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Article

9 Tips for Women Working in a Male-Dominated Business World

Guest contributed by Marja Norris

Every day we hear some statistic telling us what we already know: Women make up 59 percent of all post grad schools, and not enough is happening on the forefront to move more women into C-Suites. Several news agencies reported on the White House gender pay gap, which has said to have increased under Trump.

Women continue to earn less than men and have less power in the workplace, even though study after study show companies that have women in leadership roles outperform companies that don’t. What’s impeding our progress? Underlying male-oriented rules and expectations in the workplace limit women’s potential for advancement and often doom them to undistinguished careers.

Because the business world was built by men, for men, they begin their careers from a position of comparative advantage and understand these unspoken codes intuitively — they’ve been socialized for it. Too many important rules concerning women’s careers remain unarticulated.

It also doesn’t help that in the working world many businessmen don’t want to take the time to understand their women colleagues or help build a more diverse workforce. Many men resent working side-by-side with a female colleague because of our different approaches. They need to realize that, while 3 + 3 = 6, so does 4 + 2! In a scale of 0-10, together, we can achieve a 12!

Until businesses support both genders equally in the workplace, we have no choice but to move into the male mind space if we hope to work our way into executive roles. We must make it easier to gain their acceptance of us as equals in the workforce so we can get ahead.

Use these 9 tips to maximize your efforts when working in a male dominated world:

  1. Don’t take opposition personally.Avoid drama. It makes people anxious. Best to leave the emotions and your personal life at the office doorstep. It’s a waste of your energy because all it elicits is a glassy-eyed stare. Craft your points to persuade them through reason, not emotion.
  2. Be honest.Don’t bluff your way through something you’re unclear about. It’s easy to sniff out a pretender, and it will only feed impressions of female inferiority. Ask for clarity if you’re unsure. This applies to anything in business — from personal conversations to team strategy sessions. If the men in your firm are talking about fantasy football with you, don’t act as if you know about it (unless you do).
  3. Come prepared.The higher you climb in the corporate world, the more likely you are to encounter stronger personalities. Never shy away from alpha personalities in negotiations. Prepare for tough questions by arming yourself with clear, factual answers to support your arguments or recommendations.
  4. Be mindful of egos.Pointing out to people where they’re wrong, especially in front of others, is a losing proposition. If you need to correct an error, think it through and present it in such a way that it isn’t pointing the finger. Many personalities come with an ego larger than life.
  5. Keep conversations short.Don’t draw out what can be said with less explanation. Think of breaking down communications into a short news article: Give the headline, the facts from the first paragraph and the summary from the last paragraph. Save the details for further conversation or questions.
  6. Display confidence, even if you don’t feel it.Lacking confidence in any aspect of business can quickly lead to disregard, and also disrespect. Give a firm handshake, assume a confident body posture, project in a strong voice and state any request with authority rather than as a question.
  7. Be accountable.Avoid excuses. If you take on a project, stay with it to the end and take responsibility for keeping others accountable in their roles to make it happen. When an error or incorrect judgment occurs, own it and be there with a solution. You’ll gain respect.
  8. Know your values and what you’re willing to sacrifice.Know what you most value and what you’re willing to give up to focus on your career. One reason businesswomen haven’t moved the needle in the high level executive area is that it requires very long hours, often entails travel and includes constant pressure. Women traditionally have more personal demands to attend to outside of their careers. And, as overwhelmed as you may feel, talking about these demands at work won’t be well received. As the saying goes, “If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.” Otherwise, you may be viewed as weak.
  9. Get used to taking risks.Men are often more programmed for risk-taking than women. Make a point of doing one uncomfortable thing a day, like speaking with someone who intimidates you, reaching out to someone you feel is beyond your reach or learning a new skill. A little discomfort is freeing. A little risk is exciting. It encourages you to constantly move toward bigger and better things.

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Marja Norris is the CEO and founder of MarjaNorris.com, a company dedicated to helping women achieve their career goals with style and confidence. With a distinguished career in finance, she has successfully navigated the male-dominated business world and is passionate about coaching women on how to be taken seriously, be heard, and get what they want at work. Her latest book, The Unspoken Code: A Businesswoman’s No-Nonsense Guide to Making It in the Corporate World, provides women with the tools to awaken their dreams and reach their highest goals. Visit marjanorris.com.