It is fair to say that things are slowly improving for women in the workplace in terms of opportunities, career progression, pay equality and recognition; however, the key word here is ‘slowly’. Laws such as the Equality Act of 2010 have gone a long way towards bridging the gap between men and women in the workplace, as has the mandatory gender pay reporting introduced by David Cameron’s government; however, it is proof of the fact that there is still a lot of work to be done in this area that many women still feel they have to put on a persona when they step into the office each day.
In September, venture capitalist John Greathouse courted controversy when he recommended in a Wall Street Journal article that women should go by just their initials rather than their full names when applying for jobs. He inferred that recruiters would draw certain negative conclusion if they were aware that an applicant was female and that the only way to overcome this obstacle was to conceal the fact. The backlash was instantaneous, forcing Greathouse to backtrack and apologise for the article just days later.
The article did serve a purpose, however, as it highlighted the fact that even in this 21st century of equal rights and political correctness, women are still expected to put up with gender bias and portray a more ‘masculine’ image – whatever that might be – when they enter the office. This raises the question of what it is that hiring managers supposedly fear when considering female candidates. According to a recent article, the answer might lie in the things that most working women seek to hide from their colleagues in a bid to remain competitive in their careers.
In the article, Katie Driver of the Thinking Alliance highlights ambition, family life outside work and emotions as some of the common areas where women might feel they have to put on a front; like it or not, there are circumstances where women feel they have to conceal their gender to avoid discrimination. You may however be surprised to hear that personal achievements are also sometimes minimised or hidden by women, who tend to suffer from imposter syndrome – the feeling that they are merely lucky rather the deserving of the position they hold and that they might one day be found out – much more than their male counterparts.
Whilst it may come as no surprise that the majority of women try not to show their emotions for fear of not being taken seriously by their colleagues or, worse still, considered weak and ineffective, showing a ‘human side’ can actually help to foster a better connection with co-workers.
As for hiding your ambitious side, the fact that women are often less likely to aggressively go for what they want may be preventing the gender pay gap closing as quickly as we would like. There is a difference between ambition and obnoxiousness and most women have the emotional intelligence to distinguish between the two.
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