Ladies, we know it's hard being a woman in a male-driven society. No matter what one says about women occupying the highest positions of power in the country, or powering the workforce in garments factories and brick-fields, we're still disadvantaged. Be it the lack of positions available for women in management positions, or a wage gap in many industries, or insufficient maternity leave and support, there are plenty of issues we still have to champion for. But that's a different story. This week, we focus on six things we do as women to hurt our own careers and those of other women, and how to counter.
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Am I good enough?
Ours is a culture that emphasises modesty and self-effacement in women. From a very young age, girls are taught to downplay their achievements, so as not to seem like they're bragging. Even today, with the idea that a woman's ultimate goal is to become a home-maker, and that a man's is to provide for the family, teachers and family members alike provide more overt encouragement to the boys to succeed at school. What all of this means is that women are likelier to suffer from a lack of confidence when applying for certain jobs or negotiating salaries or asking for promotions.
If you have the qualifications and the experience, don't for a minute second-guess yourself. Just speak up and ask for that job, that assignment, that pay bump. The worst thing that can happen is that you'll be refused; on the flip side, if you don't ask for it, you're less likely to get it.
Where's the solidarity?
If women want a bigger slice of the pie, they need to stick together, but very frequently, they don't. Female managers are just as likely as male managers to pay their female employees less than their male counterparts. Call it an extension of kitchen politics, but there's also a tendency for women to fixate on how a female colleague is communicating, rather than what she's trying to say, and to judge her harshly for it. Labels like “difficult”, “bossy”, “whiny”, or even uglier ones pertaining to personal character are quick to to be assigned.
It's difficult, but important to try and look past the personality and focus on the performance of the woman in question. Next time you catch yourself calling your female co-worker an unkind word, ask yourself why you're really doing so.
How do I deal?
Moving on to graver matters, is the issue of workplace harassment. Every office has that one creep who stands too close, tries to act too familiar, or uses objectionable language, or worse. Tolerating this kind of behaviour out of fear of creating drama, or the unwanted attention (because we all know about the popular sport of victim blaming), or even a fear of losing the job – will only make things worse. If you're feeling harassed by a colleague, or see another female colleague suffering harassment, band together and bring it to the notice of the authorities. If enough women take a stand against this, it sends a strong message that such behaviour will not be tolerated at the workplace.
How do I look?
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Across cultures, women are constantly judged by appearances, more so than men, and taught to monitor their looks. Are her clothes too revealing? Too mannish? Is she wearing too much make-up? Not enough? As a result, women spend a lot of energy worrying about how they're looking that could go into the job itself.
While flouting the office dress code is probably inadvisable, don't fret the small stuff. Meeting that deadline is definitely more important than worrying about whether you need to powder your nose again (you don't), and why Sheila in the next cubicle is wearing that shade of lipstick.
What am I thinking?
Again, this goes back to the confidence problem, but not enough women speak up at work. They're less likely to volunteer ideas, and more likely to let their male counterparts interrupt them.
It is important to get your thoughts across, to be a little assertive (without being obnoxious, naturally). If you got the job, your opinions and feedback are good enough. Bottom line, you're worth it.