Women’s History Month – Women in the Workplace making HERstory

As I reflect on the contributions of women in the workplace during this Women’s History Month, it sends my mind into several tangents: Are our contributions valued? Are they worthwhile? Are they making a difference?

Obviously the answer to all of the above should be a resounding YES; however, most of us know that is simply not true in all situations. Which begs the question, “Why not?”

Research will tell us women in the workplace are more likely to be overshadowed in meetings and in the boardroom, even when they have ideas or suggestions to contribute, and their male counterparts are more likely to speak up and let their suggestions and ideas be heard. Some will say that it’s just a women’s/man’s nature to interact as such; it just is what it is. I submit to you that does not have to be the case and women AND men have much to contribute to a thriving, successful workplace. Research also tells us women are more likely to get upset when given constructive criticism. Ladies, if we want to be serious players, we have to get in the game and receive criticism in the spirit in which it is given.

In the article, “Why Don’t Women Act More Like Men at Work?” the experts tell you that women and men need to raise awareness about their behaviors at work. It goes on to say that we’d all be more effective if we understood that men tend to be more authoritative and women tend to prefer collaboration. Of course we should not assume generalizations to be the absolute truth; however, having a better understanding of these traits can help us interact more effectively. Understanding how women and men interact at work can be a helpful tool for women in the workplace and men that are peers, leaders, and direct reports of women.

There are several examples of women that are excelling in the workplace, Virginia Rometty and Ursula Burns are two of the best examples. Rometty is the first female CEO for IBM and Burns is the first Black female CEO for Xerox. These women have defied conventional stereotypes and attribute their success to building and nurturing strategic relationships within their organizations and always pushing the limits of innovation.

There are many ways to be relevant in the workplace and you can start with these three action items:
  1. Speak UP!!! – Your suggestions and ideas are just as important as anyone else in the room.
  2. Don’t take constructive criticism personally – We all have ways which we can be more effective, use the feedback to propel you forward.
  3. Get a mentor AND a sponsor – as the article above says, “mentors talk to you; sponsors talk ABOUT you.”
It’s time to make our voices heard AND our accomplishments seen so we can continue to move ONWARD and UPWARD and continue making HERstory!