Executive Presence: Paving your way to the Boardroom

On 5th December Deputy Mayor of Business & Innovation, Rajesh Agrawal, warmly kicked off our Executive Presence event at City Hall, welcoming guests and sharing his and the Mayors’ views on Gender Parity.

We were thrilled to hear The Mayor has appointed an even split of female and male Deputy Mayors as well as re-configuring the TfL advisory board to include over 50% women representatives. Their work on reducing their pay gap, and looking at their HR policies, learning and development and work culture are all fundamental good practice. However, there is still a problem at board level in most organisations, and whilst part of the problem is the incumbents, the other half of the equation sits in the minds of the women trying to enter these male dominated environments.

So with that in mind, with my two hats on – co-founder of TLA Women in Tech and CEO of Tyche Leadership consulting, I led a session on executive presence, the much spoken about and misunderstood description for what it takes to be a leader/exec. 100 leaders from all levels male and female played at standing, walking, greeting like a man and then like a woman, and noticed how differently their bodies felt in behaviour. Mens body language is much more loud, open and present, whereas womens stereotypical body language is small and neat and quiet. No wonder we don’t enter a room with the same ‘presence’ that we could do, with just a few tweaks.

Exploring the components of Gravitas, Communication and Appearance, the groups were asked to self score and then discuss with people around he table to get feedback. In most cases women scored themselves lower than the people giving them feedback. So much of this is in our mindsets, we need to give ourselves permission to be the best we can be, and we need to encourage women to do so. Men and Women have a vital role to play in un-doing years of social expectation, to enable women to step up, ‘lean in’ and ask for what they deserve. Women themselves would benefit from spending time on understanding what they are doing to undermine their presence, what knocks their confidence, and then choosing 1 or 2 small areas they can focus on and doing those things with absolute commitment.

Amy Cuddy in her TED Talk says ‘Fake it til you become it’, I say “Use every strategy you can, be the fearless, courageous female that you are outside of work, she is already inside you, bring her in, you may ‘become it’, quicker than you realised”