Stereotypes can kill a woman’s self-confidence in business if it’s not well-managed. Nearly all female leaders in business and the corporate world that rise to success face a myriad of discrimination and harassment on their climb to the top. The sad truth is that it really doesn’t change as they ascend the ladder of success, those beneath them simply work harder to hide it as to avoid repercussions.
One general rule that can help any executive trying to improve teamwork and functionality in a department is to make sure that essential services such as HR, payroll, corporate calendars, relevant data, as well as numerous other business metrics and operations are all strictly organized and easily accessed by management, as well as any other employees who may need it.
But no matter how many good ideas you might have, how much you may improve employee morale, or how much you increase overall business and profit, as a woman in a position of power you will always face certain stereotypes and preconceptions. Here are five of the most common, along with how to combat them.
5 Worst stereotypes professional women face and how to handle them in business.
Stereotype #1: Women Crack Under Pressure
This is one of the oldest excuses in the boy’s club manual as to why females shouldn’t hold leadership roles. Apparently, they have never seen a woman bear the strain of earning a full time living for herself, two kids, and a dog, all while raising them by herself, taking care of an ailing parent, and going to school. Anybody that can handle that pressure day in and day out can certainly handle the temporary corporate crises that come and go every day.
Bring other employees, especially managers and supervisors into your confidence and decision-making process when faced with a difficult work-related situation. As those in the know see you taking care of business with a quick wit and cool demeanor, they will soon realize (and instill confidence in others) that you are at your best when the heat is on.
Stereotype #2: Women Should Always Be “Nice”
This one too goes way back to the caveman days of corporate management strategy. In fact, noted entrepreneur and business executive Vanessa Molica once said in an interview that “the biggest challenge I face as a woman in my position is that I’m likely to be labeled negatively when I’m direct”. This is something many female businesswomen we spoke with agreed is a common issue.
The fact is that you can be both. It is perfectly reasonable to be polite, respectful, empathetic, and open-minded, all while being direct. Making this a regular part of your interaction with co-workers and subordinates will help to dissolve this myth.
Stereotype #3: Women Struggle in Leadership Positions
This is another sexist attitude from an out of touch and biased era which still influences the corporate structure and environment today. The old stereotypes claim that women are too uncomfortable with confrontation or not forceful or convicted enough to push an agenda through and get things done. This one is easy to fix…
Simply prove them wrong. Not only that, but let them see you proving them wrong through your day-to-day leadership and guidance. Don’t be afraid to bring up accomplishments or successful endeavors that you have recently implemented around the office. If a male co-worker was doing this, we would simply say they were touting their record as a way to reinforce trust and faith in management.
Stereotype #4: What is Persistence in Male Leaders, is Nagging for Females
Now we get to a couple of personality traits or behaviors that are interpreted differently in men than they are in women, and the first is persistence. When a male leader is persistent in his quest to introduce new policies or alter the way operations or functions are performed, it is seen as good leadership and conviction in one’s own business philosophy. When a woman does these things, she is oftentimes viewed as nagging and stubborn.
Back up your persistence with positive reinforcement. Praise the coworker for all of the progress they have already made on the project or assignment that you are perusing. In addition to that, continually remind your fellow employees of the benefits that they will all share in once these changes become active. Helping others to view your goal as more of a shared office goal is a much easier way of getting things done without seeming “pushy”.
Stereotype #5: What is Confidence in Male Leaders, is Arrogance in Females
This might be the most common one of all. There is nothing wrong with being proud of who you are, both as a person and as a professional. And most of the time when male workers display this attitude is seen as a strength and it instils confidence in others. But many times, women are painted as arrogant or overconfident for having the same level of self-assuredness.
Always remain personable with people, even in those moments when you may have just been proven right in a strategic brainstorming session, or when your proposal gets approved out of a pool of supervisor or executive-level presentations, or you have performed extremely well in managing corporate crisis in your department. Remain open-minded and flexible when discussing things that are contrary to your personal preferences or visions. Letting your employees see that you are reasonable and that different ideas and opinions can be voiced lets them know that you don’t let arrogance drive your management decisions.
If you follow all the strategies we shared here, you will be able to combat all the top and common barriers women business leaders face. It doesn’t matter whether your business is in the United States of America, United Kingdom, Australia or far Asia, these strategies of battling stereotypes against female in business work everywhere.
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