This guest post is by Jane C. Woods of Changing People, which offers consulting, training, and development courses for women and has a passion for helping women develop in their careers and lives.
The evidence is still pretty incontrovertible: It’s a tougher climb to the top for women than it is for men. The reasons are many and various and, of course, debatable, but the outcome is the same both in the U.K. and in the U.S.
I don’t advocate that women should start to behave like men to address the gender imbalance. Neither do I blame men for the situation that has arisen. Quite simply, men got there first, and men made the rules and set the culture. That culture is biased towards men, just as it would have been biased towards women if women had been the dominant gender in the workforce. (I have an exercise on one of my courses where I try and get the women how different the world of work would be if that were the case. It’s hilarious but very telling.)
I do believe that a truly gender neutral workforce is good for society and good for the economy, and is just plain right. Which is why I work primarily with women, to help them shatter the glass/Perspex/imaginary/whatever ceiling, and get to where they want to be.
Here are three of my top tips for women who want to get to the top of their chosen career:
Own Your Career
I see lots of blogs and books telling women to get themselves a good mentor and this not necessarily bad advice.
Except — however nice and supportive other people are no one cares as much about your career as you do. Never rely on other people to give you a push. They may, but don’t rely on it.
Mentors, coaches and friends can all be great supporters but in the final analysis it’s you who has to do the work. Resolve now to take charge of your own career and your own development. That might mean you pay for classes and courses yourself if work won’t fund it. It might mean you take a sideways move to gain the necessary experience for the next step upwards but put yourself in charge. Do not give this power away to a corporation or a person. You’re your own boss.
Work Out a Baby Plan
I am most definitely NOT telling you what to do about something as personal as having a child; that’s between you and your partner. However, I am suggesting that if you are of childbearing years you have that discussion soon.
Nothing derails a woman’s career as much as taking time off to have children, usually at a time when men are really consolidating theirs. You need to be aware of that fact and plan for it.
If you have thought in advance about how you will handle this stage of your life in relation to your career, you’ll make better choices.
There is a plethora of research about men and women’s communications styles and how women are not “heard” at work. I’m not going to go into all here, although I do feature quite a bit of it on my website. Suffice to say that women need to make their voices heard in the right arenas. Given that more often than not the ears that need to hear are male, it pays to do some research. One way of doing this is to understand how men communicate and if need be adapt your style slightly. Until you are the boss, then do whatever you want.
Men interrupt women frequently and men (generally) think women talk too much. Strangely enough women seem to think they talk too much too, even when researchers are able to point out that the men did most of the talking!
Resolve now to say something relevant in each meeting or workplace encounter. Don’t be silenced. Consider how you want to feel at the end of each meeting, where you want to have positioned yourself, and do your research. If you are interrupted ask firmly and politely to be allowed to finish your point.