Do women have to act like men to get shit done?

Women are now a lot more economically independent, representing 42% of the UK workforce. That said, in the workplace, women are still less likely than men to be associated with leadership positions: they account for only 6.1% of FTSE 100 executive positions, and 3% of board members in the UK. Why is that? Why are we still struggling to reach the top?

The organisations

In recent years’, companies have been actively trying (possibly failing) to improve gender equality in the workplace. One such effort being put in place is by introducing a gender quota where organisations set aside a specific percentage of leadership positions for female employees. 

Most of us can agree that gender diversity is important, but everyone wants to be valued for what they can bring to the table.

This type of policy doesn’t help women, it makes it harder for us to prove our worth. How are we to be taken seriously when our male colleagues believe we weren’t worthy of our promotion?

The stereotype

It’s a conversation I’ve had with my family, friends and colleagues. Women leaders and management, to some, came seem brash, blunt and dare I say it “bitchy”. I personally believe it’s because women feel they need to “act” like men to get shit done.

Contemporary workplace culture often associates stereotypically masculine attributes with success. Gender stereotypes portray women as lacking qualities that people usually associate with good leadership. As a result, it creates a false view that women leaders just don’t measure up to men.

The struggle

I’m still very early in my career, but it’s something I personally struggle with. How do I get my voice across and step up in the workplace without needing to act masculine?

Getting your message across clearly at work can be hard enough without overanalyzing how your tone is going to be perceived, yet that’s a position that many women find themselves in.

The movement

Our focus should be less on protecting women through specialised programs and more on changing workplace cultures to everyone’s advantage.

Research effectively shows that groups perform to a higher standard if the gender balance is equal. Catalyst research found that companies with a high percentage of female representation on boards significantly outperformed those with a low representation by 84% on return on sales, 60% on return on invested capital, and 46% on return on equity.

The truth is women can be leaders. We don’t have to act a certain way to be heard. The findings are clear, we bring a lot to the table and we need to stop believing that we aren’t worthy of a seat.