Become a Business Magnet: 2014 – The Year of the Business Woman! Ready?
By Saralyn Collins
The last few months have had an interesting twist to my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages.
Some have gone back and forth about whether the “playing field” in business is actually filled with equal opportunity for men and women … or not.
While women have made great strides in the last fifty years, many still feel that the playing field in business is not yet completely level.
Fifty years ago, the term “women in business” referred to secretaries, low-paid office workers, and retail store clerks.
Today, more and more women are taking on leadership positions as entrepreneurs, business owners, in politics and government positions, as corporate leaders, and in the non-profit sector. But it’s still not equal.
Opportunities for women to lead and influence are greater than ever before. Women in business innovate, persuade, integrate, raise standards, challenge, create policy, and ultimately change lives. But it’s still not equal.
But (and this is a big “but”) much of our success depends on our own level of confidence and self-belief. There is rarely any question about our skill level, our passion for our field of business, our ability to succeed. When it all boils down to the basic level, why is it that so many women struggle and never quite achieve the level of success they desire?
Most women believe they must work harder, be smarter, and put in longer hours than their male counterparts to effectively compete. Whether this is completely accurate depends on the individual and the industry or company she is in; however, women do have unique challenges to overcome to succeed in business—more so if they’re in a male-dominated industry.
Female entrepreneurs also struggle but it is usually with a different type of barrier. If you are in a “typical” female dominated industry, you are more quickly accepted and your knowledge valued. If you are in a non-traditional business, the road to proving your value can be longer and tougher to accomplish.
No matter what industry you’re in or your role in your company, you can take certain steps to ensure that you thrive as a female employee or entrepreneur and reach the level of success you know you deserve. Use the following tips to help guide your career.
There is no glass ceiling—only the ceiling you put on yourself.
Don’t buy into a stereotype that it’s a man’s world. Regardless of gender, each person brings a unique set of valuable talents to the table. If you’re not sure of all you can offer, do a personal inventory of your strengths and areas of expertise.
Then ask yourself, “What level of success should someone with my experience be able to achieve?” Believe in yourself and your experience and you’ll be able to attain whatever success level you just outlined for yourself. And if you should find that your current skills can’t take you as far as you’d like to go, get the additional training you need. Don’t let anything stifle your professional goals.
Make being a woman an asset.
Women and men are wired different—no one can deny that. But rather than try to diminish your female attributes, be proud of them and use them to your advantage. Women have numerous natural qualities that make them more adept in the boardroom and in all areas of the workplace.
For example, women tend to have better intuition than men. They understand emotion better. They’re great communicators and listeners. Women tend to multi-task with ease. All these traits are essential for leading today’s workforce.
Therefore, use these traits to your advantage. If your intuition tells you something isn’t right, speak up—you may just save your company from making a costly mistake. If there’s a misunderstanding during a meeting, use your communication skills to help clarify points. If the male-oriented logical way of thinking isn’t convincing that new client to sign the contract, put your emotional sales pitch to good use. Use your natural feminine traits and watch your success soar.
Learn how to play the game of business.
Know what business skills are needed in your company or industry, and sharpen those skills on a regular basis. Such skills can range from contract negotiation to customer service to purchasing to management.
If you’re not sure which specific business skills will help you, find a business coach who will guide and support you in your growth. Some women are apprehensive about developing traditionally male-oriented skills, such as hard-ball negotiating skills, because they fear they’ll lose their femininity in the process.
The key is to just be yourself. Don’t try to fit an image of what you think you’re supposed to be, do, or act like in a given circumstance. When you’re not authentic, you’re not in your power and you fall short. Be true to who you are and you’ll win every time.
People can tell when someone is truly confident. Those who display confidence rise through the ranks quicker, earn respect faster, and lead more effectively—even if they’re not the most knowledgeable person in the company or department.
To project confidence, be proud of your expertise, and don’t be afraid if you don’t know all the answers. You can’t be all things to all people, and that’s okay. If you don’t know something, tell the person you’ll find out the answer and get back with him or her later. There’s nothing more powerful in business than the presence of a confident woman.
Don’t take it personally!
Some women report that men still talk down to them in the workplace or don’t take them seriously. If this happens to you, try not to allow that negativity to affect you. Most of the powerful and secure men don’t talk down to women and actually want women in the boardroom and everywhere else in the company. They know women have much to offer.
Unfortunately, some men are still from the “good ole’ boys club” and are scared of women in business. When you run into one of these types of men, don’t give them any reaction at all. Any negativity they display toward women usually stems from their own insecurity. So stay poised and remember that the comment or action is not about you—it’s about them. The more confident and authentic you are, the more others will respect you.
And for heaven’s sake, do NOT put down or speak negatively about other women in your field. We are, too often, our own worst enemies when it comes to supporting and encouraging other women.
Men have always extended a “hand up” to their male colleagues. It is time we as women did that as well! (If you want to read a great book about how women tend to undermine other women and how to change, check out Gail Evans’ book She Wins, You Win. You can get it used on Amazon.)
Claim Your Stake
Whatever you do in life, always be your authentic self and you’ll never go wrong. A lot of women feel they that when it comes to business, they need to be something different than who they really are. But when you try to fit some other image, you’ll hold yourself back.
When you step into your own power and just be yourself, that is when your true success comes. So be confident. Trust your instincts. Learn all you can about your industry. And dare to reach higher than you ever thought possible. By doing so, you’ll pave the way for future generations of women and attain the success you’ve always known was possible.
If you want some great coaching on how to accomplish more than you ever dreamed possible, contact Saralyn at 828-649-8011 or Saralyn@SaralynCollins.com. You will also learn great biz strategies at the monthly Magnet Lunch & Learn. Check the link at www.wncwoman.com