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100 Years of Choice: Empowering Women in the Workplace (Plus 5 Career-Advancing Tips for Women)

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Since gaining the right to vote, women have made significant advances across the board—and the business sector is one place where they have truly shined in recent years.

A recent McKinsey study, in which 600 companies took part, saw that there was a 3 percent rise of women in the executive suite from 2015 to 2020. That means there were more and more women gaining the highly-coveted titles of chief executive officer, chief financial officer and more—the survey listed that 44 percent of cooperating businesses had three or more women in their C-suite, up from 29 percent four years prior. And not only were there strides at the very top, women also made moves in various other management levels.

And while this advancement in industry is great for women everywhere, it also benefits the companies where they work. A Center for Creative Leadership study found that having women in the workplace increases the bottom line and makes a more collaborative environment for their employees.

“Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women on boards financially outperform companies with the lowest representation of women on boards,” states the CCL.  The organization adds that gender-diverse teams have higher sales and profits compared to male-dominated teams and identifies a number of significant positive impacts that women have on the workplace. Among them are: more job satisfaction, more organizational dedication, more meaningful work and less burnout.

None of this progress would have happened without significant social movements that came before. When the United States was founded women didn’t have the right to vote nor did they enjoy a number of other freedoms that are now commonplace. Today we see numerous stories about women breaking barriers, becoming CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and building their own businesses.

And as the centennial of the 19th Amendment is upon us, it’s the perfect time to celebrate 100 Years of Choice—a century of women’s empowerment. And business is certainly part of this positive progression, as women are now afforded the entrepreneurial rights that men enjoyed long before them.

While it’s important to salute the women business owners out there—and the pioneers that led the way—it’s also important to help each other rise up. Read on for some tips on how to make your move as a lady boss (or woman boss, if that’s what you prefer) in industry.

Speak Up

Have you ever been in a meeting with coworkers, brainstorming ideas for potential new projects and partners, and had your own idea shut down—only for that exact same idea to be praised when it was suggested by a man? Most women have been in this situation, as deep-seeded sexism is no stranger to the workplace. Sometimes it’s harmless, somewhat of an oblivious overlook on a male coworkers’ part—but sometimes men are waiting to capitalize on the fact that their opinions are often held in higher regard than those of their female counterparts.

How do you fix this? Say something! Yes, it’s going to be a bit awkward at first, but if you state your case eloquently and point out the right details, the group assembled in the conference room should be able to identify this injustice.

A good way to be prepared for this situation, as in anything that we might be worrisome about, is practice. Think of the potential for how this might happen to you in your next meeting and spend some time crafting some responses. Take it back to the high school days and practice in the mirror how you’ll deal with the situation—and remember to pay attention to your temperament, word choice and body language. If you’re coming across confident, strong and accurate in your convictions, people likely are going to listen and support you.

“Your work can’t speak for itself because your work doesn’t speak,” said Carla Harris, Vice Chairman, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley, during the 2018 Awards Conference for Catalyst, a global nonprofit supporting women in the workplace. “It’s your job to make sure that as many people—both internally and externally—as possible know about your contributions.”

Don’t assume that good work always speaks for itself. Sometimes you’ve got to point out your good work for it to get the praise it deserves.

Find a Mentor

This piece of advice is important for anyone seeking to advance in any industry. Mentorship can result in so many opportunities, as seasoned professionals in their field can offer career guidance, tips for specific business situations, feedback on projects and presentations and, maybe most importantly, a leg up when it comes to hiring.

That last perk of mentorship is particularly valuable, as mentors can refer mentees to their colleagues and contemporaries for job opportunities, offer reference letters that will make the mentees’ resumes stand out in job searches and, if the time is right, can even offer their mentee a position or promotion at the company they are currently working for.

Know When To Ask for a Raise

So, you’ve been at your job for quite some time now. You’ve made contributions to its success. You’ve brought new ideas to the table. You’re punctual, positive-thinking, and you even attend the weekly non-mandatory happy hour.

But after some time, you start to wonder: Am I making the right moves and doing above-satisfactory work that warrants some kind of recognition?

This is the dilemma for millions of everyday employees. Some companies are aggressive about retaining employees with additional perks, promotions and raises. Others have outlined career growth for their employees with specific milestones. Many, however, leave this area a grey one—an area in which employees worry about rocking the boat by asking for more money or responsibility, or one in which employees are unhappy with not being valued for their contributions to the success of the company name on their paychecks.

If you find yourself thinking you’re due for some recognition, take your time at your employer into account. A New York Times article suggests knowing your worth, being assertive, researching yours and other salaries and having a back-up plan. All of this is extremely good advice, and we have a few additional tips.

The first step would be to list and keep examples of your successes, the additional work you’ve taken on since your hiring and, if possible, quantifiable data such as the money you’ve helped your organization earn. Not only will this give you the confidence to ask for a raise if it is warranted, you’ll have the proof to show that you have earned exactly what you are asking for.

While you’re thinking about making the big ask to your boss, consider poking around some public records and seeing what comparable jobs are being paid—both at your workplace (if possible) and outside your company’s walls. If your net worth is far below industry or occupational standards, you have more proof on your side for asking for that bump in pay.

NYT was pretty on-the-money (see what we did there?) by suggesting that having a “Plan B” is a good idea when asking for more money. Not only can you ask for other forms of advancement (be it new responsibilities, taking on an intern, enrolling in a company-sponsored mentorship or training program), you can also make the case that you’re ready for something bigger and ask what you need to do to get there. If you have this documentation, you can use it as leverage on your next go-around in asking for a raise.

Support Fellow Women in Business

While speaking to women’s magazine Elle, executive coach and leadership psychologist Averil Leimon shared that many companies lose 50 percent of their female employees within five years. She also asserts that by the time women advance to upper leadership roles in their companies, that they are often alone or lonely. How does one help fix such a dilemma?

Well, Leimon suggests bringing up other women as you advance yourself. If you’re not giving credit and allowing your colleagues to see the work being done by the other females surrounded by you, you just might end up at the top as the only C-level executive without a Y chromosome.

“When you succeed, do not pull up the ladder behind you— make sure you pull other women up after you instead.”

In the same Elle article, Leimon advises women to maintain relationships with women in their organization and field and to build “a posse.” She goes on to insist that women “pull other women up” as they succeed.

And that’s pretty fantastic advice. Why would you not want to surround yourself with powerful, like-minded women in your field, lifting them up to the places you’ve already been? Not only will that likely diversify the makeup of your team, it also ensures that your opinion will not be the only female viewpoint in the room come decision time.

Be Authentic

“I have worked with women who have been told to ‘dress like a man, talk like a man’,” says Leimon, who we previously quoted from an Elle article in this blog entry. “It never really works.”

The executive coach and leadership psychologist contends that women in the workplace should at first think about what they stand for and what attributes they can bring to an organization.

Sound advice, if you give it a moment’s thought. If an organization does not align with your personal ideals and motivations—or if they don’t offer the benefits you’re looking for in a career plan—you’ll never be happy at that job. “Start to think of the brand that you are building. Everything you do and say in the workplace is associated with this brand,” says Leimon. “How you look and act reflects the brand.”

This is why the job search and interview process is so important. Especially for women hoping to advance in industry, researching a company is extremely important. Do they advance women in their ranks? Are there women in the C-suite? Are there women on the board? Female investors? The list goes on and on.

But it’s not just the makeup of a company’s conference and board rooms that matter. It’s their ideals, their goals, their partnerships. All of these details are easily searchable and, if not, can be qualified by a few casual questions during the interview process. It’s often said that one should have questions for the company they are interviewing for when asked, and these are the perfect examples—not only do they show that you’ve researched the company and field it works within, it also will give you valuable answers that will let you know if the position is right for you.

And on top of all of that? If your beliefs align with the company, you’re set up for success. “Work out what it is that you stand for, who you truly are and the value you bring to the organisation,” says Leimon.

Because knowing your worth—in a career setting, anyways—starts with making some worth, right?

Women in Business Today

All of these tips can be applied to anyone in the workplace, regardless of gender. But these are especially important for women, considering that the proverbial “glass ceiling” has only begun to be shattered. Women of decades past have made it possible for today’s generation to aspire to higher opportunities in industry—there still is disparity in pay between the sexes, a large gap in the number of male-owned and female-owned businesses, and a disparity of male to female CEOs of the companies listed annually in the Forbes 500.

However, at the same time, there is much to be celebrated. Women continue to advance in industry and female-owned businesses are not only sprouting up everywhere, but are being noticed thanks to female empowerment-centric publicity. It is a great time to be a female entrepreneur, as the world is their oyster—and they don’t need a man to get that pearl.


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