While we have come a long way in terms of equality between the sexes, it can be incredibly frustrating that we are still having to have conversations about equal pay and smashing the glass ceiling. Things are definitely moving in the right direction. There are more and more women in leadership positions in major companies and in traditionally male roles, and women increasingly feel that they can speak up and be heard.
But we are not done yet. There are still too many women who don’t get equal pay for the work they do and too many who get overlooked time and again for promotion. So what are the next steps? What can we practically do to smash that glass ceiling once and for all?
1. Forget The Whole Notion Of ‘Having It All’: While we are not suggesting at all that you focus entirely on work and forget family, friends and everything else in life, it’s only women that are pressured into the nonsense idea of ‘having it all’. They are expected to work and be brilliant at it, then come home and have a perfect house and a perfect 2.4 kids plus obligatory dog, a close family and lots of friends, all while being perfectly made up and looking like they just stepped out of a magazine. It’s ridiculous. It’s unrealistic and unachievable. And it’s exhausting. Let it go and focus on the things that are really important to you and your own goals. You will get much further in your career if you stop trying to be Superwoman in every area of your life.
2. There’s Enough For Everyone: Success is not a pie, where once it’s been sliced up and handed out, there’s none left for anyone else. Women being successful and equal does not take success and opportunities away from men, so don’t hold back if you think you are robbing someone else of something if you are the one who is successful. You are not. In fact, diversity delivers more ideas and possibilities, a better workplace for everyone and better results all round.
3. You Don’t Have To Feel Ready To Be Ready: Ever gone through a job specification and decided not to apply because you couldn’t do every last thing on the list? Even though you know you could do ninety percent of it? You are not alone. A lot of women wait until they feel one hundred percent ready before they ask for a promotion or put themselves forward to lead, whereas men tend to go for it even if they can’t tick all the boxes. The more chances you take and the more you put yourself out there, the more opportunities you’ll find.
4. Don’t Hold Back On What You Really Want: When most men are asked about where they want to be, they will talk about the highest position they want to aim for straightaway. Many women, on the other hand, tend to be more diffident and mention that they would quite like to get to the next step in their career, rather than talking about their ultimate goal. It’s okay to want what you want, and it’s okay to talk about it. You could inspire other people (both men and women) in the workplace to think that they can go for their dreams too. And if big goals become a normal topic of conversation, that stretches people’s thinking on what is possible and how the workplace could look with positive changes.
5. You Don’t Have To Be Perfect: That’s a heavy burden to put on yourself. No-one is infallible, and some of the greatest inventions have come from people making a mistake. Having an open, blame-free culture is much healthier for everyone. Mistakes happen. Failures occur in every workplace, but those are the things to learn from, not avoid. Take the pressure off yourself, and you will find you take it off your team too. It matters more how you deal with failure, learn from it and move on. The kind of atmosphere where there’s no hunt for someone to blame brings out far more ideas allows more risk and encourages everyone to join in, no matter what their gender.
6. Move The Needle: If you are in a position where you can influence policy and push changes through, then go for it. Attitudes and ways of working tend to filter down from the top, so push for a better atmosphere with respect for both sexes, equal pay based on performance rather than gender, transparency, and flexible working that allows both women and men to take the kids to school, pick them up and be there for the school play and those other important firsts. You could make all the difference to the way your company is run, and to the way women are treated in the future. Either way, no matter where you are in the company, speaking out where you see inequality matters. Things don’t get changed with silence.
7. Believe In Yourself And Shout About What You Can Do: “A strong woman understands that the gifts such as logic, decisiveness, and strength are just as feminine as intuition and emotional connection. Too many women hold back and don’t talk about their talents and successes. While being boastful is off putting and not likely to do you any favours, hiding what you can do won’t get you anywhere. Don’t be afraid to highlight your accomplishments, whether that’s on your LinkedIn profile, in your CV (resume) or in a wrap up meetings for the projects you had a hand in. When it comes time for that promotion you have been wanting or that next step in your career, you are more likely to get what you want if you are seen as someone who is highly capable and makes things happen. And your speaking up might encourage someone else to do the same and get the recognition they deserve.
8. Build Yourself A Supportive Network: A rising tide lifts all boats, as the saying goes. Having a solid network around you increases your opportunities, expands your reach, and gives you an all-important outlet to talk to people in your situation who will understand where you are up to and what your concerns are. Not only that but with a large network, you are likely to find people who are where you want to be to learn from. And it’s a place for you to give back, too. Where you can encourage the next generation of amazing women and help them along the way.
9. Learn To Bounce Back: If something goes badly wrong in your career, it can be tempting to take it all personally, give up and decide you are just not going to get where you want to go, but it doesn’t have to be the end of everything. Men tend to pick themselves up and carry on if something happens. They don’t tend to take things personally and far more likely to just shake it off and get back on track. If you can learn to do that, to talk to your network and get honest feedback about the situation and then put it behind you and move on, you’ll stick with your dreams, build your resilience and earn respect from the people around you.
10. Build Up The Next Generation: While equality might not come in our lifetime, we can raise children who expect it. With organisations out there like A Mighty Girl who aim to build up girls and give them shining examples of all the amazing women who have gone before, little girls have more reason than ever to think that they can be anything they want to be. But we also need to educate boys, to teach them that equality is something incredible that builds *everyone* up. Companies achieve far more when they have diverse teams of different genders and backgrounds.
Disclaimer: We are very happy for you to reproduce this article for your own personal use, blog, newsletter or website. All we ask is that you do not modify the content and that you add the following message and link to the bottom of the article. This article is reproduced with the permission of Jane Lowe, Founder and Creator of The Great Women's Academy. To find out more please visit www.thegreatwomensacademy.co.uk