It’s been eight years that I’ve been a part of the corporate world and I still remember my first interview as if it took place just yesterday. I had applied for a role which would involve leading a small team and while the interviewer found me to be qualified and competent, he wasn’t quite sure I would be able to do that role well. Reason? “Women are way too gentle and have no control over their emotions. For individual contributor roles, they are very good but when it comes to leading teams, they are not that great. There will be men in your team and some of them can be quite notorious and difficult to handle. You need to be strict and possibly you might find that very tough and challenging“. That comment hit me very hard that day and I realized how strong the stereotypes about women are at the workplace. A woman might be super talented but invariably she is perceived as being weaker than her male counterparts.
The corporate world is still very much a ‘boys’ club. Stats show that in the Fortune 500 companies, a mere 4.8% of women (about 25) hold the position of CEO. Forget CEO, in my current company, my department which has a population of approx 300, there are about 15 assistant managers leading teams. Out of these 15, only 5-6 are women AMs. And it’s not as if the company does not want to promote women. They do but the problem they face is that most of the women don’t even want to apply for these roles. There is so much hesitation and apprehension that inspite of having the right skillsets , many of them don’t want to take on additional pressure and want a job that is relatively ‘safe’. It is mostly the men who apply and therefore get the jobs. Maybe we have become slaves to these stereotypes and consciously or unconsciously tend to believe in them ourselves and that’s what holds us back. We tend to forget that gender has no role to play when it comes to competence, skill and leadership. #EveryWomanIsALeader and it’s high time that we women believe in it. Unless we do, how can we expect the world to?
Based on my experience, learning and the various trainings that I’ve attended on leadership, these are some tips that have helped me at the workplace. They should be of help to you too.
- Be confident, but be careful to not confuse confidence with arrogance
- When you speak, speak with conviction and with knowledge and data backing up what you say
- Never let someone tell you that you cannot do something
- Leave gender aside and focus on your professional strengths
- Be organised
- Be able to articulate your thoughts and speech thoroughly and efficiently
- Know your strengths and weaknesses
- Be fair
- Be clever
- Be optimistic
- Know when to give ‘the talk’ and do give it when necessary
- Don’t cry!
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