5 ways women in business can level the playing field
Monday, 8 February 2021
Even though women have made great strides in business over the past few decades, they still face many challenges.
Women's careers also progress at a slower pace, with 30 percent of women promoted to manager or supervisory roles between ages 30-44 compared to 36 percent of men. The gap widens even more at the director or executive level, with only 6 percent of women achieving that level of success compared to 12 percent of men. In addition, women occupy only 20 percent of seats on the boards of the top 3,000 publicly traded companies—and this was considered a celebration-worthy milestone when it was achieved in 2019.
There's still signiﬁcant work to be done before women achieve equality in the workplace. However, there are ways for individual women to take control of their careers and earn the respect—and rewards—they deserve.
Avoid gender stereotypes
However unfair they might seem, stereotypes are a fact of life. Even today, men are considered dominant, conﬁdent and powerful, while women are perceived as emotional, uncertain and submissive. These are big characteristics that can play out in small, almost unnoticeable daily actions.
For example, it's not uncommon for women to clear tables after meetings, order food or plan company gatherings. They can have a tendency to defer to men when it comes to leading meetings, making client presentations or directing important company initiatives.
It can be easy to fall into gender stereotypes in the workplace. However, making an eﬀort to avoid them is a subtle, yet impactful way to establish and maintain equal footing and respect with male colleagues.
Learn to delegate
Many women have a tendency to want to do it all. Either they don't want to be perceived as being unable to handle large amounts of work, or they think it'll only be done right if they do it themselves. Regardless, taking on too much can potentially lower the quality of your work while increasing job-related stress.
Learning to delegate—handing oﬀ tasks of to colleagues or subordinates—gives others the opportunity to gain knowledge and skills. It also demonstrates your ability to place trust in others, which is an important management and leadership skill.
Be prepared to be conﬁdent
The gender gap in the U.S. workforce not only aﬀects women's bank accounts and career goals, but their conﬁdence in themselves. This gender-driven tendency to defer to male colleagues can cause women to avoid making suggestions or taking a lead role in decision making, even in situations where they possess experience and expertise.
How do you avoid this tendency to underestimate your abilities and boost your own conﬁdence? Be prepared. Do you research. Know the subject backwards and forwards, and have ideas for solutions. Being prepared can give you the conﬁdence to make the contributions you are more than capable of making.
Take credit for your work
Women tend to avoid putting the spotlight on themselves and their abilities, even to the point of minimizing their own skills and accomplishments. However, advancing your career can often depend on your ability to demonstrate your role in real, tangible achievements.
So, whether you negotiated the contract, wrote the software or hired the perfect vendor, there's nothing wrong—and a whole lot right—with taking credit. Of course, it's always wise and appropriate to acknowledge other's contributions, but try to avoid downplaying your own at the same time. It's easy enough— particularly in response to a compliment—to say, “I'm very proud of the role I played in making this project a success."
Take on new challenges
Research has shown men apply for jobs if they meet 60 percent of the qualiﬁcations while women believe they need to match them completely in order to apply. In other words, women think they have to be almost over-qualiﬁed before they will take on a new role. Unfortunately, this can result in women missing out on important opportunities.
Instead, take a risk. Even if you're not 100 percent sure you're prepared for the task, give it a try. Sure, you might fail. But you might succeed. And regardless of the outcome, you will show you're willing to try, test your limits and learn something new along the way.
Now more than ever, women are having an economy-changing impact on business in the United States and around the world. The doors of opportunity open wider every day for women who are unwilling to be limited by stereotypes or obstacles, and decide to pave their own way to success.
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