Friday Speak Out!: How-To: 4 Tips on Being a Woman in Charge

Friday, November 30, 2018
by Seven Van Nort

In a small, private college in South Central, PA, there is a literary magazine called The York Review. For the past two years, I’ve been in a position of power – the print editor – for this literary magazine. From the call for submissions, leading the submission revision process, to the compilation of the yearly print issue, I am the sole leader of all things involving said print issue. I am also a woman. While being in a position of power has its own respective issues, it’s been my experience that being a woman in a position of power only adds to the struggles. So, how do you, as a woman, surpass the struggle of your team’s perception and potentially internalized sexism?

1. It’s likely that your team doesn’t even recognize their lack of willingness to work with you or accept your authority. They’ll find themselves wanting to question your decisions. In order to combat this, it requires a great deal of preparation on your part. For every one reason you have for making a decision as it pertains to your team or your position of power, you’ll need three more. Back it up with sources and publisher approval.

2. Don’t be afraid to assert yourself, however you need to as it pertains to your experience. For me, I try to keep a straight face and speak in a professional tone. I maintain a lot of spatial awareness, and make sure I’m always standing with my shoulders back, never hiding behind a podium, when I’m addressing the entire team.

3 Your attitude and how you treat your team and their opinions is everything. While you are maintaining that serious demeanor, it’s important to still have a positive attitude towards the process and your team as a whole. It’s also important to respect their individual opinions without letting them steamroll over your own. What I mean is that there may be loud voices on your team, and if that loud voice makes a good point, it’s important to note that. However, if that loud voice makes an irrelevant point, or participates in circular arguments with no foreseeable end, it is important to acknowledge said point without invalidating it, while also shutting it down. Simply, state that the discussion is going nowhere and encourage the team to move forward.

4. Take yourself and your position seriously, so that others do the same. This means timeliness: don’t be late to a meeting and don’t be late for a deadline. This means accountability: hold your team accountable for being on time for meetings and deadlines as well.

While it’s unfortunate that women still need a special how-to guide on being taken seriously in a position of power, throughout my two years of experience, these have been the most helpful tips in my survival guide. Keep your face forward and your ears covered to those who may criticize. You can do anything you set your mind to.

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Seven Van Nort is a 24 year old writer from York, Pennsylvania. She is the current Print Editor for The York Review, a student-run literary magazine based out of York College.
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Seven--An earlier post on this website about book signings brought up a similar point--but I think in this case, the rationale is different. The writer suggested that writers sit in front of their table or stand in front of their table, to make them more approachable (instead of the traditional sit-behind-the-table position).

Good luck with your editorial position and your future writing.

Joanne said...

Well said, Seven and Sioux.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Great post, Seven!

And this is why I only work with women. :) Seriously though, before WOW, I worked in the action-sports industry (skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding) around fourteen years ago, which was a total boys club back then, and I had to prove myself and fight for respect, so I totally relate. Have you ever read Lean In by Sheryl Sanders? It talks about some of what you mentioned, and how women unintentionally hold themselves back in the workplace, and how we can take the opportunity to change the inequality. Running a lit mag and a team takes a lot of dedication and determination, and I applaud you! Thanks for the post, and I will check out your publication. :)

Seven Van Nort said...

Thank you for all of your kind comments! I'm always interested to hear what people think, and love when what I write can start a conversation.

Sioux, that's a really interesting point for book signings. I can see how that would be beneficial, not just in terms of being more approachable, but also by putting yourself on a more level playing field with all of the visiting fans. Unfortunate that women have to be this conscientious about something as simple as where/how they stand in a room, but that's good advice from that writer nonetheless, and I'll definitely be keeping it in mind.

Angela, that's amazing, and also again, an unfortunate circumstance having to fight for something as simple as the respect of co-workers. I applaud you for being able to deal with that kind of environment. While I do have some of those louder voices on my current team, I'm very fortunate this year to have one that's cohesive. There have been a few instances where some issues have arisen, but I feel like the mutual respect everyone has for every team member is there. It's a relief. I haven't ready that, no! I'll certainly be adding it to my list though, so thank you for the recommendation. That sounds extremely insightful. Thank you again! I beyond appreciate your praise, as well as everyone else's.

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