Women in accountancy : respect is all we need

Respect’s all we need

Just because things have always been that way in the workplace doesn’t mean they can’t change, says Elaine Clark

Having recently hosted a series of round table discussions for Women In Accountancy it was interesting, if not unsurprising, to find that women sometimes lack the confidence to go for exactly what they want regarding their career. The overall feeling was that men do not share such a lack of confidence; in fact, if anything the general feeling was that many a man could be a tad over confident.

Men are from Mars

Of course generalisations are always a dangerous thing, but let’s explore this a little. With the launch of the WomenInAccountancy.com website in May I thought that it was a good time to have another read of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.

Among other things, the book proclaims that “a women’s sense of self is defined through her feelings and the quality of her relationships”. It also says that “a man’s sense of self is defined through his ability to achieve results”.

Suffice to say, men and women are different. We think differently. We act and, more importantly, react differently. That is why research, such as that carried out by Credit Suisse, shows that companies with more female executives in decision-making positions generate stronger market returns and superior profits.

Gender balance in business is better – fact.

I don’t want to be a man!

It’s better because of the differences. So I was surprised when some around one of my round table sessions felt that to get on in business and break through the glass ceiling women should be more like men.

I failed to understand this viewpoint; surely if we were like men that would just create a business full of ‘mini me’ types set by the culture at the top. Isn’t the challenge for those at the top to appreciate differing behaviours and reflect that this is just how it is in the real world?

Play to strengths

If you want a business that has universal appeal then celebrating gender behaviour differences helps develop a universal appealing proposition.

Isn’t success likely to come from playing to the strengths of the members of the team? Back in my old corporate days I was recruited to a role for the specific strengths that I had; a trouble shooting role where they wanted someone to come in, stir it up, sort it out, get it on track and hand it back to business as usual. I did that and, predictably, ruffled a few feathers – what troubleshooter doesn’t? So rather than congratulate me for a good job done I was criticised for my weaknesses. Weaknesses that they knew about and that weren’t important when they recruited me. Such is life.

You can have it all

Why is all that important? As women journey through their careers with different needs and demands that life stages present it’s important to realise that you can have it all, as long as you realistically define what ‘all’ is and ‘all’ plays to your strengths.

If you achieve that then weaknesses shouldn’t even figure in your thought processes. You can make it; you don’t have to fake it.

Take control

To live the dream and have it all, whatever that happens to be, does require taking control and mapping out the steps that will get you from the current state of play to where you want to be. Of course, the dream isn’t going to arrive as soon as you think about it.

Snakes and ladders

Break down your pathway to what you define as success into small steps that are within your grasp. Steps that you can achieve, much like progressing on the squares on a board of Snakes and Ladders. Hopefully, you can avoid the snakes but you may encounter some along the way. I know I certainly have in my career.

Creating an environment where you can flourish is entirely within your control; it may just take a bit of time and certainly a lot of effort to achieve.

It’s always been that way

Finally, another key message that came from the round table session is the feeling that as things had always been a certain way there was no room for change, a view I disagree with.

If you can see how your role could flex or change, allowing you to work the way that fits better with your life needs, without any detrimental impact to your business or your employer, then push the boundaries and suggest it. What have you got to lose?

Maintaining the status quo is easy; it requires no effort whatsoever. Change only happens when effort is put in. Just because something hasn’t been done in the past doesn’t mean it shouldn’t or couldn’t be done in the future. Empower yourself to bring about change.

This woman’s work

Do we have to work harder as a woman? Does it matter? Does anyone care? What is important is to achieve the success that you want playing to your strengths and being happy. Frankly the rest is irrelevant.

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