Breaking through: How to make your mark in a male-dominated industry

Proving your worth in the workplace can be difficult, let alone when you are the only woman in a room full of men. With gender inequality at the forefront of the social agenda, issues such as pay gaps and promotions are hot topics. As a female in a traditionally male-dominated industry like real estate, Stockdale & Leggo COO, Anna Thomas wants to see women step confidently into new leadership roles to help reshape the traditional ‘boys club’ workplace.

Thomas tells Kochie’s Business Builders many women still fear they are are not taken seriously in the workplace.

“Many females still attest to feeling self-conscious to voice their opinion or idea through the fear of not being taken seriously. With females accounting for 47 per cent of the Australian workforce and only 29 per cent in a key management position, women are encouraged to challenge dated gender stereotypes and seek opportunities to grow professionally,”Thomas says.

Here are Thomas’s top tips for how women can crack the glass ceiling.

Set a high standard

As with any employee looking to grow their career, goal setting is proven to increase motivation and productivity. Don’t be afraid to dream big and show your peers you mean business. It is important to be realistic, but setting your sights on something greater, like implementing a new mentorship program or completely revamping company technology, brings the opportunity to set short-term goals. These are easier to achieve, and will make you more motivated to work towards your overall goal.

It is important to hold yourself accountable. Having a grand vision is great, but to truly get results, your peers and managers must be able to understand the steps you will take to make it happen. Put in the hours and effort to prove you are serious and committed to the success of the company.

Always be eager to learn. Women are determined to prove others wrong, so showing you are willing to constantly develop your skills is what will make you an invaluable member of any team.

Speak up

I often hear women in senior positions saying they fail to get a word in during meetings with male executives, and when they do, they are interrupted or shut down. To avoid confrontation, we often take the polite approach and accept this as standard behaviour. The thing is, you earned your place at the decision-making table just as much as any man there, so use it.

One of the most significant changes for me came when I brought a unique and fresh idea to Stockdale & Leggo.  The board was amazed with the effort I had put into researching and developing new state-of-the-art IT systems. Even if they were skeptical to begin with, I supported my idea with evidence and conviction that this was going to change everything. Facilitate the conversation and showcase your skills by presenting innovative ideas the company can’t look past.

Own what you’re saying. As women, we can often be scared of rejection, even if we do have a valuable contribution. Be confident in yourself and your peers will follow.

Don’t be afraid to go against the status quo

Think of what the world would be like if Steve Jobs hadn’t come back after the iPod’s initial failure, or if Arianna Huffington stepped back because journalism was a ‘man’s world’.

We often think it is easier to follow the status quo. Especially as women, surely it is not our place to change what isn’t broken? The reality is; easier doesn’t get you further in your career; so don’t let stereotypes define you. An idea may be so left of field that you too may even question it, but that is when you know you have something good.

Women need to come out fighting, especially when proposing a significant change. It took me almost two years to earn my credibility, but I worked at it and have continued to see results to support my initiatives. When trying to break a ‘boys club’ mentality, meet and then exceed expectations. The greatest sense of accomplishment comes when you prove doubters wrong.

Have a support network

Collaboration and support from likeminded businesswomen is key to excelling in a successful career.

As a female entrepreneur coming into an industry I had no experience with, it was overwhelming. I threw myself into the big bad world of real estate where criticism wouldn’t even warrant a blink from my male counterparts, yet one negative comment would really emotionally affect me.

Women should feel supported, to encourage accepting leadership roles with confidence. It is for this reason, that I founded Empowered Women in Real Estate. This initiative provides female leaders with a platform to share all the successes, stresses and surprises that come with being a woman in power.

In our society, we are so used to criticism being sugarcoated, but ignorance won’t lead to a promotion. Don’t be scared to be honest with one another and provide encouragement for a job well done. Support is essential and connecting with people who know exactly what you’re going through and how you’re feeling will help get through the tough times to come out the other side on top.

Final thoughts…

Stand tall and be confident in yourself and your ideas. A cultural shift has started, and now more than ever, females are being called upon to step up. Put in the effort, lead with conviction and your career will flourish.

 

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Anna Thomas
Anna Thomas is the Chief Operating Officer of major Australian real estate network, Stockdale & Leggo. With over fifteen years experience in consulting, sales, marketing, marketing and training, She was recognised as a Telstra Business Women’s Awards Finalist in the Corporate and Private Award in 2016, a 2017 Finalist in the Real Estate Business Awards ‘Industry Thought Leader of the Year’ Award and a Bronze Stevie winner in the Woman of the Year category in the 2017 International Business Awards.

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