Our research reveals the following Five Factors that are key to influencing women’s sucess. In order to establish these, we interviewed successful business women, in particular our Women in the City Woman of Achievement Award Winners, and we also compared and contrasted how women and men typically behave in certain workplace scenarios.
Factor 1: The importance of taking risks
WiC award winners have emphasised how much risk-taking is important to their sucess; we learn by our mistakes. We understand that women’s reticence to taking a risk is partly in-born, but you can learn the courage to take more risks.
How to be more comfortable with risk
- Recognise and accept that taking a risky option may make you feel stressed and anxious.
- Understand that taking risks will help you stand out from the crowd. This is a tactic men naturally use to get ahead.
- Ask directly for challenging assignments and don’t be shy about explianing why you deserve the opportunity. You don’t need to justify with a long list; doing so will weaken your case.
- Learn not to take rejection or failure personally; men don’t and see it as a sign of weaness in those who do.
Factor 2: Why women underestimate their achievements and undersell themselves
Men will go to great lengths to be included at the next level on the ladder of success. They “brag” about their accomplishments, ensure that they’re seen with the “right people” in the “right places” and do everything they can to assert themselves. A woman often senses that if she’s not invited, she’s not welcome. Men, on the other hand, will assume that if he’s not invited, he’s not yet earned his way.
How to “earn” your way
- Send regular reports to managers and let them see positive correspondence from clients or colleagues.
- Take time to network with peole and share your achievements.
- Put achievement-oriented photographs and certificates on your desk or office wall.
- Learn to take credit for your success. In a mixed audience, take the credit first and then acknowledge the help of others.
- In a male audience, don’t pay too much credit to others, as this minimizes your own impact.
- Don’t feel the need to back up your assertions with reasons, explanations or negative emotions.
Factor 3: Why being ambitious and competitive will help you be the best
Without an understanding of the men’s rules – about scoring points – in the workplace, men may appear to women as arrogant and insensitive, but they are just doing their job and respecting the ‘rules’ which they believe govern the workplace. Ultimately “men’s rules” and “women’s manners” are not better than the other, they are just different.
Men score points with other men by demonstrating competence with the score being based on how big the achievement is. Winning = gains points. Losing = loses points. Women score points with other women by doing things that demonstrate caring. It’s not about scale, but how much personal consideration is given. Competence and achievement are not the main objectives.
How to win and lose points
- Men will subtract points from women if she does a great job but then complains how difficult it was!
- Focus on delivering the task at hand to win points.
- Minimise your complaints or excuses; keep those thoughts to yourself and don’t give anyone the opportunity to subtract points.
- Give advice only when it is welcome or asked for.
- If conflict arises, try to accept it and not take it personally.
- Understand what siuations can make you emotional and develop coping strategies to help keep that emotion under wraps.
- Minimize small talk in male company.
- In public, build up your male colleagues’ confidence – this will give you more points.
Factor 4: How to influence both men and women and get a mentor and sponsor
Women’s careers are influenced by several factors which do not affect men’s careers in the same way – the process of career development to a senior leadership role is very different for women, compared to men.
Sponsors can promote you and be an advocate for you to senior executives within the industry, mentors can help you reflect, give feedback, resources and help you navigate corporate politics and to access to the corporate power structure.
It’s not so much who you know as who knows you.
- Create a list of people who could be critical to your success and get to know them. Some may be sponsors, some mentors and the others your wider network of relationships.
- Jon networks and make sure you put as much in as you want to get out.
- Don’t be afraid to approach people and ask them to be your mentor; good mentors will be pleased to be asked and tell you if they can’t dedicate enough time to you or if they think someone else is better placed to help.
- Drive the relationship wth your mentor but quickly acknowledge if the chemistry doesn’t work and end the relationship cleanly and non-personally.
- Choose both male and female mentors.
- Seek a sponsor – someone who is senior and active enough within the organisation (sector) for them to be able to showcase and be an advocate for you.
Factor 5: The value of being flexible, gaining broad professional experience and being motivated by change
Successful people have the ability to express different parts of who they are at different times, according to what is appropriate to meet their ends. The more experience we have, the more we are able to adapt swiftly to situations around us. Seeing change as an opportunity to put yourself forward and to demonstrate competence in a broad arena is a strong way of scoring points in the competitive workplace.
How to succeed
- Look for challenging, unsual opportunities and ask for them.
- Use your network to find “left field” opportunities which you might not normally consider.
- The broader your competences, the more professional respect you will earn.
- Talk bout change in a matter of fact manner.
- Resist the opportunity to have emotional conversatons about the issues of change in an open environment. You’ll just lose points!!!
[Text: Taken from the Project Diamond Handbook – Dr Anne Moir and Carole Plant.
Copyright Networking Culture Limited/Women in the City]