Remember when you were the “new kid” at work or at school? Walking into a meeting or a classroom where no one knows you (yet) can be an intimidating experience. Women who enter a poker room for the first time may feel the same way — because they’re strikingly in the minority.
Only 4% of the players in one of the most important poker tournaments of the year, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event, were women. That’s remarkably like the percentage of female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies- in 2019 it reached a whopping 6.6%.
In many ways the poker table mirrors the conference table.
Some people see the lack of women in certain spaces, such as poker games and boardrooms, as coincidental. For example, when I first mentioned to a forty-something respected male colleague that I had developed a women’s empowerment program using poker strategy, he said, “We don’t have a lot of women in the office. It’s not intentional—that’s just the way it happened.”
I knew he really believed that, but I shot back, “You may think it’s unintentional, but it’s not.” He looked up from his tuna salad a little put-off. However, I could see in his eyes that a light bulb went off for him.
Men don’t always realize that they are creating spaces that exclude certain groups. They don’t necessarily think of themselves as part of a boys’ club. But whether this exclusion is accidental or not, women have the option of inviting themselves.
If you decide that you want to take your rightful seat at the table, just sit down and take it.
Don’t wait for a warm welcome or a formal invitation. It can be intimidating at first, but after you do it a few times it begins to feel natural.
Here are a few tips:
Walk in with conﬁdence. You must seem fearless, whether or not you actually are. It can be very unnerving to walk into a poker room or a conference room with 100 men and 5 women. It may not feel comfortable at ﬁrst, but it will get better each time. It’s just like your ﬁrst job interview, your ﬁrst business meeting, or your ﬁrst public speaking engagement. Even if you’re a nervous wreck, put on a brave face. It’s okay to fake conﬁdence. One day—and it will be sooner than you think—you won’t have to.
Watch and listen. Don’t walk in and try to make your mark instantly. Feel out the table. See what the different personalities are. Who is potentially your ally? Who do you think is going to be your biggest problem? Figure out the best strategy to handle the players in the room before you act.
Don’t be fooled by the loudest person in the room. Once you understand the players and get your agenda into play, speak up and make sure you are heard. Often we are shut down by the person who speaks the most or the loudest as they present themselves as the “expert.” Sometimes they are, but often they’re not. Don’t let that stop you from voicing your ideas and opinions.
Be bold, focused. Know what you want. Follow my blog here to learn about the four poker personality types you need to understand to get the most out of your seat at the table.
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