The following is a guest blog entry written by a friend and colleague of mine, Elaine Betts of Go Far Consulting.
I came across this piece by Elaine through the research I’ve been doing for my upcoming gender book and I wanted to share it with my blog readers because I think her insight into the topic of women in business is excellent and the tips, though written specifically for women in business, can be valuable to men as well.
If you are a woman in business and have advice for other women in business, if you would like to share a particular challenge to invite encouragement from others who may have valuable solutions, or if you would simply like to leave a comment, please drop us a note in the comment section.
“Do You Stand Out in a Crowd?” By Elaine Betts
Julie paused, stood outside the door, took a deep breath, straightened her jacket, and walked into the room where many of her co-workers were. She looked around to see that, as usual, she was the only female present. I wish I had a few allies, she thought to herself.
In situations like Julie’s, where the majority of a woman’s co-workers are male, some women tend to feel a certain vulnerability as the gender minority in their working environment. When women constitute less than 25% of the total number of employees in a given industry, that industry is known as a ‘non traditional occupation’. There can be many advantages as well as disadvantages for women working in non traditional occupations, or in environments which, for some reason or another, have a gender imbalance. However, the main factor in how a woman determines advantages from disadvantages in these situations is her individual outlook or perspective.
For example, sometimes it can seem intimidating or stressful to be the only female present. On the other hand, the advantage for the woman in this situation is that she is easily remembered because she stands out from the crowd. This means that if one of her goals is to make a difference and bring about positive change, she already has an advantage because she is in a position to be noticed. Women who confidently embrace the opportunity to stand out from the crowd often wear bright, bold colors and use the fact that people notice them to achieve great things.
Women in the world of business who take the attitude that being in the gender minority can be an advantage have definitely had a positive influence on not only the business world but the economy as well. According to the U.S. National Women’s Business Council, women-owned businesses are responsible for employing 16% of all U.S. jobs with an economic impact of $3 trillion annually. How’s that for standing out in the crowd and making a difference?
If you are a woman in the working world, ask yourself if you are taking advantage of your opportunity to stand out from the crowd. If the answer is no, I encourage you to take a cue from the women in business who welcome the chance to confidently stand out and be noticed. Following their lead can bring great rewards in both business and life.
Now, don’t get me wrong . . . I am not saying that being a woman in business is without its challenges. Speaking from my own experiences, as well as from my experience as a consultant to several women in business, I can tell you that women employed by larger business companies often feel encumbered by a seeming lack of opportunity and flexibility. They can feel more pressure to perform and end up working much harder to prove themselves in their work environment. However, this type of pressure has often served as the motivation for women to start their own business or make the change to a work environment where results and performance are highly valued and consistently rewarded by more opportunity.
Additional challenges for working women are evidenced by the fact that most of them have several roles to play. On top of the role a woman executes in her job, she often plays one or more roles such as romantic partner, mother, homemaker, student, caretaker, etc. Each role has unique and very real demands and combining them all together can create significant stress. This stress brings even more opportunities to stand out and make a difference though, as long as a woman makes a continuous effort to find ways to excel in all her roles.
Here are 10 tips to help women maintain stand-out success in every role:
- Know your priorities, who and what comes first in your life.
- Remain focused on what you want to achieve.
- In each role you play, focus on being present solely in that role while you are executing it.
- Plan the week ahead by scheduling car pools, kids’ after-school activities, day care, babysitter, etc. in advance.
- If your job requires continuing education (always a good idea), see if you can get education classes in an audio version or via a podcast–something that can be downloaded and played in the car or on an iPod to and from work. If this isn’t an option, allocate regular time frames (perhaps 30 minutes, 3 times a week) and plan to learn when you are able to achieve your most focused frame of mind.
- Invest time in personal development and know who you are.
- Know your trade and keep up with industry standards.
- Plan time for yourself, even if it’s just 10-15 minutes for a walk or to sit in a quiet spot reading a book while you drink your morning coffee. This is very important because if you do not take care of yourself, you will not be in good shape to help others effectively in your various roles.
- When it becomes difficult to know what to do next, enlist a mentor, coach, or colleague. These people can hold you accountable, cheer you on, and give you the kind of ‘tough love’ that will keep you on track. In short, they can be life savers.
The common thread among women in business who stand out from the crowd is that they are confident about themselves and courageous about what they do, regardless of their environment or its gender ratio. Successful business women stand out from their sea of colleagues by facing challenges head on.
These days we live in a big melting pot where, over the years, transport and the internet have made the world a much smaller place. As such, the dynamics of how we do business are ever-changing and allow for much greater ease of communication than we’ve ever had before. This is a perfect time for business women and female entrepreneurs to utilize the advantages available to them in order to stand out, be heard, and make great things happen.
So what are you waiting for? Now is the time to become the stand-out business woman you can most definitely be.