Whilst being a female in the business world today is much easier than 30 or even 10 years ago, it’s still not perfect and is in no way equal. Females make up only 6.4% of high ranking leaders in larger Australian companies. I leadership mentor a number of female business leaders and it’s not always easy for those women working in male-dominated companies.
Now, before I go on, if you are experiencing abuse, bullying, harassment, intimidation or sexual harassment, this is illegal and should NOT be tolerated. Report the incident/s immediately.
However, if the challenges are more minor, but still none-the-less annoying or frustrating, here are my top tips.
Overcome the Challenges of Being a Woman in Today’s Business World
Determine your strengths & weaknesses
Just like when I get a business to do a SWOT analysis, so you as an individual should do one. What are you good at? Make the most of that and if you have weaknesses then what are you going to do to improve those? That might be education, training, reading, learning, practising or simply being courageous and just doing! Remember that Nike slogan – Just Do It!
Be strategic and get a plan – business and career
Like any good business, a career should have a strategy and a plan behind it. Know what you need to do to get where you want to go.
Appreciate your differences | Improve your mindset
As a female, we have certain traits which are valuable. We are often better at ‘soft skills’ (such as offering consumer insight) and add balance to a business, organization or company. This doesn’t make us better or worse, just different and can potentially help us fill gaps and assist the organisation to reach its full potential. At times too, women are not confident in themselves and don’t believe in themselves, so often will not put up their hand for an opportunity to apply for a promotion or even stand up and provide a solution in a more public forum, such as a Board or Management meeting. We need to get the mindset right first before we can expect others to have the right mindset, which naturally means we need to stop being so tough on ourselves. I know my toughest critic is myself and I’ll bet I’m not the only person! If you don’t believe you are good enough, then how can you expect others to believe so?
Strengthen your credentials
If you lack formal qualifications, but perhaps have oodles of experience, you may consider strengthening your credentials and ‘getting that piece of paper’ or undertaking further studies. I myself didn’t do formal studies until my 40’s – the opportunity of University was removed from me as I was told “you don’t waste an education on a girl”.
Don’t sit around waiting
The meek will not inherit the earth. Opportunities, promotions, projects will not just land in your lap because you deserve them. Go out and seek them, volunteer or do what needs to be done to attain them. Remember also to not be scared and give something new or different (or uncomfortable) a go.
Hone those negotiation skills
Some women are not as good at negotiating as some men, especially when it comes to salaries. Part of this is confidence, it’s not wanting to appear argumentative or aggressive and of course I believe there is a factor in there that you don’t deserve more. Just as I said above, to improve your mindset, be sure also to work on those negotiation skills in order to get what you deserve.
Don’t play the victim role
You will be more respected if you don’t play the victim role or are regularly complaining about the ‘boys club’. Whether you’re talking to your boss, a subordinate or an associate, word gets around and you will lose respect. Some things are harder and you might fail, but if you don’t give it a go, then you certainly will not succeed!
You don’t have to prove anything!
Often, women will ‘do it all’ because they either feel they have something to prove or believe they are expected to cover everything. Firstly, learn the skill of delegating and be sure to ‘let go’. Secondly, forgive yourself. I recall years ago when I began to employ a cleaner, I was thinking to myself “Can’t I clean the toilets and vacuum the floor? What’s wrong with me?” The fact is, nothing is wrong with me. Let go of the things where you are suitable to release and move on. I learnt in time that letting go and asking for help is in no way a failure!
Be willing to continually learn
Just as you may improve your credentials with formal studies, be willing (and wanting) to improve at every opportunity; whether that’s a soft skill, small skill or even unrelated to your career or work. Knowing more makes every person more valuable and it gives us increased confidence. The only time you’re too old to learn is when you’re dead.
It’s not ‘us’ versus ‘them’
I know many women feel and believe that is the case and that men are the enemy, but that mentality will not help you get ahead. In an organisation where you have both genders, you have to get along. Rise above the urge to use negative expressions, complain, whinge or otherwise hold onto the negative thoughts around being a female in business. Yes, I know this article is exactly about that, but the point is that whilst it’s an issue, you can stop it from being an issue. However, that thinking has to start with you! Ditch worrying about the belief that a man who is firm in business is entrepreneurial and savvy, whilst the woman is a bitch. There is no need to focus on that – instead focus on moving forward and just getting the job done.
Build more confidence through better perception
This is done by improving your LinkedIn profile, improving your resume, revamping your online profiles and even how you dress. Dress for success and you will feel more confident and accordingly, it will snowfall and people will perceive you better, treat you more respectfully and opportunities will come your way. Now please understand a quality suit or stylish outfit is just the beginning. The education, skills improvement, attitude, personal development and hard work all come into play. However, dressing the part is a good starting point and please, don’t dress sexily if you want to be taken seriously!
Remove the emotional blocks
We all have them. I know people have trouble charging what they are worth, because as a child they were told things like “money is the root of all evil” or “the meek shall inherit the earth” and in my case, being a girl, I wasn’t worth educating. These are blocks and often place ‘ceilings’ to what we believe we are worth and can charge (or can ask for in negotiating a salary). Removing these blocks isn’t always as simple as “just do it” but can take some work. Tapping (the blending of ancient Chinese acupressure along with modern psychology ), hypnotherapy or counseling may be avenues to approach.
Don’t let others belittle your achievements
Even more than not letting others belittle what you’ve done, be willing to stand up tall and tell the world about your achievements. This is not ‘peacocking’ or ‘bragging’ but often business promotion or career elevation. If you’ve achieved a milestone, won an award, written a manuscript or book or been promoted, then share that. If someone says something negative, that’s more likely their ‘issue’ as perhaps they are feeling insufficient or lacking – which is not your problem.
Find balance | Be super organised | Master time management
Any business owner or manager, and especially a woman, cannot set themselves unreasonable workloads. You must have a balance of work and life. One way to help that to happen is to be super organised and become a master at time management. It’s not an easy task, but very much doable.
Don’t overthink things | Don’t take things personally
There is an expression that “analysis leads to paralysis”. Don’t get into that mode of overthinking things and remember it’s not always about you. If someone bites your head off, or is angry or says “no” that is not usually about you personally. Perhaps their “no” was because they are super busy and just can’t help you, as much as they might like to. Take the high road upon any perceived confrontation and don’t hold a grudge. Also, remember that a perceived confrontation may actually not be one; that is purely your interpretation.
It’s a fallacy that multi-tasking is a great time management strategy. It only works if the secondary task is extremely minor, such as pulling weeds in the garden whilst talking, or perhaps putting pens away on your desk whilst talking. Instead, focus on what you are doing and it will be done better – and very likely more quickly.
Learn to say no
This can be a straight no, it might be a polite “not today, but I can do that next week” or a deflection “May I recommend that you ask Terry to help you with that.” Being helpful but still essentially saying no. And sometimes, it’s just a straight out ‘no’.
Be clear about your priorities | Action lists are your friend
Know your priorities and what’s most important – both to you, your career and what you are doing at work. Have clear action / tasks lists and do not take on so much that you are juggling a heap of balls that will likely fly everywhere.
Become a master of delegation!
The better you are at delegating the more you can take on and the more you can achieve.
You don’t have to mimic being a man
You are an individual and will have your own management style – own it. If being a ‘ball breaker’ isn’t your thing, then why try to do it? Find a style which works best for you and make it work.
I know all the above is often easier said than done. I help my Leadership Mentoring clients with all these aspects – and more. To learn more simply reach out to me via my Contact page OR call me directly on 0411 622 666. Make a Spectacular Day!