Women face a lot of external challenges in business and leadership, but one of their biggest hurdles is actually internal: a lack of confidence.
"Women are often their own worst enemies, career wise," said Jill Flynn, partner at leadership consulting firm Flynn Health Holt. "We want to be good girls, follow the rules and do what we're supposed to do. We don't have a lot of confidence."
And Flynn's not the only one who thinks so. Last month, beauty brand Pantene released a video on YouTube highlighting how often women reflexively apologize for no real reason. The video, which is part of the brand's "#ShineStrong" series and has racked up nearly 9 million views to date, is a powerful reminder that women shouldn't say "sorry" for their ideas. Instead, women should find ways to show their strength and confidence in and out of the office. (See the video here.)
So how do women take a page from the book of Pantene and shine strong in the workplace? They've got to learn from their mistakes, take ownership of their ideas and consider how their coworkers perceive them, especially in business meetings, Flynn said.
"Meetings are so important because they're the corporate stage," Flynn said, adding that people either contribute and brand themselves in meetings, or fail to do so. [5 Simple Ways to Make Meetings More Productive ]
In a professional setting, women need to watch how they speak and what language they use. The difference between stating their ideas and asking if their ideas are OK can make or break how women are viewed by their coworkers.
"We don't speak up very much. We don't use strong language. Women have got to listen to themselves and use more muscular language," Flynn said.
Instead of saying, "How about we think about doing this?" say, "I suggest we do this," Flynn said.
And when it comes to apologizing, it's time to stop.
"Men don't apologize. They think it's odd. We don't know why we apologize when we're not sorry," Flynn said.
Women trying to establish a leadership role in a business meeting also need to think about physical presence, Flynn added. And while she noted that it's important to dress professionally, having a stronger presence goes beyond your appearance. Women need to work on their posture, eye contact and gestures if they want colleagues to take them seriously, Flynn said.
Women can also stand out in meetings by showing up early, staying later, and being collaborative and inclusive, Flynn said. Keeping your cool is also key.
"Don't show that you're rattled if you are. Keep a lid on it until after the meeting," Flynn said.
And yes, you can disagree with your coworkers — just do it the right way. You should never be disagreeable, Flynn said, but you can and should disagree.
"Alpha males respect us more if we clearly, respectfully disagree. They want us to have a point of view and want to know what we think. It's important to get our point of view out there," Flynn said.
Originally published on Business News Daily