To fit in, we at times hide or downplay our strengths, creating a new identity for ourselves that is inferior to our true selves. In the workplace, this is the reputation we give ourselves. With many industries still male dominant, women struggle to establish a reputation that achieves both popularity and respect. Women automatically place themselves in an inferior position when they attempt to “become one of the boys”. I believe that by conforming to the interests of men and attempting to adopt the qualities that men value, women lose their identities and are actually unable to “fit in” further down their careers. I define this as the “self-made glass ceiling”. Rather, women should make an effort to stand out and prioritize respect not just likeability.
Observing some of the most successful women in this world, I’ve realized a defining quality that they all share: confidence in their abilities to lead, influence and succeed. That they communicate their independence and embrace their own qualities and values enable them to defeat gender stereotypes and build a reputation around their potential to succeed and the work they produce. In Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In she states that “owning one’s success is key to achieving more success” (44). This further suggests that ownership of talent and capabilities is necessary for women to be able to set true expectations for themselves in the workplace.
First impressions in the workplace are defined by the expectations set for us by others and their belief in our ability to achieve. Therefore, first impressions in our careers are more driven by perceived potential than likeability. That said, women need to reveal their strengths and talents upon entering the workplace, rather than focusing solely on being well-liked. Lean In discusses how confident women are more likely to be disliked and seen as selfish or difficult to work with; however, I believe likeability can evolve from respect for an individual’s passion, high quality of work and willingness to share knowledge.
Unavoidable company politics and likeability as a factor for career succession can make it difficult for women to overcome the pressure to fit in in a male dominated corporate culture. Although many companies have initiated women’s programs intended to help create a community for women in the workplace, I believe that they have actually exacerbated the perception that women are promoted or retained because of diversity reasons and not qualification. Many men actually respond negatively to women-only events and programs in the workplace, seeing them as a cult of feminists attacking men and campaigning for women promotions. I think for women programs to be successful in the workplace they should exist at a junior level, such as sophomore internship programs. They should exist as initial training programs rather than as a buffer throughout a woman’s career. The more women that rely on companies to create opportunities for them, the farther away we are from establishing an equal gender environment.
I encourage all women to break the “self-made glass ceiling”. Attention should be spent more on building up ourselves than gender debate. To achieve this, drive with passion, surround yourself with smart people who constantly push and teach you (men and women), identify and act on leadership opportunities, own your achievements and just work hard.
“I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.”