We live in a culture in which pursuing a successful career and being female don’t always mesh seamlessly. Workplace sexism is alive and well, and cracking the ever-present glass ceiling to earn a leadership position is typically difficult at best, regardless of a woman’s qualifications. With smart strategies, you can climb the ladder of success without gender-bias thwarting your efforts.
Plan your process. What are your goals? One of the best things you can do to ensure you move up the career ladder is to identify your personal goals and the steps you should take to reach them. There is a great acronym for helping to streamline the goal-setting process: SMART. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-limited. You can apply that term to all your goals, whether they apply to your growth inside or outside the workplace.
Learn as much as you can, as often as you can. You want to be a standout employee regardless of your gender, and one of the most basic ways to accomplish this feat is to learn as much as you can about your industry, your clients and your individual role. Not only should you always be willing to learn from others, you should also be actively seeking out learning opportunities. If your company and your peers aren’t good places to turn, fire up the internet. There are ebooks on just about every business subject or you can take an online course, both of which can help you brush up on your hard and soft skills.
Use your voice. Sexism is alive and well. According to some studies, when women assert themselves, they are apt to be seen as angry or aggressive, while men are seen as serious achievers. Women are more likely to be seen as emotional, although they actually do not respond more emotionally to situations than men do. Men are likely to be seen as “having a bad day.” However, when women become upset, they are “just emotional.” You won’t be able to overcome those mindsets, but you can successfully navigate stereotypes with a few strategies in place.
For instance, addressing your gender directly can defuse circumstances and prime the pump when it comes to meetings with the good ol’ boys. Men often talk over women in work situations, and can even take credit for their ideas. Rather than allowing those situations, opening a meeting by addressing the fact that you are the only (or one of the only) women present and that you might need to speak up to be heard at times tells the guys you won’t be talked over. At the same time, you can offer up that since they are used to working with women, you know they will respect you and your ideas. In this manner, you lay the groundwork for mutual respect and having a voice. Forbes suggests maintaining a collaborative tone when you assert your ideas in meetings, and avoid sounding accusatory or apologetic.
Build rapport. You can’t become one of the guys, but you can use your wits to lower gender bias and help men see you as an “insider.” Crack some jokes when the time is right, yet maintain professionalism. It can help men see you as a peer rather than an intruder. Also, don’t be afraid to point out your purpose. Remind your colleagues you are there because you were trained and are skilled. You can point out particular qualifications and achievements in a manner that is matter of fact, rather than confrontational or whiny.
Another suggestion is to participate in office politics. Many women prefer to steer clear of game playing so they can focus on business, but as The Guardian points out, networking and engaging in behind-the-scenes activities can help you earn respect.
Find your tribe. Oftentimes, women who participate with teams of men find themselves overlooked when it comes to promotions or accolades. When possible, try to collaborate with other women or work alone. Women are more likely to be recognized when they aren’t in the shadow of male counterparts, and you set yourself up for more success. In addition, you should try to connect with other women who are leaders in their careers, even if they aren’t in the same company or even the same field. By supporting and mentoring each other, women can advise and shape advancement together.
Climbing the ladder of success continues to be especially challenging for career-minded women. Be SMART, be an active learner, speak up, build rapport and connect with other women. You can navigate gender bias and achieve your goals.
Image courtesy of Pixabay