As a woman that has only worked in the male dominated financial industry, I am the least likely contender to argue against feminism, or initiatives to reduce the power imbalances faced by 50% of the world’s population. Nevertheless, much of the media attention paid to these issues has focused on what are merely the symptoms of the inequality witnessed and tend to carry an undertone of anger and defeatism. This cacophony of complaints has turned many of the women who should be on the forefront of the battle to turn away from the “f” word for fear of becoming that nagging female cliché.
In fact, the most successful women usually spend very little time on these issues. They have great relationships with men, whether as partners, friends, or colleagues. For once you are treated as an equal in one sphere of life; it is highly unlikely you will accept disrespectful behaviour in other spheres. Women running the show at their office will not see themselves as a meek underling at home, nor will women who have respecting and loving partners tolerate unwanted sexual advances from colleagues at work.
My task here is to give women a blueprint for how to base your work rules on your goals and beliefs but more importantly, with a focus on that which is in your power to change. Here is my approach to bringing us one step closer to true equality.
— 1 —
Stop complaining and start doing
We have a lot to do despite the many decades of progress already made. Identify the issues you can solve then solve them
— 2 —
Do not blame men
Whether you like it or not they are here to stay. Besides, there are some very good ones around that will help you fight your battles. Be pragmatic and work with every ally you can find
— 3 —
Become as good a problem solver in your own life as you are in your work
You would not advise your client to sell their company for a low-ball offer, nor should you sell yourself short. If you feel disadvantaged as a woman in your office, vote with your feet. You might discover your salary will jump for joy once you do
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Make it a point to ask for more. Start doing this at an interview where you have no intention to take the job then move up the scales of fearlessness. If no one will pay you what you believe you deserve you can always start your own business. This skill alone will get you to the top of many an organisation so start practicing
— 5 —
No amount of equality will compensate for a lack of competence. If you want to get to the top, rely only on your own skill, network and performance. No governmental quota can give you the satisfaction of doing it on your own merit
— 6 —
You know how they say women sell themselves short? Apply for positions you don't believe you can get. Promise performance you're not sure you can deliver. Because science tells us women often underestimate themselves, and because people may just believe you if you tell them you’re not good enough
— 7 —
Set and respect your own boundaries
No one can do it all and if you try, you will be mediocre at many things all at once. Focus relentlessly and outsource whenever possible. If it costs less to hire a cleaner than you make at work, just hire a cleaner
— 8 —
Help and advise other women
Hire them even if they’ve been on a prolonged maternity leave and mentor the ones with high potential. If we don't set the example no one else will
— 9 —
Use the differences to your advantage
Play to your strengths instead of emulating typical male leadership traits. Eventually, men will realise that women can bring value in ways that men cannot, enhancing your negotiating power even when you have equivalent qualifications
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Don’t be scared
It is much easier now than it has ever been before. Even in the most male-dominated environments women can now be found at every level of the organisation. Oftentimes in environments like high finance there are many more male applicants than female ones so you will have a slight advantage in the application process. Take advantage of these market imperfections the way a trader would; to your advantage and without apology
So what about you? If you are already a high flyer, how did you do it and what lessons did you learn along the way? If you are just starting, what are the issues you are struggling with right now? Have you had mentors to show you the ropes and if not, what do you wish they had told you before you started?
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