Women have made great progress in being recognized as equals, but there is still work to be done
There has been tremendous progress in the effort towards workplace equality in the past several decades, with women assuming leadership positions in public and private sectors at unprecedented rates. However, women still face unique career challenges that require awareness, tenacity, and the development of skills and traits to overcome outdated mindsets and step into leadership roles with the confidence and respect that they deserve.
Evidence of progress
The advancement of women into leadership roles in business, higher education, and politics are positive indicators that change is happening. For instance, female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies rose to 6.4 percent in 2017, up from 2.6 percent a decade earlier.
Recent midterm elections also served as evidence that women are stepping into leadership roles in record numbers, with 110 women elected to Congress. Women assuming public leadership roles have a ripple effect of encouraging and empowering other women and young girls into setting and striving for loftier career goals.
Essentially, women who assert themselves powerfully and positively are helping to pave the way for women everywhere, and contributing to the success of others by serving as a good example is one of the greatest attributes an effective leader can embody.
Challenges along the way
Reaching new heights and paving the way for others requires facing and conquering rough terrain, and the journey to a leadership position is no different. Some of the more prevalent challenges women face in the workplace include:
1. Receiving equal treatment. As a woman, sometimes it seems like you have to speak a little louder – while watching your tone more carefully – and work a little harder to get proper recognition. However, it really boils down to repeatedly making yourself visible, and memorable, as a diligent employee.
Offer your opinion generously at meetings or brainstorming sessions, politely steer the conversation back to what you were saying if interrupted, and advocate for yourself professionally at all times.
Women tend to underplay their accomplishments; instead, remind management of your past successes when appropriate – don’t assume they’ll remember. You may have to push a little harder to get the same recognition as your male colleagues; don’t hesitate to do so or fear being perceived as “bossy.” Command respect in a respectful way.
2. Building alliances. When the ratio of men to women is skewed in positions of power, it’s easy to feel like an outsider. Invest time and energy into building healthy and symbiotic relationships with decision makers. Also, create a strong personal brand by establishing yourself as an expert in your field and by embracing that role with confidence.
Sometimes the feeling of being left out is simply a symptom of human nature and not sexism. Certain people know each other better, or share more common interests, and tend to fall back into their own comfort zone when networking. Be proactive by inviting peers to professional or work-related social events or in asking if you may join them. Then try to include others who are on the periphery in the future.
3. Asserting yourself. Being present isn’t enough. Women often feel anxiety over “taking up space” in a room and worry that they may be perceived as unlikable. You have to become comfortable with speaking directly, sharing your ideas, and approaching management about your career goals and accomplishments.
Ask for challenging projects, express interest in learning new areas of expertise, negotiate for promotions and raises instead of meekly accepting an introductory offer, and create an image of being a go-getter.
Work on the way up
Being a good leader requires a specific skill set regardless of gender. Work on refining or developing the following traits so that you’ll be prepared for the challenges that may lie ahead:
· Effective communication skills. Speak clearly and listen generously.
· Emotional intelligence. Consider the feelings and perspectives of others.
· Strategic vision. Have clearly defined goals and a plan to reach them.
· Creativity. Develop and encourage innovative thinking.
· Critical thinking. Be willing to gather information and solve problems without bias.
· Trustworthiness. Maintain a sense of authenticity and integrity both on the job and off.
· Confidence. Know your worth and expect to give and receive respect.
Being a woman in a position of power requires an unwillingness to shrink from who you are in order to accommodate others. Trust your voice and speak powerfully, without editing your tone or prettying up your word choice.
Stand in your success with the confidence that you deserve to be where you are and with the knowledge that your contributions have a positive impact on not only your career but also on the women of the future who will follow in your footsteps.
Want more tips on life, passion, and success? Contact Gigi to find out how to get beyond your limits and be unstoppable.