Leading Like a Woman in a Man’s World

Man and woman, facing each other and each carrying a briefcase.The issue of gender equality and supporting women in the workplace is more important than ever. With four out of 10 women being the primary earner or sole supporter for their family, both men and women are stepping up to bridge the equality gap.

Along with the subtle gender biases there are a few self-imposed barriers holding women back.

  • Fear of failure: While men know their personal worth isn’t determined by professional failures, women often fear that workplace missteps will cost them their job, reputation, and success.
  • Family matters. Some women fear that employers will view them as vulnerable, inefficient, or unmotivated if they decide to start a family.
  • An inferiority complex. Some women still believe that men are stronger leaders, have better ideas, and are more equipped to achieve success.

Here are 7 tips to help women overcome these barriers.

  1. You don’t have to act like a man to succeed. Women have a natural gift towards empathy, building relationships with roots, and helping others. Leaning into those qualities brings a sense of rootedness within yourself that makes it easy for others to relate to and want to follow. Build relationships, empower others, tune into people’s needs, and balance that staggering number of responsibilities — skills that are great assets in the workplace.
  2. Don’t internalize problems or challenges. Women are more prone than men to take responsibility for the misstep of someone else and view it as their fault, even when it isn’t.
  3. Use your voice. Get comfortable vocalizing your ideas — not just agreeing with your male counterparts to protect yourselves politically. Take a chance and speak up. It will help you to get noticed and it is a good way to stand out so that others can see what it is you have to offer.
  4. Don’t be a victim. If someone makes an inappropriate comment or is demeaning, speak up. When faced with this you have a choice to let the other person undermine your influence (especially if you are in a group) or to neutralize the conversation and call the person out. You can use simple statements like, “That’s not appropriate, we are here to talk about XYZ, not ___.”
  5. Trust your instincts. Women are wired with great intuition. When you adopt a leadership role, you contribute a unique set of skills, ideas, and life experiences that can broaden the entire company’s insight, strategies, and bottom line.
  6. Embrace mistakes. We all make them. But many times we want to hide our mistakes. We worry that we will appear weak or incompetent. There is always a lesson to learn. Being transparent about mistakes gives you the opportunity to improve and sends a strong message to others as well.
  7. Encourage mentorship and collaboration. Increase your chances of succeeding in business when you have mentors to provide real-life examples. So seek mentorship, and be a mentor to others.

As women and men work together to support one another, it’s important to remember that the landscape in the workplace has changed. It’s time to create working environments that foster the innate gifts and abilities of both sexes.  When this happens, everyone, including the organization wins.

If you are interested in business coaching for your organization or on an individual or group basis, please contact me. I work with groups and executives from Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Universal Music, University of Southern California, and more. I am a frequent conference speaker and would be happy to build a platform that offers timely topics and relevant tools, all while engaging the audience.

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