Mistakes Even Smart Women Make in the Workplace
By Crystal Cotton
I’m always inspired by the resilience women have shown in overcoming work-life challenges — balancing family and career, and making choices which affect their family’s physical, mental and emotional health, — yet, still baffled by some of the mistakes smart women make in the workplace.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics today’s workforce majority is female (51.4 %), and about 59% of women hold Bachelor’s degrees. More women are CEOs of their own or Fortune 500 Companies than ever before. And, women are now dominating formerly male-heavy fields like Financial Analyst, CPA’s and Health Care Administrators.
Great strides, right? So why are so many smart women still struggling to make successful paths for themselves at work? Why have some women catapulted over the gender disparities, while others can’t break through?
Despite the socio-economic, gender based & societal issues; the answer is simpler than you might think. It’s because some women are still making the same old mistakes of letting gender stereotypes shape their identity.
So, read common workplace mistakes even smart women make and I’m sure you will recognize yourself or someone you know.
1. Not Seeking a Mentor: Women are less likely than men to seek mentors in the workplace for leadership and managerial guidance and more for friendships and support. Mentorship is key to high level achievement and is a strategic career move.
2. Failing to Ask for What You Want: When you don’t ask for what you want you eliminate real choices, and the option to negotiate. It leaves opportunities you want for the taking by someone else. If there is a special project you want to work on, ask to be a part of it, or don’t get angry when someone else is chosen.
3. Using Nurturing as a Primary Skill: Yes, women are nurturers, but nurturing is not a workplace skill. Women should avoid the tendency to “mother” others in the workplace. Encourage, support and show compassion, but refrain from the motherly nurturing.
4. Overusing the Feminine Wiles: Call me old fashioned but I still believe that “sexy” has no role in the workplace. There is a big difference between being fashionable, well-groomed, trendy, attractive and stylish at work, and being sexy. Your image shouldn’t include overtly sexy, distracting wardrobe which makes it hard for people to take you seriously.
5. Giving Away Your Power: When you fail to exercise your options, make decisions and ask for what you want, you turn your power over to others. They get to call the shots, leading to feelings of powerlessness. Know the value of your skills and talent and use it to empower you in the workplace.
6. Confusing Business with Personal Issues: This is merely my observation, but men seem to have a better compass for separating business and personal relationships. When friendships go awry in the workplace, women are less likely to be as productive until the conflict has been resolved — taking every personal slight as an affront to their professional standing. Men more readily confront it and move on.
7. Letting the Desire to Be Liked Get In The Way: So often I hear women say things like, “I didn’t want to say No, because I wanted them to like me”. I’d never under-estimate the power of “likability” but this creates stress, impossible deadlines and internal conflict. Often, the feeling of being taken advantage stems from being unwilling to voice opposite opinions, or just say “No” to unreasonable demands.
Any of these sound familiar? I have personally observed these missteps in my work with women (most of my clients are female). Some, I too made early in my career. Having been in the workforce since I was 16, I’ve experienced the typical challenges: sexism, harassment and unequal treatment. I’ve said, and done things that did more harm than good. But, the beauty of it all, is the lesson and the opportunity to correct (and not repeat) costly mistakes like those listed above; paving the way for a career built on the true value and strength of smart women in the workplace.
Professional development consultant Crystal Cotton owns Crystal Clear Connextions, which helps job seekers improve their communication skills.