Today there are more women in the workforce than ever before, and yet women still hold only about 10 percent of leadership positions. We as a gender have made great strides since the days of the suffrage movement well over 100 years ago, but there are still certain things that are holding us back.
Why is that? To answer this, we need to look beneath the surface of gender equality issues and discuss the invisible drivers behind it – the psychology and subconscious behavior that many women exhibit to this day.
Do Not Be Afraid to Say “No”
For fear of coming across as weak, too many women take on projects they know are not right for them, simply to prove they can do it. But it’s important to know when to draw the line, which in itself is a sign of strength. Christopher Flett, author of What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business, states “no one promotes a ‘pile-on’” – a phrase he uses for someone who takes on too much, never saying “no.”
Instead, learn to prioritize. Work smarter, not harder. Learn what is good for you and what is not. Be decisive with your boundaries and don’t be shy about stating them. Which brings us to…
Speak Your Mind
Take the standard business meeting. Research suggests about half of women have great difficulty asserting themselves and sharing ideas in meetings. And when they do, it is often in a less direct, and even apologetic way. If there’s anything we can learn from men, it’s to be more aggressive. Don’t be cowed by ‘pushy’ colleagues and certainly don’t wait to be invited into the conversion. Not speaking up is a big opportunity to sell yourself and your great ideas. And when it’s necessary, defend your point of view.
Arrive at the meeting early, speak often, and ask questions.
Confidence is Key
Author Katty Kay of The Confidence Code says that research has proven time and again that confidence trumps competence. Women too often tend to focus on the latter. It’s the classic “fake it ‘til you make it” mentality – and it works much more often than you think. Don’t be afraid to take on something new that interests you. If you are passionate about it, you will figure it out. It is a real opportunity for growth. If you believe you can do it – you can.
Don’t Take it Personally
Women and men communicate differently – always have, always will. So when a male colleague says something that may seem off-putting to you, don’t take it as a personal affront. They likely aren’t trying to offend or alienate you. And if they are, simply put it back on them – call them out on it. Making an effort to communicate across gender in the workplace is more art than science, but with perseverance, you will learn to acclimate.
A Well-Deserved Pat on the Back
Many women feel uncomfortable tooting their own horn with their accomplishments. Instead of saying “I” did this, we tend to say “we” did this – as if we needed the help of a team to get us through. And while team efforts are always helpful, it’s important to acknowledge that many times our solo efforts are what broke the barrier.
Don’t be afraid to shine the spotlight on yourself once in a while.