Even though women today are in leadership positions they never dreamed of being in 60 years ago, there are still challenges when a woman is a leader in a male-dominated industry.
More and more women are making moves into positions historically dominated by men.
In the last decade, the number of female leaders in the entire workforce has increased by a mere two percent.
Part of the numbers may be due to the types of jobs females tend to be drawn to, and part may be due to stereotypes still rampant in particular industries.
If you’re in the percentage of women leading a male-dominated workforce in tech, construction or other industries, these tips will help you rise above the daily challenges.
1. Create Clear Lines of Communication
Your first step as a leader should be to create a clear flow of communication. Everyone on your team should understand who to contact for what and when.
For instance, communication can often be a barrier for women in decentralized, male-dominated industries like construction management.
If there’s a problem with a subcontractor, do the workers know who to inform?
How far up the chain of command does the issue arise, and are you informed? Or do you have a trusted foreman who can handle the problem so that you can focus on other things?
Take action early on to create an organization chart that clearly defines how issues are communicated from the lowest level up to your position and beyond.
Help your team understand exactly who to contact so you can stay on top of any complications and showcase your project management brilliance.
2. Find Your Confidence
If you’ve been placed in a leadership role, then those higher than you saw something of value that you have to offer.
Ask them why they chose you for the promotion. Don’t be afraid to also ask how you can improve as a leader.
Armed with the assurance of knowing you earned the role you’re in, speak confidently and make decisive choices. Don’t work so hard at pleasing others that you let them walk all over you.
While most will give you the respect you deserve, some will not. Have a plan in mind of how you’ll handle that.
As a leader, you may have to make tough decisions, give out warnings, write people up and even fire employees.
Lean on other women in your industry to help you overcome situations that challenge your confidence.
As Sabrina Parsons, a CEO in the tech world, wrote in response to a Google employee’s infamous memo last year, “We don’t have to be men to succeed, nor do we have to bow out because we are women.”
3. Take Leadership Courses
There are many keys to being the best leader you can possibly be. Be fair with your employees and treat them the way you’d like to be treated if you were in their shoes.
On the other side of the coin, you have to please the owners of your company.
If you want to be truly effective as a leader, invest time in studying leadership theories, and put the ones that make sense into practice.
You may also be able to take a business leadership course online or through your local college.
4. Handle Inappropriate Behavior
If you’re surrounded by men, one or more may make suggestive or flirty comments to you. This behavior creates an uncomfortable situation and shows a lack of respect for your autonomy and authority.
Learn to speak up for yourself and make it clear that you won’t tolerate suggestive comments or inappropriate behavior.
Don’t be afraid to require sexual harassment training for all employees.
If the behavior doesn’t stop, involve someone else in the discussion, and make it clear that continued harassment will result in disciplinary action.
Don’t let this type of behavior slide as it will likely worsen, and other employees may think it’s fine to make rude comments as well.
5. Be Firm But Fair
Being a female leader in a male-dominated world creates many challenges, some blatant, and some unspoken.
One of the best skills you can learn is to be assertive when it comes to management decisions.
Assertiveness means that you speak up about your expectations and needs, but you do so in a way that respects the other person’s value.
Aggressive behavior is disrespectful and harsh.
If you’re unsure whether you’re being assertive or aggressive, ask a trusted mentor or equal to role play different scenarios with you so you can practice your responses.
Overcoming the Boys’ Club
Any traditional industry can turn into a boys’ club where women are shut out and even looked down upon. It’s important to know how to forge positive connections as a leader in these environments.
The key to overcoming stereotypes is to be prepared, learn to communicate, and make your expectations clear. Don’t let people walk over you.
There are times when you must demand respect.
So if you feel disrespected in your current role, take the time to plan out how you’ll fix any or all of the areas mentioned and command respect from your workers.
With a little time and work, they’ll stop seeing you as someone lesser than them, and begin to realize the value you bring.
How Can Women Succeed At Leadership?
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