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Let’s accept it – the rules for men and women at work are different! How can women make their presence felt in a corporate world that is often highly competitive?
When you read books by women like Sheryl Sandberg and Jessica Bennett, you realise that the struggle is very real. Women across the world face the same challenges at the workplace. But there are a few things that you should do as a woman to ensure that your presence counts. And people listen when you begin to talk.
Here are a few things you can do:
This is something I learnt even before personal branding was a thing. The way you dress, carry yourself, communicate with people – everything goes towards how people perceive you. And as a woman, that’s even more important. I have always gained the respect of people because of these things. Always stick to professional boundaries with colleagues.
Assertiveness doesn’t come easily to women. Right from childhood, we are taught to obey, to give in, to put the needs of others before ours. But if you do that on your job, you’ll be taken for granted, you’ll end up doing everyone’s else’s job and worse, create a personal brand for yourself as a pushover.
During my full time job, I always ensured that I wasn’t saddled with sessions of other trainers unless it was a genuine emergency (some trainers did pull favours with the co-ordinators to shirk work). You will be surprised how pissed men (aka my boss) get, when a woman asserts herself. But I refused to work extra just to win favours of the boss if it did not amount to something valuable.
With social media making life so transparent in today’s times, ensure that your personal life isn’t open to scrutiny on the job. I knew a colleague who posted her honeymoon photos from the beach on to Facebook. But she also had work colleagues in her friends list. She realised and removed them but not soon enough.
Who you know is often more important than what you know. Ensure that you are seen with the right people. Arrive early to meetings to chat up and test your ideas. Be there for office parties even if it means sticking around with just a glass of cola. Social occasions can be great for networking, especially with higher ups you may not be in touch with during work.
Even Sandberg confessed that she was initially scared of speaking up in meetings. It is even more daunting if the room is full of men. Men generally have dominant body language and can be heard above the din around. But women need to make an effort. Make it! A few things that can help you are:
This is one of the best ways to learn from the experiences from others. Sheryl Sandberg, Amy Cuddy, Peggy Klaus, Arianna Huffington – are just some of the authors I have read and benefitted from. The most recent book that I am reading is Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennett which is a must read for every woman working in the corporate world. It is a fantastic book with practical advice on surviving a sexist work place.
Reading can open your mind and expose you to ideas that nothing else can. Knowledge is an important currency in today’s times. And with convenient online options to enhance skills and earn new certifications, make sure that you stay ahead of the curve. This is one of the ways to ensure that people come to you for your expert knowledge and don’t pass off your ideas as their own.
If you remember everyone’s birthday, if you volunteer to organise coffee for meetings, if you are the one who clears clutter in the break room, if you are the first aid kit of the company and if people naturally expect you to note the minutes of the meeting – you are the office mom! Consider this piece of information about ‘office housework’ from the Opinion piece on NYT written by Sandberg and Adam Grant: For staying late and helping, a man was rated 14 percent more favourably than a woman. When both declined, a woman was rated 12 percent lower than a man.
Better still, pitch for them. Self-doubt never takes a break. And more often than not, we are more ready than we feel we are. So, just like Joey says, you take a part and then learn whatever it is that it requires. Only by accepting challenges can you grow and move ahead in the corporate world. So stop being modest and coy and go get it like the guys do.
Women face enough flak for being emotional. Let’s not perpetuate that. If you are upset about something or with someone, make sure that you compose yourself before confronting the problem.
Address it rationally and give reasons why you are upset. Instead of saying, “I can’t tell you how mad I am right now”, try “I am upset because your mistake is setting our project back by 2 weeks”. Or “I am angry because you undermine me during meetings and I don’t think that’s a good thing to do”. Spelling it out ensures that you aren’t just another woman on a hormonal roller coaster but a person who has genuine reasons to be upset.
What’s on your list? What has worked for you? Share your experiences in the comments below and help other women learn from your experiences.
Another version of this article with additional points is here.
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