There are real barriers to women who want to give their career their all. Power structures formed by bias, preconceptions that can have you judged before you prove yourself, unconscious and conscious discrimination. Beyond the real barriers they create in the outside world, they create them on the inside, as well. Fear is one of the greatest barriers of all. We’re going to look at how it can affect you and how you can battle it.
Support other women
A great way to pave the path for your own success, and your belief in it, is to support the women who make it past that glass ceiling. Do you know any at your workplace? If not, you can see some examples like Ogletree show that more women are starting to make it as CEOs, board members, and other places of supreme prominence in business. You may have colleagues striving to that very same level and hearing the belief and support from someone in a similar position as they can give them the confidence to address their own fear or doubts. In turn, not only are you likely to get that support in future and to believe the support you offer others, but you’re creating a company culture in which the advancement of women is a reality, not an as-of-yet-unproven hypothetical.
Taking the chance to go for that promotion, that job, or that career change is a talent in itself. Women have been shown to be more risk-averse in the office and the single biggest reason is that we are explicitly and subliminally told that we are less likely to succeed, untrue as it may be. Learning to acknowledge risk and to take chances anyway is crucial. In the vast majority of cases, you’re not going to have someone offer you the next step forward.
Fight For What You Need (And Deserve)
You have to find that next step forward yourself and build your case towards it. Women have also been shown to negotiate less for their salary and to put themselves forward more for a promotion (see some examples at Goop). I know I have fallen victim to this in my work history. It was not until recently that I learned to hold my ground on really ask for what I needed in the workplace. Remind yourself every day to take a note of your achievements, the progress you have made, goals you have surpassed. I try to keep a list throughout the year of my accomplishments. Building the list of the evidence that you are, indeed, worth more than your current position and more than you’re paid is a key to convincing yourself of your accomplishments. What’s more, this gives you more ammunition when it comes to talking with your employer about getting that raise or that promotion. I often use the review process as an opportunity to remind my bosses of how much I accomplished in the last year.
Be aware of real bias
That’s not to say that once you conquer your inner aversions to risk, to dismissal, that bias is going to disappear in the workplace entirely. We don’t live in that utopia quite yet. Bustle gives some very actionable responses to sexism in the workplace that you should learn and deploy when you can. By being aware of, spotting, and calling out sexism, you can get in trouble, yes, but you can also start making waves that gather more support, even public attention, and you can make a real change to company culture.
I think we women have to get rid of the idea that everyone may get along with us all the time - sometimes we have to really go after what we deserve and sometimes we have to ruffle some feather. I think one of my favorite quotes is applicable here - "Well behaved women rarely make history." I hope that gives you some courage as you go after your dreams.
M.E.L. is an attorney and small business entrepreneur whose mission is to help professionals conquer the workaday world with style and poise.
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