At male-dominated workplaces, it often gets difficult for a woman's for her voice to be heard. We get frustrated and feel lost when an undercurrent game plan is in play. Shweta Handa Gupta, a Transformation Coach, ICF and Chief Innovator at QuadraBrain Transformation Solutions has come up with a list for HerZindagi which may be able to guide you better in such a situation.
Any batch in a leading MBA college, most organisations, leadership teams or the boardroom - as a woman you are always in the minority. Despite the active efforts to the contrary, we still have workplaces with a heavily lop-sided gender ratio. As you rise higher up the corporate ladder, the numbers just continue to dwindle. I am now quite accustomed to being the only woman in the boardroom or leadership meeting and it’s not uncommon to encounter the old boys club or, in recent times, the young boys club in these meetings.
One of my key messages to women leaders has been to focus on adding value and be well prepared for meetings. And to the young ones, it is always to be more ambitious and seek opportunities to lead. I know it’s not easy. Here are some tips on succeeding as a woman in a male-dominated workplace:
Allow Our Voice To Be Heard
I have noticed women waiting to be acknowledged or invited before they speak up at meetings, often hesitantly. Recognise the value of your opinions and remember no one will appreciate your value before you do that yourself. As a woman who wasn’t scared to vocalise, it was easy to get labelled as attention-grabbing or aggressive. Do not let that discourage you. Ensure that your intent is to truly add value and share well-informed opinions. You will soon outgrow the judgement when your inputs start adding value to the success of the team. Preparing for meetings and making sure you have looked at the relevant information in advance will always boost your confidence.
Do not ask for special considerations as a woman unless it relates to safety – A sure fire way to invite stereotyping is to start playing into the bias yourself. Unless it specifically pertains to your physical safety, it’s never a good idea to ask for special treatment based on your gender.
Trust me people of both genders have personal circumstances they need to plan around but the way we demand it changes. I have observed women sometimes bringing up gender while setting work expectations related to deadlines, work-hours, flexibility and future plans. Consider if what you need is a special requirement for you as a woman or simply an ask that anybody may have. Do you really need to bring your gender into the dialogue when setting up work expectations?
Don’t Be An Island
Make an effort to learn your team members’ goals and prioritise and support their development. This one applies to everyone but I often see women withdraw into themselves especially in situations where they may be the only woman. Talk to your team members and colleagues about their aspirations and try to support their development and goals. This makes you the best kind of leader and gender will soon be out of the picture when people think of your great work.
Be Comfortable Talking About Your Accomplishments & Asking For What You Deserve
I’ve often seen women hesitate in sharing their accomplishments for fear of being seen as show-offs. Make a list of situations when you’ve gone above and beyond, note down the exceptional moments when you accomplished something more than expected. Benchmark your accomplishments and be armed with the facts as you walk in to ask for that raise/promotion. Remember, the worst that could happen is a no. If you don’t ask you’re not getting it anyway!
Get A Coach
From navigating the self-doubt to over-correction and perfectionism that comes with years of making sure your work escapes the ‘woman' tag, fears of being too tough/too easy, there is enough self-talk in our heads to drive a sane person crazy. A coach can help think strategically about our career, negotiate the challenges and overcome the limiting beliefs that may hold us back. In a scenario where finding a good coach can be challenging, the International Coach Federation (ICF, US) is often the best place to start understanding coaching and what it takes to be as well as to find a good coach.
It’s time to be everything you were meant to be and enjoy all that you are. Take a deep breath, list down your best qualities and tell us how you’ll put them to work to create something powerful for yourself. Start now or you may never start.