Tips for female leaders working in male dominated industries

According to recent analysis, it has been found that Fortune 1000 companies with female CEOs earn higher stock market returns than those with male CEOs.

With the number of women entrepreneurs on the rise, an increasing number of companies are looking to hire female executives and bring them into the boardroom as they acknowledge the fact that women are capable of delivering tangible and intangible advantages to the company’s bottom line.

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However, despite the mounting evidence that women add to the strength of a business, it can be hard for some female leaders to manage the social complexities of the workplace and make a place for themselves as leaders.

Here are a few tips to make your presence felt in what may still be considered largely male bastions:

1. Build a rapport early on

Building a rapport with your new colleagues is extremely important in any work environment. There will surely be at least a couple of commonalities between your male colleagues and yourself, so make the time to figure them out.

Learning about their interests and understanding that men can sometimes be less expressive as women may help. Give your new colleagues time, seek their opinions and insights, and ask them about certain industry-related concerns.

2. Feel and act confident

You were hired for a reason and the company recognises your skills and experiences will benefit the business. Don’t be shy about giving your opinions, your colleagues (male and female) should respect you for this.

And remember it is perfectly okay to say ‘no’ to certain projects if you think your plate is already full. Taking on more work than you can handle will ultimately end up hurting not just the quality of your work, but also the company. Work on the projects you’re really interested in giving your time to and do a good job at them and appreciation and success will flow your way.

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3. Play to your strengths

According to experiments conducted at Michigan State University, it has been suggested that women should ‘play up on masculine abilities’ if they want to succeed in male-dominated industries. Qualities such as assertiveness, independence and ambition should be played up more as opposed to being warm, supportive and nurturing.

However, sometimes being a good leader entails being more dependable and accessible than overconfident. The former traits come naturally to most men, while women are more intuitive, collaborative, and good communicators, which are also exceptional skills to have in a good leader. That’s where the advantage is.

Capitalize on your advantages and create an inclusive work environment which supports your team and strengthens it.

4. Build a support system

You may want to touch base with the other women in your organisation or other employees who inspire or encourage you. Just knowing that there are people in similar situations or who support you will bring you comfort and support that you may need.

5. Keep Learning

Irrespective of the professional stage you’re at currently, or the dizzying heights of success you touch in the future, never stop learning. The world is always changing and so is the industry. Your knowledge and skills need to change and upgrade to if you want to keep up. Manage your time and life in a way that creates maximum opportunities to learn for you.

Include learning in your everyday routine. Take night classes, or attend conferences and workshops. Read books, articles, and/or blogs. Learn more about what inspires you and the things you’re expected to know. Doing so will enable you to grow, which will reflect in your professional life and attitude.

All said and done, women continue to rise through the ranks to sit in boardrooms, run businesses independently and launch successful startups. The future looks bright as we continue to move towards equal opportunity for all.

Andrew Cravenho is the CEO of CBAC, which offers invoice factoring for small businesses. As a serial entrepreneur, Andrew focuses on helping both small and medium sized businesses take control of their cash flow. Prior to CBAC, Andrew founded an annuity financing company relieving tort victims of financial hardship.

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