As a woman who’s blazed a trail within my own industry, the very male dominated environment of the construction, quarrying, mining and associated sectors over the past 33 years I feel I have enough experience to offer a qualified view based on my own experiences as well as those of females who’ve gone onto become friends and who like me have risen to the top of their chosen profession in other male dominant environments.
I set about my own journey in the early 1980’s when a very different Business environment existed. I came across a great many male managers who’s view was that I would be better served ‘making the tea’ then trying to carve out a career within the construction and associated industries. Undeterred however by what was a clear case of gender prejudice I ignored their scepticism ( some of which unfortunately affected our businesses ability to secure an order) and soldiered on. In addition a further sign of times back then was a perception held by some men that females negotiating, working with or selling to them were fair game and furthermore that it was “ok” to verbalise what they would like to do to you and in some instances try touching you inappropriately. This type of thinking and behaviour was quite normal in those days and was supported by many a male view that if a woman was in a mans world and “if you couldn’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!’ They felt that their thinking and behaviour was actually ‘normal’. I could write this entire piece about this very topic but even back ‘in the day’ I knew I would not let these attitudes affect my ambition to succeed. Times change and fast forward to 2015 and although not an entirely level playing field still for females in business never the less much progress has been made.
Women have a lot to celebrate. We’ve consistently been the underdogs and still are, yet time and time again we prove we are more often than not the RIGHT ‘ woMAN’ for the job. We are reaching new heights in securing Main Board positions across the western world and we are uniting in our efforts to show our male colleagues that we can walk shoulder to shoulder with them contributing as much as them to the changing face of global business. There is of course much more work to be done and I personally would like to see lots more female entrepreneurs and business leaders emerge in the coming years, not because I happen to be female but because I feel to have a balanced view in business we need both perspectives. It’s no accident that the most successful of the FTSE 100 companies have female talent on their main board. Women bring a different perspective and it’s very often that it’s the ability to consider all perspectives from both genders that deliver the very best results to the companies bottom line.
So do I still believe that the male prejudice exists now?
Yes and No… It’s getting better, much better and what I believe passionately is that if women are to become equal within all business arenas whatever industry they choose then it will take men and women working TOGETHER to break down the remaining barriers that still exist.
Being a woman in business is only ‘tough’ if you think it is. Being a woman in a mans world is only tough if you don’t believe in your own ability and equip yourself with the self belief that your every bit as good as a man. We don’t have to adapt or morph into a male to succeed, indeed we should learn to celebrate the fact that we are women and with that we offer a different perspective. All that said some of my best friends are male and I wouldn’t have it any other way… Learning to embrace being a woman and my femininity is something I’ve come to appreciate more and more, using the very fact that I bring something different to the board room table I’ve come to understand is a way of thinking. So to all you would be business females out there reading this I say to you embrace the fact your a woman and use your feminine instinct and differences to your advantage. Make friends of your male counterparts, they can and very often are your strongest allies.
In conclusion “we can achieve whatever we put our minds to” regardless of gender. It takes a lot of very hard work, true grit, dogged determination and sacrifice. You shape your own destiny by your own choices and actions…