Like discussions around money, the reluctance women have with being visible doesn’t come up that often in everyday conversation. Yet, if you pay attention in the corporate environment you’ll notice that these visibility issues are actually very, well, visible.
In so many ways, women at all stages of their corporate careers signal their reluctance to put themselves out there and be visible. Sometimes these signals are extremely obvious. For instance, knocking back opportunities to film a promotional video or to take the stage at conference.
Other times though these indicators are far more subtle. Not turning on their video while they are on a webinar. Deliberately choosing to sit out of shot on a video conference. Mentioning after a meeting that they’d chosen to keep their thoughts to themselves. Recommending a colleague to present their work (rather than presenting it themselves) at an important forum. Talking super quickly in meetings so the focus will be off them sooner rather than later. And I’m really just scraping the surface here. The reality is that there are stacks of ways that women can hide, if they choose to do so.
Why do we do this?
Thanks to both my coaching business, and the mentoring I do within my organisation, I’ve had many chances to chat with women about why they attempt to remain invisible.
Unsurprisingly, over the years, consistent themes have emerged. Fear of judgement is one of the most common themes. So many women cite not wanting to look or sound ‘silly’ in front of others as their biggest visibility issue. An inability to accept themselves as they are comes up fairly regularly too, as do concerns about being too inexperienced or under-qualified.
In a nutshell, all of these can be summed up as feelings of not being good enough, clever enough or professional enough.
None of us really enjoy feeling ‘not enough’. With this in mind, it makes perfect sense that women see hiding as an entirely viable option. However, while remaining invisible offers a short-term pay off, in the longer term it can see you holding yourself back from bigger and better things.
While understanding all of this is one thing, addressing visibility issues can take time and work. Often women have been building these thoughts into their subconscious since childhood. However, if you put in the effort to tackle these issues, the benefits can be huge in terms of your confidence and your career outcomes.
Where do you start if you want to work on visibility issues?
If I could offer just one piece of advice to women who want to start working on their visibility issues, it is this:
Identify if you have an issue with visibility and work out where it causing you problems.
You can’t fix what you don’t know about or recognise. When you find yourself hiding, acknowledge it and don’t be afraid to dig into why you feel like you do. Once you gain understanding you can then take steps (baby ones if required) to overcome the issue. Working to improve is highly empowering. And just knowing that you are making moves in the right direction can help you feel more confident in the space.
One woman I worked with realised she had an issue when she couldn’t look at herself on the video conferencing screen. Consequently, she would position herself out of the camera view in every single meeting. She would also feel her stress levels rising if she couldn’t take one of her preferred seats. As hers was a national role that relied heavily on VC meetings, deep down she knew she was going to have to overcome this issue if she wanted to be successful in her role. The solution for her was to video herself and play it back over and over again, until she felt comfortable with the sight and sound of herself on camera.
A woman in a workshop I once held admitted that she felt she was too intimidated by her peers to speak up in meetings. She also shared that she tried to physically limit the space she took up in meeting rooms so she wouldn’t be noticed. The first step for this woman was to claim her space in meetings. This was something that she could work on without anyone else knowing. Once she felt comfortable being in meetings, she then set a goal of speaking at least once in every meeting. Over time, she realised that her peers actually welcomed her contribution, which encouraged her to share her thoughts more often.
Are there any areas where you know visibility is a challenge for you? Or have you worked to overcome visibility issues in the past? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section. And if you’d like more tips on building your confidence make sure you fill in your details below to receive a copy of my workbook – 5 steps to a more confident you.
Photo credit: Haute Stock Co
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