5 Ways To Be A (S)Hero In A Male-Dominated Workplace

23/07/2015 8:05 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
In this Aug. 23, 2012 photo, employees use headsets as they work on computers at the B2R center in Simayal, India. Before B2R arrived in Simayal, local women had little option but to marry right out of school, and educated young men had to travel far to seek respectable jobs. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

Rina, 23 years old, has just completed her MBA in production management, and dreams of a corporate career. She has just been placed in a small manufacturing firm, as an associate manager-production. On her first day at the office, the first thought that strikes her is: "Is manufacturing really my cup of tea?" With labours operating their machines around her and a production manager sitting right across her to explain the plan of operation and the schedule of production, she feels ambivalent. Not that she lacks interest, but she knows somewhere that male-dominated industries pose serious challenges for women's career progression. She suddenly remembers those peppy words by Marilyn Monroe: "I don't mind living in a man's world as long as I can be a woman in it."

According to research by Catalyst, a non-profit focusing on expanding business opportunities for women, talent management systems are often susceptible to pro-male biases that expectedly result in smaller and less varied employee pools. The lesser the diversity (read the lesser the females), the more stereotypical it gets. This is the reason why women may find progressing and outpacing in these industries can be riddled with hurdles.

"For women to benefit through networking, they need to engage in interactions that include exchanges about their skills, talents, and potential development. "

It is not very hard to enter a male-dominated profession, but it's tougher to survive in there. Among other obstacles, many women struggle with pre-set notions that certain jobs demand skillsets that are linked to masculinity.

Let me inject some positivity here! Here are 5 ways that women can come into their own in any profession.

1. Self-analysis

Career development is a continual process that starts with self-assessment. This critical first step is the foundation step for personal and professional personality development. I believe that a routine self-assessment helps keeps an individual informed about her strengths and weaknesses at varied stages of life. A comprehensive self-analysis would include doing the SWIPE test which helps you analyse four core elements of your personality -- Strengths, Weakness, Interests, Potential Development and Emotional Quotient. Examining these four areas will help you to understand your personality in distinct spheres, so you know which parts of your life need further development and which attributes play to your strengths.

2. Networking

According to Adam Small, CEO of Strategic Business Network, "Networking is the single most powerful marketing tactic to accelerate and sustain success for any individual or organization." It is a powerful tool if you do it the right way and with the right people in your industry. However, according to a study published in the Harvard Business Review women are often unable to exploit the power of their connections despite their sociability. For women to benefit through networking, they need to engage in interactions that include exchanges about their skills, talents, and potential development. When looking for groups to network with, give preference to those whose members are well-connected over groups that are simply large or well-publicised. Collaboration is the key.

3. Promote your own self

Be your own '"man"! Speak for yourself. Got a new idea or a cost-saving suggestion? Put it on the table. Women have a tendency to underestimate their own performance especially when they find themselves in a minority, but confidence is a must. So, pave that track with blazing confidence and remember that it's perfectly alright to be wrong or fail sometimes; just don't dwell on it. Also acknowledge the fact that people around you will, whether intentionally or unknowingly, underestimate you. There will be times when you will be your only cheerleader. Manage what you can, work hard, follow your gut, stay true at heart and be rational, and things will fall in place.

"Research bears out that women who are more aggressive and assertive when the situation calls for it are more likely to be promoted."

4. Beware of stereotypes

"It's not done that way", "You are new in this field so you probably you don't know"... No! Do not let this kind of put down work itself into your self-conception, landing you with an inferiority complex based on the stereotypical attitudes of others. Be prepared to assert yourself at all times. This does not mean being rude or uncooperative, but having the confidence to stand your ground and defend your convictions. Research bears out that women who are more aggressive and assertive when the situation calls for it are more likely to be promoted. Success has traditionally been considered acceptable for women only if it's in a field that is judged as appropriate for them and is viewed as off-limits in fields that are male-dominated. You need to fight those conventions.

5. Find a mentor

Many women must have walked the same path as you and figured out how to overcome the obstacles along the way. Instead of simply winging it and risking more mistakes, approach them for their guidance. Connect with one or two women you admire and seek their advice when needed. If you do not know of someone directly, use social websites like LinkedIn to connect with people in similar fields.

Just remember that there are many successful women out there and most of them are proof that being hardworking, resolute, smart and thick-skinned in the face of critical reviews of their work have enabled them to rise to the top, with or without familial support. Go on girl! You can be a shero too!

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