Jul 26, 2017

As a young woman in the tech industry, I’ve often had my voice silenced during important meetings and strategy sessions. (Hey, it’s easy to be underestimated when you look like a 14-year-old playing dress up for the day!)

Luckily, I have a supportive team of both men and women, who consistently encourage me to speak up, share my ideas, and grow by being an example to others. When I began to speak up and demand respect, the tides turned for the better and my team immediately followed suit.

Here are some quick and easy tips to implement in your daily life to make you feel confident enough to demand respect in the workplace:

1. Learn to say no. There’s a misconception that politely accepting every task will get you noticed and move you up in the ranks. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you have to. Don’t focus on being liked, focus on completing your assigned tasks and your required responsibilities. Politely decline if you are overextended and have other things to focus on.

2. Share your goals. If you have a clear picture of where you want your department or your organization to go, learn to strategize by the week, the month, or the quarter. Sharing your goals with your team allows you to voice your opinion, and gives them a clear idea of the growth goals you have in mind. Even if you choose not to share your business goals with your team, make sure you post them somewhere. This gives you have a clear visual of your goals every day and keeps you motivated to achieve and surpass them.

3. Be an example. Your team notices the way you respond to emails, difficult situations, and daily catastrophes. If you’re having a meltdown, ping a close friend or WiC mentor instead of ranting to your team. A few WiC panels have reminded us to “fake it until you make it.” This helps you maintain composure until you are able to speak with a confidant or come up with a solid game plan.

4. Be honest. If an employee submits something to you with an issue or request for feedback, make sure you clearly communicate your opinions and ideas. Of course you want to respond respectfully, but even if the feedback is not the most positive, it’s more dangerous to hold it in. Not expressing yourself fully can lead to miscommunication, which leads to additional work in the long term. If you don’t have a clear idea or response when the issue arises, schedule a meeting to discuss it. This gives you time to sit down and plot out your response.

5. Be yourself. Authenticity is so important when communicating with others. People begin to adapt to your leadership style, your speech patterns, and the way you make decisions. This gives them the confidence to come to you with concerns, new ideas, or even suggestions that will better your team as a whole.

6. Think like the janitor. Many of our parents and mentors have told us to treat the janitor with the same level of respect as the CEO. This advice remains solid, but I would like to offer a new perspective today. Think like the janitor. Remain approachable and willing to clean up messes no one else will. This helps you see flaws in your business, see flaws in your methods, and recognize ways you can support others to better your team as a whole. Janitors swoop in whenever there’s an issue they can quickly resolve, and they earn respect by remaining compassionate and humble while doing so.

When I joined WiC, I found a group of women who were dealing with similar workplace issues. I learned new techniques to be my own advocate and support others (while maintaining my work ethic while retaining my sanity). I learned that sharing your story could encourage women to speak up and establish their own voices.

One day, I decided to speak up and clearly define who I am and what I would and would not accept. Instead of demanding respect, I have attracted respect by knowing what I can do, and by being the best person and boss I can be.


Shaquille Fontenot is the Director of Marketing at Converged Network Services Group, the premier Master Distributor for Cloud, Connectivity, and Cloud Enablement. Shaquille manages the CNSG Marketing Team and assists with the planning, development, and implementation of all CNSG marketing strategies. She joined WiC in 2016 and is a member of the Event Planning and PR Committees.