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Proud to be supporting the celebration for International Women in Engineering

Join us on 20 June at the University of Bath where Catherine will be speaking about Assertiveness at Transforming the Future - an event to celebrate 100 years of the International Women in Engineering Society. This session will break the myth that being assertive in the workplace is an ‘aggressive’ trait.

Is 'assertive' a dirty word in your organisation?


Oh she’s ‘Assertive!’ – When have you heard that phrase? I’ve heard it many times in my career and I can tell you that it didn’t really mean that ‘she’ was assertive at all, it meant that ‘she’ was aggressive.

In the 1980’s women were sent on ‘Assertiveness’ courses and some of us were power-dressing! Just that word alone makes me shiver. Power for who? For us? Or to enable us to have power in a male dominated world. However, what we were being taught was to, yes, stand up for ourselves and state our needs, but not to listen or take on board anyone else’s point of view. We were taught to be loud, to change our tone of voice, to make ourselves look bigger (Oh those shoulder pads!), in other words to match the dominant males we were going to make listen to us.

It’s still happening – I’ve been doing some research recently on the different, specific skills, if any, female leaders need to be successful at work. One of our clients told me – “I have heard some managers comment that some female leaders are aggressive, when perhaps they mean ‘assertive’ and the males are perceived as a strong leader when they behave in the same way”.

I would like to start a campaign that takes away the ‘dirty word’ association from Assertive and people use it to mean what it was meant to:

 ‘Someone who is assertive states their needs and opinions clearly, so that people take notice’.

It’s International Women’s day today! ‘Balance for Better’ and we are working with clients who are trying to re-dress, (not power-dress!) the balance, to enable women to reach their potential in their chosen fields.

We’re still talking about ‘assertiveness’ but in its true sense. It’s a ‘balance’ in stating your needs and also listening to understand.

Sharing knowledge

Last week we ran another one of our quarterly forums - a regular event that we have for the office team and associates. The forums serve a number of functions. They force us to do some reading and research - something that is often overtaken by more pressing work! They also enable us to discuss topics and issues and to share ideas. We are keen to keep our programmes up to date and fresh and the forums provide a place where new ideas can be discussed. I was really struck last week by the value of the forums - the topic we had picked was influencing and assertiveness as this is an area that we do a lot of work on with clients. In just two hours we had generated a long list of ideas for exercises and activities. We also explored the link of influencing skills to assertive behaviour and self belief and the extent to which this should be explored with delegates.One of the challenges we face along with many other organisations is how to share the vast knowledge and experience of our team. The forums certainly provide a vehicle for doing this.

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