LOS ANGELES — A while ago I was invited to attend an online seminar with the title “How to Be Assertive and Not Aggressive as a Woman” on the job searching platform, Indeed. The moderators, two women in their 40s, were talking about the issues women face in the workplace, how they need to stand up for their rights and assertively say “no” to discrimination.
Until then, I never really thought about that. Of course, I was conscious about the barriers of acceptance coming from male coworkers. But my generation — Gen Xers — was more conservative than revolutionary anyway. At least that was the case in Armenia, where I grew up and started my career.
As it turns out, the picture isn’t that perfect in the US either. Even though 56 percent of the country’s workforce are women, they only occupy 15 percent of C-level executives’ positions. These are facts that Prof. Maria Cozette Akopian learned from her research. According to the same research, nine out of ten participants of her study had confidence issues.
“This says a lot about how women perceive themselves and are viewed in society,” she shares. She dug even deeper during her doctoral studies at the University of Southern California (USC) and finally decided to create a specific program made according to the needs of women: “Women First: Leadership and Professional Development Program.”
The program has been adopted by the California State University, Los Angeles’ College of Professional and Global Education. Akopian also serves as a marketing professor for the university’s College of Business and Economics. It is the first women’s leadership program in the university’s history; those finishing the course will qualify for a certificate.
Akopian’s research shows that organizations measure leadership according to masculine traits: Being assertive, demanding, more aggressive.