Assertive women in the workplace: a view too far?


Imagine if expressing your opinion made you seem less capable?

Date: Monday 30th November 2015

Imagine if expressing your opinion made you seem less capable? Absurd as it may seem but women who are considered to be as assertive as men were perceived to be 35% less competent.1 In an ideal work environment women would be allowed to be assertive without being judged. I hope this will be the future world of work.

However where we are today isn’t perfect. More often than not assertive women are judged as being aggressive. I was particularly intrigued by Hollywood actress Jennifer Lawrence’s online essay on the issue. In the article she describes a scenario in which she stated her opinion in a direct manner but it was taken out of context by her male employee. He interpreted it as being aggressive. Her view is: “All I hear and see all day are men speaking their opinions, and I give mine in the same exact manner, and you would have thought I had said something offensive.”

Unfortunately, what I’ve seen in my personal experience has been more a case of the opposite. I’ve found during the interview process that men are happier and more comfortable promoting themselves. In very general terms, women tend to shy away from being as assertive in interviews. I really don’t like using generalisations because every individual is different.

As a HR consultant my aim is to create work environments where women can be assertive without being judged negatively. Through training I hope to encourage women to express themselves in interviews with the same confidence that I’ve seen in men.

Aisha Oakley is Head of Outsourcing & Consultancy at Bradfield. 


  • The study was conducted by VitalSmarts – a TwentyEighty, Inc company
  • There were more than 11,000 participants assessed over the course of 2 different studies.


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