Women are exceptional. We are smart, funny, beautiful, intelligent, hard-working, and capable. We make great teammates and even better leaders. However, globally, women hold just 24% of senior leadership positions.
What’s stopping women from being leaders?
Women are often unsure of themselves. It is recognised that women tend to feel more self-conscious than men especially when voicing their opinions. As a leader, it is one's responsibility to assert authority and state matters with certainty. Self-doubt can be a real obstacle in the workplace and the constant scrutiny from male colleagues and employers does not make it any better.
Women are worthy - but do men see that?
It is true that everyone needs to work hard to reach the top. But do women need to work harder than men? We conducted a poll and 76% of them responded with a cold yes.
"Once when I was a new employee and offered to help where I could, a more senior male team member at a partner company treated me like his secretary,” shared Jessica Thiele, Marketing Manager at VL Inc., an omnichannel data integration service provider, with Forbes.
When your true potential is unexplored and your ideas and methods are not being welcomed, especially as a rookie, things at work can get demotivating. You walk in with a bright smile and loads of ideas, but they get shunned often for no valid reason. While the fault can often be in the ideas, it usually lies with the other party’s unwillingness to see past your gender.
High Heels = Low Performance?
The gender biases also come into play when work attire is assessed. We asked some of our followers if they feel there is an unfair association made between a woman’s appearance and her performance at work. Sadly yet unsurprisingly, 97% of the voters who participated in our online poll agreed to this reality.
Business women have always worn red lipstick, and in the 80s it used to be part of the “power woman” outfit along with shoulder pads and those limp little ties that women wore. Today, the same red lipstick is considered unprofessional or flashy, as are certain clothing like off-shoulders and skirts. At the end of the day, beauty standards are dynamic and should not be a factor to define someone’s professional capabilities.
So, how can we help ourselves and each other in taking up leadership roles at the workplace? We have a few tactics you can adopt.
1. Reminder: You Are Capable!
It becomes mandatory for us to constantly remind those around us that we are not a stereotype. As we see with the case mentioned above, Jessica was denied the opportunity to contribute to the work in a meaningful manner and instead was treated like a subordinate. Now, before anything, she understands her worth and that she is capable of handling tasks that go beyond those of a secretary, and realising that is the first step.
2. “I said what I said.”
Dramatic. Overreacting. Emotional. Loud.
These are just a few labels thrown around at women who try to have a voice. As Malala Yousafzai said, “I raise up my voice—not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.”
Having your voice heard is not something you should be shamed for, so do not hold back. Assert your opinions as harshly or directly as you must, and also to encourage those around you to speak for themselves. Power is earned, not simply taken.
3. Women Leading Women
At QUA, we believe that one of our strongest points in such situations is our power as a community. We as women are bound to feel united in such scenarios because only we truly understand what it is like on this side of the table. And thus, we think we all need to support other women as much as possible.
Give room to other women to lead. Ask women for their opinions in meetings and value their perspectives. Help other women out at work and reassure them of their capabilities. This is how we grow - together.
4. Exit The Comfort Zone
We also think it is crucial to leave the comfort zone and take up challenging roles. It is time you remind yourself of your vast potential and step forward to take up tasks you know are going to give you a hard time but you also know you are a fighter and can do them.
Sure, things are always going to be difficult, but it's a long fight we all are a part of, and we will continue to strive for the best no matter what the world throws at us.
To emerge as strong leaders, we must first emerge as strong teammates.