Plato Elevate Winter Summit has been announced (Dec 7th-8th)

🔥

Back to resources

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.

Discover Plato

Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader


Related stories

Why We Need Diversity

5 November

Sydney Russakov, Senior Product Manager at LinkedIn, shares her views on diversity and working together in the same office environment.

Goal Setting
Diversity
Team Processes
Sydney Russakov

Sydney Russakov

Senior Product Manager at LinkedIn

How to Lead Decisions By Following Market Problems

4 November

Joey Lei, Principal Product Manager at Kasten, discusses his knowledge regarding the downsides of being enticed by the zeal of a technology using examples of his most recent passion: cryptocurrency.

Innovation / Experiment
Managing Expectations
Feelings Aside
Personal Growth
Joey Lei

Joey Lei

Principal Product Manager at Kasten

How to Address Challenges in Geographically Distributed Team

14 October

Sachin Shah, CTO, shares how he created an elegant solution to improve the delivery process.

Architecture
Remote
Diversity
Cultural Differences
Sachin Shah

Sachin Shah

CTO at Self Employeed

How to Manage an Employee With Depression

14 October

Sachin Shah, CTO, discusses how he dealt with and supported a team member with mental health challenges while handling project deadlines.

Diversity
Internal Communication
Psychological Safety
Juniors
Health / Stress / Burn-Out
Sachin Shah

Sachin Shah

CTO at Self Employeed

Creative Recruitment Strategies to Hire Great Candidates

14 October

Lyle Kozloff, Senior Support Engineering Manager at GitLab Inc., shares how one of the companies he worked at brought some innovative ways on the table to hire top talent.

Diversity
Hiring
Team Processes
Lyle Kozloff

Lyle Kozloff

Senior Support Engineering Manager at GitLab Inc.

You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.

Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.