‘Let them underestimate you’: Why I don’t need validation as a woman in business

Charlie Puchala: Why I don’t need validation as a businesswoman

Why do we still underestimate women in leadership roles? It’s an interesting question, layered with intricacies and nuances.

The matter is steeped in a complex web of traditional male-dominated business foundations, built purposely for a masculine business personality, alongside unrealistic expectations from our female colleagues and largely our learned behaviours of what society expects women to be, professionally and personally.

If we start with the foundations of leadership in business, it would be hard to argue that to achieve financial success and meet a company’s objectives, a certain amount of aloofness, determination, discipline and ruthlessness is required.

These terms are not often associated with women in a positive connotation. They are viewed as masculine traits and are valued highly in male leadership roles, but sadly not in female leadership roles.

If a woman possesses the same level of these masculine personality traits in leadership we are viewed firstly with interest, secondly with the mentality of what’s wrong with us, and thirdly with a level of scepticism.

You’ve probably heard the phrases: “That’s unnatural”, “What’s wrong with her?”, “Something’s not right here”, “She’s too driven, too ambitious, too difficult”, “Her expectations are too high” and “Who does she think she is?”

I have certainly had my fair share of all the above in my professional career and in my personal life. We cannot separate who we are from what we are.

So, how do we, as women in leadership, push past the stereotypes and break the foundations of masculine business modelling? We don’t. We don’t have to, nor should we want to.

We should instead focus on our own ability, our own agenda, and our professional mechanics. What other people think of us should be of no importance. Their opinion is simply not required. I think of it as a success mindset – I couldn’t care less what you’ve heard about me, you can go hear it again.

Detachment is critical and fundamental to success, and I’m a firm believer in our own abilities and agenda. Our discipline, ambition, sacrifice, ruthlessness and drive should be our absolute focus.

All the masculine traits that we possess are incredibly useful motivators – they propel us to be better, do better and ultimately achieve our professional agendas. These traits are all extraordinary and should be celebrated, congratulated, and built further.

In my own professional career, I have regularly been mistaken for numerous roles other than being a founder and director of my own companies. Some of the most common and most comical ones have been: receptionist, social media videographer, and warehouse store person.

I am a working director, I love what I do, and I take distinct pride in actively contributing to my team when required, so I’m often doing parts of roles that require focus at any given time. This leads people to presume that my role is one of what they see me doing in these moments.

I believe that being ‘invisible’ and underestimated is your greatest superpower, as this mindset will allow you to propel forward uninterrupted and unhindered. After all, you have nothing to prove to anyone but yourself. So let them underestimate you, while they do not see you as the serious threat you are.

I never introduce myself as Charlie, the Founder/Director/CEO. I simply introduce myself as Charlie full stop – there is no title that follows my introduction. Why? Because I couldn’t care less what people think. It’s irrelevant and means nothing at all.

What matters in business is your goals, company agenda, creating a successful environment, treating people with dignity and grace, and allowing yourself the permission to strive and achieve your own professional success.

I always ask myself this question when I feel that I’m being undervalued, unseen, or not being taken seriously: is it because it makes me feel less than what I am (that’s the ego) or is it stopping me from moving towards my dreams, goals, and professional ambitions?

The answer has never been because it’s stopping me from moving towards my dreams, goals and professional ambitions. I only feel less than what I am if my ego is bruised or needs stroking.

Leave your ego behind. If you can achieve that, you are already at the door of success.

Charlie Puchala

This article was written by Charlie Puchala.

Charlie is the CEO of Puch Constructions, and creative director and founder of ethical fashion brand ZA Collective.