Nearly every single person out there would love to believe that if they work hard and fight for their goals, they can get what they want. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. There is so much more to success in your career than just showing up and doing your day to day tasks. Those that sit in the senior boardrooms and on company panels need to display something called executive presence. This is the ability to show the world around you that you have leadership material and that you are able to represent yourself and the company that you work for in a positive way. You could be as poised, authentic and confident as you want, but there is often something left out of the leadership equation that isn’t thought about enough, and that’s gender.
Women are a little bit trapped in the workplace. There have been decades in the past where women stayed at home and raised their families, while men went out and conquered the world. Well, the last time that women were told to shut up and go back to the kitchen didn’t end well, and female leaders are coming forward all over the globe. Women occupy a lot less of the boardroom than their male counterparts, and the reasons for this are usually not down to a lack of talent, but a matter of perception. Women fight every day across the world for business acceptance and are constantly up against double binds like the fact that if a woman is strong and assertive, she is seen as pushy. If she isn’t assertive enough, she’s a wallflower. If you are a woman in the workplace aspiring as a leader, you will be well aware of the obstacles that you face in front of you to be overcome. The way that you act, speak and look are all a factor when it comes to being chosen as a leader, and we’ve got ways that you can overcome those factors.
Appearance. It’s a hard world to live in when your ability as a leader is judged on what you look like, and when you are a woman you are judged harshly. Good grooming and dressing well are important in the workplace, as people will give an instant judgement whether you want them to or not. While you shouldn’t have to conform to society’s vision of what you should look like, the expectation from one of your peers to the next will differ, which can make it difficult. The key to remember is that your confidence will show through far more than whether you have a run in a stocking or a chip on your nail polish. Sure, your look may not be 100% polished that day, but if you have a self-confidence that dazzles, people won’t notice.
Gravitas. The way that you carry yourself and act to your peers and staff is going to dictate the opinion of you. If you are hard as nails with people around you to ‘act like a man’ in business, then you are going to be found out as someone who isn’t authentic to themselves. Finding and projecting your authenticity is so important to the way that you act in the workplace. Highly successful women don’t pretend to be a gender or a person that they are not, they take ownership of their skills and their attitude and make THAT the most important thing about themselves.
Communication. Female leaders are often misconstrued as bossy when they are assertive in their language. As a woman at work, you need to be able to use your voice to get you where you need to go. Women are often cast aside as leaders due to a perceived lack of grit and strength in all that they do. If you want the way that you think to be heard, you need to walk tall and make yourself heard – heels or no heels.
Cultivating an presence about yourself that puts you at executive level isn’t always easy, you may have to work at it every day. However, to get to the top you need to make everyone around you see you for your ideas and your opinions, not the fact you are woman. Being a woman is a bonus in business, and the sooner that you learn that, the sooner you can rise above the incorrect perceptions and show everyone what you are made of.