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How an Ambitious Woman Can Excel in a Male-Dominated Workplace
Warren Buffett may look like the epitome of a rich white member of the "old boys' club" with outdated views on women's place in society, but he's actually quite the opposite. In fact, Warren Buffet wrote an editorial for Fortune Magazine a few months ago urging American businessmen to start paying attention to the wealth of ideas and energy women contribute to the workplace.
"The moment I emerged from my mother's womb, my possibilities dwarfed those of my [sisters], for I was a boy!" Warren Buffett wrote. "At every turn my sisters would be told - more through signals than words - that success for them would be ‘marrying well.' I was meanwhile hearing that the world's opportunities were there for me to seize."
He went on to write, "So my floor became my sisters' ceiling - and nobody thought much about ripping up that pattern until a few decades ago. Now, thank heavens, the structural barriers for women are falling. Still an obstacle remains: too many women continue to impose limitations on themselves, talking themselves out of achieving their potential."
Truer words have never been spoken. Men in business aim really high because they don't see any limits. We women, on the other hand, tend to aim lower because we're not as confident as we should be. The world is poorer for it, because everyone is missing out on all the brilliant ideas and creations we women could've brought to society if we had simply been encouraged to reach our full potential.
Throughout history, brilliant women were always brushed aside while mediocre men were put on pedestals, and it still happens once in a while today. Gender inequality in the workplace still exists, although not as prominently as in the last century.
As a woman, you might've felt discouraged at times throughout your career. You might've felt that you lacked the "oomph" to get ahead in your workplace. Most importantly, you might've felt suppressed just because of your gender. If this feels familiar to you, then you're probably situated in a male-dominated workplace.
It's not fun, especially when you're a smart and ambitious woman who's capable of so many different things. However, don't throw in the towel just yet! You can certainly beat the odds and achieve a prosperous career with the right attitude, a great skillset… and thick skin.
The following actionable tips will help you gain just that.
In a cutthroat working environment, it's really easy to get down on yourself and feel like you're not excelling at your job. It's perfectly normal to feel that way sometimes, but it doesn't do you any good. Instead, focus on building your own confidence. You know how brilliant, successful, and driven you are; now it's time to reflect that attitude with everyone you work with. You can try some confidence-building exercises that will help you radiate confidence in your workplace.
The word "overachiever" has a negative connotation. It usually conjures up an image of a snotty goody-goody-two-shoes schoolgirl with a schedule fuller than the president's and a soccer mom ready at her beck and call to drive her to every practice, club meeting, or group study session. In school, nobody likes an overachiever. Unfortunately, the negative connotation often follows us from school into the workplace. The only difference is that bosses love overachievers. They view an overachiever as a motivated go-getter with an expansive list of qualifications under her belt. What boss wouldn't want to employ an overachiever?
If you give your 100% to every single task you do, you'll be viewed as a valuable asset to the company. To find out a couple of ways to do better than expected, just take a look at the next 2 tips.
Constantly update your knowledge and skillset.
You take your job seriously, and you want everyone to know it. Constantly take classes relevant to your job, keep your licenses or certifications updated, and always be the first person to learn new software, programs, or procedures implemented by the company. Constantly updating your knowledge and skillset makes you the go-to person in your workplace, and that in itself makes you a very valuable asset.
Be very involved.
This doesn't mean helping coordinate the company picnic or attending every Halloween, holiday, or retirement party. Your boss doesn't care about that. Instead, you should directly contribute to the success of the company. Attend company-wide meetings and speak up. Come up with better solutions for the company and email the CEO your suggestions. You want to be that one employee who genuinely cares about your company's success. Any woman with that attitude is leaps and bounds more valuable than any lukewarm male employee.
Work the pay gap to your advantage.
Despite the tremendous amount of support women have been receiving for the last few decades, we still get paid less than men! However, it may be a blessing in disguise. You see, the next time a promotion opens up, you can certainly work the pay gap to your advantage. You have a good chance of getting it, because you're the less expensive option. They would be more likely to hire you than an equally-qualified but pricier male candidate.
Dress for success.
Have you ever watched the movie Legally Blonde and wondered why people didn't take Elle Woods seriously? It's because she wore bubblegum pink suits and did her hair and makeup to look like a cheerleader rather than a serious lawyer. No one cared that she was a brilliant lawyer; they just took one look at her sorority-girl-inspired attire and immediately dismissed her.
Unfortunately, your appearance makes a huge difference in the workplace. If you want to be taken seriously, then dress smart. Leave your fashionista yearnings for the weekend and work on projecting an image of a woman who's stable, successful, trustworthy, confident, and competent. That means wearing your hair up (long flowing hair radiates a "party girl" personality, which doesn't really belong at work) and wearing professional black, navy blue, and gray clothes. If you're the creative type who can't bear the thought of leaving the house without a splash of color to your appearance, you can accent your outfit with an emerald green necklace or turquoise nails. However, when it comes to makeup, keep it minimal. Leave your neon orange eye shadow at home.
Stay in the workforce.
Many women leave the workforce to attend to their domestic and childcare responsibilities. That's fine, but if you want to rise to the top, you have to keep your foot in the door at all times. Don't completely quit your job if you're planning on returning later. Instead, agree on working part-time or find a way to balance your work and personal life. It's because today's corporate world is pretty much linear and highly competitive - stay in, or you'll fall behind to the point where a path to a high-powered career is nearly impossible.
All in all, you have to take your job seriously, have a competitive spirit, stay involved, and prove that you're the absolute best in your field. If you still experience gender inequality, find another job where they will appreciate you for all you're worth.