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Gender equality: Closing the boardroom gender gap

9 March 2017
As the Commonwealth launches the Peace in the Home: Ending domestic violence together initiative, we look back on some of the best articles on gender equality and tackling discrimination from YourCommonwealth.org, our youth magazine.

Women in the workforce can prepare to prove themselves and set their careers a notch higher, writes Judith Akoth, 25, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Kisumu in Kenya. She has tips for those who want to change jobs, set up a business, win employee of the year award, or take a rightful place in the coveted corner office.

Learn to say no. In climbing the corporate ladder, one of the key qualities desired is to be charismatic. This quality has all its good motives, but I am afraid majority us fall off its rail and end up acquiring what I call the ‘Yes Syndrome’.

A person who suffers from the Yes Syndrome is one who wants to please everyone. She may find herself doing favours for other people at her own expense, even when she really does not intend to do so.

The Yes Syndrome is a best catalyst to career suicide. Take for example Catherine, a data administrator who has all the intentions of building a mutual relationship with her colleagues. When she joined company X, she adopted an ‘I got your back attitude’. This meant she would gladly set her work aside to take up tasks from her colleagues, and eventually they ended up abusing her kindness. With time, she gave up the ability to express her true thoughts and stand by them, simply because she did not want a colleague to feel challenged or appalled by the difference in thoughts. She laughed at every joke even if they seemed demeaning and flat. At the end of it all Catherine lost the respect of her colleagues, felt isolated, and unmotivated.

The ‘Yes Syndrome’ is baggage to career advancement. The remedy for this disease – learn to say no! If it doesn’t please you, or you are not comfortable with it, just say no with authority. It’s a sign of an assured confidence, and it gives you the freedom to focus on your best interest at work, with less distraction.

Benchmark with your peers. Benchmarking appropriately with your peers is usually the very first step one makes towards building personal and career development. When we benchmark, we jump start ourselves and ignite our passions and strengths because we are positively challenged by the progress or successes of our peers and mentors. This also allows us to spot the cracks in our personalities and attitudes that derail our career progress. Social media platforms like LinkedIn have saved us transportation fees and made it very easy for us connect with professionals from different fields through reviewing profiles. We can carry with us smart moves for own use. Also, we are exposed to an array of opportunities that not only attract better pay but also enhance our skills, which are critical to improving productivity at the work place. But there is little that we can benefit from it if we don’t make a strategic career plan and commitment to change and improve ourselves.

Align yourselves with mentors. Richard Branson once said, “If you ask any successful businessperson, they will always (say they) have had a great mentor at some point along the road.” Truly, mentors are key to career success. They usually offer positive criticism to your performance at work and hence enable you to continue to excel in your strengths and at the same time improve on your areas of weakness. Their professional advice is always truthful, teaching you the silent rules, skills and knowledge that you need to succeed in the world of work or business. Besides, as you journey up the corporate ladder it’s inevitable that you will meet bumpy roads. And so you need a friendly person to confide in your frustrations, for they say a problem shared is half-solved. Your mentor is the right person to turn to, for they will provide tactical tips to help you manage challenging situations.

Learn from your mistakes. Nobody is perfect. In your daily activities at work you are bound to make a few errors. While it is not an offense to make errors, repeated mistakes – especially of the same nature – will put you at logger heads with your supervisor. Eventually (s)he will lose faith in your work and will dismiss you from opportunity for a promotion. As such, when you make mistakes be humble enough to own them and at the same time be keen to avoid them in future.

Team work pays. Always remember that ‘if you want to go fast, walk alone; but if you want to go far, go with people’. Unless you work as a team and harness your colleagues’ core competencies you will perform averagely or below par.

The 21st century workforce needs more female managers, directors and CEOs. We are highly capable of dominating the corporate board room, regardless of our career choices. Make these practices a habit and then share the positive transformation.

This article was originally published on YourCommonwealth.org, the youth magazine supported by the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Find out how to become a Commonwealth Correspondent:  yourcommonwealth.org/correspondents