5 ways women can get ahead in 2016

Heidi Myers, marketing and communications director EMEA at media intelligence company Meltwater, offers her advice

Today (March 8th 2016) is International Women’s Day – now in its 26th year, there should be a lot to celebrate. Women’s rights have risen up the political agenda, many countries have made progress towards eliminating gender discrimination and we’re also seeing the introduction of initiatives to ensure the fair representation of women within senior political roles.

Yet, with recent research showing that London women face some of the highest levels of wage discrimination in the UK, there are still improvements to be made. In fact, official statistics show that the gender pay gap in the workplace is, in fact, going nowhere fast (the total gap in hourly pay remains unchanged since last year, at 19.2%). What’s more, female employees have to wait another two years to find out if they are paid less than their male counterparts, as the government has unveiled its plans to release a league table ranking large firms by their gender pay gap from 2018 onwards. New rules being introduced by the government will force companies to reveal their gender pay gaps. If firms have more than 250 employees, they will be forced to reveal pay differences between men and women. Businesses need to be prepared to be “named and shamed” in government leagues tables, broken down by business sector and even wage band.

There is some good news though - while the gender pay gap shows that complete gender equality is not here yet, the number of women in senior positions in the workplace has almost doubled in the last four years, with a quarter of all FTSE 100 boards positions being filled by women - how’s that for progress?

Many of the skills often perceived to be not only relevant but required for successful leadership are often associated to be traditional female attributes. People who are collaborative, empathetic, loyal and selfless are usually shown to be more successful than those who are deemed proud, resilient or independent. This doesn’t mean that we all to need to start volunteering to do the tea run, but it’s important not to underestimate team work and working collaboratively.

So with all of this in mind, what can women do to get ahead in London in 2016?

Network

In the words of Kirsty and Phil, it’s Location, Location, Location. I believe it’s all about how to network, network, network. London is full of so many networking opportunities, these shouldn’t be missed. Whether it’s sector relevant business breakfasts or a networking event at the Hard Rock Café, there are tons of opportunities to meet like-minded business professionals in the city. I have found throughout my career that it was often about knowing the right people to call on at the right time, so make sure you are out there meeting people that can lead you to your next job, or present a fantastic business opportunity in the job you have now.  The London Chamber of Commerce is just one of many organisations that holds free networking events across the city, so with a bit of desk research, I am sure you can find a time and place that suits you.

Set yourself challenges

Not all women strive for senior management roles, but if you are highly career driven and have your next promotion in-sight, make sure you never stop learning. Give yourself the best education possible and study hard; develop a core competency in an area of interest. Don’t try to be good at everything – it’s no good being a jack of all trades and master of none. Just get noticed and seek out opportunities to solve real problems. What’s more – surprise people. Take on unexpected tasks and projects without being asked and deliver a great result. People will soon begin to see you as a valuable asset to the company and a key player amongst your team.

Mentorship

Build a mentor network. Organisations such as London-based Nesta offers a creative business mentor network. Whether you’re starting out in your career or racing up the ladder, building a strong support network around you is essential and will benefit you in a number of ways. A mentoring system is a great chance for people to bounce ideas off of each other. I’ve mentored a lot of women across different stages of their careers over the last 10 years, and it’s great to watch how they grow and progress.

Be positive

Don’t be a complainer. Londoners aren’t known for always seeing the glass half full, but there’s nothing worse than sitting back, filling a room with negativity and saying, “We’re never going to get ahead, and we’re never going to do this or that.” Embrace opportunities, work hard and be positive. The most successful people are solutions focussed. It’s an individual thing. If you want to do it, you can do it.

Take Feedback 

Listen to constructive criticism and act on it quickly and effectively. Listening is one of the hardest skills – but it will allow you to grow. What’s more, stand up for what you believe in – don’t be afraid to ask the obvious questions and if you believe there is a way of achieving something more effectively always challenge, constructively, what you’re being told. Your colleagues will appreciate your honestly and proactivity.

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