As women we have had to face challenges that our male counterparts don’t. Society has one view of a woman’s role, men have a view, and of course, we have our own view of what we want our roles to look like. No matter what role we are in, there are barriers to accomplishing our dreams.
Of the top barriers women face in the workplace is sexism. Many have fought having women in high-level leadership roles because we are women. We are the recipients of harassment, interruptions, or being mistook for lower level workers. Stereotyping of a group, a gender, a race all leads to low expectations. When women have assertive traits at work we are seen as pushy, aggressive, or some wonder if it’s that time of the month for us. We may face backlash or be deemed less competitive if we don’t fit into a set behavior pattern.
Women also have more family responsibilities than many men. Balancing work and family is a struggle. Household responsibilities tend to fall on the woman, such as laundry, cleaning the house, cooking, shopping, caring for the children, and of course caring for the sick family members.
So what can we do to remove barriers?
Having a well developed leadership network is a great way to begin lowering those barriers. Sharing concerns and challenges with other women in your shoes gives you a sounding board, reinforcement, and camaraderie in our professions. Small gatherings over wine or more formal meetings are both good ways to learn from each other. Having a strong network will help you personally and professionally.
Look for programs in your industry, or on a topic important to your career. Building your community of support will offer both you and your contacts a place to work through barriers together. Finding inspiration in one another, showing empathy for challenges, and adopting tried and true leadership traits will enhance your value to your support network and by extension to your employer.
Remember, a great way to be involved is to be a mentor or seek a mentor. Having this dynamic relationship can remind the mentor of the struggles they faced and how they overcame them. That knowledge can help the mentee learn from your experience. Mentoring empowers professional women to grow, excel, and gain the visibility needed to advance in their careers.
Tap Into Leadership Programs and Positions
The more you put yourself out there and take on challenges the better equipped you will be for the next barrier to advancing your career. Have a goal in mind for your career advancement. Opportunities don’t just fall in your lap. Plan, strategize, and communicate your career advancement goals to your supervisor. Set your sights on short and long term career goals. Know your strengths and make a plan to develop those strengths further. Know your weaknesses and how to overcome them. Finally, when you set your career goals, know what it will take to achieve them. Seek guidance when you can and make it happen! It might be a bumpy road, but you are the only one that can truly stop you.