Over the past few months, the economy has become much busier. Women make up a large percentage of the workforce today and yet, there is still the "gender gap" at work. I felt passionately about this having so many strong, working women in my life. It just didn't seem like too many people spoke about it and I wanted to understand the situation further.
I decided to have an interview with two women in the workforc here in Dubai and their insights were really interesting.
Cheryl is a working mother who is in marketing and manages a team. As a woman who has been in the corporate world for more than 20 years, she has seen women in the workforce evolve into great leaders and has also had her fair share of struggles.
Ann is a business coordinator where she's handled operations, logistics, HR, admin and finance for the past year and a half. She has worked in Mumbai and Dubai and comes with a fresh perspective on this topic.
Check out what these ladies had to say:
1. What do you think it means to be a woman that empowers other women in the workplace?
Cheryl: It means that you train, support, mentor women throughout the hierarchy in the workplace. It also means that you work hard towards lifting each other up. If you are asked a question about a fellow woman she’s doing fantastic on a project – you must say it and praise those who are delivering well to a common goal.
Ann: It means providing equal opportunities. It means focusing on the task at hand and not letting gender win the conversation, but your own competence.
2. What would you say is the hardest part of being a woman at work?
Cheryl: It is the hardest to have your voice heard. It is people kind of assessing what they can get your get away with versus what they can keep for themselves. So there is a lot of ego at play. I think we as women tend to shy away from speaking our minds very often hoping that someone else might voice that opinion. I think we also shy away from a debate and enforcing our opinion in the need to popular or liked.
Ann: I think it’s not being taken seriously by colleagues is the hardest part.
3. What was one situation where a WOMAN empowered YOU to do something at work?
Cheryl: I’m very grateful to a boss who didn’t wait for me to develop or mature into skill set before she promoted me. She already knew I had it in me and all it needed was the right opportunity. She let me grow into that senior role that she pitched for me.
Ann: A woman encouraged me to ask for a raise I deserved.
4. What was one situation where YOU empowered another woman to do something at work?
Cheryl: I’ve had the opportunity to train young women from universities, but rather than spoon feeding them I give them the broad project scope and allow them to use their own logic and methodology to deliver the project. I don’t micromanage. Instead, I give them the problem and solution that I want, the rest is up to you and I allow them to figure the process out on their own.
Ann: Well, it was the same situation but a different woman. I encouraged her to ask for a raise she deserved and she got it!
5. What are three ways you think women can empower one another at work?
- Give women the opportunity to lead a project – allow them to make those decisions instead of having a male senior head above them
- Encourage them to speak their mind in forums and to do that actively nominate who may be a little short of that potential into leadership forums so that as they gain exposure, they are able to find their voice.
- Offer yourself as mentor. Very often women think that others won’t support them but you need me to be more transparent that you are open to help them grow in their career path so that they know they are not stuck at a particular level.
- Support the truth.
- Be kind to each other and work together for the good of your team’s objectives, not to pad the bottom line.
- Document everything.
6. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt about being a woman in the workplace?
Cheryl: I think as a women we are able to manage multiple projects at a time. We are able to focus and deliver and as a result of that, the negative side of that, we are handed over small, detail oriented projects rather than big picture, strategy-based projects.
Ann: Some people will refuse to take you seriously and will want to speak to your superior or someone who is not you because they won’t understand or respect your authority. Don’t let that get you down. You have a voice, use it.
7. What advice would you give the next generation of women coming into the workforce?
Cheryl: Don’t be shy. Always think as if you are the manager. Don’t go in there with just the problem, go in with the problem and OFFER different solutions. Always dress on level up because feeling and looking confident is important. Finally, I would also tell the next generation to speak one level up – have solutions and recommendations rather than finding a problem in any situation.
Ann: Have a clean work ethic, be respectful of everyone’s time, and let your work speak for itself, not your gender. Don’t be afraid to make noise if someone is trying to silence you. Do your own research. Respect yourself and raise your standards.
*Names have been changed in this article as per request of interviewees.