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Event Recap - Advocating for Self: A Workshop

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Speakers:   Angshupria Pathak, Megan Blaine
Location:    Anderson Brule Architects, San Jose, CA
Date:            March 27, 2019
Time:           6:00 – 8:30
Blog By:      Erica Snyder

Event Overview

In the first event of the 2019 WIA event series, Megan Blaine, AIA and Angshupria Pathak, AIA led a workshop that helped participants build skills for articulating experience and advocating for themselves in the workplace. Megan and Angshupriya kicked off the event by presenting their own self advocacy journeys and explaining how these experiences have shaped their careers. Angshupriya outlined how advocating for herself allowed her to make the difficult decision to leave her job to pursue a position more aligned with her personal and professional goals, and Megan explained how her advocacy journey ultimately led her to start her own firm.

TIPS AND TRICKS

Both Megan and Angshupriya’s self-advocacy awakenings were heavily influenced by techniques that were eloquently articulated in excerpts from two TED Talks.   

The first, from “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” by Amy Cuddy, emphasizes the importance of body language; specifically, “power posing.” Cuddy explains the importance of presenting yourself with confidence. To illustrate this point, she points to her observations of MBA students’ nonverbal body language. According to her research, the “alphas,” those students who place themselves in the middle, those who raise their hands high, and those who want to occupy the most space, seemed to be the most fearless and most present in the classroom. Those students who make themselves small, raise their hands only slightly to answer questions, and sit on the outskirts of the classroom, are less likely to participate. Cuddy connects this primal display of power to the gender gap with which business schools have been struggling for years.

The second TED talk, “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders,” given by Sharyl Sandberg, considers why we have too few women leaders. Sandberg identifies three main ideas that have a direct impact on women staying in the workforce: sitting at the table, making your partner a real partner, and not leaving before you leave. The concepts behind these three ideas are simple. Sitting at the table creates a sense of equality; having a real partner at home and in the workplace counters the phenomenon that women with children have two jobs, not one; and the fact that many women inherently see their careers as having an end date due to the decision to start a family prevents them from feeling empowered and motivated, and can result in, to use Sandberg’s words, leaving before they leave.

So the messages are clear: Present yourself with confidence. Sit at the table. Make your partner a real partner. Don’t leave before you leave.
 

THE WORKSHOP

Megan and Angshupriya used these concepts to lead a workshop on building self-advocacy skills. Each participant was given a paper on which they were to articulate their biggest achievements and their biggest annual career goals.  They were also reminded the group that because it is common knowledge that all achievements are accomplished by a team, each of us should be empowered to say that we achieved our goals.

The group was then instructed to put themselves in their own shoes exactly one year in the future and think about how they could present their achievements and goals to a client or a supervisor. The participants were consistently and supportively reminded to present themselves with confidence and to highlight their own experiences.

To conclude the exercise, the participants were broken up into four smaller groups and challenged to verbalize their achievements and goals. Many individuals took the perspective of presenting themselves to a superior and expressing how their experiences merit either a promotion, or simple recognition. The increased confidence and appreciation for each individual’s hard work was palpable.

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LESSONS LEARNED

To conclude the workshop, the participants came together to discuss and list the main takeaways:

  • Confidently navigate your journey

  • Find your power

  • Accept/acknowledge compliments graciously

  • Talk about your journey to the accomplishment while saying thank you

  • Take credit where credit is due

  • Trust context while accepting praise and don’t overthink

CONCLUSION

“Advocating for Self: A Workshop” consisted of a presentation and time for personal reflection and group discussion. The audience included architects, designers, interior designers, and administrative staff, all interested in furthering their professional journeys and deepening their understanding of the importance of self-advocacy.

 
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