I’m part of a generation of women who didn’t have to burn their bras to become CEOs, business moguls and, in my case, an Emmy award-winning television anchor covering the National Football League. Here we are, the offspring of the women’s liberation movement, with doors open to us that our mothers never could have dreamed of.
Yet many women still struggle to navigate the sometimes tricky dynamics involved in relationships with male coworkers, bosses and subordinates—especially if you’ve chosen traditionally male-dominated professions. It takes quick wit, self-awareness and the perfect mix of reserve and relentlessness to thrive. Here are some tips I’ve picked up during my career.
1. Know your stuff
Hall of Fame sportscaster Bob Wolff once told me, “Know more than the men because they expect you to know less.” If you are great at what you do and come prepared every day to contribute strong ideas and lead, people will see your value and respect you.
2. Ask for help
Asking a question about something you should know but don’t won’t make you look inferior to men; failing to ask and then later being exposed for your lack of knowledge will. Asking for help is also a great way to build relationships since people love feeling like they have something to offer or teach another person.
3. Be both reserved and relentless
When put in a difficult situation, take pause and ask yourself, “Is this worth fighting?” If the answer is no, realize there is strength in showing restraint. If the answer is yes, then go in stern, confident and professional. Bring a well-crafted argument to the table, and don’t lose your temper. As a self-proclaimed firecracker, I’ve found it’s easy for men to unfairly label women “emotional.” It’s sad, but that’s the truth and it’s difficult to break down stereotypes if your message isn’t being received. Do your best to remain calculated and unwavering.
4. Have a sense of humor
At work, you need the ability to laugh with your male co-workers. Humor allows people to lower their defenses and defuse tense situations.
5. Command respect
If you feel a line has been crossed, sometimes the best immediate reaction is no reaction. Walk away. In doing so, you’ll convey the message that you’re there to work and not flirt or play. I’ve also found that personally addressing the individual a day later in a very direct yet cordial manner can lead to a mutual understanding of your boundaries.
6. Use other women as a support system
In male-dominated professions, you might have only a handful of female coworkers. Make a point to introduce yourself to them. Women can learn a lot from other women, and it’s nice to be part of an exclusive sorority. And remember, you have a huge responsibility to be a good representative of women in your industry. If you’re successful, remember it will open doors for other women.
Amber Theoharis is an Emmy award-winning sportscaster who can currently be seen on the NFL Network. She has also covered the NHL, NBA, MLB, college basketball and football.