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Breaking the Double-Bind dilemma: Empowering Women

Have you ever noticed that in the workplace, women are frequently perceived as either “competent” or “likeable”, but never both? Let me paint a picture for you. Imagine Rose, a senior executive at a consulting firm, who is known for her strong leadership traits. She is extremely strict with deadlines and knows when to take […]

Have you ever noticed that in the workplace, women are frequently perceived as either “competent” or “likeable”, but never both? Let me paint a picture for you.
Imagine Rose, a senior executive at a consulting firm, who is known for her strong leadership traits. She is extremely strict with deadlines and knows when to take charge of things. But exhibiting these traits in the workplace made her co-workers and subordinates dismissing her as “difficult” or “unlikeable”. She was labelled with tags such as “bossy,” “hostile,” and “demanding.”
She recognizes that to be well-liked by her colleagues, she should exhibit more empathetic and nurturing qualities. However, doing so may compromise her perceived competence as a leader.
This state of dilemma is called the double-bind dilemma and it’s still a real problem for many women at work. This creates a no-win situation that limits women’s career progression. If they act too assertively, they’re penalized for not being “feminine” enough. But if they act too feminine, they’re not taken seriously as leaders.
This Dilemma can lead to microaggressions, negative feedback and discrimination against women that can harm their self-esteem, confidence; further hindering their professional growth. It is the most common contributor to gender leadership gap.
You might be wondering if only “men” are contributing to the perpetuation of the double-bind dilemma? The answer is no, females are equally responsible for this. A study conducted by the Yale School of Management found that both men and women were less likely to hire a woman for a job if she was perceived as “competent” but not “likeable.”
So, what can we do about it? How can we break free from this double-bind dilemma and create workplaces that value and support women professionals and leaders?

I. Recognize and Challenge your bias
We all have biases and acknowledging them is the first step in overcoming them. Question your assumptions, re-think before making a bold statement. A quick and efficient way in dismantling gender bias is to question yourself: “Would I have reacted the same way if X-person was a male?”
II. Be an Ally
Being an ally is as simple as just supporting women. Speak up when you witness bias against them at the workplace. Amplify their voices. Make them feel heard and validate them.

III. Support Gender Inclusive
Initiatives at your
workplace
This can include speaking against unfair treatment, promoting diversity and inclusion initiatives, and supporting flexible work arrangements that help women balance work and family responsibilities.
Breaking free from the double-bind dilemma and creating workplaces that value and support women’s leadership requires individual action. We can lead by example. By modelling inclusive behavior and creating a culture that values diversity and promotes gender equality, we can inspire others to do the same. The benefits of empowering women in the workplace are numerous and include greater innovation, improved performance, and a more engaged workforce. As we move forward, let’s challenge ourselves to think beyond the boxes created by societal norms and foster workplaces where women can thrive as leaders. The power to create change is in our hands.

Tha author is a Founder and Managing Consultant Embrace Consulting

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