As a female business-owner and mother to a daughter, I’m excited to live during a time when it’s possible for a woman to do and achieve anything she sets her mind to. More women than ever are going to college, starting their own companies, running for office, and shattering glass ceilings left and right. However, that’s not to say that we have it easy. Today in the US, women still make roughly 80% of what men make for the same work, and in the UK last year men still made about 12% more. Although I now have my own business, I started my career climbing the same company ladders that most women do – working my butt off, paying my dues, competing for promotions and opportunities. I worked almost 18 months without earning a cent, not even travel expenses or lunch. I know how much women have to be proactive and advocate for themselves in order to get ahead, and how difficult it can be to negotiate a fair salary. While as a whole society is still working towards equality, there is still a lot you can do to do your part in closing the wage gap and to be taken seriously at work as a woman. Read below for 10 tips I’ve learned over my career to helping you along your path, and please share your own advice below in the comments!
1. Look the part.
I work in fashion so I may be a bit biased, but I’m a firm believer that what you put on your back and how you present yourself, affects how others perceive you, and how you perceive yourself. What is appropriate to wear to work varies greatly from industry to industry, but in my opinion, a few things are universal. Always have polished shoes, clean, well-kept nails (whether polished or not), err on the side of conservative in work settings (just to be safe), never show up with bedhead, and when in doubt – always go for a power suit. Not only will you impress others, but you’ll feel more confident and carry yourself more assertively, too.
2. Be prepared.
One sure-fire way to be taken seriously at work? Know what you’re talking about! It doesn’t take long to Google the crap out of your company, your industry, even your colleagues. Delve into it like it’s your passion – listen to podcasts, watch documentaries if that’s relevant, and study the trade publications (most industries have them). Invest the time time to become an expert in your position, your field, and your craft.
3. Be respectful.
Commanding fear and commanding respect are two very different things, and you can’t truly gain respect if you don’t treat others respectfully as well. Never put yourself in a position to take part in workplace drama or gossip, and always be kind.
4. Speak up.
As women, we’re often taught to play nice and not rock the boat. However, there will always be a time during our careers when we’re faced with the challenge of speaking up or creating boundaries for ourselves. I remember a particularly difficult boss who, after about a year, backed down completely after I politely challenged her. It took guts and I was scared, but her reaction made me realize the aggression was all a front. And I remained respectful, but firm. While you should always handle these situations with grace and know when to pick your battles, you should also be ready to be your own champion when necessary.
5. Be adaptable.
The world is changing rapidly, and most likely your industry is too. No matter what you do for work, it’s important to be well-versed of any developments whether it be in technology, strategy, or culture. A lot of people hate the idea of change in the workplace, because it seems threatening. Showing that you’re open to versatility will really stand you out from the crowd. You’ll always be more valuable if you stay abreast of these changes.
6. Know your worth.
Getting to a place where you truly value yourself and what you bring to the table can be a lifelong challenge. But in the end, if you don’t see it in yourself no one else will. Books like You Are A Badass and The Gifts Of Imperfection are bestsellers that can help you get there, but gaining a sense of confidence in yourself and your skillset with grow as you move along in your career. This sense of knowing your worth is especially important to have anytime you enter into salary negotiations, which is one of the best ways us women can help to close the wage gap for ourselves. Some practical tips for how to negotiate a raise are:
-Compile a list of tangible contributions you’ve made to the company (not just your opinions on how you’ve helped – find statistics on how you’ve improved sales, increased performance/productivity, etc); go into detail on the value you bring to the team, and why you deserve an increase.
-Do market research on the role; is your salary adequate based on industry standards? Do competing companies offer more/less? Knowing this will help you to have a goal post in mind when entering negotiations.
-Request regular performance reviews and feedback; if a raise isn’t immediately available to you, establish goals and timelines for receiving increases with your manager. Most times when it comes to a raise, if you don’t ask you won’t receive – the squeaky wheel gets the grease, as they say.
7. Take risks.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”. This quote couldn’t be more true, for every aspect of life. You’ll never truly progress in your career or even in your personal development and relationships if you never make yourself vulnerable and put yourself out there. Moving to LA when I was 26 was bloody scary, but sometimes feeling a bit scared reminds you you’re alive, and what’s the worst that can happen? As my mum said, ‘you can always come home to England’. No regrets.
8. Ask for help.
On the flipside, always be willing to acknowledge your shortcomings and ask for assistance when necessary. Just because we can do it all doesn’t mean we should. Your productivity, the quality of your work, and your working relationships will all benefit from collaboration and support. In my career i’ve had mentors who have become dear friends, and I wrote about their influence on my in my book, Front Roe.
9. Practice your public speaking skills.
Even if your job doesn’t directly call for giving presentations or public speaking, you’ll feel more confident at work overall if you have this skill in the bag. You never know when you’ll be asked to address a group at a meeting, host clients around the office, or take over a presentation for someone who called out sick. Feeling comfortable addressing multiple people or being put on the spot will give you confidence with a variety of work interactions. The same goes for eye contact, posture, body language – it can all be learned, faked, and makes you appear WAY more confident than you might be feeling inside. As someone who has interviewed A-list celebs live on the air and hosted multiple TV shows, you can just trust me on that one!
10. Fake (confidence) till you make it.
Leading on from the above, believe it or not, even the most confident seeming person at work or social media doesn’t feel that way 100% of the time. I once spoke with a woman who said she went from being extremely timid and shy at work to being an executive by simply pretending she was an actress playing the role of a confident person. The point is, don’t feel discouraged if you don’t always feel confident. It’s an attitude and a skill that can truly be learned.