Be the Visible Bitch
Some comments on the last post got me thinking about this question of women being overlooked, sometimes figuratively and sometimes literally.
That and a couple of links from physorg.com about gender bias in hiring, specifically related to how women are perceived.
There was a question about how to get noticed. I can list some tactics here, but I'm sure there will be additional feedback in the comments.
1. Wear bright colors
It sounds trivial, but wearing bright colors suggests confidence and makes you more visible than dark or pale colors. Go ahead, wear solid red, orange, or magenta. Do something with your hair, if only because it makes YOU feel more confident when you look in the mirror. Being visible starts with your wanting to be seen.
2. Take up space
Yes, I'm talking about mannerisms here. Sit up or stand up tall, don't hunch your shoulders like a shrinking violet. Be the tall poppy. As tall as you can be.
Smile! And gesture widely (not wildly) when you talk. Don't sit on your hands, use them!
Lean in rather than backing away, make eye contact with everyone around, and raise your voice. Pointedly making eye contact will help you figure out if people are hearing you or not.
At a group meal, move quickly to get a good seat, then pull your chair up and make sure nobody crowds you out.
3. Go to the microphone
At meetings where questions are taken from standing microphones, GO THERE. Practice. You might be nervous every time you do it, but it does get easier. Your first questions might ramble a bit, but practice and you'll learn how to be succinct.
Don't be overly nice and or polite. When someone speaks over you, call them on it. Practice saying firmly and loudly, "Let me finish."
Yell if you have to. Practice belting out things like, "Hey! I'm sitting there! Get your own chair!"
If you still want to be liked, there are comical ways of doing this so that everyone appreciates that you're just sticking up for yourself, not taking it personally.
5. Sit front and center
Figure out where your eye is drawn in any room. This depends on the lighting, so pick somewhere bright, whether it's near a spotlight, or near a window. Figure out the eye-line of the speaker or professor, and make sure they can see you. Again, you'll be able to tell because they'll make eye contact, and might even speak to you just to be friendly. You might be surprised the first time this happens.
6. Introduce yourself
Even if it feels somewhat awkward or isn't usually done. Pretend you're from a place where people do this all the time, even if you're not.
Say, "Hello, I'm ___, " and shake hands. Come up with a harmless question to ask, whether it's about the meeting about to take place, or the weather, whatever.
Practice being outgoing with everyone, and it becomes second nature. Quite often when you do this, you'll find that whomever you meet is instantly put at ease, and actually feels relieved. You made THEM feel more welcome because you went out of your way to think of their needs (secretly, most people are shy with strangers, especially in science).
Yes, it takes a lot of energy. You will be nervous at first, and then tired. But hopefully you will meet some genuinely decent people if you make a point of putting yourself out there. And then it gets easier.
In every case, be prepared to be rebuffed. Don't take it personally, just shake it off. Sometimes people are grouchy (think House, MD). Whatever, that's not your problem. Try to be relentlessly cheerful no matter what. Ideally, try not to care what these people think of you. You'll make mistakes, you might put your foot in your mouth sometimes, but that actually happens more often when you're worrying about it.
They might call you a bitch. But they won't ignore you, either.
Now I know, I don't usually sound like this on this blog, but I can typically pull off this kind of good behavior when I put in the effort. And yes, they do call me a bitch. No amount of being friendly or supportive of my colleagues will ever make that go away. But it's (mostly) because I'd rather argue than be ignored, and I'm often (usually?) right when it comes to scientific arguments.
Nobody likes you when you're right all the time. Especially if you say it with a smile! ;-)
I'm rarely ignored unless I choose to be in hiding. And sure, I have had times when I just wanted to hide, and I am very good at being invisible when I want to be left alone.
If you want to hide, by all means, go ahead. Wear dark, baggy clothing, sit in the corner, don't speak to anyone. No one will see you or give you a hard time... unless they accidentally sit on you.