When I see women who ace it in male dominated industries. Three things come to me, they had the option to play eye candy, be a mediocre or be a leader. And well they chose the last option.
You rarely see another soul in the ladies room. On too many occasions, you’ve been mistaken for someone’s assistant. Sound familiar? For many young, successful women, “making it” professionally means learning to master male-dominated workplaces where boys’ clubs still somehow pervade. Even in the 21st century, this still happens. So how are you going to change that narrative?
Don’t Be the “Yes” Woman
In the industries I’ve worked in, there’s tremendous pressure to work hard and keep an overflowing plate. Lunch and coffee runs aside, it’s all too easy to say yes to every project as you strive to “be a good employee”—but if you never say no, you’ll ultimately just hurt both yourself and your company. It’s important to stand up for the projects you really want to work on and then push back at other times when you don’t have capacity. You can bet many of the guys say no—and you should, too.
Play to Your Strengths (Even When They’re Stereotypes)
The first week of my internship, my managing director asked me how the interns were doing and feeling. I’m willing to bet he asked me partly because I was the only woman there, and he assumed I was therefore most likely to know about people’s “feelings.” But you know what? I did.
I gave him a live read of the pulse of the group he was managing, and he gave me the opportunity for senior exposure. Whether it’s listening, emotional aptitude, empathy, socializing or just being the den mother—if you have these strengths, play to them. They’re good qualities to demonstrate as a rising future leader, and, particularly in a workplace where those skills are in short supply, they’re also not a bad way to get noticed.
Don’t Be Anyone’s Coffee or Lunch Getter
How many successful men in the workplace do you see picking up their boss’s lunch or coffee? If you’re not someone’s assistant, do not get in the habit of acting like one. Sure, maybe there are special exceptions when your boss is in fire drill mode or decides to treat a group for getting his coffee—but don’t make it a regular thing.
Get your thoughts out of your heart
Chances are, your male colleagues are constantly vocalizing which opportunities and projects they want—and you might be sitting there, working hard, and waiting to get what is rightfully yours. If you aren’t good at grabbing your boss in the hall or during your morning coffee break and bringing up the projects that excite you, then schedule formal time to check in at least once a month and let your boss know what you’d like to work on.