Creator: Christina Morillo | Credit: Pexels
Women are often judged based on what they have done, and men by what they say they will do. This has deep implications for women – particularly women with leadership ambitions – as gender plays a role in how society judges leadership potential. On the back of yesterday’s global celebration of the International Day of the Girl, here is an article I wrote on how women can navigate through the minefield and nudge people out of their gender bias.
In my opinion, more often than not, women are judged based on what they have done, and men by what they say they will do. The glaring disconnect here is that one group’s personal qualities and potential are lauded and in the other group (women), not as much and may even count against them. This, according to research from the University of Kent , has deep implications for women – particularly women with leadership ambitions . The researchers conclude by stating the obvious: that gender plays a role in workplace discrimination and how society judges leadership potential.
A common trait of the human race is unconscious bias. It affects the way we see the world and the way the world sees us. On a deeper level, it entrenches behavioral expectations based on gender prescriptions. Although, there is little that can be done to eliminate unconscious bias, there are ways to navigate through the minefield and nudge people out of their gender bias base. Here are some tips:
Be ready: A substantial number of business discussions and decisions are made in spaces exclusive to men, where relationships are formed on flexible social terms and deals sealed over a handshake. A recent article in the Financial Times notes that “traditional means of building networks between investors and entrepreneurs are not necessarily gender-neutral.” This, amongst other social and structural issues, limits the opportunities for women to participate in similar deals, secure financing, and achieve their career/professional goals. However, do not despair. One way to overcome this hurdle is to create your own opportunities. Craft your elevator pitch, strengthen your network, and be ready to pitch at the drop of a hat. Remember, the seeds of success are birthed when opportunity meets preparedness.
Brag: Understand that you have a limited window of time to capture and hold a person’s attention. So, wherever you are, leverage opportunities to sell yourself and what you do. Do not be afraid to brag. As women, we are often reticent to talk about our successes, perhaps due to social conditioning. Whatever your reasons, be brave, put them aside, and give others the opportunity to experience your brilliance and lay their biases aside. Remember, if you do not say it, others are unable to read your mind and know it. Be both comprehensive and succinct in sharing the qualitative and quantitative aspects of your successes. Share your aspirations with enthusiasm to pique the interest of your audience, and have them wanting to learn more about you and your opportunity.
Be intentional: Intentionality is key; and everything you do matters. It is important to apply this in every sphere of your life, bearing in mind that today’s actions will count towards future decisions about you. Intentionality also enables you to build your career purposefully and, thus, have experiences/successes to talk about. As a private equity investor, we consider both past actions and future aspirations of founders as indicators of their ability to manage and scale their business. Remember, when it comes to raising funds and/or seeking leadership roles your actions and aspirations are your currency.