On a regular basis I hear women in business complaining about the difficulty of wearing heels in a man’s world and so I thought it best to give you my top 5 tips for success.
I will discuss those ideas below, but first….
There Is No Glass Ceiling
I should back up and cover a little background on the situation and why you should listen to me.
As a military veteran of the United States Air Force at a time when only 1 in 10 airmen were women, I am no stranger to the specific challenges, even dangers, faced by women in male dominated fields.
I then moved to a nearly all female dominated career in corporate interior design in Dallas, Texas. Honestly….I’ll take the male dominated field any day. I found working with all women far more difficult.
And then to my passion, and another male dominated field, Digital Marketing, where I run my own agency, Warfare Marketing at the helm as CEO with 5 employees and 2 interns. I have to close deals in direct, head to head combat (aka competition) with slick selling men. Fun stuff.
But it doesn’t change my opinion on the fact that I know you need to stop believing in a glass ceiling built by men to keep women down. Maybe in the 50’s, but not now. And even then, our predecessors, our grandmothers, our mothers – many of the original Women in Business found a way to shatter through the barriers that actually existed. These giants paved the road to success.
You now, as a women in business, stand on the shoulders of giants. Or more realistically, a pyramid of women who banded together to create change, fight for change and lift you up to opportunities and doors that we, as women, didn’t used to know existed.
But guess what? There are men out there right now that don’t know those same opportunities exist to this day. The doors of opportunity are not easy to find. They exist off the beaten path. Few know the path. Fewer yet dare to take the risk to work around and find them.
The glass ceiling is in your head. Yes, you created another excuse in which to keep yourself from achieving success. Is that harsh? Are you mad? Good! You can throw every stat, every argument you can imagine at me and none will change this fact:
There is No Glass Ceiling for Women in Business.
Which brings me to my tips.
Tip #1: Act Like a Woman
What there is in business is a horde of women trying to do do business like men and expecting the same results. Men and women are equal, but men and women are not the same.
So why are you trying to do business like a man when you are very clearly not a man?
Why, as a stay at home mom, are you trying to operate a business like a man who has 10 hours a day to dedicate solely to work?
Stop it. Seriously. Stop.
You are a women in business; a mom in business. When every business/sales/marketing coach on the planet is screaming to be authentically you, you’re still trying to fit into a size 42L men’s grey suit.
Be a professional best version of YOU.
The experts will advise on a strong, firm hand shake. Half the time I am presenting my hand out for the daintiest handshake on the planet; think Queen Elizabeth. The other half, I go straight in for the hug. I am not a firm hand shake kind of woman. And if you give my hand the death grip – you’ll lose my business.
“But people don’t trust a weak handshake!” No, people don’t trust a timid handshake. Mine is girly or personable and stands out in a sea of “firm handshakes”.
This extends to your appearance. Dress nicely.
Men have to be presentable too, and when they are not, it is usually because they are so good at what they do with such an outstanding reputation, they’ve lost the need. So wear the make up, fix your hair, wear clothes tailored to fit your body and know that first impression says a lot. Men are held to this same standard.
If you prefer a plain black suit – wear it. If you prefer an all pink dress – wear it. Dress authentically – professionally – you.
Don’t be afraid to dress feminine. But, if you dress and talk like secretary, you will be treated like one. If you dress and talk like a CEO, you will be treated like one. This has more to do with quality and styling of the fashions. Male CEO’s these day wear everything from the same overpriced hoodies everyday (have you seen Zuckerburg’s closet?) to the slickest, custom tailored suits with coordinating pocket squares.
Pick a look intentionally that is you, and run with it.
Tip #2: Be a Life Long Learner
The top men in business all have absolutely one thing in common: they are constantly learning new ideas. Read new business books, sit through educational webinars, go to conventions – and not just the ones for women!
Ever heard of the book called “Man Boss“? Me neither because it doesn’t exist.
You want to compete with men – then jump into the same pool as them.
By limiting yourself to education & networking tailored to only women, you limit yourself from the male conversation. Men don’t go around thinking “I need to read a book about growing a business as a man” – they just read the book by the person who built a business empire. They don’t need the feelings – just the strategy and tactics.
Some of my personal favorite business books are: Digital Marketing for Dummies, Never Split the Difference, The Lean Startup, 48 laws of power, The One Thing, The 4 Hour Work Week, Mastery, The 33 Strategies of War, Invisible Selling Machine, Pitch Anything, Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat, 80/20 sales and Marketing. Something they all have in common? None of them were written by women. I looked for the best resources for the problems I had, not the best resource for a problem but written by women for women.
Get educated by the best, not the best for a woman.
As a mom of three kids, I can honestly say I don’t get much time for reading an actual book these days. I have moved to the Audible versions as well as webinars and online training. My own inability to read through a book was a large motivating factor in launching the Business Growth Network with my business partner David, of Roberts High Performance, as a way of networking and educating local professionals and business owners (including myself) in a format that was far more consumable – video and templates!
Tip #3: You Will Be Tested, Be Prepared
I recently spoke with a local mom and business owner who told me the story of one of her first deals in a male dominated industry where the man on the other side of the real estate deal came with an offer that was $5,000 less that originally agreed. She also admitted she was young and inexperienced.
My very first thought? Duh! Welcome to business. Men didn’t grow rich and powerful by being weaklings. Like pack animals they establish a hierarchy of dominance and do this by testing and pushing the limits of peers. This is not just because you are a woman! They do this to young, inexperienced, pushover men too.
When you get good, you’ll do the same. That was $5,000 more profit that business man stood to gain in a deal. What is the worst that can happen by asking? Nothing…continue on with the deal as originally discussed. Whats the best outcome? $5,000 more in profit.
He didn’t do this because you were a woman. It’s business.
Don’t take being tested personally. Be prepared for it with every new level of growth. Preempt testing when possible with confidence and presentation, but know you’ll still be tested over and over and over again in business. Get used to it.
Tip #4: WIIFT or What’s In It For Them
Business is not about you. Running a company is not about the salary you need or the business you wish you had.
What is in it for your client?
What is in it for your partners?
Define your clients with crystal clarity. Know their pain. Know their pride. Know what kind of breakfast they have on Sundays and who they will be sitting with at the PTA meeting. Know them through and through, frontwards and backwards.
Then serve them.
As women, we’re great at this. Somewhere we let others define what a business should look like and we get away from this service.
No one said you had to serve for free.
Tip #5: Think Outside the Man Built Box
Throughout my entire life, someone has been telling me how everything is done. Some man 100 years ago built a box and I am supposed to live, work and operate within the box just like the men.
Screw the box.
The box is not innovative. The box is boring. The box is overcrowded. And quite honestly, the box is overpriced without producing results.
When I built my companies inside the preconceived box, they were ok, but barely. None thrived. None were inspiring. And when I ventured out, there was always someone, some policy, some financier telling me to get my tush back inside. Confidence waned. Self esteem dropped. So I stuck with being a stay at home mom. My husband valued and measured success in cash. As a stay at home mom – I made no money and his respect for me plummeted. Our relationship spiraled down.
Living in the box is a trap. Run. Challenge everything; every preconceived notion.
When did I finally start making real money in my own business? While playing a video game.
As I was sitting there breastfeeding my 2nd child while very pregnant with my 3rd child, beached on my love seat, playing FarmVille on Facebook, I realized that I am bored. My mind needs more than this! Yes, I am limited to one hand with a smartphone, but less firepower sent a man to the moon.
I am playing this game that plants fake crops that need to be fake harvested to make fake money so that I can purchase fake seeds to start the process all over again. Brilliant. I’ve lost my mind. But what else can I do?
So an outside-the-box thought came to mind.
What if I tried to make real money? Insert 100 excuses and self defeating statements.
Nope – step outside the box.
What does it matter if I only make $5 if it is done in the same time with the same effort as my video games? I am positive $5.
What if it takes me 2 hours to accomplish the task? Still better off.
My husband balked and made fun of me and my work. Then $5 became $500, then $800 and paid for my baby to go to Montessori with my son.
Now I could work full time.
Now I could afford training.
Now I could afford an office and employees.
Now I could afford to fly out to conference and by enterprise systems to streamline processes.
Now no one is laughing.
Forget the pre-defined box. I work in nomadic wifi infused bubbles.
Tip #6: Use Your Mom Voice
How many times have you seen women in the board room use passive and noncommittal language to express ideas? How many times do women ask for permission in business? “Well, I was thinking, have we considered trying _______?”
Men ask for forgiveness, not permission. Men direct and lead without concern for the opinions of the sheep.
And don’t tell me you are not capable of this level of direct and confident communication. I’ve heard your mom voice!
How do you talk and direct your child? Do you kindly ask them if it would be alright if they could possibly do the issues if they have time? No!!! “Bob, get the dishes done, if not, you’re not going to the mall with Jenny.”
As moms, we lead our family and our kids directly. Take that mom voice and confidence and bring it to the boardroom. You don’t ask the kids for permission – you lead them.
Be firm and direct. Be confident. Don’t concern yourself with how others will perceive you unless it actually matters. And even then, think about it intentionally.
Mom voice doesn’t make you a bossy witch. It makes you a definitive leader.
So in summary:
Tips for Breaking the Glass Ceiling for Women in Business:
- Change your mindset; there is no glass ceiling.
- Act like a Woman
- Be a Life Long Learner
- You Will be Tested, Be Prepared
- WIIFT or What’s In It For Them
- Think Outside the Man Built Box
- Use Your Mom Voice