep my hand up. I have learnt to sit at the ta­ble.

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