Magazine article Work & Family Life

Keys to Success for Women in the Workplace

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Keys to Success for Women in the Workplace

Article excerpt

Despite all of the progress that's taken place, the reality is that women still face more obstacles to advancement in the workplace than men. Although women make up 46.5% of the labor force, they hold only 12.5% of the top corporate jobs; 15.7% are partners in law firms, 10% are partners in accounting firms, 25% are in top government jobs and 49% are CEOs in the nonprofit sector.

In most, though not all, work settings women are still the minority. And if you are a woman, no matter where you work, you are probably dealing with people who still hold some pretty antediluvian notions about what women can and can't do and how women should and shouldn't behave.

Strategies for success

What helps women move ahead at whatever level they're on? Studies done by Catalyst, a nonprofit research and advisory organization that works to advance women in business, have identified the two top success strategies as "exceeding performance expectations" and "finding a style with which men are comfortable."

However, many women, particularly those under 30, don't like being told to tinker with their style and they express anger at the idea of having to face obstacles to advancement that men don't face.

Here's good advice as well as some style tips from women who've risen to the top of their organizations. Take the advice that is useful in your situation-and if you have an individual style that is already working for you, just focus on tweaking it a bit.

BE AWARE OF THE COMFORT ZONE of your peers and superiors. Few people, especially those in senior management, like surprises. They want to know that they can depend on you and, to some extent, anticipate your responses. You can put people at ease with your style, way of speaking, manner of dress, humor and confidence.

GET PAST OTHER PEOPLE'S ASSUMPTIONS.

In most workplaces you'll meet discrimination, whether conscious or unconscious, at some point-maybe sooner, maybe later. If you're aware that there are still lots of myths out there about women's skills and level of commitment, you can manage your own reactions better.

DEVELOP ROOM RADAR. Make a practice of "reading" the room or meeting you're in. Some people do this intuitively, others need to learn how. Start with the basics; the nuances will follow. Who's in the power seat? Who's next to that person? …

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