Seven Strategies to Help Women Excel at Work:
We’ve read a lot about unconscious bias holding women back; in selection and promotion interviews, for example.
Then again, Jordan Peterson argues that it’s the choices that women make that mean they don’t have pay parity with men.
We’ve written about this before and found that most times women don’t have much option when they make these choices.
Putting unconscious bias and pay aside, many women feel stuck in their careers; there are often other priorities that come into play that stops us from achieving what we want.
So while we might be raised to believe that being made of sugar and spice is the right way forward for us women, when it comes to the corporate world - are we too nice?
I've written previously about being FIERCE and personally I love Tyra Banks' definition, "being fierce is about excreting confidence from every pore and exercising deep, deep self love".
What else could be holding women back at work and what should we do about it?
Not speaking up about achievements in male dominated work environments
A colleague recently worked with a female accountant who moved from a small firm, where she was part of a team of five, to a large male dominated audit practice.
In her new firm, every division is striving to get their agenda to the top. She isn’t used to talking about her own achievements. She doesn’t like the way her male colleagues talk about themselves. Her approach is to ‘keep her head down,’ not wanting to join the endless rounds of self-promotion. She feels that she’s drifting by not playing the game.
Recent research shows that ‘reluctance to claim achievements is common among women in every sector and every level.’ There can be high costs when this happens. So,
1. Ask colleagues to give you credit when you have done good work; either in a project meeting or in a written report
2. Keep a record of your achievements and have them available at review and appraisal meetings.
Being too ‘agreeable’ and compassionate
Jordan Peterson also argues that many women aren’t aggressive enough: ‘many of my female clients have trouble in their jobs because they’re not aggressive enough.’ On balance, they give in too easily in confrontational situations and this causes resentment when things go against them.
The personality trait ‘agreeableness’ has been shown to hold people back; and women have more of this trait than men. Agreeable and compassionate people don’t speak up for themselves in meetings and one-to-one discussions. Decisions then go against their best interests. So,
3. Think about what you want out of a situation and be prepared to articulate your views
4. Confront your boss if they’re wrong and be prepared with evidence. Have an honest conversation where previously you would have conceded
5. Consider the benefits of assertiveness training if you think this is a problem.
Being too much of a perfectionist
Trying to understand every detail of your job is a great strategy – to keep the job you have.
Expertise is thought of as the route to success. But this ignores the fact that, as people move higher up the ladder, it becomes impossible (and probably undesirable) to know every detail of the job.
There’s a balance – between understanding every aspect of your current role and taking the time to network and build connections to move higher in the company.
Men are generally better networkers and women are more prone to the ‘perfection trap.’ So,
6. Perfectionists usually struggle with delegation – they want to do the task themselves. Think about your willingness to delegate and do more of it
7. Identify what you’re doing that isn’t important and use the time to network and build connections across your company and industry.
Some of these strategies, no doubt, will take people out of their comfort zone – but being out of your comfort zone is generally a prerequisite to fulfil potential.