There are a variety of factors that prevent women from achieving gender parity in the workplace. Personal factors like family obligations affect many women, but for many more, it is the structural and organisational barriers that stand in their way.
For women struggling to overcome professional, personal and structural challenges, here are 7 top tips to grow your career from the most recent Public Sector Women in Leadership Conference.
1) Call out bad behaviour
Many leaders shared moments from when they were faced with sexist or discriminatory language or behaviour by a colleague and let it pass. Challenging sexist behaviour in the workplace can be difficult, but by calling it out, you prevent that behaviour from being normalised. Speak up, it is okay to be a fun sponge.
2) You are not an imposter
Many leaders identified moments in their career where they felt like they were a complete fraud. Interestingly, this is an experience that male leaders identified as well. It is clear that most leaders have experienced this and to not take this insecurity too seriously.
3) Not all business happens within business hours
In other words, use social events to your benefit. This is not to suggest that formal agreements are taking place behind closed doors. But both male and female leaders identified informal meetings, lunches and dinners and even sporting events as a great opportunity to develop partnerships and mentoring relationships.
4) Define your availability
For other leaders, especially those with personal obligations that take them away from the office – it is not always possible to attend social events to build networks. Some leaders choose to strictly define their availability and enforce their hours of work. Anyone who needs to meet them is forced to work within this time constraint. Fair warning however, this can be a long and hard process.
5) You can learn on the job
We’ve all heard the statistic – women wait until they are 100% qualified for a job before applying, while men respond even when they only meet 60% of the criteria. While you may not feel ready, be open to new opportunities. You can always learn on the job.
6) You can’t do it alone
You will need champions and advocates to create pathways to leadership where there are none. For many women, it was female and male mentors who believed in them, who opened doors they could not otherwise access. And it doesn’t have to be a formal mentorship. Connect with those who inspire you and learn from those who don’t. Learn from their achievements and their mistakes.
7) You are not alone
It can feel like you are the only person experiencing the personal and structural barriers that are holding you back, but rest assured there are many others who are experiencing similar challenges. Many women have benefited from women’s networks within the organisations. Even if you don’t have a formal network, a strong support network of women can be invaluable during a challenging time in your professional or personal life.
The next Public Sector Women in Leadership conference will be running on the 22nd & 23rd November in Canberra. You will have the opportunity to connect with like-minded women, hear inspiring stories and take away tips from leading public sector women to enhance your career in the public service.