If every woman got a nickel for every time a man demeaned one of us at work, I firmly believe we'd close the pay gap (and maybe even open up a new one going the other way). From telling us to "smile" and talking over our ideas to sexual harassment and in extreme cases assault, women can go through a lot at work.
So when I came across this TikTok from Katie Tucci (@kaytuc) explaining her strategies for showing men that she means Business with a capital B, I was very much here for it. Katie is 30 years old, based in Washington, DC, and she told BuzzFeed that she learned these strategies while working as a paralegal and in law school.
In the video, which has been viewed more than 3 million times, she explained that she starts every meeting with a firm handshake and always introduces herself with her first and last name in any professional context. She also strives to keep her speech declarative and direct. "One thing my professors pushed in law school and I think is very invaluable is to stop waffling... You're being paid for your opinion, your intellect, your research, and what you bring to the table. Sounding unsure about what you're bringing to the table is the first way to undermine yourself."
She goes on to give some body language tips that signal that she's not afraid to take up space. "I do not smile in meetings. I always make sure that my chair is raised up as high as it can be. So visually when I'm sitting at a table, I'm about head level and eye level with everyone else, even though I'm naturally pretty short."
Katie also mentions using more casual, male-coded body language, like leaning back or sitting with her legs slightly apart, to demonstrate her power in the room. "That sort of relaxed atmosphere actually translates a little bit to arrogance. And frankly, I've found that it works."
Additionally, she likes to take the lead in meetings to help reinforce her authority. "I always try to be the one initiating whatever we're doing next, whether it's standing up to move and end the meeting, whether it's shaking hands at the door to say goodbye, whether it's moving someone from one space to another. I'm the one who starts doing it to get everyone else to follow me."
Finally, she has advice for what to do when a man persists in calling you a dreaded pet name like "honey" or "sweetheart" (barf). "There's absolutely nothing wrong with saying, 'You know, I really don't think you are interested in engaging in this meeting with me in good faith. So I'm going to have to continue to use my time elsewhere.' This is the most important part. You cannot let them get away with that. Do not accept an apology. Do not normalize it. Do not nod your head and smile. I know it's incredibly uncomfortable. I know it's incredibly terrifying. And honestly this took me years to feel comfortable doing. You stand your ground, you look them in the eye, and you say, 'My name is not sweetheart.'"
"Don't be disappointed in yourself if you can't do this all immediately. It took me a decade to learn most of this stuff. Just don't ever be afraid to make them uncomfortable because they are never afraid to make you uncomfortable."
And in the comments, many viewers are praising Katie's advice and loving her boss vibes.
While others lamented the idea that women should have to change the way we present at all in order to be perceived as competent professionals.
Katie told BuzzFeed that watching the way her boss reacted when she was called "sweetheart" while working as a paralegal was a big aha-moment for her. "My boss immediately shot back, 'Her name is Katie, and you’ll be sure to use it in this office.' That comment, coupled with a sudden shift in his body language — from sitting back at ease, to leaning forward with his weight on his forearms while they rested on the table, chin down and eyes directly fixed on the other individual — made opposing counsel curtly nod his head before continuing the discussion."
"That’s when I started putting two and two together, that commanding respect was as much about the words that come out of your mouth as it is your body language. I realized that I had spent a lot of time expressing myself verbally — 'I need you to go away.' 'I’m not interested, thanks.' 'That sounds just like my idea.' — but I hadn’t followed up with body language that made people believe that I meant it when I said those things. Once I started adopting the body language of people around me who I saw were successful in commanding respect, the things I said began to be taken more seriously."
Katie says that though it was challenging to learn how to implement these strategies, leaning on her friends and coworkers for their input really helped her fine-tune her approach. "Honestly my friends and coworkers were invaluable in learning how to present myself in a way that was commanding yet also fostered collaboration. Having people who would honestly answer me when I asked, 'Was how I phrased that rude?' helped me build up confidence as I discerned what worked for me."
She also believes that there's a larger conversation to be had about who people in our culture tend to respect and why. "I’ve read some really insightful comments from POC and people who are genderqueer or agender about how behaviors that are acceptable for white women and men to exhibit aren’t acceptable for everyone else. I think that it's my job in having this platform to continually educate myself on how to make the spaces I inhabit more inclusive — no one should have to change themselves for their work to matter."