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Women in Startups: How to Get Ahead

| July 28, 2013 | 7 Comments

women-entrepreneurs

It’s a sad state of affairs that women face significantly more issues than their male counterparts within the workplace.  Bridging the gender gap can be a formidable task when facing this challenge alone – but in reality you are allied with thousands of women around the country against this issue.  Some choose to develop their own methods; some take inspiration from the efforts of others – but approaching the problem head on and establishing a strong foundation will serve you throughout the rest of your career.

The Glass Ceiling

A central issue serving as a blockade to female advancement is the glass ceiling – an invisible barrier which prevents women from aligning themselves with the salaries, responsibilities and benefits of male counterparts in the same role.  The glass ceiling can become stone when it comes to promotions, with many women feeling that they have been passed over despite having significantly over-achieved on their male colleagues.  The weapon for shattering the glass ceiling is a dual-headed spear; of gaining respect and proving your worth.

Whilst it may feel galling to have to work three times as hard to be viewed as equal, that’s just the way it can be.  Volunteer for every chance you get to prove yourself, interject with suggestions and meetings, make yourself heard and display your ultimate dedication and commitment to the cause.  Take solace in that your hard work at this time can result in you being able to exact the changes you deem necessary, once you find yourself in a position of power.  Become a pioneer of the office and help women of the future tackle the breach.

Volunteering

Accept everything thrown at you, throw out your chin and show that you can handle more.  At the same time, don’t overload and give yourself too many assignments than you can handle.  The façade could come crashing down around you if you overreach.  A commonly held belief in psychological therapy reads;

“If you pretend to be something for long enough, that is what you become.”

This correlates perfectly into the business world – if you pretend to be a more capable and harder working individual than you are; providing you can balance the workload then this is exactly what you will become.  Reputation plays a huge role – become known as the grafter, the problem solver, the one to go to.  You want assignments given to you that others can’t handle, that bargaining chip is priceless in any negotiations for promotion or salary.

Communication

Clear lines of communication are essential between you, your colleagues and your superiors.  Develop these immediately, in the early stages of employment and use your confidence in communication to build relationships.  People skills can be the swinging pendulum in decisions on promotions and if you don’t develop a personable relationship with your manager – communication will only become more difficult the longer you leave i

One Step Ahead

Throughout the year keep track of your male associates and how much they are achieving on a weekly basis, if you feel that you are accomplishing more than they are but are still being paid less mention it at your annual review in a mature and concise manner. This is a simple way of making your manager aware of the gender difference without bringing it up directly.  In all likelihood, your manager will likely be male and being confronted with these statistics can be unsettling to say the least.  Tread carefully around this issue but stand your ground – this part comes much easier if you have already demonstrated that you are an integral cog to the business machine.  You can’t be replaced.

Speaking Out

Selective hearing seems to be an overarching talent of most successful men – but this is something you need to obliterate in your journey to equality.  Do not be afraid to interrupt if you feel that your points are not being taken into consideration.  Their hearing may be selective, but they’re not deaf. The stronger you come across in will and personality, the louder your voice will be heard; don’t back down or let them dictate the meeting. If you’re persistent they will respect you for it.

Meetings aren’t the only place where your voice should be heard, if you feel that you are being harassed in any way whilst in the work place you should immediately file a complaint. Your complaint can be something as simple as an account of the incident written on plain paper and handed to your manager, or it could be a formal interview. Either way you must report the situation and if you feel that no action has been taken, follow up the incident. Don’t sit idle.

End Game

The end game here is to be on contention for every opportunity for advancement.  You want your name to be the first on the lips of your manager whenever something challenging or rewarding comes up.  Facing the problems with the attitudes and actions outlined above – you should find yourself sailing past your male colleagues on merit, rather than languishing behind them through inequality. 

Nikki Armytage is the founder of the The Lifestylist, a female led business coaching agency based in London. Dedicated to sharing her knowledge and experience, Nikki has a wealth of experience in combating the system and makes it her mission to educate others on the battle plan.

Image Credit: www.empowernetwork.com

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Category: Career Advice, Entrepreneurship

  • Dominika Kupciw

    Accept everything thrown at you? Definetly NOT! Stick to what you know and do the best you can at it. Respect your time and work so others will respect it too. Value your skills and show other how good you are in handling your job. Be clear on your job description and at all cost avoid doing everything that is being thrown at you. Learn to say NO and be confident in you ability. Don’t get it confused with opportunity to learn a new skill by helping co-worker or manager in tasks you are not used to.

  • Michael Luchies

    I have to agree with Dominika. Building off of “If you pretend to be something for long enough, that is what you become.” If you accept everything thrown at you, you will become a pushover and someone who people will dump their work on.

  • Michael Luchies

    The awesome thing about being an entrepreneur is that anyone can do it. I won’t say that it is an even playing field by any means, but strong and brilliant women are starting their own companies, which takes care of the glass ceiling and several other of these problems.

  • Pingback: Women in Startups: How to Get Ahead | StupStep

  • http://under30ceo.com MattWilsontv

    I think there is a balance here between putting yourself out there and working your ass off and getting used. If what’s being thrown at you are things that will make you stand out to your employer, than stick your chin out.

  • Pingback: Women in Startups: How to Get Ahead | Bus. Minded

  • http://www.twoodo.com/ Andrea Francis

    It sounds like this article is based on a very traditional, corporate-style company. I’d like to point out that most men are good people and I find them to be generally fairer and more balanced than my female colleagues.
    For the outgoing generation, the glass ceiling was certainly a reality. However, in my work experience so far I have not encountered this restriction. I don’t think women are forced to work double-hard to get the same benefits as men in this day and age. Can you give concrete examples of this for women aged 18 – 45? How do they know they’ve been working “twice as hard” as their male counterparts?
    I think a big part of the problem is how to move up in a company. If promotions are achieved by longevity in a company rather than by quality of work then women who take part-time jobs need to decide what is more important to them: the flexi-time or the promotion. As long as a company’s policy is to give promotions after X amount of time, you’ll never catch up if you take time off (I make this point as the majority of part-time jobs are done by women).
    At a deeper level, this means that if women want to be at the same level as men, they have to do the EXACT same as them. Sweden has tackled this by forcing men to take the same amount of parental leave as their spouse so there is an even playing field. We need to wait a few years to see if this brings the desired results. An equal playing field needs to be achieved somehow without men perceiving women as getting benefits for simply being women, rather than for being the best for the job. I would despise being made a token female manager.