In the corporate world where we strive for gender equality, the skills expected of men and women to succeed are pretty much the same.
But is it really that simple?
There is no denying that men are considered stronger in some qualities and women aren’t. And also some skills are considered more masculine – and hence less befitting of a woman – although both the genders need them to succeed.
Having laid out these two premises, there is no denying that conversations on gender equality wouldn’t exist if things weren’t unbalanced in the first place.
So here are a few skills – drawn from my own experiences from work and life – which I feel women especially need to develop in order to inch closer to equality.
1. A rock solid self esteem: Although, this is not exactly a skill, this is the foundation to claiming that equality. Women usually don’t fight for what we deserve. We stand back and let men take the center stage. We fear being judged for putting ourselves first. Sheryl Sandberg’s professional stories in Lean In and Jessica Bennett’s Feminist Fight Club prove that this isn’t bound by cultures and countries.
A solid self esteem frees us from self doubt and helps us forge ahead with confidence. Focus on your strengths, invest in yourself and believe that you are worthy of respect.
Here are quick tricks to feel confident in less than 5 minutes
2. A confident handshake: In my professional experience, even handshakes are gendered. Women’s are expected to be limp and men’s, firm and strong. On more than one occasion, I’ve had clients – mostly men – exclaim at the firm handshake they got from me. Some of them even offer a soft hand in anticipation of the limpness they think women will offer.
So let me set the record straight – handshakes have no genders. ALL handshakes should be firm. In fact, a firm handshake from a woman is a strong signal of confidence and strong self esteem.
Learn more about how to shake hands with confidence
3. Time for self care: I am sure that women need this more than men and it is women to don’t/can’t find the time for this. No matter which role we play, there is always enough to do on our plate. But the ability to let go and just be in a quiet zone is also a life skill. And it needs to be cultivated over time.
The most common complaint I hear when I suggest this is there is absolutely no scope for this.
You can start with just 15 minutes in a day – and that’s a good start too! Indulge in a hobby, read a book or just catch up with the day’s news with a cup of green tea – healthy and soothing.
Let’s just call this down time to recharge our batteries. And no gadget can work non-stop without pausing for recharge!
4. Assertiveness: The first client I coached was a 30-something mother of a 10 year old. And one of the things that she grappled with was keeping her son away from her phone. Initially, she pleaded that he just insists on the password and she feels compelled to give in.
But as we worked through her communication, she was able to firmly set time limits for him. And she also managed to get him away from gadgets and work on his vocabulary with her.
If assertiveness can be so important for a parent, you can only imagine how critical the ability to say no is at the work place. Women are expected to be meek and assertiveness from them comes as a surprise. But unless you can delegate work and dole out instructions in no uncertain terms, chances are you won’t be considered for senior management positions.
Need help feeling assertive before important situations?
5. Risk taking: Research has proven that women are more risk averse than men. Women are not disruptive by nature. But this also stops them from taking chances and pushing their boundaries. This can be quite a dangerous trait to have in an entrepreneur. Although, it isn’t any better to be risk averse as a working woman.
Women who’ve made it to the top echelons of organisations vouch for the fact that taking initiative is important. Accept projects and then work really hard to acquire the skills you lack. You might make mistakes but they are going to eventually become progress!
6. Understand finances: Ignoring financial aspects just because your job is in the servicing department can be a huge mistake. Even as a person, you need a handle on your own finances. I’ve included financial literacy in my list because it isn’t looked at as a feminine trait. Money matters are the dominion of men. Even in personal finances, the prejudice that men in the family have the final word, is hard to shake off.
But you will do yourself a huge favour – and not just in your work life – by learning basic concepts like equity and debt, asset allocation, profit and loss, inventory management etc. This will send your confidence sky rocketing – and you’ll be able to grab it when a project that requires this knowledge comes along. And you’ll probably be among the few women in the race for it.
7. Diplomacy: I couldn’t find a more diplomatic way to put this skill! But women are usually face flak for being too blunt – thanks to those damn hormones! No one wants to consider that a woman’s outburst cold be genuine frustration with the status quo.
Being able to communicate with logic and confidence is an important work skill. And practising structures like, “I am upset because (insert the reason)…” makes it reasonable and fact based. Generalisations will only provide an excuse for others to label you as upset for no reason.
These are just 7 basic skills that you can start with.
What are some of the other skills that you think women should work on?
Do you have any experiences to share – even as a man – where you admired a woman or were surprised because of a skill she had? I’d love to hear your views on this.
If you want to work on your executive presence, talk to me at your convenience. Choose your slot here