Nearing an important milestone number wise I no longer accept the tried and tested. What works for you may not necessarily be right for me. I have my beliefs, value system, ideas and dreams and I’m no longer willing to let go.
As a woman, one is generally told to tone down the voice, sit with legs crossed, cross the t’s and mind the dots when in conversations, never ask but request, always value relationships over money even if it means you may end up a doormat, children over career, yadayadayadayadayayadada.
You think this are old fashioned thoughts and no longer the case.
Watching the latest episode of this English song-based reality show featuring Indian singers on one of the newly minted channels brought all these common generalities to fore.While the program provides a terrific platform for singers to showcase their talent, it also brings out a lot of old fashioned prejudices that still exist.
PYTs in totthering heels and dodgy makeup but poor vocals are always given a Thumbs Up by most of the male judges if said PYTs swing ‘foxily sexy.’ Ordinary girls with power house voices are given the go bye. The guys are soley judged on the performance and attitude. Say what?!
The theme for the particular episode, which sent a chain of never-ending thoughts go klutching klutching, was Saturday Night Fever type va-va-voom songs. Now this obviously meant a lot of swagger and sex appeal.
While most of the male contestants were unapologetic about their attitude and oomph and even reveled in compliments about their risque shining through the performance, some of the girls were clearly embarrassed to be told by the judges they were sexy or hot. In fact, one of the contestants remarked, “My ears are ringing right now,” and looked like she was ready to be swallowed by the nether world.
And this when she was wearing a short, cross-back style dress and looked set to party and be the wild child.
While the male panelists on the judging panel complimented her on ‘her moves’ the female panelist asked, ‘Why are you apologetic about being sensual? What is wrong with being sexy if you own it?’
Time for the usual annual review and this mid-management level female marketing executive decided it was time for her to voice her concern about the poor hike doled out during the mid-term, poor compared with her male peers from the same department, and those that she felt had done far less than she.
She requested for HR representation at the table as well besides her immediate supervisor who was conducting the review. She came armed with stats and examples of her outstanding performance. She gave the reviewing board examples of her ‘beyond-the-call-of-duty’ in several of the exhibitions and client meetings she had been a part of or lead.
This approach helped her get a better hike and a letter of public commendation from the company chief executive.
However, during an unofficial chat with the HR person she was told that she had a dominating, bossy personality that unsettled male colleagues. There were no asks but the comment was casually flung into the conversation.
Imagine her reaction after.
A senior female sales executive decides to return to the workforce after taking a hiatus from work after the birth of her baby boy. Now that the boy had turned five and was settled into a regular routine attending school she felt ready to tackle the workplace, and accordingly had upgraded her skills sets. While she felt reasonably confident in handling job pressures, it seemed the companies were not ready to accommodate her. Casual questions about how she was going to deal with pressures at work after being off the grid were thrown her way along with the support system she had in place.While some companies were willing to take her on they were unwilling to match her salary with the previous job she held. Other companies were sceptical about her intention to take on full time work.
She finally gave up the idea of seeking full time employment and opened her own consultancy, providing sales services for generating leads, market intelligence, business analytics and digital support.
Though she is doing well now the attitude shown by companies threw her off kilter especially in the light of a chat she had with one of her male proteges who had taken a few years off to pursue his passion. He went backpacking around the globe and became a volunteer teacher in several of the countries he visited to fund his trip. Instead of showing scepticism about his intention to return to the work force the interviewers felt he brought international exposure to the table.
Three different instances but each instance still highlights the glass ceiling, visible and otherwise, that women in the workplace have to break.
Having been through a maternity related hiatus recently I can tell you the ceiling exists for real but it is not unbreakable. If you prepare yourself to break this glass ceiling with a sledge hammer, if need be the wall is yours to be broken.
First, FIND A MENTOR – Do not wait till you are into a few years into your career or in the mid-management level to find a mentor. Read HBR’s 10 Must Read Titles including On Managing Yourself and Your first 90 days at work for invaluable tips on building your career and choosing the right type of mentor who can be your guiding light.
If you are lucky your mentor may chose you seeing the potential you have to shine. But most times you have to actively seek a mentor to help you navigate the corporate minefield before it becomes your playground. Chose wisely.
Chose a mentor who understand your industry well or who know the role you are currently executing and who is a leader in that field.
Chose a mentor who will help you align your personal value system with the needs in the corporate sector.
Your mentor can be categorised as technical, a life coach or a strategist depending on what you need.
Be a Mentor yourself. Chose a protege(s) who you can groom in your chosen field. Mentoring another person opens your eyes to the possibilities there are of doing things differently or better as you see the same humdrum stuff/routine through a new prism.
(To be continued)
In the Meanwhile, take time to read this fabulous article… It is as much relevant after 40 as it is in your early 20s.
Have a great week !