As we celebrate Top 40 under 40 women this week, we are reminded of great women who are doing an amazing job in areas such as corporate leadership, entrepreneurship, law, finance, medicine, academics, research, technology, sports, philanthropy and media just to name a few.
Even with these feats, women still face struggles at the workplace; from unequal pay to advancing into leadership roles.
Did you know that only 14.6 per cent of executives in companies nationwide are women? More strikingly, did you know that women hold just 4.6 per cent of CEO positions?
Why is this the case?
Is this difference because women leave their careers to care for their families before reaching a top position? Or are women afraid to ask as a result of attitudes towards them in the workplace?
This got me critically thinking about what a career woman can do to set herself apart.
What should women do to boost confidence and get ahead at work?
To succeed at the workplace, the tips I have outlined in this article below are necessary.
The courage to speak up
We get in life what we have the courage to ask for.
Women don’t speak up as much as men do at the workplace, often because they lack confidence and also because our culture has for a very long time, encouraged the man to speak up more than the woman. Women need to realise that the promotion, the salary raise, the change of terms for their career cannot be addressed if they are silent.
The worst that can happen when you push for what you deserve is getting “No:” for an answer.
Imposter syndrome is the belief that you are not as competent as others think you are, or that you don’t deserve the success you have.
Many women suffer from imposter syndrome – the self-doubt that they have what it takes. The career woman has often struggled with rising above the challenge that comes with gender equality in the workplace, often wondering how they can balance between being mothers, wives and still deserve a seat in the boardroom full of powerful men.
Women then must begin to feel comfortable in both spaces, deserving every good thing that comes with the responsibilities placed on them. Women deserve it too.
Rising above the challenges
The responsibilities placed on the woman are quite heavy. The career woman has often struggled with work-life balance, better pay especially for roles majorly held by men, workplace harassment, fewer seats for women leadership in the organisation and so much more.
Women can grow if they rise above these challenges by pushing to lead. It’s through leadership that they can change the unhealthy cultures and bring new policies at the workplace that support their growth.
This is the key to unlocking the woman’s full potential.
Persuasive communication is a valuable skill that women can learn and use at the workplace. Being excellent at your job, unfortunately, is not enough. There is a need to persuade at interviews, at sales pitches and in meetings among other areas.
Part of being persuasive is being genuine, natural and a little charismatic. Stepping out of your personality and comfort zone and improving your interpersonal relationships is one of the best ways to become more skilled in persuasion. Successfully implementing your persuasion skills will require time, energy and practice. Once you learn persuasive communication, then there is no opportunity that you cannot scoop.
Confidence is many things. It’s how we speak, how we behave, how we dress. It’s our ideas and how we articulate them. Most of the time, women who are picked to lead and for that promotion, have mastered the art of confidence.
A woman must brand herself in a certain way to set herself apart. Learning to be self-aware and portraying emotional intelligence at the workplace allows us to be confident in our speech and thoughts and when we top that up with our outward image, then people want to hear what you have to say. People change how they view you.
Supporting our own
Sometimes women are told they are their own enemies. Controversial as it is, lies some truth in this.
I believe there is something we can borrow from the man on this one. The need to celebrate one another and support others’ success. Every woman also needs to learn to go where she is celebrated instead of sticking in toxic spaces that tear her down.
“Your candle does not dim because you lit another woman’s candle, so go on, pick her up, celebrate her, give her a chance. If she shines, you shine too.”
The power to lead and be seen lies in the hands of women themselves. All these women we celebrate today had to step out of their comfort zone and do it differently to stand out. Women compared to men undersell their experience and capabilities but these must change if the woman wants to stand out. Women need to be more intentional about their careers and where they are headed, because one of the things that have continuously worked for the man, is his focus to keep pushing through and how intentional he is about growth. Real change in the career woman begins when she inhales that confidence and exhales the doubt.
Silvia Mwangi is the training and development manager at Corporate Staffing Services, an HR Consultancy firm based in Westlands, Nairobi.