Happy International Women’s Day (8 March 2017)! It’s an important day, and at the very least, a great opportunity to mock misogynistic Facebook memes, enjoy the odd feminist rap battle, or participate in aggressively passionate poetry slams down at your local library.Women in the industry, career progression and women’s empowerment have all been hot topics of late. So amongst all the celebrations, awareness campaigns, feminist rants, and empowering discussions, I consider it a timely occasion to reflect on the admirable traits of men in the business. What can we learn from men? Based on the informal survey I conducted yesterday by the office printer, two-thirds of women agree that “men are better at carrying things than women because my husband can lift me up, but I can’t lift him”. A very profound observation.
Jokes aside, there is value in observing what’s working for some of the most successful leaders in business, many of whom, are male. Generally speaking, men have a few characteristics that really do assist when climbing the corporate ladder, although it goes without saying, men could learn a lot from women too.
On the top positions…
Men are unapologetic. At times, women have a tendency to be too polite about what they want, for fear of offending someone or being ignored. Men, on the other hand, won’t tone down who they are, or what they want. They won’t change for anyone. It’s hard enough persuading a man to change into a clean t-shirt, let alone change his mind when it comes to his career objectives. No one should ever apologise for wanting more from their career, and sometimes it does require you to vocalise your ambitions because no one will do it for you.
On the pay gap…
Men advocate for themselves. This is perhaps part of the reason why men get paid more. Women accept being paid less. Of course equal pay is, well fair and equal, but generally speaking, women won’t make sure they’re earning what they should be earning.
There is no difference between men and women in the workforce, in terms of quality of output and capacity to perform. If you’ve accepted a smaller pay package, perhaps you’ve told yourself, “the money will come”, or simply haven’t done your market research? Perhaps you’ve accepted the smaller annual raise because it’s accompanied by your boss’ carefully plotted reasoning as to why he/she can’t offer you more, and you believe it? Do you negate to dispute your salary because you’d rather “show” the boss you’re worth more, than “tell” him/her?
No one can listen to what you’re not saying. Men are more likely to push hard for what they want, because they don’t doubt themselves, or anticipate being shut down. They are not afraid to hear “no”. If you’re not afraid of “no”, there’s nothing stopping you from getting to “yes”.
On taking the lead…
Men are far more likely to look after themselves first and do so without remorse. Whilst this attitude may not be appropriate in all circumstances, it certainly works towards achieving career goals and milestones. Have you ever noticed who dives in first whenever a cake appears in the office? Society tells women that it’s “unladylike”, “bitchy” and “self-centred” to fixate on themselves.
As mothers, girlfriends, and wives, women are self-sacrificing and often prioritize the needs of others over their own. Whilst this depends on individual career goals and responsibilities, success is largely down to self-belief and attitude. So, for a change, cut yourself the biggest slice of cake, and loudly pronounce “I’m first” when someone asks you to pass them a plate.
On letting go…
Many men have an uncanny ability just to “let it go” and move on when they need to. Women have a tendency to hold onto other people’s reactions and attitudes long after the situation has passed. It’s a negative way of using up valuable headspace and energy. Letting go means more sleep, more energy, a clearer mind and greater productivity.
On getting more done…
Men tune out. Whilst this clever trick is one of the root causes of female frustration, women can often reluctantly admit that office politics provides a lot of background noise that’s hard to drown out. Engaging in a discrete little 10 am word slam at the desk next door, or consulting with your colleagues on whether to choose duck egg blue or soft slate gray for the feature wall in the kitchen, can be a tricky temptation to avoid, particularly when you have 128 emails to answer.
You may notice, that it is not often the males around the office; provide poor Susan with the emotional support she needs whilst she’s sitting in the toilets crying because her boyfriend ran off with a David Bowie impersonator, remark to others about how Jane has been loudly complaining that it’s “not in her job description” to fill up the water jug for client meetings, or excitedly report back to the team about Christina’s skirt being waaaaaaay too short – again.
Men just seem to have an uncanny ability to tune out. In the offices I have worked in, men remain uninterested and removed from all trivial workplace drama. The ability to put your head down, and avoid all distractions can have a powerful effect on how others will view you in the workplace, and your productivity. Leaders have more important things to focus on. I’m not suggesting this is an easy habit to adopt. Walking away from hot gossip on the receptionist’s botched up nose job takes strength and determination! The more it’s practiced, the less interesting background noise becomes.
A final note on Women’s day and empowerment…
Empowering women is a gateway for change. Developing an assertive approach, focusing on goals and taking the lead in life will assist with achieving success and create role models for generations to come. Empowerment is not bitching and moaning about men, blaming men for the pay gap, or moaning about the lack of females in leadership roles. This only creates animosity, not unity.
Eventually, a buildup of animosity turns into a Tuesday night Lonely-Hearts-and-bitter-Alcoholics book club. If you’ve ever been to an all women’s book circle, you’ll know that intellectually rigorous discussions on 20th-century literature are not on the agenda, just an awful lot of alcohol-fueled rants about how everyone in the room ‘doesn’t need a man’. Oh, how naïve I was… Criticism and general complaints about men, without a call to action, only leads to a culture of resentment. So let today be an all-encompassing celebration of empowerment, awareness, and admiration – I’ll toast to that.