Women across India start out in challenging careers with the same level of commitment and knowledge as men, yet dwindle in number much before reaching the high echelons. A number of social, cultural and biological issues contribute to this unwarranted gap in the corporate world. While the debate about male dominance and the contribution of organisations in promoting gender diversity may sound hackneyed, here are some smart tips to strategically outrun colleagues at your workplace.
Build a strong business network
Cultivate a professional network that nurtures ideas, cross-functional projects and participation in diverse business activities. Tap into the professional associations of your girlfriends and set yourself up for better opportunities and career paths. Develop strong relationships with colleagues of the higher order and learn from their work styles and leadership mantras. Participate in conferences, present papers and volunteer for activities that may promote personal and professional growth. The dynamics of surrounding oneself with inspirational company can work wonders in a career.
Look out for strategic repositioning
Not every project or position that comes your way can add real value to your career. Women often succumb to less critical incentives like pay rise, maternity benefits, handling a larger team and so on. These tactical decisions fail to create an impact in the bigger picture and as a result career begins to stagnate. Instead women should focus on roles that add more strategic value to the business and those that offer higher scope for professional growth. Handling a team of 10 members and working on legacy projects does not offer better scope that working single-handedly on a more evolving technical trend.
Seek continuous and constructive feedback from your mentors
One of the oldest urban legends of our society is that women fail to take feedback in the right stride when compared to men. This however is not true. Time has evolved and so have women. Discuss career plans with managers and friends and seek specific feedback. Feedback that lays emphasis on every short term action can have a deep impact on the long term plans. Be stubborn about your goals but flexible about your ways to achieve them.
Reskill if required
The social responsibilities of women differ much from that of men. In a society that is bound by unfair yet essential notions, women cannot help but “take a break” from work for many reasons. This can also be viewed as an opportunity to reskill oneself to match the industry demands. For instance, a programmer who decides to extend her maternity leave due to health reasons may make use of the time to obtain relevant certifications and stay updated.
An analyst may take up an MBA degree to explore better opportunities along consulting lines. The idea is that optimistic women must be able to find prospects of learning and growth through inevitable interventions.
Stay agile and grab opportunities instantly
As the famous adage goes, life begins at the end of your comfort zone; women must learn to stir themselves up to grab opportunities at the right instance. In the competitive world that we live in, women must be prepared to stretch beyond conventional horizons to achieve higher professional standards. Several organisations especially in the IT sector are now focussing towards reskilling initiatives and sabbaticals. Women who wish to taste sweeter fruits of success must rightly make use of these opportunities.
Communicate to increase your visibility
Communication is the cornerstone of corporate life. Women who communicate well become instantly visible among their managers. Communication that is unfettered and focused towards productivity is welcome at all levels of the organisation. Most often women who have ample knowledge about the subject matter fail to make an impact when they cannot communicate. Honing language skills and eliminating the fear of being judged paves way for good communication.
Learn, Learn and Learn
Learning is a cardinal skill for success. Stand out of the crowd by focusing on a niche area of expertise rather than developing several general skills. A strong career graph develops when women begin to concentrate on a much wanted area of expertise and become robust influencers in the field. Publishing white papers, guest lectures for student groups and staying updated through relevant certifications and courses helps continual learning. The key is to enrich oneself with deeper knowledge of the subject matter and thus differentiate oneself from the crowd.
Self-evaluate with confidence
Studies from the past reveal that women are harsher self-critics than men and therefore stop themselves from applying for better opportunities. Build the confidence to work yourself through the many layers of social beliefs built against women. Continuous and honest evaluation of the self pays off in the long run.
It is a known fact that women are underrepresented in most sectors of the corporate world and especially at the executive level. Nevertheless earnest initiatives can make a true change and help women overcome bias and achieve better.