How can women scale up the ladder in a competitive workplace? [Courtesy, Pinterest]

A woman in power has slept her way to the top – a tale as old as time - one that most successful women are familiar with. When people see a woman succeed in a world designed for men, many assume she must have used her sexuality or femininity to achieve that status. 

But where do all these notions stem from? Many business cultures favour the masculine. 

There is a theory, ‘think-manager-think male,’ that identifies masculine traits perceived by both men and women to be associated with successful leadership.

Online global research by Harvard, which included over 200,000 participants, showed that 76 per cent of people, men, and women, are gender-biased and think of men as better suited for careers compared to women.

Despite such findings – clearly showing how hard it is for women to scale up in the workplace – successful women are using these trends as opportunities to shake things up. They may not have broken the ceiling yet, but there are cracks, and the future of female leadership has never looked so good.

So, how can women scale up the ladder in a competitive workplace? 

Female students in schools perform better than their male peers – yet this achievement seldom translates to career success.

Women are less likely to speak up and put themselves forward for opportunities in the workplace as they doubt their capabilities leading to them being overlooked for progression during appraisals. 

Largely ignored

But one of the many reasons women do not speak is because, if they do, they get shunned – partly because society has largely ignored what women have to say, thus, creating a culture of silence. 

There is also the fear that they won’t be taken seriously or will be perceived as too aggressive. However, women have slowly found their voices over the years and are unapologetically claiming their rightful seats. 

Anab Jain, Co-Founder, and Director at Superflux says, “Be stubborn and thick-skinned. Because I think even if you are passionate, and even if you are good at what you do, I think you are likely to be subject to preconceived notions of who can do what.”

There will be trials and errors as you find the confidence to put your best foot forward, but the best way to conquer that fear is to become friends with it and embrace the phenomenon of ‘fake it till you make it’. 

Needless to say, if you do not ask for what you want, how do you expect to ever receive it?

Erin Teague, the Director of Product Management for Google, tells women to “recognise and embrace” their “uniqueness” in whatever they bring to the table at their workplaces. 

When women focus on their best skills, they draw confidence from knowing that being good at their jobs helps them thrive at work. Following your passion might sound cliché, but success comes from refining the skills you already possess.

Whether you want to negotiate for a promotion or take up more responsibility, you are more inclined to have confidence in discussing the areas you are good at. 

But this requires women to step out of their comfort zones, and as Brene Brown, an American professor, put it, “It is he or she who is willing to be the most uncomfortable can rise strong.”

When was the last time you took a big risk? If you read about most successful women, you will find that a huge part of their everyday lives involves taking risks and that they thrive on discomfort, so much so that they lean into it with excitement. 

Even as career women struggle to find a work-life balance and strive for better-paying roles, the only way they can grow is if they rise above these challenges by pushing to lead and dreaming bigger.

The CEO and Founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, Mary Kay Ash, says, “Do not limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve.”

But to climb up the ladder, you also have to be open to learning and self-improving yourself, as it makes a huge difference in becoming a better you. Google is a good place to start and take up online courses on areas you need to refine. 

If you find yourself admiring another woman’s trajectory at work, ask her to mentor you rather than trying to copy their journey. And conversely, if someone asks to be mentored by you, take up that opportunity as you stand to learn a lot while uplifting each other. 

 If you do not ask for what you want, how do you expect to ever receive it? [Courtesy, file Standard]

Good relations

Since you spend the most time at work, it only makes sense to nurture good relations by building a support system and expanding your network. And as Sam Saperstein, Head of Women on the Move at JPMorgan Chase, says, use the connections you build to uncover new career opportunities. 

“Be a collector of people. Find people you can interact with and keep in touch with them. You never know when things are going to come around and later in life you are going to want to get in touch,” says Saperstein.

Women are equipped to show empathy compared to men in the workplace, which places a better advantage in showcasing good leadership.

Linda Redding, Wells Fargo’s national sales manager, believes that success in most workplaces stems from having the ability to understand what others are experiencing and where they are coming from. 

Redding also urges women to be honest in not only matters concerning work but also in themselves and what they do.

“Being honest with yourself about the traits you bring to the table and not letting other people project traits onto you will make you extremely successful no matter where you work,” says Redding.

It might seem like a long journey climbing up the ladder in a competitive workplace, but the power to lead and be seen lies in the hands of women themselves. However, sleeping your way up is never the best option.