The art of self-advocacy. A conversation with author Deb Boelkes

Today is International Women’s Day. This occasion represents a very special, global recognition of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women around the world.

There is alignment between the message of International Women’s Day and our purpose as a company. As we move closer toward true equality, we will create a more humane world – one where the immense talents of all people are apparent and activated. This echoes the work we do each day.

Today we are an organization of nearly 17,000 people. A significant majority of our colleagues are women. As a talent-driven business, our pledge is to remain vigilant on inclusion in our own company and on fully accessing human potential.

Sponsored by LanguageLine Women, our president and CEO Scott W. Klein had the opportunity to interview noted author, speaker, and consultant Deb Boelkes about the work landscape for women today.

Boelkes works with an impressive list of Fortune 100 firms and speaks with women leaders daily. She takes us inside and has a rare ability to articulate the unique experience that women have at work. We think that all people will find the dialogue illuminating.

WATCH: LanguageLine Conversations – An Interview with Deb Boelkes

Here are several excerpts from their conversation.

On her list of traditionally feminine skills that Boelkes feels are essential for modern leaders:

Our workforce is feeling a sense of isolation. They’re feeling like they are no longer part of the team. When these feelings are present, it can be a drag on the organization. We need leaders who can restore this sense of connection as we move to more remote work environments.

The best place to work is a place where you have the best job, the best team, the best boss, and you would never want to work anywhere else. Working in a place like this, there is an upward spiral of things getting better and better. This impacts your customers. They want to do business with you and in fact they would never do business with anyone else.

These skills that women often have are important to get us from a place where our teams are feeling isolated and disconnected, to a place where they are not just comfortable but thrilled to be there. This will rub off on our customers and at the end of the day impact the bottom line of the business quite favorably.

On “impostor syndrome”:

Impostor syndrome is a biggie. It’s the feeling of “I’m really not that good. Somebody is going to find out that I’m a fake.” It’s a fear of failure and not believing in yourself. It’s not something that happens to only women, but women tend to suffer from it more commonly than men appear to. Men appear to overcome it much more readily.

Impostor syndrome in the workplace manifests in a number of ways. One way is that women will tend to mute themselves. While they’re great at communicating and having that congenial dialogue with other people, when it comes time to get to the table where real decisions are being made, that’s when we get scared and think “Oh my gosh, I don’t know everything.”

If we could only realize that it’s our ideas that are so valuable. People want to hear from us.

On how women can better self-advocate at work:

Get in touch with who you are. Get in touch with what you really do well. What are those innate skills and strengths that you have? For some reason, women will often do something really well and then sweep it under the rug. It’s almost like we think that to do something really well, we have to struggle with it.

Your super powers are the things you’re really good at and you love to do. Think about what those things are and then let your managers and higher ups know what you’re really good at.

Especially when you’re in a remote environment, you need to come forward and say, “These are the challenges the company has and this is what I can do to help.”

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