When it comes to workplace equality, we've come a long way -- long enough for some to say men are on the decline. Statistics show more women than men are now earning college degrees, more women than men are employed, and women are climbing the corporate ladder in record numbers. But the data also show a persistent wage gap, and very small percentages of women at the very top across multiple industries.
Why? Slow-to-change gender stereotypes are of course partly to blame -- no one disputes that. And research indicates that it doesn't benefit women to act just like men at work -- even if they could, even if they wanted to. But given that men still do hold most of the top roles in the highest earning fields, it may be worth looking again at what they do right in their careers that women don't traditionally do as well, and figure out how women might adopt these select skills:
Think You're Awesome
“If you ask men why they did a good job, they’ll say ‘I’m awesome.’ If you ask women why they did a good job what they’ll say it's because someone helped them, they got lucky, they worked really hard,” said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg during her popular TED talk on why we have too few women leaders. “Men attribute their success to themselves and women attribute it to other external factors.”
Successful women often have Imposter Syndrome -- a psychological phenomenon (not actually a clinical syndrome) in which you feel that you "lucked into" your success, that you're somehow a fraud who doesn't deserve whatever reward you've earned, and will eventually be found out. The term was coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, and has been found to especially affect women in traditionally male fields.
When the time does come to negotiate a raise or promotion, this way of thinking can keep you from asking for what you deserve. Take a cue from men: Not only are you not an imposter, you're awesome.
Make Sure You're Visible
Connie Glaser, a leading expert on gender communication and women in leadership, writes:
From kindergarten on, girls are taught that if they do a good job, they'll be recognized for their work and be promoted accordingly. Unfortunately, success in the business world doesn't work this way. The right people need to know about your accomplishments if you want get ahead. Women need to seek visibility for themselves -- volunteer to make a presentation, write a press release about recent accomplishments, network with company influencers, and let key people know about your successes.
You can also gain visibility through mentorship and sponsorship. A sponsor is similar to a mentor, but high enough on the totem poll to secure your advancement, and willing to put their reputation on the line to make it happen.
The importance of sponsorship in women's careers has never been more evident, thanks to a recent report from Catalyst, “Sponsoring Women To Success," which found that even when women start out behind, when their mentors are highly placed in the company, they are just as likely as men to get promoted.
Women face challenges in finding a sponsor -- gender stereotypes can make a close relationship with a senior male colleague look suspicious, and high-powered women can be reticent to support other women. Research shows a competitiveness among women in the workplace, which can contribute to difficulty finding a mentor or sponsor.
But here again, women can follow men's lead. Ever noticed how some male interns seem to have no problem introducing themselves to senior partners, or even inviting the boss to lunch? Neither should you.
Don't Be Afraid To Ask
Men often put themselves at an advantage starting with their first job offer. Statistics show that only 7 percent of women negotiate their salaries when they first enter the workplace, but 57 percent of men do.
This is how the wage gap begins for an equally qualified man and woman starting out at the same time in the same role, and it usually doesn’t close for the remainder of their working lives. Authors Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, in their book “Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide,” calculated that by not negotiating her salary on the first job offer, a woman sacrifices over a half a million dollars throughout the course of her career.
Research also shows that women don’t like asking for a raise or a promotion and dread having to do it. Men on the other hand think of it kind of like playing a game, and can actually enjoy it. Because women don't enjoy asking, they are more prone to wait for someone to notice their good ideas, hard work, long hours and hand them a promotion or raise. The phenomenon is called the “Tiara Syndrome,” a term coined Carol Frohlinger and Deborah Kolb, and represents the false notion that someone will magically place a tiara on your head as a reward for your good work. The reality is that you probably won't be rewarded unless you ask.
Don’t Get Too Emotional
Countless studies show that women care more about hurting someone’s feelings, offending someone, and stepping on toes. These traits make women better at some aspects of work -- the ability to pick up on emotional cues and better understand your employees gives women a leg up in leadership roles, for example.
But this emotional intelligence can also keep women from advocating for themselves and their business interests. In negotiations, it sometimes leads a woman to take an apologetic tone that works against her. In her book "Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, And Getting What You're Worth," Mika Brzezinski writes a list of some of the common and disastrous opening lines women employ in negotiations: "I'm sorry," "I know you're busy...," "I don't know if this is possible...," "I hate to do this...," "I'm sorry if the timing is bad." The better approach? Remain confident, and explain why a raise or promotion for you is the best thing for the company.
Work As Hard At Networking As You Do On Work
Remember the male interns who ask the partners to lunch? Think of the squash, tennis, and golf games some male executives schedule into their days. Dr. Lois Frankel, psychologist and author of “Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office” writes that women should stop working so hard and take some time for in-office relationship building. She recommends getting up from your desk at least twice a day to have a personal conversation with someone else in the office, or taking a long lunch to network (without guilt). This links back to being visible. Don't wait for the work to put you in the spotlight -- put yourself there.
Don't Apologize For Who You Are
And 'who you are' is a woman. For obvious reasons, no man pretends to be less masculine (however you define masculinity) at work, but the same holds true for women. As mentioned above, certain qualities women bring to the table are not just likable, they're good business.
Hanna Rosin wrote in her Atlantic article, "The End Of Men" that stereotypical feminine qualities -- "women as more empathetic, as better consensus-seekers and better lateral thinkers; women as bringing a superior moral sensibility to bear on a cutthroat business world" -- are being shown more and more so to have a wildly positive effect on the workplace. She quotes a 2008 study which analyzed the top 1,500 companies in America for over a decade that found companies with women in top positions performed better. Own that.