Women in Business – 6 Considerations and Observations

rosieriveterEver since Rosie the Riveter came into the industrial revolution sparked by the lack of men during World War II, business has not been the same.  The flood gates had been opened and like the song says “How are you going to keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paris?”

According to the National Women’s Business Council:

  • There are 7.8 million women-owned businesses in the United States.  This reflects a 20.1% increase from 2002 to 2007.
  • Women-owned firms make up 28.7% of all nonfarm businesses across the country and generate $1.2 trillion in total receipts.
  • A full 88.3% of these firms are non-employer firms.
  • The remaining 11.7% of the firms have paid employees, employing a total of 7.6 million people across the country with a payroll of $217.6 billion.  These employer firms have average receipts of $1.1 million.

Clearly, women are represented in nearly every business type here in the USA.  Why are we even still talking about inequality of wages, workplace discrimination, and gender bias?  Because it does exist.  Birds of a feather flock together, and large amounts of power are still concentrated in men only circles.  This can and has changed in many circles, and the following are individual considerations that any woman can examine to see how they apply to her and her work situation or desires.

Get a mentor – rule #1 for anyone who wants to build a bridge into their profession.  Find someone who has been there and become their shadow.  Better yet, ask the person who can guide you to more enlightened, educated, or informed business ideas and connections.  This is a failing of women who will not ask.  Conversely, women who have “made it” sometimes have the “I got mine now go get your own” mentality.  Remember to lift as you climb and always look to our younger generation as taking over the lead one day.

Have the support of your management – if your manager or upper level management will not support your decisions, suggestions, or contributions then go look for another job as fast as you can.  Disagreements in any office or work situation will occur.  It is more important to see how this is handled than in being right on all occasions.  Women historically have security issues and will not challenge others who challenge their authority.  You have to address any challenge by others for your job, your opinions, or your responsibilities head on and either resolve it one to one or elevate it to management.  Always document any of these exchanges in a personal memorandum for record (MFR) so that when these situations come back to you there is a written record.

Do not ignore office politics – getting along with your peers and managers is important.  However, doing so at the expense of your personal values, beliefs, or opinions is detrimental as this tends to grow over time.  You do not need to be in everyone’s face over every detail of your day.  You do need to state your position or opinion on important items that come up during every work day.  And then there is the office bully who pushes everyone to see who will cave and who will not.  In group settings do not let disparaging remarks about you, your team, your work, or your responsibilities go unchallenged.  And when this happens behind closed doors immediately end the conversation and bring it to your manager’s or your chain of command’s attention.

Network for better success – this is so very vital for a young person just starting out in any type of business setting.  Again, if you now have a mentor go with them to events, workshops, or training sessions and get introduced to your peers and their leadership.  Be visible not only to your own office but to your business’s customer and suppliers.  Attend educational seminars put on by your suppliers as these are great places to further your knowledge of their products and to get introduced to others who value networking and your persistence.  Bottom line is to show up and be ready to meet other professionals.  Everyone was the new person at one time.  Decide who you want to congregate with and what types of birds you want to flock together with.

Voice your opinion – keeping silent may allow you to get along with others.  Leaders are not quiet, meek, nor mild in their demeanor.  You have a voice and brains.  Do not play down the fact that you might know more than anyone else in the room.  And never dumb yourself down so that you fit in.  It is a fact that a lot of people are intimidated by a smart, intelligent, driven, and forceful woman.  This is not a date and you are not trying to impress a future mate.  You are on trial for being able to handle yourself in professional settings, for being able to lead from either in front or behind, and for being a known entity that others can count on.  Decide if you really want to be a success or not and run towards that goal.  You can do this!!!

Negotiation skills – again this is not taught very well to our young professionals.  You will hear the idea of win – win being a desired outcome of all negotiations.  In a word – baloney.  Always decide in any negotiation what your bottom line is and drive for the “no” answer.  “Yes” actually does not mean much and “Maybe” means even less.  No means no and it is a base from which you can negotiate up.  Salary is the number one problem for most women in a professional setting. 

Here is the bottom line for any woman (or man) in the work force.  Just follow this and you will always be successful:

Believe in yourself.

Never dumb yourself down to fit in.

Look in the mirror and say to yourself “You can do this.”  And mean it!!!

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