Our board babe faces downright ageism in the boardroom – for being too young. She fights back with plain-talking business results.When I took my first board position some years ago, I was asked to change my hair and my clothes to look “older”. I am, still, at least 10 years’ younger than most of my board-level colleagues.
But I was highly offended when asked to change the way I look just to “fit in” at the top. I’ll be the first to admit I dug my heels in, even then, to any focus that was on how I looked, rather than what I delivered.
I am my own worst critic and therefore will only measure my success on deliverables and achievements alone. If I can’t be measured on that, then don’t measure me at all.
Being a decade younger than other board-level colleagues means I often get comments about how young I look versus how mature I behave. Sometimes I don’t know how to take them. I’m not age-conscious – yet, although I certainly don’t want to look older than I am.
I have worked hard to get where I am, and perhaps quicker than the average women who has taken time out to have children and get married. Add to that some colourful life experience and yes, it’s fair to say I have wisdom beyond my years. But I would like to think it hasn’t aged me.
In the boardroom a few days ago, a few comments where whispered which collectively assigned all of us to the same age bracket, at which point I had to interject and correct the group that they are 10 years ahead of me. At this point, I had rapid blinking from my colleagues, checking for the truth and signs of wrinkles that would disprove what I was saying.
I don’t believe my age has ever been a hindrance. I have been able to converse comfortably on any board when discussing business matters and have always ensured my opinion was heard. I don’t believe that’s anything to do with my age. Yes, I have an air of maturity, but more than that, I know what I’m talking about when I speak and have good insight towards other people.
My looks and age have nothing to do with it. I do take pride in my looks, but that’s only for my own gratification rather than to conform to the judgements of others.
Thankfully, I have earned respect from my peers and that is based on what I bring and what I deliver rather than the rightful age to justify my place. I wonder how many women are judged however on age, their style, their gender or anything else.
My advice is simple, stick to what you do best, to what you can do for the business and let that be the only thing you are judged on.
Board Babe sits on the executive board of a multinational company with more than 10,000 employees. In her weekly blog, she reveals the ups and downs of being a woman at the top in a corporate environment.
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