Author of The Gender Penalty: Turning obstacles into opportunities for women at work, Anneli Blundell, gave her advice for young women entering the workforce.
“Be your own role model. Don’t wait to see women who are working the way you want to or doing the roles you want to. If you don’t see those role models, aim to be one yourself,” she said.
“Often women say, ‘I don’t see people acting the way I want to, I want to have a family, I want to have a balanced life. I want to be an executive. But I don’t know how I could do that with the family. I don’t see any part-time executives, female executives or executives at all.’ I say, don’t wait for someone else to forge that path. Find a way to be your own role model and forge that path.”
Being confident is key to thriving in a new environment. Ms Blundell said that while there may be barriers, challenging the norms can help to reduce stereotypes.
“Challenge the practices and the policies and procedures that we’ve inherited … Women tend to get more of the office housework; we call it non-promotable work. For example, organise the birthday card, organise the Kris Kringle, move the team off-site, the lunch, the coffee,” explained Ms Blundell.
“You can say yes, happy to do it. And next time, I volunteer, Fred to do it, and after that, Fred can volunteer the next person to do it. So straightaway, you’re setting, that you’re challenging the norms, and setting the boundaries around what you consider to be work that’s important to your career and within your remit, and not taking on things like the office housework.”
With more work going into promoting the participation of women in organisations, some may feel that achievements weren’t earned. Ms Blundell said to ignore this and focus on what an individual can bring to a position.
“Organisations are investing in women; some of them are setting targets. And so there can be a sense across some organisations that women are just getting promoted because we have to fill a number.”
She continued: “If you are in one of those roles … I say, don’t worry about it. That stuff only matters if you truly should not have got the job. So, if you think you are not able to do this job like hand on heart, you’re not ready for this job, don’t take the job. But if you think you can give it a good crack, and you can make a good goal of it, then just ignore what people are saying, and do the best job you can do.”
Working alongside male colleagues is important, as we’re all in this together.
“I’d suggest to that women work together not just with other women, but working with men, sharing stories about what they’re experiencing in the workplace, having frank and open discussions with men about how they can support women in the workplace,” said Ms Blundell.
“This focus on gender equity is not just for women; it’s gender equity, all genders, we want to be equal. So, if we can have parental leave, it’s not just good for women to be supported to take parental leave, but it’s also important for men to be able to take parental leave.”
She added: “Encourage the men in your lives to take up these opportunities and be a part of the solution because gender equity is not something that is men against women. It’s about all of us inheriting broken systems and structures and second-generation bias from the past. So, it’s all of us working together to challenge the stereotypes to break the conditionings and bust those barriers together.”
This article originally featured in HR Leader