Depending on the industry you’re in, being a woman at work can be tough. (Remember that whole Uber thing? Ugh.) While some women are lucky to work at companies that value all employees equally, this is sadly not the case everywhere. Not only do females have to deal with the wage gap and sub-par maternity leave policies, but sometimes we also come up against people who are less receptive to our ideas simply because we’re women. You could say it’s the ultimate bummer. So how can you deal if you find yourself in this situation? To learn how you can get your coworkers and superiors to take you seriously, no matter what level you are, we chatted with entrepreneur Stephanie Sarka, co-founder and CEO of 1 Atelier. Not only does she currently run a custom luxury handbag business, but she has years of experience in fashion and some serious tech chops too.
1. Check your language. The way you talk has A LOT to do with how you’re perceived, whether it’s how you speak or how you write. Even if you’re very comfortable with your coworkers, super easygoing language is a bad habit. “Casual language in emails is a big pet peeve for me, especially ‘hey’ and ‘ya,'” says Sarka. “To me, it shows a lack of professionalism and a lack of respect. I understand some of this is generational, but in general I prefer well-written communications,” she adds. It’s true that if you work in a really casual environment, your boss might use this kind of language when sending you messages, but it’s always a good idea to keep what you say back grammatically correct (although not necessarily overly formal). That way, you project the image of being someone who’s well-spoken and values their own work. When you handle yourself this way, it’s pretty hard for people to see you as anything other than the professional you are.
2. Remember that in business, dollars and cents matter the most. If you’re presenting a new initiative, idea, or business model, make sure you’ve thought about the financial side of things. This puts you at an advantage with higher-ups, regardless of your gender. “If you have a good idea and have demonstrated it can become a real business, you will be taken seriously,” says Sarka. “A lot of the other stuff ultimately doesn’t matter — investors and partners just want to make money.”
3. Present ideas with confidence and enthusiasm. “In addition to being well prepared and ensuring your idea is supported by the facts and data, it is critical to make sure that you present the idea in a way that is inspiring and and confidence-engendering,” Sarka notes. So what does that mean? Be confident, and don’t assume that the people you’re presenting to want to knock you down. “I often see people presenting their ideas defensively from the get-go, but if you’re not confident in what you are proposing, why should others be?” Sarka asks. “You need to help them see the vision and feel your enthusiasm and understand your thought process.”
4. Work on what’s within your control. If you’re in a toxic work environment, it might be out of the scope of your abilities to change the company culture from the ground up. In this case, you should try to focus on what you *can* change. “If it’s not a level playing field or you’re working with highly prejudiced men or in a culture that is indigenously discriminating, you are not going to change that,” says Sarka. “You only have control of yourself, your skills and training, your expertise and experience, and your behavior.” And don’t be afraid to move on if you’re really struggling with your surroundings. “If you’re operating at the top of your game but are still being treated badly or unfairly, it’s time for a new job/company/manager. There are fair and supportive men out there. You need to actively seek them out if you’re working in an industry highly dominated by men.”
Have you struggled to be taken seriously as a woman in the workplace? Tell us about your experience @BritandCo!
(Photo via Getty)