Recently I attended a Women centric seminar. They invited many women leaders who have reached the top of their career and their journey was inspiring, motivating and all that a good success story should be. I left the venue feeling uplifted and determined to one day be in a position such as them. But the more I dwelled on it the more I realized that most or all of those women were from the Operations department. That’s when it hit me, so few women are leading mainstream roles or becoming CEOs.
CNBC recently reported that there are only 24 women who hold the CEO title of the Fortune 500 companies. While the world has progressed, this number has reduced further. One can deduce many reasons why the numbers are so low and yes women by nature are nurturers and not looked favorably as leadership material. So I thought of exploring this further and came up with a list of six top challenges women leaders face at work.
SIX CHALLENGES A WOMAN LEADER FACES AT WORK
Everyone irrespective of their gender, face some challenges to reach the top. But then there are those challenges that are unique to a woman and may be the reason why most don’t make it to the finish line.
1. LACK OF EQUAL RESPECT & OPPORTUNITIES:
I am not one for playing the “women are not treated equally” card so easily. But I think it is needed here. Women are not perceived as leaders and hence even if not deliberately, subconsciously a man gets more opportunity to lead as compared to women. If you will notice in some teams, less experienced men are leading while senior and experienced women just don’t get that chance. It becomes harder at the top. CEO is a coveted title and only one can be chosen for the same. Since, there are more male contenders for the role than female, the probability of a female CEO becomes even lower.
The only way to fight this is to be focused on what you want to achieve, take calculative steps, keep honing your skills and keep pushing forward. Don’t be afraid to speak up, take additional responsibilities and get out of your comfort zone often.
2. PUSHED DOWN, BEING BULLIED:
Women face more resistance and need to continually prove themselves to justify the title and role. Sadly, they face opposition from their female colleagues too, making it all the more difficult. To be fair it gets very competitive at the top irrespective of your gender, people will try to intimidate you, bully you or pull you down in an instance. As a woman, they feel we are easy targets, so they come after us first.
One way to hold your ground and stay put in the game is to earn the alliance and trust of your decision makers. They are the Finance, Legal and Management team in the company. Also, establish a strong brand of yourself, begin each project with defined guidelines and push for over achieving your targets. There is only one way to get respect, you need to earn it.
3. UNABLE TO BLOW THEIR OWN TRUMPET:
The corporate world is a twisted place and we need to be on our feet to adapt and keep up with it. Your work today only speaks 40% for itself, the other 60% is what you make it be by your words. Bragging and boasting do not come naturally to women. While you will see most men parading their achievements both personal and professional, women will try to downplay it. This attitude while is an excellent one to have in the real world, it may result in less visibility and recognition of your work by the Board or the Management. In the corporate world.
I am not asking you to boast unduly or arrogantly. But humbly, let your achievements be known to the right people and decision makers. Speak boldly, openly and do not shy away from recognition.
4. MEN DO NOT LIKE TO BE LED BY WOMEN LEADERS:
How many of us have stood there in a meeting that you were to lead, only to see your male colleague dominate it instead? Men take control and charge more easily than women. Also, their opinions and suggestions are heard more often than ours. Most importantly, it is seeing that men do not take working under the guidance and supervision of a woman well. Again, I am not sure if this is a cultural thing or “men are from Mars and women are from Venus” kind of explanation, but it is a jarring problem today. We can see men defy their authority, subtly disrespect their decisions and act difficult, all to show that they do not appreciate the arrangement.
The only way to really handle this is to put to your advantage your inherent skills of being a nurturer, being kind and patient. When people see results, work well done and new opportunities for growth and success created for them because of what you have done, they will automatically respect you and your title. We, women, will have to get accustomed to the fact that we will have more male subordinates, peers, and Managers as compared to women and we will continue to face these obstructions.
5. OUR NEED TO BE PERFECT:
While this is not necessarily a gender thing. It is most commonly seen drive women crazier than men. Having said that, we have some great examples of “perfectionist” among successful men too, but it is more often seen in women. While being a perfectionist can be a good quality, if remained unchecked it could be the end of you too. A perfectionist finds it hard to appreciate others work, delegate work and encourage others. All these are pivotal as you strive to lead people and the organization.
Learn the art of letting go. Keep the perfection for important tasks and try to look the other way about things that don’t matter much and does not deserve your energy or time. When you feel overwhelmed, go for a walk, listen to a TED talk on this subject, meditate and refocus your energy on more important tasks.
6. SOMETIMES WOMEN ARE WOMEN’S BIGGEST FOE:
Sadly, my last point is one that I am not proud to include here. I wish I could eliminate it altogether, but then that would not do justice to my list. So least I could do is to rank it as low as possible. We, women, have to recognize that firstly we are already less in number in a male-dominated industry and workplace. To top that off, we fail to show our support and alliance with each other. We retort to bad-mouthing, being malicious, being envious and drag them down rather than applauding one’s success and showing the sisterhood that is required in this day and age. We don’t have many cheerleaders at the workplace, neither do we have many who understand our struggles as we do. Hence, there is all the more reason to encourage, uplift and root for one another as we reach new heights.
To conclude, this list is not an exhaustive one, there are many other challenges too. Some may be unique only to us women, while some may be common to us all. If we look closely, most of these challenges can be tackled with ease. But the biggest challenge that will take centuries more to change is the mindset. Until then we all will need to keep pushing, keep fighting and keep rising to the top. Ladies, you have work to do. Being a leader today will inspire and pave the way for the women of tomorrow to run companies successfully.
You may also want to read other article written by the same author ‘Career tracking while on a career break‘, ‘Career restarting for a woman on a career break‘, ‘Is returnship right for you?‘, ‘Five things to consider before a career break‘, ‘5 reasons why working moms are highly productive‘, ‘4 Questions to know yourself better and find a suitable career path‘, ‘5 most frequent challenges that women entrepreneurs face‘ , ‘Financially Stable and how?’ , ‘Be aware of your emotions and its effects on you‘ , ‘How to be your own goal keeper‘ , ‘What is the best way to say No to Office House Work‘ , ‘ Finding your work life balance‘ .
About the author:
The first time Susan Kutar (Tamang) realized that words could touch lives, she wanted to be a writer and blogger. She has 9 years of experience in Human Resources and Talent Acquisition. She likes to write about topics that impact people, which is educational and leaves the reader with something to mull over.
(The author is a guest blogger at Her Second Innings. The opinions expressed are those of the author.)
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