Women battling the good ole boys

A woman’s place in the workforce has evolved over the past thirty plus years. What hasn’t changed is the existence of the “good ole’ boys club” and the challenges women face navigating those waters.  Organizations often maintain these “clubs” don’t exist. In reality there are many more inside clubs than we any would like to believe. For women, the phenomenon creates additional challenges.

If you question this concept, consider a few recent statistics released by the Center of American Progress. Women comprise 50.8% of the US population while earning almost 60% of undergraduate as well as master’s degrees. In addition women represent most 47% of the US Workforce.

Women represent 14.6% of executive officers, 8.1% of top earners and 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs. In addition women hold just 16.9 % of Fortune 500 board seats.

As a woman executive, what can you do to combat the issue? Articles point to the need for the woman executives to gain respect, trust and ensure their voice is heard. These traits are indeed critical. The difficulty encountered is identifying the most effective way to attain these traits.

Women who have gained a seat at the table in the “good ol’ boys club” sometimes find their delegated role as one that serves more of a backseat function. For example:

  • Playing the Yes Ma’am – You are expected to agree with the team in all cases.
  • Acting as the Fall Girl – The team places blame or pressure on the woman executive.
  • Performing the role of equalizer – When the team can’t agree they expect the woman executive to console egos and get others to agree with the majority.
  • Being the Silent Acceptor – You are expected to silently accept the opinion of the majority.

The question becomes….what can be done to resolve the situation or at least reinstate a level of confidence that may have seem lost?  Here are a few thoughts.
Stand up for what you believe but acknowledge when others are right. 

Integrity is doing the right thing especially when no one is looking. Show integrity in your actions. The quickest way to lose respect is to back down when the going gets rough. Of course you want to acknowledge when others are right, but if your opinion and position has credence and substance backing down due to internal pressure will not serve to advance your efforts I leadership.  Just like the bully in school, the longer you allow the situation to occur the harder it becomes to manage.
Don’t play yes ma’am.

You are entitled to your opinions. Learn to express them in the most professional and politically correct manner possible. If you are told “It is not ok to disagree with the boss”, you have a critical decision to make. Is this the type of atmosphere you or any woman can flourish in?

Challenge the bully

There is may be an individual who works to intimidate through bullying, rudeness or exerting organizational positioning.   Just like in high school bullies feel they can intimidate others into doing things their way. Women executives can be viewed as the weaker link. Other team members take advantage of that through verbal pressure or intimidation factors.  If you feel this is occurring, turn the tables and challenge the bully. It doesn’t matter if it is your boss or the CEO. Ask for clarification, ensure your view is heard, and attempt to obtain a better understanding of their opinion. If there is refusal, you must find a way to alert the organization either through human resources or an official complaint process.

Be prepared to exit

Not all working environments are suited for women in leadership. The word evolution itself denotes slower paced change.  It has taken 40 years to get where we are today and it may take another few decades to move past some of the inherent cultural and perceptive difficulties women face in becoming leaders.   You may need to recognize when you appear to be fighting a losing battle.  If so, you have a personal decision to make in regards to career, life and ultimate happiness

The ideas listed here may not be workable in all situations but many can be adaptable. A key is to have faith into your own abilities and maintain your backbone when the going gets tough. You may lose the battle but that is a small concession to losing the war.

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