There are always headlines in the press that highlight the position of women in business and they are very rarely positive. Yes there are some great women who are both successful and massively influential but there is also ongoing stories about inequality, unequal pay and a lack of women at boardroom level. Isn’t it time businesswomen stomped that little bit harder and left an imprint on the international landscape of business. There are some excellent women doing just that but they will tell you exactly how hard it is for women to hold positions of power, be consistently taken seriously and warrant the same respect and recognition as their male counterparts.
There are plenty of challenges to face out there but why are there? What possible justification is there for these obstacles?
1) Women sometimes get pregnant
There are businesswomen who have been asked by clients if they are intending to have children. This seems to be a deal breaker. But why? Women can take weeks off for pregnancy these days and opt for their partner to raise the child. Is society still hung up on the fact that the woman’s place is in the home with the new-born? – Surely not! Men and women are capable of the same bonds with their children and guilt over taking the supporting role should have died alongside the ridiculous notion that women and men have exclusive roles to play in society.
2) It is the norm!
This is the way it has always been. There are more men in business so they always have the majority and it is a male viewpoint and perspective that drives the majority of decisions. It is habit to promote a man, pay men more, and hep men develop their careers. This learnt behaviour is changing but it isn’t a fast change. The world has to get used to new rules and embrace equality at all levels of management. As younger/newer generations work their way to the top these changes should begin to gather momentum.
It is a quiet force but there nonetheless. In some religious circles women are a classed as the secondary citizen. These views will not change but their reach is fading. These views tend to be limited to the more devout and sometimes zealot faiths but there is no questioning the fact that they can factor in mainstream business affairs. Thousands of years after their origins women are still battling the words of ancient texts and trying to establish equality.
4) Women are ruthless when in positions of power!
I have read this a couple of times – the idea that women become intimidating power hungry assassins when they are promoted into positions of power. Oh please! Why are successful women labelled intimidating man-eaters when all they have achieved is exactly what their male counterparts have. At the end of the day nobody would turn to Alan Sugar and Rupert Murdock and call them sissies! I rest my case – lay off strong independent women.
There is a long way still to go for women to achieve equal pay, equal standing and begin to feel like they are battling for careers on an equal playing field – but at the same time we have made serious progress in the last 20 years. Women do not need special skills or enhanced powers to gain success. They just need to follow the same formula that every businessman/woman follows. They need to possess:
Self-belief: Because everyone with an ambition or dream has to believe in themselves before anyone else will.
Ambition: Because no business is stagnant, they are always reaching further and striving for greater success or more challenging targets. That is what keeps them fresh and competitive.
Confidence: You need to know how to hold yourself and believe that you are worthy of your ambitions. You are no less than anyone else as you enter a room – you are an equal so hold eye contact, shake hands firmly and keep your head up.
Passion: You will not get anywhere unless you have fire and passion to drive you through tough times and continue to drive you through successful ones.
Humility: Part of this is accepting that you will not always know everything and that you must keep training to stay sharp and innovative. You must always remember where you came from and make time for people who support you on your way.
Sense of purpose: Just having blind ambition and passion will not get you where you need to go so a sense of purpose is essential. You must map out your path and stick to your rules and guidelines – stay true to who you are and what you represent.
Assertiveness: Make sure you get your message and your product/service across to the right audience. Be strong and assertive when you need to be.
Hard work: This is a given. You will have to work damn hard to achieve your goals and the business will become your life but nobody got anything by sitting on the sofa!
Bravery: Commit to risks and follow through with your gut instincts. You need to be strong enough to take calculated chances because again you do not get anything by playing it safe.
Persistence: People often forget this but it really is the fuel of any business. You have to keep working and keep putting all that you have into your goals otherwise they will wilt. Never ever give up! Be practical and realistic with your expectations but if the financials weigh up and you have done your research then your dreams are there for the taking.
So there you go. Whether you are a man or a woman you know what you have to do. And if you are a woman then just follow your heart and do not stand for any derogatory remarks. We have proven we can do it and we keep on proving it – one day we will stand side by side with our male counterparts and you will have been part of that change – part of that future!