So you have a new job – a promotion – and you’re delighted. You’re putting in long hours to establish yourself quickly. You’re getting to know your team and your first quarterly results are due – you’re excited. And yet – you are aware of some things going on that you hadn’t bargained for and you’re starting to feel the pressure…
Here are some of the pressures you might be facing and what you can do.
BEING THE TOKEN WOMAN
You realised that the higher up the scale you went the fewer women you would have around you and you knew that you were moving to a traditionally male environment but you didn’t really expect to be hearing the whispers and insinuations that you only got the job because you are a woman and you don’t know how to counter them.
Remember – there will always be people who will say that and the tiny minority at the end of the scale who are prepared to be antagonistic to you are unlikely to change no matter what you do. So don’t waste your time trying to change them but don’t tolerate rude or uncooperative behaviour – establish guidelines quickly for appropriate and inappropriate behaviour and make sure everyone knows them. As for the others you have two options – address the comments openly at a team meeting, say you don’t appreciate them and you expect the highest performance from your team and they can expect the same from you. OR – ignore the comments and know you will win people round with your commitment, your leadership style and your results. AND – never doubt your own competence and ability to do the job. You’ve worked hard for your promotion and you know you deserve it. Do not allow ANYONE to affect your self-esteem – they need your permission for this. Don’t give it.
You look around you and there are no other women at your level. There’s nothing wrong with the guys – you like working with men. But you are starting to feel a bit like an alien. They talk about different things; they rarely mention their families; and you seem to see things very differently to them. There are more and more discussions where you seem to be the odd one out. It’s like there are some rules that you didn’t know…
This is where women’s networking really comes into its own. There are many women at your level of seniority, with your skills and talents, who see the world through similar lenses, whose brains work in similar ways, who may be in the same industry – they just don’t necessarily work in your organisation. So you have to find out where they are – check out online and offline networks. Talk to women like you who have similar concerns and approaches. It’s not that you’re looking for agreement on everything. It’s just that you want to feel you are in a country where you can speak and understand the language. Of course we need to be careful about polarisation between the genders. But there are male/female differences that we would be foolish to ignore and you need support now so you need to find women who can support you. Once there are equal numbers of men and women at senior levels you will have lots of choice about finding kindred spirits. Until then, you might need to go further afield to find them.
You know the joke about decisions being made in the men’s room and on the golf course…well it’s not a joke! Don’t want to go to the match or to the bar on a Friday after work? Yes of course you will be excluded. Men won’t be doing these things in order to exclude you. They’ll be doing them because that’s what they do – and if you choose not to go then you won’t be involved in important discussions.
Make sure you set up some social occasions that EVERYONE can enjoy. Not all men like football and Muslims are unlikely to go to bars. You won’t be the only one being excluded. And bring it up as a topic at a team meeting. Every organisation is committed to Inclusion as a policy so bring up the topic of inclusion and exclusion and look at how it is being implemented in your team. It is important to bring some of these issues to the surface and talk about them. Make the unconscious conscious then everyone can see the whole picture.
RESISTING FEMALE SEX ROLES
Are you expected to be the one who pours the coffee? take the minutes? Yes it does still happen! And is it being petty and churlish to object?
The thing is – whether you like it or not – you ARE a role model for women and I believe all women have a responsibility to the women coming up behind them. So if something needs to change then it might as well be you who changes it. Changing people’s stereotypical assumptions is a slow process of raising their awareness every time the stereotype shows itself. And there are ways to do it. If you are expected to pour the coffee say “I’m happy to pour today because it will be a while then before it’s my turn again”. Re the minutes you could say “is there a volunteer to take the minutes or shall we take it in turns?” You don’t need to make a point about what you are NOT prepared to do and why – just suggest how you want it to work.
BECOMING LIKE A MAN
Some women deliberately adopt the male characteristics they see being rewarded and resolve to change when they reach a position of real power. But it’s difficult to swim with the sharks without becoming one. And its hard to try and live like one if you’re really a dolphin.
Every organisation says they want their people to bring their whole selves to work. Women have a great opportunity to bring forth their inner power and resources, their gifts and their perspectives and contribute to a new kind of leadership which is sorely needed in our organisations. But to do this you need to be able to tap into your authentic self and have the courage not to compromise your personal values. There are women in very senior positions in organisations already doing this. Find out who they are and what they do. Use them as your role models. Ask one of them to mentor you. Your feminine power is so needed. Stay true to yourself and become more of who you are. That is how you will make your mark and help to create the organisations that every employee is dreaming of.
Check out my Facebook Page – Develop Your Personal Power and Live a Magnificent Life – for tips, guidelines, short videos and resources to support you. And I invite you to ‘like’ the page then I can let you know when there’s a new video or post.
If you want to learn how to maintain inner balance in all that you do, increase your value and visibility at work, and direct your life from a more powerful place, then check out the Reclaim Your Power: Reclaim Your Life audio programme.