Being a woman in business is a unique experience that can leave you more isolated the further up the ladder you go. From being told not to “act like a man” to being left out of the ingrained “boy’s club” culture, the experience of being an ambitious young woman can feel disheartening.
Jerianne Ejercito, Managing Partner for RDB APAC, has experienced this herself in the advertising industry, “It’s safe to say there’s still a boy’s club lurking in the advertising industry. They exist through connections and networks. Most of the CEOs and CMOs are men, so it’s easier for them to invite (more men) to do men’s stuff. They golf together, drink together, and do business together often all at the same time. I am a woman, so inviting male CEOs and CMOs to activities outside of the workplace can be quite complicated. I have to find ways to get one on one time with them and achieve what my male colleagues can achieve with less effort.”
These exclusive male cliques can make ambitious women at senior levels feel like they need to have male traits to get ahead. Even in the day-to-day grind, women in leadership may still feel they need to fit a certain mold.
Agnes Zottl, Account Director at RDB explains her experience of this in the past, “As a society, we tend to assign qualities and characteristics positive or negative connotations. As a person who has been described as extroverted, assertive, bold, and pragmatic – qualities that are often seen as positive in males – I’ve encountered negative reactions to this more than once simply because I am female. It’s not only from men though. It’s something that happens to everyone if they don’t fit a box.”
Many women have self-diagnosed themselves as having “Imposter Syndrome” when it comes to climbing the corporate ladder, but are these feelings of inadequacy accurately reflecting reality? The Harvard Business Review research shows that many women feel they experience the “Imposter Syndrome” in their work but in reality, these feelings of doubt and exclusion are evidence of systemic inequality. This issue goes beyond equal pay and gender diversity, it’s about women feeling like outsiders despite being outstanding candidates.
Sarah Bounouira, RDB’s Head of Culture and HR expert, has some valuable advice. “It’s important to do it your way in business. Don’t think about trying to compete with the so-called “boys activities” but find other ways of connecting that are true to your personality. Think about your values and skills and connect to them.”
When it comes to feeling confident in your job and getting rid of doubt, Bounouira suggests making changes to how you operate within the work environment, “Take yourself seriously and others will too. Remember to not play small with your language because (by doing so) you’re diminishing yourself in the process. Get rid of minimizing words like; little, could, would, and maybe. Be determined!”