The business world seems to finally be lifting the idea of women in leadership. Success stories about influential women like Tracy Lawrence, Katrina Lake, and Susan Wojcicki are becoming more frequent.
But that doesn’t mean that powerful men and women are treated the same, as a study from Yale’s School of Management demonstrates. This study centered on participants reading a fictional story about a police chief’s response to large-scale protests. In one version, the chief failed to send enough police and the protests got out of hand with 25 people suffering injuries.
The police chief in this story was either a male or a female, depending on which version of the story the participants read. When it was a female chief who made the mistake, her rating as an effective leader dropped by 30 percent. When the chief was a male, it dropped by only 10 percent.
How can powerful women navigate the business world when being held to these unfair standards? One of the most effective ways to approach this is by being open and vulnerable. A lot of people, women, in particular, are afraid of shame and judgment, but this can be a barrier in the business world. As a woman, you’ll likely have to deal with rude comments, preconceived notions, and passive-aggressive peers. The key is learning how to push through these obstacles and continue moving forward.
Here are a few tips for how to successfully navigate the business world as a powerful woman.
You can have both a family and a business.
A lot of women find this difficult to believe, but to achieve it, you have to live all facets of your life with intention. By doing so, you balance your family time with work. Plan family time as you would a business meeting, and keep your commitments as you would at work. Be purposeful when deciding how to spend your time. It’s often easy to think that there will be time for the family later, but the truth is that isn’t the case. If you’re building a business and choosing it over your family, that road leads to burnout, loss, and broken relationships. You can be successful in business and build a happy home, but you have to commit to doing it.
Understand the power within.
A lot of women feel that power is something bestowed upon people from an outside source, but this isn’t the case. In business, power isn’t something that can be taken away by others. Self-empowerment is essential for success. Don’t rely on the validation and approval of other people to know that what you’re doing is right. The judgments of others have nothing to do with your capabilities, and you should not let them get in your way.
Look for your proof.
People are going to judge you, but nothing can change the truth. To drown out critics, look for proof that what you are doing is making a difference. Move forward doing intentional work with commitment, confidence, and passion. Don’t be defensive or wait for someone else to applaud you, and instead, focus on making an impact.
The impact you have on the world accelerates your power, and you can choose to be motivated by love and positivity instead of trying to prove your critics wrong. Ignore them, or better yet, love them anyway. Look for the proof that motivates you to move forward.
Be honest with yourself.
Share your truth unapologetically, even when it’s something you might not want to admit. If you have a rough time at the beginning of your career, don’t act as if everything was perfect. Share your mistakes honestly so that others can learn from them.
Making connections is an essential part of advancing in business, and you won’t connect with people on a real level if you’re projecting perfectionism or afraid to tell the truth. Master the art of telling your story, and include every detour and bump in the road.
Thomas B. Fleishel, MBA, CFP™