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It is still a man’s world and equality is some way away; as an ambitious professional woman though, you can’t wait for everything to be set right – make it happen!
I have seen hiring managers refusing to hire women as they are at a ‘marriageable’ age, or asking married women what their plans are for having children or not even considering women applicants for night shifts. Being a woman can be hard sometimes. Okay, more than sometimes. And the workplace is no exception. It can be challenging with nuanced stereotypes, male egos and generalizations about women.
As someone with 10 years of HR experience who has worked with both Indian and Global companies, here are some tools that have helped me manage my workplace better.
I would give this advice to every individual irrespective of gender, profession and industry. Having good work ethics is such a big win – what does this mean? Submit your work as if you were the boss, be responsive and follow up, organize yourself, learn to prioritize and don’t take shortcuts. As you interact with seniors and different departments, these nuanced professional habits can be a unique differentiator.
Trainings like the ones on email etiquette and cross-cultural communication are done for a reason – their content may be obvious but have you truly applied them to your work?
Every person has their own way of feeling confident – some by power dressing, some by their style of working, some by personalizing their desk-space. Find your comfort with both work and your workspace because confidence is one thing that you will need every step of the way. Break stereotypes – like women can’t crunch numbers, or they are not good with technology – if you are not good at something, don’t run away from it but practice or take help to the extent that you don’t have to avoid it.
As a person who is uncomfortable with numbers, I once had to take up a role for doing the payroll of our transitioning company for 200 employees. I cannot begin to explain my nightmarish days but after those few months the confidence and learning I gained was irreplaceable. I am still not an expert, but nor am I a coward!
Don’t let your manager or colleagues run the show for you. Have regular meetings to discuss your work, encourage feedback from both seniors and peers, and learn from other departments to fit different pieces of the puzzle. If you did not get the promotion or raise, ask your manager what you can do to achieve your career goals. If you don’t get a concrete answer, ask again, or seek help from another senior or HR. And if you still don’t succeed, find a place that will value your work.
Women can be such a significant support system for each other. I have made such strong bonds, been truly inspired, and received so much strength from the women around me. They will pick you up when you are down, make you believe in yourself and teach you to stand up for yourself. With someone fighting a battle with the same rules, their empathy and experience will be truly valuable.
My manager who was also the head of the organization was such a strong influence in my career. Even in her position, she would hear me vent on a bad day and stood by me like a rock although I was the least experienced among her management staff.
Don’t let people bully you and don’t let people harass you. As a woman, acceptance by seniors and colleagues is not always easy but don’t back down. Have data to back your claims, speak to your HR or manager if there is a problem, tell people to back off if they make you uncomfortable.
Show up at office parties, at informal gatherings, at client outings even if it is for a short time. I hate myself for saying this, but it does matter. Networking outside office can help you form deep connections as people let their guard loose, are more open minded and less judgmental. Also, they see you as a person and not as their competition or rival.
Office gossip is a vicious thing and so are people. Whether you like it or not, there will be stories spread, your success will be questioned, and not everyone will like you. Learn to live with that and resist the need to justify yourself each time, because this is a never-ending game that has no winner. Believe me, I have tried and failed!
With the professional industry evolving, companies are becoming more women friendly and welcoming diversity; however we are still a long way off from equality. As someone who is a professional woman in the industry, make it count because if you have made it here, you will make it through!
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HR by profession, Writer by passion and Traveler for life! Follow my adventures at https://
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