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In this edition of the Q&A for working women in India, life coach Jaya Narayan answers a question on how to socialise at work when there are very few women in the team.
I work for an MNC in mobile networks and I have 2 questions based on some typical situations I have faced as a woman.
1. How do we manage with after-work socialisation when it is a team where women are very very sparse? In most cases, I have been the only woman in the team. And when guys go out for an evening drink or a game, there is a lot that gets discussed on those tables too! But I cannot be one of them not just because I don’t drink, but because they themselves aren’t comfortable around a woman who is open to drinking. My manager typically used to take some guy out for a smoke (even if the guy doesn’t smoke) if he wanted to talk about something or clear the air without being too serious. But he doesn’t do the same with me. How could I handle things like this with the same casualness if I were a manager? How will I get people to shed their inhibitions and work and not look at me like a school principal or a no-fun lady because I can’t be “one of the guys”?
2. What exactly should we do to keep climbing the corporate ladder especially when the boss isn’t a person who looks at women as being serious contenders for a top position? I have faced this too. We are looked upon as people who will carry any burden and not fight much for pay/promotion and still work with utmost sincerity! And hence they want such people who are willing to slog at low levels!
1. Feeling included in an all men team takes time, effort and patience. Firstly, I want to appreciate you recognizing informal networking. You are right, a significant part of relationship building does happen outside work spaces and after work hours. In this context, there needs to be a slow process of initiation and inclusion with the rest of the team. You can begin by having conversations with your manager to express your need for inclusion. Share how you wished you were part of these fun things with the rest of the colleagues. This could help test out your personal assumptions regarding exclusion due to gender. You could initiate parallel threads with the rest of the team. The important thing is not to whine about what is not happening but have positive dialogue. Suggest ideas that are gender-agnostic. Sometimes team members could just be unaware of the unintended consequence of their action choices.
Another approach is for you to initiate informal coffee discussions once or twice a week and invite everyone to join in. This process may take some time but eventually your perspective will reach its audience. I can assure you that.
On an aside, for those women who work from home or cannot find the time post work to socialize, my appeal is to always attend team dinners, team outings, birthdays and farewell parties.
As a final step, despite all these efforts if you continue to feel excluded because of your gender, you could initiate intervention for gender sensitization and inclusion. You may not be the only person experiencing it. Sometimes managers assume that women may not be interested in informal networking and that myth needs to be systematically worked upon. Since you have initiated this conversation with us and come across as an open minded woman, I think taking lead in helping yourself and other women would really be an opportunity in front of you.
I wish you unlimited power to be the catalyst and integrate the feminine and masculine energies in the organizational culture.
2. Times are changing for the better especially for women. There is recognition that gender cannot be an obstacle to growth. What is required to be done is periodically announcing your aspirations and career goals to the organizational stakeholders, including your immediate manager.
Allocate time in every performance review to discuss the next steps on your career. If they provide you feedback/recommendations on areas of development – take it up with utmost priority. If a challenging opportunity comes up – proactively talk about it. Remember to say yes more times than no. Don’t be shy to acknowledge your strengths. Be realistic about where you stand, but please don’t be overly humble.
Your ability to wield power is an important attribute of growth in the ladder. Don’t let opportunities of leading cross-functional teams pass by. These are ways by which you will gain recognition for your competence, communication and initiative. If you don’t have a coach already – get one to support you to focus on your strengths and proactively work on your developmental opportunities. Don’t wait until the last minute to get ready for a strategic–high power role.
For all the women out there – always remember this, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.” ― Sheryl Sandberg
Have an issue at the workplace? Want to work on your people skills? Find networking daunting? Need help with appraisals? Wondering what you should do to move up the ladder? Not sure about switching jobs or careers? Click here to send us your questions and get them answered by the experts!
*Photo credit: Oberazzi (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)