I work in a corporate office in the IT industry and when I look further up the career ladder, I see a lot of grumpy old men but no women. I am very career-orientated and plan to go a long way in my field but I feel some trepidation of going head to head against a lot of older, set-in-their-ways males. While I know women have broken the glass ceiling elsewhere, it does not appear to be happening in my own office. What pointers would you give me as I take the first tentative steps towards my goal? AB Dubai
Dear AB, Not sure if you have noticed how fast the world is changing, and how IT happens to be at the very centre of that. Change your glasses from the "what is" brand to glasses of passion and expectation - and what do you see now? When I was caught in a trap similar to yours, someone advised me to identify role models who had broken male domination in careers. I found many; if it can happen in the army, for example, why can't it happen in IT? However, I question if this really is a gender issue or whether the gender issue is such a great story to hide behind when you tell your "woe is me" tale to others.
You ask for tips and these should help - they worked for me.
1 Why not ensure your performance allows you to be discovered. Once others find you, the need for you to find them and prove yourself will simply dissipate, or at the very least minimise. Yet, you must give them a reason to find you and the most indisputable and objective way is to let your results speak for themselves. From my experience (yes, I am a woman who broke through the glass ceiling), gender issues did not even come into the picture once I was seen as a personification of the desired results. Become the go-to for solutions, the one that always works through challenges - especially when none of the grumpy old men even know how to get the results that you do. How can any old man, young man or even woman for that matter, withstand the force of results?
2 I changed my mindset and moved from the "land of but" into the "land of and". Do you ever find yourself saying or even thinking:
a I'd love to do that but I'm a woman so they won't ask me.
b I would be so excited to be involved with that project but they won't allow me to.
c I know I could do that if only they gave me the chance.
Our thinking drives our behaviour AB, and your mindset seems to be limiting your appearance on the workstage - it's not allowing curtain calls or drum rolls at all. I used to speak the words of limitation during my "frustration days" and quickly became limitation, with the result being that opportunity was almost non-existent. I know you won't believe me until you pick yourself up on this. To achieve this awareness, carry aMP3 recorder, listen out for every response you make to instruction and become aware of the danger your attitude, words and body language are posing to you. You only have to look at the words of this letter; "it does not appear to be happening in our office".
3 If all else fails, I would take the other positive words of "my office" and "my goal" and transfer them into an environment that will become "my future", one that will serve those dreams. Be realistic and recognise that some things will never change, yet this conclusion should only be reached once all other options have been exhausted. I managed to move to my dreams only once I realised it was up to me and only me. What are you doing to show that AB?
Never give up on your dreams and watch yourself become a game-changer.
Debbie Nicol, the managing director of the Dubai-based business en motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture. Email her at email@example.com for the Workplace Doctor's advice on your challenges, whether as an employee, a manager or a colleague