Break the bias…
Whether you’re considering a career in STEM or planning on being Prime Minister, most companies are working hard to ensure that they have a positive approach to equality and diversity.
However, there are still a number of ways in which the boxes that we tick on the diversity form affect the experience we have at work.
50% of women have said they experience discrimination at work. This rises to two thirds of working mothers. And when you start to think about how true gender equality may take until 2183 to achieve, things start to get a little hazy. Still, things only change as we do.
In celebration of #IWD2022, and irrespective of whatever box you tick, here are a few ways in which you can support your own career advancement.
Understand people’s perceptions
It’s one thing to expect to be treated based upon your ability, rather than what you look like. It’s another for us to genuinely experience this at work.
However, each of us are guilty of making judgements based upon our first impressions. These can both help or hinder you. For example, how you dress can affect how people determine your credibility. Likewise, your age, sex, race or physical disabilities can all work against you as traditional ideas of what leadership looks like works against you.
Have a good idea of what people are basing their judgements on, and you’ll know what you’re up against – and what preconceptions you need to overcome.
Ask (and when asked, say yes)
Women have been shown to ask for less, and are less likely to put their hands up when good things are on offer.
Maybe it’s ‘imposter syndrome‘, or the feeling you need to remain ‘humble’ that makes you feel like you don’t deserve that promotion or development opportunity. But ask (and say yes) more often. You’ll figure out the rest as you start doing it.
Trust us, you’ve got this.
You’ve heard about the woman who was seen and not heard? She didn’t get a promotion.
Women tend to ask for less, are heard less in meetings, take less credit for their contributions and negotiate less for pay rises and promotions. But don’t be afraid to get your point across.
Knowing when (and how) to be heard in your own way will help you be recognised for what you do.
Explore your options
There’s more than one way to find your ideal job. Even if it means looking outside of your current company.
Recruitment Consultants can do a great job of representing you to potential employers, whereas loading your CV onto a job board can ensure you have the widest pool of people searching for your skills. Remember to take a good look at your CV and what does/doesn’t need to be there.
Start putting yourself forward for opportunities, and you’ll have more opportunities to grow.
Find a mentor (no matter who they are)
Often, we’re encouraged to find mentors who have a similar story to us.
This can sometimes be helpful, especially when looking at how they overcame their own barriers in a way that might resonate with your own situation. But the truth is, mentors and sponsors help open doors for us. It’s not just about what box they tick, or how you identify with them on a personal level. It’s also about what their relationship may do positively for you.
For example, women who have male voices championing their progression will progress as much as women who have other women doing it for them.
Be honest about your own biases
If we want to challenge how other people view us, we also have to think about challenging our own opinions.
We all have biases, whether we mean to or not. But being honest with yourself about your own hang-ups will help you ensure you’re actually following through in your actions (and giving others the considerations you’re asking for yourself).
The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is a great way to test your own unconscious biases – and it’s definitely worth giving a try.
And if all else fails?
There are still on average 10,000 claims of sex discrimination in the workplace made to UK employment tribunals each year.
If half of women at work experience sex discrimination, then you are not going to be alone. Find trusted advisors, or advisory services who you can talk to about how you respond to, deal with and challenge bias at work.
The future is in the balance
Women’s unemployment is at its lowest level since early 2020, and there is increasing awareness of the need for better flexible working arrangements – particularly post-pandemic – and women working within what have been traditionally ‘male’ roles.
Evidence is growing about the positive impact of women in senior leadership positions on the bottom line. There’s still some way to go, but there’s a lot to be positive about, and plenty of opportunities to be optimistic about the advancement of your own career.
Break the bias. You might be surprised by the results…
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