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Being the Only Woman In the Room

Feelings Aside
Legitimacy
Diversity

15 July, 2021

Rima Hatoum
Rima Hatoum

Director of Product Management and UX at SOQUIJ

Rima Hatoum, Director of Product Management and User Experience at SOQUIJ, considers her status as a woman to be secondary to her status as a professional.

Problem

I’ve never felt that being a woman has been an obstacle to me in my career. I’ve always been a tomboy, to be fair. Sometimes, there can be this pressure to have the right personality.

Some women instinctively enter the room hoping to prove themselves. Others focus a lot on how lonely and isolated they feel if they lack close female colleagues.

I worry that some women leave the impression that they feel fear in the workplace. You walk into a room and feel as if you don’t belong there, and, suddenly, people start treating you like you don’t belong there. You can’t go into a job like that; there is no reason to be intimidated in a position that you’re perfectly qualified for.

Actions taken

If you’re the only woman in the room, try not to think too much about it. Overthinking is a pattern that all of us fall into sometimes. What do I have to do to make them like me? You start wasting all of this energy overcompensating instead of focusing on what really matters. You don’t have to say things that are “smart”; instead, devote your time to doing things that are smart.

I love to see women in leadership roles. The best way to find yourself in such a role is to be purposefully rational in a business context. Always share your thought process with others. It’s totally cliche, but you always have to be yourself. If you try to fake it, it’s going to show. This is one skill that took a lot of time for me to get the hang of.

Emotions have their place, but you should never let them influence your decisions. Many women can speak to the feeling of being judged more harshly than their male colleagues in this way. If you have something to say that is truly pertinent, you have to speak up. This is especially true if you want to become a leader one day.

I would give all of this advice to both women and men. In a new situation, try to give people the benefit of the doubt. And, if that fails, I love when people try to undermine me. It makes each day much more interesting. Prejudice will always exist in many forms, but if you’ve been given an opportunity, you at least stand some chance of turning those views around for others.

Lessons learned

  • If there are not many women around you, try not to worry too much about it. Focus on more important things.
  • I communicate very frankly in the workplace. If I need to pass on a difficult message, I will pass on a difficult message. Being transparent and direct with people are quality traits that all professionals should embody. I don’t like the word “earn”, but you really do need to earn the respect of others.
  • If something unfair or embarrassing happens to you at work, try not to become consumed with it before leaving the office for the day. We’ve all had moments where we’ve found ourselves tearing up in the break room. Remaining calm until you’re home again will help you come to terms with your feelings in private.

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