I get the feeling that most people in the developed world think there is gender equality in the workplace now. From my experience I have found the opposite, and the numbers speak for themselves. According to the Global Gender Gap Report of 2018 women hold just 34% of managerial positions across the countries where data is available, only 22% of all professionals globally are female, compared to 78% who are male, and females on average make only 60% of a man's earning in similar positions. To overcome this gap and help you improve professionally I have collected some of the most common struggles I hear about, or have experienced myself and want to share with you ways to overcome these situations.
You are too emotional
If I had a penny for every single time my feedback talk went something like “You're so driven, but you’d be far more effective if you were less emotional”. The interesting thing here is, that no man in my circle of friends has ever encountered this kind of feedback. Maybe we should presume that men are simply less emotional, but we all know that isn't the answer! Men are equally as emotional as women. Their emotions in the workplace are simply seen as something positive and entirely different.
When men raise their voice, it is seen as their passion coming through. When men leave the room because a meeting isn't going their way, it's viewed as them making a point and drawing lines. When men continue to argue their point, even though everyone else has another opinion, it is considered persistence. In the same situation with a woman as the protagonist it is met with eyerolls and viewed as weakness/not suitable behaviour for business. This view is something that needs to be further developed and matured. As if our emotions are something that needed to be contained and locked away! One of my colleagues said to me the other day “Look at some of the most successful women in the world, they are calm as the sea and know to control their emotions. Look at Angela Merkel and Michelle Obama”. So I did.
I spent some time thinking, watched a lot of their speeches online and comments in the newspapers and came to the realization that they are in fact doing something differently. They are carefully selecting when to let emotions drive their words, they pause in order to not react impulsively, and very carefully observe the situation and reactions of others around them to be aware of the atmosphere and to continue speaking accordingly. BUT they are still driven by emotion and ARE very passionate about the things they say. Our emotions are precisely what drive our actions. If you don't care for something, then you won't fight for it or drive it further. Do not lose control of your emotions — try to use them to your advantage, effectively and at the right times. Let them be your driving force.
Smarter with glasses
Somehow there seems to be this notion that women who are perceived to be attractive, can't also be intelligent. It's like having both would be an injustice and wearing glasses somehow sets the world to rights. I have been told that glasses “dress down my blonde hair color” before, and I have been questioned less in meetings since I started wearing my glasses. Mind you, I only wear them because without them I couldn't see!
How is it that in the 21st century we still live in a world where smart people wear glasses and blondes are dumb? Start-up life has flattened internal hierarchies, bosses now wear sneakers and are addressed as Bill rather than Mr. Spencer and digitalization has progressed to where we can work from home. Yet we cannot overcome the stereotype that somehow looks are linked to intelligence?
I say we better get to changing that and showing the world that we all like to feel attractive, and that it doesn't lower our IQ. It does take a lot of self confidence to do this, because you simply aren't taken as seriously and have to explain yourself more often. Do it. Explain the hell out of your area of expertise, give them excel-sheets, show them facts and give them data. You know your stuff, so don't let them make you feel otherwise, simply because you happen to be attractive at the same time.
You want a work-life balance
Another thing that I have noticed to be true, is that women refer to a work-life balance far more often than men. I see this as due to a more active social-life, the impact of family life and of course often times motherhood. Frequently this is seen as something negative, which I disagree with. Quite honestly I don't even understand the term work-life balance – to me it should be a life-life balance. Work is such a big part of our lives and I don´t understand how the two can be separated. We need time for ourselves, to recharge and find inspiration in order to produce the results at work and to give our best. Thats a given and someone that is consciously aware of that should not be made feel bad.
We should support people who are self aware enough to say that they need a break, those who know where their limits are and appreciate that a social-life will help with that. It may go some way to stopping some burnouts, which we have far too many of nowadays. A social life works wonders for boosting efficiency. We are far passed the time, where the belief that relentless work alone takes us and the company we work for forwards. It is not about putting in a certain amount of hours a week, it is about getting your work done and hitting your goals. Many studies and trials have shown (including a recent trial run in 2018 in New Zealand) that 4 day work weeks with the same amount of hours a day as compared to 5 day work weeks increase productivity.
We live in a time where we should continue to challenge stereotypes. Where we should focus on those things integral to us like capabilities and results, rather than looks and the simply the number of hours spent at work.
What are your thoughts on this topic?