3 tips for women (and anyone else interested) who aspire to reaching greater heights.
Women and careers. Why is it that we need to keep talking about this topic? Didn’t we already achieve equality in the seventies? Aren’t Cath Kidston, cupcakes and glamping enough to keep us happy? Why would we possibly want more? Quite. Time to get the ball rolling, and open up public debate again, we say.
How can we strive for greater things? Here, drawing from the eye-opening work of women such as Dr Elisabeth Kelan and Marion Knaths, we look at three tips designed to help you break the glass ceiling and achieve your career goals, whether you’re envisioning great things or simply a small step upwards.
3 steps to help women forwards in their careers
Find role models
Do you have one? Role models and mentors are important: they give us a frame of reference that helps us develop ourselves further. Consciously or not, we model ourselves on family members or people from the media, who are more often than not the same gender as us. The catch for women is that there are clearly fewer females in leading positions to model ourselves on.
What’s more, Dr Elisabeth Kelan (Associate Professor at King’s College and author of the recently published “Rising Stars. Developing millennial women as leaders”), asserts the following: men idealise their role models, women admire theirs. And why do women admire? Because it is so difficult to place one single woman on a pedestal, a woman who is extremely successful in all aspects. Women still have to decide between being the career woman, the politician, the mother, the cover girl, the likeable one, the intellectual or the “Mrs”. To be all of these, or to admire all these things in one woman is almost always impossible.
According to Dr Kelan, there is a way out of this dilemma. “Look for multiple role models!”, she recommends. “That way, you can emulate the respective qualities of each of your role models.” And, while we’re on the topic, let’s pause to consider the reason we need to do this: women cannot or are not allowed to embody all desirable roles in one person. What about men?
Macho culture has long been hailed as a source of inequality. Or to put things another way: Men and women often behave differently, and women are pushed out of the higher echelons of FTSE listed companies because of unnecessary “communication problems”, bullying and not being taken seriously. Because, as we’re often told, women in groups behave differently in comparison with men – something that often continues to doom them to failure in their professional lives.
Marion Knaths, for example, explains that women in groups generally contradict others uninhibitedly, communicating as if on an equal level. Among men, on the other hand, there are often very clear hierarchies and contradicting the top alpha male carries certain risks. The top dog in the hierarchy must be twisted around your little finger.
This is knowledge women could use to great advantage by adjusting their communication style and their behaviour slightly to match their surroundings, until the time comes when there are more women at the top, more networks for women, and more companies in which alternative leadership styles are embraced. To make up for being shut out of the boys’ clubs, there are also more and more female networking events and groups springing up where women can look for support.
Our whole vision of things is built on stereotypes. Whether positive or negative, we categorise and put ourselves and others in boxes. We often do so completely subconsciously and without any bad intentions – our brains can simply make better sense of the world when we predict what new experiences will be like based on past impressions.
Good to recognise the impulse is there, but don’t forget that there are clear benefits from overriding it. If we want to change things, then we have to confront our stereotype-ridden thinking and maintain an awareness of how powerful stereotypes can be, how strongly they influence our own self-perception and how they can put an end to women’s careers in a flash.
At the trade fair HRM Expo, Dr Kelan recently declared a key point. According to Kelan, “studies have shown that we need to make stereotypes visible, because only when they are visible do they diminish.” If you believe that women perform a certain job to a better or worse standard, then not only do you have no chance of being successful in that job, you also contribute to a dangerous cycle. We have one final task for you: imagine how the following people look in the following sectors: Engineering, Publishing, IT, Marketing.
Your personal, mostly subconscious attitude to salary, skills, your role as a woman and your role in society has direct influence on your success, as well as that of other. Although changing the world might take more time, you have full control over what’s in your head.