5 challenges facing women in business and how they can be overcome
Progress. Empowerment. Change. Women in Business have made incredible strides over the years, but as we look to statistics at the top, it becomes evident that we still have a long way to go in closing the leadership gap. According to the Forbes article, “Disappointing Statistics, Positive Outlook,” in 2010, only 2.4% of the U.S. Fortune 500 chief executives were female. In addition, Sheryl Sandberg has pointed out in Lean In, there is a mass exodus of fresh female graduates populating the bevy of entry level jobs, and a healthy number ruling mid-management positions, but unfortunately, the numbers drop drastically at the very top of the pyramid, the C-suite levels. As we are poised to usher in 2015, let us pause to reflect on the 5 most prominent challenges facing women in business and the ways in which each can be mitigated, and eventually, overcome. And so it begins!
Prevalence of the Imposter Syndrome
Let us be honest. We all suffer from the imposter syndrome, in one way or another. This is the all too familiar sensation of feeling not good enough, actually convinced that all our successes and professional accolades thus far have resulted from a stroke of blessed fortune, pure and sheer coincidence. Researchers believe that up to 70% of people have suffered from it at some point. Interestingly, if you have ever experienced pangs of this syndrome, consider yourself in a special place because this is generally the domain of the high-achiever. To be fair, this is a natural feeling at times, but what we must not allow it to do is to cripple our ambitions. Granted, fortune and luck could have played a role, but the word there is a. There is no way, ladies, we could have been this successful based off of outside circumstances far out of our control. Own your success, girlfriends, and celebrate your journey. Do you have more miles to go? Of course, we all do, we are just getting started.
The Leadership Ambition Gap and the Danger of Not Playing Out of Our League
It would not be much of a surprise to you if I shared that a greater number of men than women have aspirations of working up to a C-level position. According to this Forbes article, growing up, boys are generally rewarded for being competitive and aggressive risk-takers, while girls are advised to be nice and lay back. Perhaps, it is high time that as we, as a community of highly educated women, take ownership of our career reigns and dream big. After all, that is what the boys are doing. Playing in our own leagues, admittedly, is very safe, secure, and lends a fuzzy feeling of comfort. Alas, we should be wary of this so called comfort, because what is comfort in the short run will quickly morph into discomfort, as we realize that our actual potential is decaying due to lack of use. I have always been an advocate of playing out of your league, maybe because that is what I have done throughout my life. The risks are greater but so are the rewards. We must encourage each other to routinely play out of our leagues, because that is the only way to win, and then win some more.
Lack of Versatility in Mastery of Professional Skill-Sets
In 2014, the demand for professional skill sets has never been higher. For instance, this article states that the number of permanent openings on the books of professional recruitment companies has rocketed by as much as 41 percent over the course of the year, with a great emphasis being on the professional skills shortage in the UK. Additionally, it is critical that women gain versatility in their skill sets, as having only one skill in the workplace is no longer sufficient to succeed. It is critical that we be able to learn multiple others simultaneously. If we are engineers employed in a technology company, it may be necessary for us to learn the fundamentals of technical documentation, and learn quickly. Our ability to thrive in this new work environment is dependent on our ability to adapt and absorb new knowledge as well as skill-sets with ease.
Quality of Communication Within the Workplace
Proper communication skills are a game-changer for a woman in business. The challenge is to communicate well with utmost clarity in the office. All too often, we think we have said more than we actually have, and end up leaving thoughts on the proverbial table. It is critical that we learn to express our ideas, thoughts, and opinions clearly, articulately, and confidently. Unfortunately, if we do not speak up for ourselves, no one else will, and that is the reality. Once we become comfortable with communicating with ease, we will find that more opportunities are finding their places on our table, and that we feel very well appreciated and highly valued on our teams. Promise me that you will communicate with confidence, articulation, and poise?
Low Priority to Become a Networking Superstar
An equally critical portion of our progression in the workplace is directly proportional to our ability to network successfully across, along, and within and outside of our companies. I have spoken to some women who believe that networking as an art is disingenuous and difficult to relate to. The best way to reconcile this world is to consider it a two-way street of how you can help the other individual achieve his or her goals, and how that person could possibly aid you in achieving yours. Arriving at a win-win situation is the ultimate thrill. If we can encourage more of our girlfriends to participate aggressively and actively in the networking game, there will definitely be a greater number of us storming the highest echelons of power within companies.
In 2014, the demand for professional skill sets has never been higher. For instance, this article states that the number of permanent openings on the books of professional recruitment companies has rocketed by as much as 41 percent over the course of the year, with a great emphasis being on the professional skills shortage in the UK. For an opportunity to explore business in the UK, connect with the London School of Business and Finance (LSBF). Additionally, it is critical that women gain versatility in their skill sets, as having only one skill in the workplace is no longer sufficient to succeed. It is critical that we be able to learn multiple others simultaneously. If we are engineers employed in a technology company, it may be necessary for us to learn the fundamentals of technical documentation, and learn quickly. Our ability to thrive in this new work environment is dependent on our ability to adapt and absorb new knowledge as well as skill-sets with ease.
There you have it ladies: the top 5 challenges facing women in business today. It is my sincere hope that you reflect on each of these, and consciously attempt to overcome them, because the world is counting on you!
By: Shinjini Das
The views presented in this article are the opinions of the author and those opinions do not reflect the views of any organization or employer that author may be associated with unless expressly stated.