Women in the business world are just as ambitious, skilled, experienced and innovative as our male counterparts. Yet, even in this era of equality we still struggle to be taken seriously in some roles and situations.
If you are starting or running your own business, breaking the gender barriers and proving you have what it takes to take on the business world, can often be met with scepticism. For younger women, or for those returning to the workforce after a break, the more they suffer, it seems.
So without having to go to all extremes and dress like a man to be taken more seriously in the workforce, here are some tips to help you show who’s really wearing the trousers.
Know what behaviour is right – and what’s wrong
As intuitive, intelligent women, you will quickly identify when someone is showing a negative or unprofessional attitude towards you. Send out the behaviour you want to get back – for example, be professional, stay positive, be hard-working, be interested, be informed, be adaptable. Once you set the boundaries for the behaviour you want, and lead by example as any role model should, you will benefit from that behaviour coming back. If you are running your own business, use this behaviour in your interactions with everyone you come across in business – no matter what their gender.
Be ethical, stick to your values, create values for your company, keep confidentiality, complete reasonable hours you expect of others in the business, and don’t gossip or speak behind someone’s back. If you find someone’s behaviour unkind or degrading towards you, address them!
Dress for the best
To be taken seriously in business, you must dress for the situation you are in. As mentioned earlier you do not need to dress like a male, but you do not need to strut your female bodily charms too much either. Depending on your industry, fashion expectations will change. Dress for your figure in a classy and business-like way and always carry extra accessories or a smart jacket or blazer for that unexpected meeting or evening networking event you get a last-minute invite to.
It is about what you say and how you say it
If you run your own business, or work in management, you will always be working on your professional image in order to ensure you are taken seriously. That image extends to the ways you speak to others in your business discussions. Young women, and those starting out in their careers may be less confident and learning the ropes, and this often reflects in their speech. A soft or uneasy voice in delivery of a business idea will not help in your desire to be taken seriously. Swearing will also not do you any justice. Try adopting a more masculine communication style when presenting or communicating ideas and information. Men use fewer words than women, and often more robust, and less emotional ones, so try to take a cue from their communication style in the business world.
Read the news, be an active business networker, know what’s going on in the area you work in, the latest trends, who is who in your company, their roles and those in your clients’ companies. Actively learn, always be tuned in and if you need more information, don’t be embarrassed to ask for help or enrol in further education or courses which will better your knowledge base.
Believe in yourself – and others will believe in you too
Women often lack confidence in the business arena, and one of the biggest clues of this is in your body language. Take note of your language – are you appearing quiet, nervous, do you cross your arms, do you fidget or move around a lot? Look at yourself and look at others you admire and observe their body language. Write down your strengths, where you excel verses areas you want to feel more confident in. Now actively work to be more confident and assertive in those areas. Believe in yourself, believe you deserve your promotion, that you can run a successful business, know that you have every skill under your belt to pull this off! Watch your body language change and attitudes towards you improve too.