There is a popular opinion that a woman is a homemaker and she should take care of her family, her husband, and children. She has no time to do business or manage people. However, in modern society, a great number of women resist these unwritten rules. They strive to achieve professional success and build a career.
Unfortunately, building a career a woman meets more difficulties than a man. To break a housewife’s stereotype, she needs to work better than a man. A woman practically has no right to make mistakes, if, of course, she wants to go up the career ladder.
Maybe you’ve seen them: the guys hanging around the coffee maker, joking around, patting each other’s backs, going for a drink after work… and you really want to join in. You want to be part of the gang. So you try, and try, and try… maybe they let you hang out with them, maybe they let you play with them, but you kind of feel like you don’t really belong.
Well, it can be hard to belong to such a group because men have a special way of bonding. It includes challenging each other, testing each other and making jokes at each other’s expense. It’s a men’s thing, it’s a male way of bonding. Some women easily join in with such behavior and will have no issue to be accepted, but most of us don’t quite understand this game and how to play it. So we try and try to adapt because we want to play like the big boys, right?
We try to act like a man, we dress up in suits, we try to stand or sit tall so they’ll notice us, we adopt their behavior but there’s no guarantee that it will work. So how about instead of trying to be someone you are not, you focus on who you really are and what your strengths are? Why not simply be a woman and be your best and authentic self?
Trying to be someone you’re not consuming so much energy. Believe me, I tried for a long time. I stopped dressing in a female way, I paid particular attention to having a firm handshake, to sitting tall and mirroring male behavior. It didn’t do me any harm, at least I think so, but I wasted sooo much energy thinking about how to behave, how to stand, how to sit, how to walk…
Then I decided to stop with this nonsense. Either people will accept me the way I am or they won’t. And guess what: I’m much more confident, inspired and making much better connections than when I was trying to be someone else. So be your authentic self and channel the access energy into your work, your connections, your life. You’ll see the difference.
Many women feel like they don’t have the same chances as men. They feel like they are being discriminated. It might be true but it’s often just a limiting belief. If you repeat to yourself “I’m not advancing because I’m a woman” every day, you’ll end up believing it.
It can actually become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you talk about it over and over again, you’ll get into complaining mode and end up caught in a bubble of negativity, anger, and helplessness. You might even convey subconsciously through facial expressions and behavior how you feel.
The trouble is, once you’re stuck in this bubble, it’s hard to recognize possibilities and chances. And you might not notice them, but others will: the negative vibes around you. So the reason for you not getting a promotion or a raise might in the end not actually be because you’re a woman but because of the negative vibes which surround you.
The good news is: Your gender doesn’t define you, your actions do. So if you are in a workplace where you are really being discriminated or at least you feel like others receive preferential treatment, just get out of there. Look for a different job. Nobody forces you to stay there.
Yes, you might have financial constraints or other reasons which make it difficult to find a different job. But there is nobody standing with a gun to your head forcing you to work in this particular job. I’m not telling you to take the leap of faith and jump off a cliff without a safety net.
Just start to take action. There is no inopportune job for women. Instead of repeating to yourself how unfair the world is treating you, take action and start looking for a job. It might take months until you find a suitable job, it might be frustrating, but if you don’t take action, you’ll never find a better job.
Just like prince charming doesn’t usually show up on a white horse in front of your house, the perfect job doesn’t fall from the sky. You need to take action. So stop feeling sorry for yourself and get going!
Talking about what you do well might be difficult for you. We, women, tend to find it challenging to openly say: I’m really good at that. We feel like we’re bragging and we don’t want to sound conceited.
Or that task, that project was just so easy that it doesn’t really feel like an achievement, so you don’t even want to mention it. The good news is: there are different ways to talk about your achievements. You don’t need to stand up and shout: “Yay me! I’m the best at this!”
But first of all, you have to recognize your achievements. I see this happening over and over again with my clients: they have achieved amazing things in their careers but they just can’t see them.
One of my clients had been awarded scholarships and participation in several highly prestigious university projects thanks to her outstanding grades. And she mentioned none of her achievements in the resume or cover letter because she didn’t feel like they were so special.
If something feels so easy that you think you it’s not worth mentioning it, it’s because it plays to your natural strengths, not because it’s not an achievement. It might be a lot of hard work for someone else.
So start looking out for these things that you don’t really consider an achievement and talk about them to other people. Maybe not to your boss right away, but someone else. You’ll see on their reaction if they are impressed, if they consider it an achievement. If they do, it probably is one.
Then you can walk up to your boss and tell them about this achievement. If you find it difficult to talk about your achievement, remember that you don’t need to jump on stage in front of the whole company to do that. Just think of it as informing your boss that a task has been done or a problem solved.
This is not bragging, it’s taking credit for your work. And you better do that immediately, otherwise, someone else might try to take credit for your work. Even if you can set it right afterward, it’s a lot of unnecessary trouble to put yourself through.
Also, bosses like good news. So even if it is a small milestone of a bigger project, let them know that you achieved this milestone. Not only will take note of the fact that you achieved this milestone, but it will also put their minds at ease that you’re making good progress.
The last word on this: bear in mind how fast-paced the world is today. Your bosses will probably not remember your achievements for a long time. It’s usually not bad intention if they can’t remember them on top of their heads.
It’s just that so much is happening every day that they hardly remember what was going on last week, let alone half a year ago. So when you have your annual performance review, make sure to remind your bosses about your achievements, at least the big ones.
We all know this colleague who is constantly talking in meetings, asking questions and sharing opinions. Embarrassing, huh? Well, I thought so for a long time until I realized that the people who behaved like that were the ones getting the cool projects and the promotions. Any why? Because they were constantly marketing themselves.
Unfortunately, the business world is not all about performance and results. It’s also majorly about how you present yourself and your results. You might achieve perfect results but if no one knows that you exist or that you achieved it, it’s not going to help you get a promotion. You need to be seen. Important projects or promotions are not given to nobodies. They are given to people who are trusted by the management.
That doesn’t mean that you need to constantly talk about your performance and how great you are. Just be visible. Actively participate in meetings, ask questions, share your point of view, show interest and contribute. Seek exposure in wider project meetings, especially if there are members of the higher management participating. You need to be seen.
If a promotion is on the table and your boss’s boss doesn’t even know who you are, you have bad cards. You have to rely exclusively on your boss promoting you and your achievements in a way that will convince the higher management. And that can be really hard, believe me, especially if they have already someone else in mind.
It happened several times that I saw the potential in one of my female employees and suggested her promotion – and then had to spend hours convincing my boss and his boss that she was the right person, simply because they didn’t really know her and had no impression of her.
Not every manager will go through this and fight your case. They might not want to disagree with their boss and instead take the easy route and go with the candidate the boss favors. So make sure you get exposure to the right people.
If you want a promotion or simply to change into a different role on the same level, you need to let your manager know. I have hardly ever had a female employee who told me straight forward what they wanted. I’ve had many male employees though who told me exactly what they thought their next move should be.
It might be an uncomfortable conversation and it might take a bit of courage, but you have to do it. Wishing and hoping has hardly ever lead to success. Nobody knows what you secretly wish because nobody can read your mind. So talk to your manager about your aspirations.
Your boss needs to know that you would be interested and motivated in case there are positions coming up. If he thinks you would be qualified but are not really sure if you would want to do it, he might not consider you. I don’t know if you realize this but managers actually consider if a person would want a job or a promotion before bringing it up.
Another reason is that you also need to get your manager’s feedback. Do they see you in this position? If no, what do they think you’re lacking? You need to know if there is something that you need to learn or develop in order to be ready for the next step or maybe if you just need to show them more clearly that you can already do it… see, we’re back at self-marketing.
Finally, if you really lack certain skills required for the position, it’s important to know because then you can work on acquiring these skills so that you’re ready when a similar position is opening up the next time.
You might even want to agree on a development plan with your boss and get support from the company for training to help you get where you want to go. It is usually in the company’s interest to promote employees from within because that reduces the loss of knowledge and ensures that employees stay motivated and loyal. So be brave and tell them what you want, what you really, really want!