Sexist assumptions and unfair labels are holding women back in the workforce according to Margie Warrell, the Ambassador for Women in Global Business. Ms Warrell, who worked in large corporate companies like KPMG and BP before becoming an executive coach, told Daily Mail Australia that workplace culture often works against women trying to make it to the top.
'Women are perceived differently in the workplace,' she explained. 'Even women have a gender bias against women sometimes. It’s not always conscious, it’s shaped by the norms of our culture.'
Ms Warrell says that because of this, when women behave the same way men would in the office they are labelled and perceived negatively. 'We as a culture think women should be nice and gentle and take care of people. When you defy that norm you get branded as bossy, yet when that behavior is exhibited by men it's seen as acceptable and normal.'
Women get branded as bossy, bitchy and assertive when they stand up for themselves or don't display typically 'feminine' traits, making it hard for them in the workplace.
'There’s a lot of research that shows that for women, if we’re seen as competent, we’re not seen as likable, and then if we're likable we're not seen as competent,' Ms Warrell said. 'But men don’t have that problem. It's a double bind.'
She said that this has serious impacts on women, including their ability to move up the ranks and have their opinions taken seriously. 'Men are promoted far more as their potential, whereas women get promoted on their performance,' the executive coach said.
Part of the reason for this is the assumption, often incorrectly, that women will want to quit their jobs or dial down their careers once they have children. She said she had one women recently who had applied for a promotion. Despite being more qualified, she lost out to a male colleague eight years younger than her, partly because she had just gotten married and it was assumed she wanted to have children.
Ms Warrell coaches many women to counter these assumptions and be able to progress further in their careers despite sexist stereotypes. She says that one thing women need to talk about what they want, even if this is difficult.'You have to clearly communicate your aspirations,' Ms Warrell explained. 'You have to make it explicit that they want to move up. If you're not seeking opportunities, if you’re not asking for what you want, they will assume you’re happy.'
This goes for pay rises too, where often women don't ask for more money in negotiations.
'We have to be brave and bold and say what we’d like. Own your value and have a sense of what people are being paid in similar roles in the industry and around you, and ask for more money.'
Another common issue Ms Warrell sees is women having their ideas dismissed in meetings, only for a male colleague expressing the same opinion to be praised 'Call it out when it happens. Say "Excuse me, just for the record, I said that 20 minutes ago"' Ms Warrell recommends. 'Be gracious but firm.'
And finally, Ms Warrell says, 'never apologise for having an opinion, and don't be intimated to express an opinion'.
'Don’t be stepped over but don’t rip shreds off of people,' she recommends. 'Sometimes we get intimidated, especially if you're woman who is moving up the ranks.'
'Find the courage to speak your mind. Don't apologise for having an opinion. Women apologise far more than men doing simply for voicing our thoughts.'
This article originally appeared on Femail - Daily Mail Australia