The Female Committee Factor

Meet “Boy.” Boy works hard. Boy is creative, intelligent and great at his job. After getting a great idea, he researches/writes/organizes and plans for a great presentation. He is on a roll, his figures work out, the idea is uncanny and he presents with ease. After he is done, he closes with “this is a great idea.”

Meet ‘Girl.” Girl works hard. She is creative, intelligent and great at her job. After getting a great idea, she researches/writes/organizes and plans for a great presentation. She is on a roll, her figures work out, the idea is uncanny and she presents with ease. After she is done, she closes with “so what do you guys think?”

See any differences?

Here in New York, I work as a freelance Creative Director & Producer. A recent turn of events had me presenting for what seemed like weeks on 3 very big projects in hopes to win business for myself and my team, plus producing a music video and two big events. Through everything, I found myself taking ideas from great inspirations and transforming them into campaigns and experiences, but I also caught myself venturing into an old bad habit I like to call the “female committee factor.”

A big part of my job is to pitch ideas to your superiors, co-workers and future clients. The process can be jarring, and very vulnerable depending on your attachment to your ideas. One thing that I noticed, even in college, was the difference in the way that men and women present. While both a man and a woman could have the same great idea, the presentation differed in the delivery. Both sexes can be confident and assertive, however while the men tend to say “here it is/my idea is great/i believe in this/this is what we should do” women tend to venture off into “here it is/my idea is great/what do you think/hmm maybe I will consider that/do you think this is what we should do?” At it’s core, the “female committee factor” is when women allow their natural instinct for inclusion to override their instincts and focus.

This is not true with every man, woman or industry. But as I’ve lamented over this in the past, I find that I’m not alone. In my field, the higher your climb, the less women you see so a few years ago I decided to test myself to see if I could let go of the “female committee factor” and I failed, miserably. I confused confidence for brashness, and was rightfully labeled as a bitch. I thought I had to act like a man to get the same respect as men, and I bulldozed myself into a corner. I forgot that some of the characteristics of the “female committee factor” are actually good for business. Luckily, I was given a second chance, but it was risky. I was handed the opportunity to produce a tour and all eyes, and responsibilities, fell on me. I had to make decisions that not only affected business, but the livelihood of friends and co-workers and manage a client who still equated bitchiness with being a “strong” leader. I guess sometimes the best remedy is to see yourself in someone else.

Since then i’ve lead teams and followed leaders, but i’ve learned to follow my instincts first in everything and take notes from female leaders in my field that have managed to navigate their industries successfully while maintaining their femininity. But when I get tired, I find myself allowing myself to get sucked into the dark side of the “female committee factor” and lose myself in other people’s opinions of my work. Call is a natural gift & curse.

I’d like to know what you think (see?) about it. So is it a natural reflex that just further demonstrates the differences between men and women? Social grooming? Or just a matter of confidence? What do you think ladies!?!

Last 5 posts by Shannon Washington

  • this honestly
    might not be a female thing only
    but also a black/minority problem…
    cus i do the same shit
    and i think its because of our
    seemingly tenuous inclusion
    at the big kids table
    so we get on some real
    “play it safe” shit
    i continue to be amused,
    impressed and occasionally appalled
    at the brashness of some of
    my white contemporaries
    but i’ve tried to find a sort of
    happy medium when pitching my
    own work,art,ideas…
    cus you’re right:

    “…..some of the characteristics of the “female committee factor” are actually good for business.”

    that said
    its a work in progress
    especially starting this
    architecture business
    i’ve had to do alot of shit
    that sucks
    cus you know i just wanna
    live in outerspace making
    really cool shit and
    not having to fuck with people…

  • I think that people have to be themselves. It will always fail miserably when a person tries to be like “one of the boys” even if they are not really looking to men for direction, but anyone that is not inline with who they are. People have to take heed to what others say they do well, and what others say they don’t do so well. I think that this is one of the most important reasons why most professionals need mentors and strong partners to serve as a professional reflection as well as Pep Team. Considering input from others isn’t bad you just have to know who you are, be confident in your boundaries and deal breakers, and know what areas you are willing to be flexible in. I respect those who can give it to you straight with no chaser and be direct about what they are going to do and deliver exactly that. Clear communication is always a plus in most relationships, especially business. A person can also be clear about what they are on the fence about and that can assist a partnership in developing a questionable area until a definite decision can be made. Sometimes you just don’t know until you know. Being able to admit that can be a gamble in business, only if you take your leadership role too seriously. None of us are so perfect that we are all knowing and all seeing all the time; I think that’s reserved for a higher power.