Tips for Women to Advance in the Workplace

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Lakisha Brooks

women working together

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we are reminded of great women who have contributed to the advancement of women in areas such as sports, technology, and government with the election of first female Vice President is United States history.

Even with these feats, women still face struggles in the workplace; from equal pay to advancing into leadership roles. Organizations have responsibilities to influence these changes, and so do women. Below are tips women can use to aid in their advancement in the workplace.

Take the Initiative

“It’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.” This should be the attitude for women in the workplace. Do not wait to be asked, just do it!

When an opportunity to show leadership and management ability presents itself, women should take it. This can include leading a project, initiating change or simply offering ideas.

Showing initiative is a sure-fire way to get noticed in the workplace. In addition, try to handle and remedy problems without being assisted. This shows great critical thinking and problem-solving skills, both of which are critical skills for a leader.

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Showing initiative also includes asking for and seeking promotion opportunities. Speaking with a direct manager about additional opportunities or hiring managers regarding job openings are effective methods to seek new opportunities within an organization. Human Resources departments are typically informed of new positions before they are posted internally or externally. Once a woman has this information, she can use it to leverage herself and gain an advantage over other candidates.

Training, Education, and Classes

There is nothing more valuable than an education. Women can position themselves for success with continuous education in their respective fields. Continuous education does not always mean in a traditional setting such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree; it can simply entail attending training classes, workshops, or certifications.

These forms of learning should focus on areas or skill sets related to and needed to advance one’s career. Some companies allot funds for employees to further their education. Contact a benefits manager to determine what educational assistance is available.

Take Atypical Jobs

When offered an opportunity to get into an industry that is abnormal for a woman, take it. Try blue collar industries such as transportation or gasoline/petroleum. In addition to these industries, women should get more involved in STEM jobs, which are predominately male industries.

Women interested in these fields can find themselves receiving immense incentives including scholarships, internships/externships and increased career options. Going against the norm and obtaining an atypical job shows resiliency, tenacity and fearlessness - all qualities needed to be an effective leader in high pressured situations.

Find a Mentor and Sponsor

For women to position themselves for success within an organization, a mentor is helpful. Finding the right mentor includes networking within the organization, learning different personalities, and knowing how potential mentors are aligned with their overall career goals. Once a mentor is selected, set a time to discuss goals and devise a strategic plan to achieve those goals.

If possible, also seek a sponsor. A sponsor is someone who will actively work with a protégé (similar to a mentee) to position her for opportunities within a company and will network on his or her protégé’s behalf. A sponsor is typically in an executive level role and has company visibility and clout. Unlike a mentor, where a woman may seek him or her out, a sponsor will identity a potential protégé. When a role becomes available, a sponsor may nominate his or her protégé for the position.

Be Confident and Comfortable with Having Success

As simple as it may sound, being confident is one of the biggest ways a woman can position herself for leadership and important decision-making roles within an organization.

Being confident entails accepting success and not apologizing for it. When being recognized for accomplishments, some women, instead of simply saying “thank you” with their heads held high wearing a smile, meekly downplay their accolades with justifications such as “well, it wasn’t that great” or “it was only because of this or that”.

This attitude does not focus on the success itself, but rather on the justifications. Just take the compliments with a smile!

Businesses look for self-assured, proven leaders who know they are great at specific tasks and can confidently lead a team and manage an organization. What part of “it wasn’t that great” screams “I am confident, and I can handle success?”

Work Effectively with Other Women

With few women in important decision making and leadership roles, it is imperative that they work together to help leverage an advantage in the workplace. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Many women state they would rather work under or alongside a man than a woman. But why? Perhaps, it is due to the shortage of leadership roles and opportunities for advancement of women in the workplace, and everyone is vying for those few chances. It is like a pageant where there are many qualified, beautiful, and experienced women competing for one crown. In this case however, it is not a crown, but a board seat, C-level position, or any other decision-making role.

To work effectively with other women, a woman must first understand that despite the gender gap for leadership and decision-making positions, she must not view other women as competition, but as allies fighting for the same cause. There should be a sense of “sisterhood”, as most women are striving for the same goal, to see a change in the face of leadership in America.

In the book, The Woman Code, author Sophia Nelson offers five tips on how women can better work together in the workplace.

1. Steer clear of women who "don't do" women friends
2. Collaborate and share
3. Be a mentor
4. Reciprocate
5. Be willing to have "courageous" conversations

These are just a few recommendations that will help advance women to leadership roles. Women themselves cannot control the change, companies will have to commit to investing time, money, and resources to recruit, develop, and retain top female talent.

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