Climbing the career ladder whilst looking after your family often results in great conflict for many women. Finding a healthy balance and maintaining and managing this delicate equilibrium is a constant challenge for most career women. This is cited as the biggest barrier to women getting senior jobs (‘What Holds Women Back?‘ Opportunity Now, Business in the Community)
For some, there are added beliefs that there is an expectation that they should be responsible for childcare and family life. Negative attitudes and opinions from others / society on aspects such as returning to work soon after giving birth, working long hours or away from home also contributes to this conflict.
I recall my own experiences, after having my first child back in the 1990s when I requested flexible and reduced hours of working. “To fulfil this role is a fulltime, physically being at work responsibility”, was the response. Anything different meant working at a lower level and pay.
Flexible working and working from home can help to resolve some of these issues. However, with this comes the lack of visibility and presence and which can be disadvantageous.
For women who work in male dominated industries, asserting themselves can often be misconstrued as being ‘aggressive’. Many women will often adopt masculine characteristics and style of dress in an attempt to ‘fit in’. One of my clients, Susan recounts a story of presenting to a primarily male audience. She felt that she had to dress as one of ‘them’, to be one of them and to blend in.
In another example, Martha found the language, behaviour and attitudes in her organisation too male orientated. This made her feel uncomfortable and mal aligned and resulted in seeking a new post.
For many women, isolation is another problem, as there are few women in senior positions within the organisation that they can turn to. This results in little opportunity to confide in or seek support peers.
If you are a woman in a senior position or looking to move into a senior position here are my 6 top tips to help you cope
Recognise and celebrate your accomplishments: identify and list the qualities and strengths that it took you to get to where you are now. This will increase your confidence and you will become your own best ally. Once you have achieved this, the need for outside validation will be reduced
Surface underlying beliefs and look for patterns and concepts that reinforce and empower negative beliefs. When we have self limiting beliefs or negative beliefs it translates into fear and weakness instead of courage, strength, and potential. Changing beliefs and assumptions about yourself and your relationship to the world will change ideas and outcomes
Create your own personal brand and impact: Take time out to find out who you really are, what you stand for and your values. A superficial image that doesn’t reflect your true individuality and personality will always be transparent and clearly be inauthentic. People judge you on what they can see, the exterior: your appearance, voice, body language. Inside is the ‘real’ you – your values, strengths, principles, motivators, beliefs. Make the ‘what you see outside’ congruent with ‘what is on the inside’. When these 2 are integrated, it creates a unique you. This will strengthen your confidence level since you will be operating from a position of strength. Use this to differentiate yourself, make a positive impression, and create presence and impact
Develop resilience and mental toughness: Change your mindset and attitude and view barriers differently by seeing them as challenges to be overcome. Use your newly developed confidence and banish what ifs and self-doubt and replace with positive self talk
Hang out with like-minded women: seek out networking groups or find yourself a mentor who can help you to stay focus and achieve what you set out to do. By developing relationships which are mutually beneficial and based on common bonds and shared experiences you will create a strong foundation of support
Develop emotional intelligence: become self-aware and mindful. Recognise your emotions, moods, feelings and take responsibility for them. Use the ‘I’ word. For example, instead of “you are an insensitive jerk” try “I feel hurt and upset”. Analyse your own feelings rather than the action or motives of other people
I would love you to share the strategies and tips that you have developed and used to help you cope. And if you are a coach, would be delighted love to hear what you would add to the above.
Don’t be shy….please do leave a comment. If you would like to learn more, check out my other Blogs and follow me on Twitter.