“This is such an incredible, unprecedented time to be a woman in business,” writes Emily Bennington in her book, Who Says It’s a Man’s World: The Girls’ Guide to Corporate Domination. “Never before has our style of leadership been so needed, and never before have our choices been so vast and our opportunities so great.”
This is an uplifting book, packed with stories and anecdotes from women in business along with lots of practical advice. The book is action focused, and it aims to help you pick realistic goals to complete in the next 60 days. As such, there are action points at the end of each chapter and an action plan template to help you set your goals down on paper. “You must be a magnificent woman first to have a magnificent career,” Emily writes.
Tradeoffs for working mums
While I think the book is mostly aimed at graduate and entry-level women looking to build a great reputation and enhance their careers, the advice is relevant to women at all stages of life. there is a short section for working mums.
If you are living in chaos, it is being created by the choices you are making.
Go for the most visible events, Emily advises. Don’t spend time working on things that your kids or family won’t notice, and ask them which they would rather you put your energy into if you have to prioritise. In other words, while it might be much appreciated by the school if you take on the role of PTA secretary, your child would probably prefer that you volunteer to look after the class hamster during the holidays.
Guard your calendar. Put the important family or school events in it early so you don’t end up forgetting assemblies or parties. Treat these appointments as work meetings, and don’t let the day job get in the way. “If you are living in chaos, it is being created by the choices you are making,” she writes. Being busy does not equal success. Create enough space in your life for the things that you want. I’m sure that is easier said than done but it is achievable if you use your project management savvy to plan your home life as effectivey as your office hours.
Managing stress, managing others
If you want to manage others, you need to be able to successfully manage yourself first. That means knowing how you react to stress and what to do about it. “As many professionals have learned the hard way, the things we tend to bungle at work usually don’t stem from a lack of intelligence, but rather a lack of awareness when it comes to the feelings behind our actions and the actions of others,” Emily writes.
She advises that we cut out clutter, cut down on sugar (what, no afternoon chocolate break?), and stop multi-tasking. Being mindful in your work will also help reduce stress and help you pick up on the clues that other people give out about their own feelings.
Part of managing others is about being a good leader and the last section of the book deals with leadership. “Team development is about getting the best from your people, but leadership is about inspiring them to get the best from themselves,” Emily writes. She recommends building influence and trust because this is more effective attitude to leadership than throwing your weight around.
Top 3 reasons why women would rather work for men
Before writing the book Emily surveyed 700 executive women about whether they would prefer a male or female boss. Of those, 56% responded saying gender didn’t matter (hurrah!). However, the remaining 44% was split into a third of all respondents saying they would prefer a male boss, compared to just over 10% saying that they would prefer to work for a woman. The reasons for this were:
- Men are more direct
- Men are less competitive
- Women are too emotional
Men are more direct: One of the reasons given was that men are more direct and they ‘don’t get distracted’, whatever that means. They were also seen as being better at delegating work with clarity.
Men are less competitive: There are only two ways this can go. Either you are not as good as the other person or you decide that you are better than them. Both ways lie trouble. Don’t think you have to compare yourself to others, Emily advises. It is far easier to and more productive to focus on improving yourself than on comparisons with others.
Women are too emotional: Women over-analyse and can be dramatic, according to the survey respondents. The emotional response could also be down to the fact that biologically women cry more – our tear ducts are twice as big and we have 6 times as much prolactin hormone (crying trigger) in our bodies as men. But you don’t have to cry in the office. Work hard to understand your feelings. Being self-aware will mean you have more chance of keeping the gushing under control.
It might be hard to fight against stereotypes of emotional-ness and competitiveness, but you can easily do something about improving your communication style and being more direct. Emily takes these survey results and advises that, “If you want to get noticed at work the fastest, be the person who communicates the clearest.” That sounds like good advice for men and women.
6 ways to earn respect at work
Another good section of the book looks at six ways to earn respect in the workplace. These are:
- Pay attention to your title
- Keep confidences
- Know what you are responsible for
- Know what you want to do next
- Be aware of your image
- Have patience
The chapter goes on to list 7 ways to screw it up. This was for me one of the most valuable sections of the book. Each chapter has lots of tips and the topics covered are wide-ranging. One chapter includes a list of 100 coaching questions. You would be hard pushed to put all this advice into practice in 60 days but I think the idea is that you will definitely find something in here that is relevant to you and that you can add to your action plan.
The end of the book is the ‘Toolbox’ section that includes templates for self-assesment, a blank action plan and other resources so you can get going straightaway. Of course, books like this are only useful if you put what you have read about into practice, but if you do choose to act on the advice here, you will only ever improve your chances of making a good impression at work.