Being a woman in business can be intimidating, especially knowing the stereotypes about women being less intelligent, mentally-strong, capable, and successful. As business students, we are entering a career known for being predominately male. We may also choose to pursue jobs in STEM fields, which are also known to be male-dominated. To prepare yourself for these careers, be sure to develop some of your interpersonal skills and educate yourself about your respective field so when you are in challenging situations, you can find the confidence to stand up for yourself and others!
Whether you are in the workplace or in school, you may face similar experiences where you have to stick up for yourself as a woman in a male-dominated field. One of the most important things to be able to do is speak up for yourself and the women around you when you notice inappropriate behavior, stereotyping, or discrimination of you or them. In a classroom situation, this can mean speaking to the women in your class if you notice something that might be inappropriate, and directly asking them how comfortable they are with the situation. In the workplace, that may mean telling a supervisor about the incident and asking for guidance. No matter where you are, the most important thing to remember is to speak up and stand your ground as a confident woman! When you show that you have the maturity to defend yourself, your peers are more likely to take you seriously and adjust their behavior to respect you and/or the women around you. Prove yourself!
Women in STEM and business face many challenges from their peers and their superiors. Although seeing women in STEM and business fields is more common today than it was 20 or 30 years ago, there are still very low amounts of women in top positions at companies. According to the 2017 Women in the Workplace study from LeanIn and McKinsey, women represent 47% of entry-level professionals, 29% of vice presidents, and only 20% of C-Suite executives. The decreasing trend up the corporate ladder shows that men still dominate executive positions. Another alarming statistic is that only 4% of top leadership positions are held by women of color, while white Caucasian men comprise 68% of this group. The women who broke those barriers created opportunities and hope for all future women in business, and this responsibility falls on us now to make the change even greater. Setting goals for yourself as a businesswoman can build a legacy that will touch many women, not just those in your direct contact. For example, Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, had a goal of establishing diversity and inclusion within her company. She came up with an initiative to extend parental leave and make it easier for women to return to their jobs afterward. She saw the need for women to have more time at home after they have a child, so she created the program that allowed them to have that! As you begin to picture yourself and your future career, set some goals and standards to guide you when you get opportunities to create change. Not only will holding yourself responsible for making a difference help you, but it will also open greater doors for women like you many years from now!
The best way to prepare yourself is by learning from other women and hearing their stories! In CWIB, every story is valuable and we bring women from many different walks of life to speak about their own experiences in business. From our advisors, Dr. Michelle Seref and Professor Nadia Rogers, to our own leadership board, there are many women available to you to learn from! Make sure to take advantage of your opportunities at CWIB workshops or coffee chats with business professionals, and use your time at those events wisely to learn as much as you can! These opportunities are rare! One of the most empowering events we host is Power Panel, where successful women come speak to us about their career journeys and host a Q&A session open to students from all majors! These events are direct opportunities to prepare yourself for your career, and taking advantage of them will give you the chance to learn how to be a confident and empowered woman, no matter what career you are entering!
Ultimately, gaining the confidence to empower women and speak up about stereotypes requires time and experience! As you go through your time in college, you will have many opportunities to learn from other women, ask questions, and prepare yourself for your career. Confidence is the first step to making a change, and speaking up in every situation requires it. Taking the time now to prepare yourself and learn from others will provide you with the courage and drive you will need in the future!
By: Lina Al Taii