Women have made huge advances when it comes to entering the workforce, but there are still barriers to be overcome. While it’s easy to assume that this is not the case in the meetings industry, where women make up a majority of the work force, the unfortunate truth is that some women still struggle with everything from pay gaps to sexual aggression. Smart Meetings talked to Sarah Moshman, the documentary filmmaker behind The Empowerment Project: Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things, and Olga Mizrahi, author of The Gig Is Up: Thrive in the Gig Economy Where Old Jobs are Obsolete and Freelancing is the Future, for their advice on how to advance in any industry.
Don’t Worry About Being Popular
Many women aim to please more often than they should, especially when it comes to standing their ground regarding ideas or appeasing others. “There are unconscious biases where women feel the need to be ‘liked’ and don’t want to be seen as too aggressive or bossy,” Moshman says. Mizrahi agrees that “women are being brought up to be polite and caregivers.” But while it’s nice to be on good terms with colleagues, you don’t have to be everybody’s best friend.
Be Confident in What You Do
Studies show that men will apply for jobs they are less qualified for more often than women. “There is a term we have come to know as the confidence gap for women not believing in their abilities,” Moshman says. This can result in women passing on potential raises and promotions should they feel slightly inadequate. They may also share credit when the spotlight lands on them. But being confident in your skills can improve your office experience big time. “Feeling empowered comes from confidence in who you are and what you do,” says Mizrahi.
Ignore the Double Standard
“For so long, women have often been encouraged to embrace their masculine traits to blend in with their co-workers in male-dominated industries,” Moshman says. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg pointed this out in her LeanIn campaign, but “playing by their rules in their system presents its own challenges.” It can cause cognitive dissonance for those wanting to embrace their femininity without sacrificing respect from colleagues. For a simple way to combat this, both Moshman and Mizrahi suggest dressing in what makes you feel like a boss and bringing your A-Game to the table at the next meeting. If you’re feeling especially brave, you can call out those who are encouraging the double standard—subconsciously or not.
Express Yo’ Self Your Way
If you are more of an introvert and work better in smaller groups or on your own, don’t try and change yourself to fit into a large company. While it’s important to push yourself, feeling extremely out of your comfort zone can have the opposite effect. If your workplace but thrives on extraversion, it can be helpful to find work friends and allies you can bounce ideas off of and confide in. If your office is more on the quiet side while you are outgoing, use your enthusiasm to inspire others who may feel shy or doubt their abilities. Find a way to express yourself in a way that feels authentic to you.
Stand Up for Yourself
Again, confidence—and a healthy plan B—is key when it comes to standing up for yourself. “If we have financial confidence, and confidence in our talents that we will be okay no matter what, then we can feel more comfortable standing up for ourselves,” Moshman says. Mizrahi reasserts that rising to the top requires “confidence and really embracing in an extreme way your best traits, and not being afraid to say what those best traits are.” So, don’t back down when your peers question a decision—stand strong and explain why your idea is the best idea. Even if it doesn’t pan out, people will remember your confidence and assertiveness.