A letter to you, the only woman at the table,
You were recently hired as a manager at a great company. You earned it. You feel fantastic. You are fantastic. But I know how scared you are.
I see you in that meeting. Eager. Engaged. Intimidated.
Your shoulders tense. Your mouth kept shut. Your mind in overdrive:
“What if I say the wrong thing? What if my understanding of this is totally incorrect? What if I seem too pushy? What if I sound… stupid?”
There’s the Business Development guy who went to Harvard, after all. The Product guy who speaks part-English, part-corporate bullsh*t. The over-caffeinated engineer who has a ton of great tech experience.
But you got the job. The hiring managers, men and women, believed in you. And why wouldn’t they? You’ve worked your ass off for years. Sacrificed birthdays and social events to put in those extra hours. You made difficult choices the majority of your peers didn’t. You’ve earned it.
Oh, and did I mention you’re capable as hell? You’re smart. Enthusiastic. Dedicated. Full of ideas. Accomplished. The list goes on and on and on…
And still, your biggest concern is how to not sound “stupid” in a meeting full of men…
You’ve been on edge here ever since one of your co-workers was visibly taken aback by your age. The truth is, he’s intimidated. You don’t know this, though, because you see yourself only through his eyes.
This is a lesson you will have to learn: To see yourself and your abilities through your own eyes and to love yourself through your own heart.
You’ve spent too many days and years trying to conform to ideals that aren’t your own.
I understand how and why that happened now. It started in your earliest school memories: being called “bossy” from the age of 4. Being unfairly overlooked for various opportunities from the age of 9. Being laughed at for crying afterwards. That damaged your self-esteem. It distorted your self-belief.
But if only you could see what I see now:
A smart human with emotional intelligence, integrity and so much ability. You have so much to give. Because you are a girl. Because you are a woman.
The trajectory of your life will change the day you start using your voice. Using your voice, although brave, doesn’t mean being fearless. It means using your fear and vulnerability to your advantage, as the fuel to power your dreams.
Want to know the best part? One day, you’ll be pulling up a chair for other women, just like you. Eager. Engaged. But this time less alone, because of you.
I am so proud of you.
P.S You can stop looking for ‘your place’ now. Your place is in the room.
Your place is right here, at the table.