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3 Ways to Challenge the Female Double Bind in Your Workplace

double bind

Double bind, if you’re a woman in the workforce, chances are you’ve experienced the double bind. The double bind is a seemingly impossible situation in which a woman is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. 

The double bind is a term first coined by psychologists in the 1960s to describe a situation in which individuals are damned if they do and doomed if they don’t. In other words, no matter what they do, they can’t win.  The female double bind often manifests itself as a choice between being liked or respected. Studies have shown that when women display qualities such as assertiveness and ambition, they are seen as less likable but more competent. 

The double bind is also problematic because it reinforces gender stereotypes. By expecting women to be both competent and likable, we’re perpetuating the notion that women are somehow inherently less capable than men. We’re also valuing traits that are traditionally seen as feminine (such as cooperation and nurturance) over those that are seen as masculine (such as assertiveness and competitiveness). This is not only unfair to women, but it’s also bad for business. After all, studies have shown again and again that organizations perform better when there’s gender diversity in the workforce.

So what’s a woman to do? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. But it is possible to navigate the double bind with grace and confidence. Below are three tips for doing just that. 


1. Be aware of the double bind. 

The first step in dealing with the double bind is to be aware of it. Recognize when you’re in a no-win situation and understand that it’s not your fault—it’s just the way things are. This can be tricky because the double bind often manifests itself as subtle comments or microaggressions. But once you’re able to identify the double bind, you’ll be one step closer to managing it. 

2. Communicate assertively (but not aggressively). 

It can be difficult to strike the right balance between assertive and aggressive communication, but it’s important to try. When communicating with your boss or colleagues, make sure your tone is confident but respectful. Avoid sounding shrill or angry; instead, focus on speaking calmly and firmly. And always remember that it’s okay to disagree! You don’t have to give in just because someone is in a position of authority. 

3. Be prepared with examples and data points.  

If you want people to take you seriously, come prepared with examples and data points. This holds especially true when advocating for yourself or your ideas. Don’t just say that you’re capable of doing something—show them that you are by sharing specific examples of your skills and experience. Data points can also be helpful in making your case; for instance, if you’re pitching a new idea, back it up with research or customer surveys. The more evidence you have, the better! 

The female double bind is a frustrating reality for many women in the workforce. But by raising awareness and working together, we can help break down these barriers and create a more equal playing field for all.

Working women are often confronted with double binds caused by gender stereotypes and norms about gender roles, which can hinder women in business from successfully occupying positions of authority. A double bind is a situation in which a person making a decision receives conflicting messages that make it the case that no matter what the person does, they’ll be doing something that will be thought of as wrong. The contradictory nature of these situations is not always immediately apparent, so other people  



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Tamara Toussaint Owens

Tamara Owens is a confidence coach who helps women tap into their boldest selves. After years of working in corporate America, Tamara became frustrated with the lack of opportunities for women to express their true selves. She saw too many strong women held back by limiting beliefs and decided to take action. When Tamara Owens was laid off from her corporate job, she saw it as an opportunity to pursue her true passion: helping women build confidence and reach their full potential. Owens is a bold and confident woman herself, and she was determined to help other women overcome their limiting beliefs and achieve success on their own terms.

Welcome to not that mommy
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