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This Simple Exercise Helps Women Overcome Stereotype

When I Expressed Interest In The Role

My manager guffawed at my suggestion because he thought I was joking – I wasn’t.

An operations supervisor position had become vacant and I’d express interest in having a crack at it. When my manager realised I was serious, he blushed, dropped his eyes and murmured something about it ‘not being an environment for a woman.’

I felt myself shrink and disappear into the small child who lives inside me. ‘Maybe he’s right. It’s a tough environment,’ I thought. It wasn’t as if the position would’ve been a promotion (I was already at a higher level). I was interested in the development opportunity it presented.

His Response Was Nonsense

 I know it now, and I knew it then.

I’d already been working in the environment negotiating workplace agreements with some tough unions and alongside the supervisors who would’ve be my peers. I’d gained respect from all sides and had achieved much for the business.

But at that moment I decided to let it go.

Those events took place 20 years ago.

If This Happened Today My Reaction Would Be Different 


Smiling Jacqui Alder wearing blue top in a cafe with her bookWhy? Because I’m more confident now: clear about who I am, my strengths and weaknesses, and comfortable with the knowledge some things are right for me, and some things aren’t. As a result, I have less self-doubt. The good news is, you can reach that place within yourself by a shorter route than the one I’ve takenRecent research has found reflecting on personal values can help women deal with these situations better. It’s like getting an inoculation against negative stereotypes.

Negative Stereotypes Hold Women Back

When women are in environments where gender stereotypes are pervasive, it impacts their subconscious thoughts, and consequently their behaviour. This process of internalising gender stereotypes leads women to live down to the limitations associated with the stereotypes. For example, the common trope that girls aren’t good at maths which is now known to be untrue. This results in women unwittingly hold themselves back. An effect known as ‘stereotype threat’.

Situations where there are few female role models can lead to self-defeating thoughts such as, ‘If other women aren’t good enough, then why am I?’

Would You Like Your Stereotype Inoculation?

Would you like your inoculation? Great, then try this exercise. 

List your top 5 core values.

Anchor them by writing a description of why each value is important to you.

In order to get the full benefit of this exercise it is important to:

Reinforce them by referring to them regularly – focusing on the why, and

Use them as the cornerstone for how you define success.

By reflecting like this, you’ll strengthen your sense of self even further. You can also download the values reflection exercise from my self-coaching journal for women. If you’re sure of your values yet something still isn’t right then you mightn’t be living them as well as you think you are. I suggest you take an accountability check with Are You Living Your Values? – it’s free.

If you try the exercise I’d love to hear how it worked for you.


Be Successful, Be Yourself

My purpose is to help create female role models who demonstrate it’s possible to be both successful and to be yourself

These articles are one aspect of that purpose. I have also written a self-coaching journal which has successfully guided many women to define success in their own terms whilst being true to their values. If you would like to take the next step you can find out more about the journal, download my guided values exercise, or contact me.

About the Author

Jacqui Alder is an internationally experienced human resources executive, consultant, and coach, with over 30 years’ experience in global businesses. She has worked in Australia, Europe, and Asia across multiple industry sectors.

She is founder at Clarity Simplicity Success for Women, and author of a self-coaching journal for women of the same name. The purpose of this business is to empower women to define their own meaning of success with their values at its heart.

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