It’s difficult to pick up a salary survey or business magazine and not be reminded of the fact that, as women, we’re still paid less than men who are doing the same work, and we still represent a smaller percentage versus men in the board room and on the executive team.
“Globally, women earn only three-quarters as much as men—even with the same level of education, and in the same occupation,” says Christine Lagarde, the first woman to hold the position of Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. Christine goes on to say, “Women also tend to be locked out of leadership positions, where gender seems to matter more than ability. Women make up only 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. They account for only 24 percent of senior management positions around the world.”
Through the months and years to come, I read every book I could get my hands on, attended any training I could fit into my schedule and sought feedback from anyone who would give it to me related to how I could improve, better communicate, resolve conflict, gain consensus and grow.
1. Focus on the things within your control – your actions and your attitude.
There may be times that you feel:
- Discriminated against
- Not heard
- Not valued
- Not treated fairly
Don’t waste your time pointing fingers or placing blame. You may, or may not, have an impact on what someone else is thinking, feeling or doing. You absolutely have a choice about the actions you take and the attitude you hold. Exercise your ability to constructively voice your opinion and stand firm in your convictions. Don’t sell yourself short and don’t sell yourself out. If you don’t have your ethics and integrity at the end of day, you don’t have much of anything.
2. Be Authentic
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” It’s true. Always strive to improve but don’t waste your time attempting to be someone else. Take the time to truly understand your core values – what makes you tick – and honor those values in the choices you make and the way you conduct yourself.
3. Build a Support Network and Use It.
It truly takes a village, and you are not alone. Many of the men I worked with had wives who managed the responsibilities related to their home life. As a single mom of two daughters, I did not have that luxury. Utilize the resources available to you, including LinkedIn groups, professional associations, alumni groups, clubs, Parent Teacher Associations, friends and neighbors. Find the common ground between you and others in your business, your family or your village. If I could give one piece of advice to my younger self, it would be to make the time to invest in relationships.
4. Know Your Value and Own It.
Do your homework on this. Again, don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. Pull information from career guides and professional associations. Refer to your job description and performance reviews. Determine how you rate as compared to top performers in your company or profession. If you need additional skills or expertise, put plans in place to attain them. Meet with your manager and discuss next steps to be promoted or otherwise recognized – and rewarded – for your current performance.
As women, we have the ability, the desire and the potential to contribute more and to make a real difference in the world. Remember, it begins and ends with you. You hold the power. Choose you, and invest in yourself. You won’t be disappointed.
By Susan Edwards