Overcome the challenges facing women in business today

‘Dig in your heels’, take centre stage and give yourself a fair chance at a leading role

Traditionally, what happens on the business stage typically presents itself against a backdrop of the Forbes’ list of observably male-dominated business leaders. Yet, the ever-changing face of Twenty-first Century economies means that, more and more, business women, historically often cast into the shadows; are now putting in a discernible performance.  But, when it comes to assuming a role traditionally held by men, rising to centre stage routinely requires that women in business ‘dig in their heels’ in order to give themselves a fair chance at a leading role, whilst often having to overcome challenges specifically common to women and ones that only they can solve.

But, it’s not only all about performance, whether in the boardroom or the establishment of a healthy bottom line.  As we shall see, some of the obstacles that business women face present themselves as a very different basket of eggs when compared to that of their male counterparts.

In this article we investigate behind-the-scenes, from backdrop to forefront.  We put all our eggs in one basket that is uniquely feminine to identify and explore certain significant challenges that ‘make up’ the face of what women routinely encounter in business; with keys that unlock the potential of developing a recipe for success.

You have to break some eggs if you want to make omelettes – women are frequently more emotional than men

Generally speaking, for women, business is not only about the bottom line but also involves an emotional connection.  Women are more relationship orientated, and they tend to feel that relationship building invariably results in sales.  This is often the case.  But, it can also mean that women tend to hold back in the face of making tough decisions.  The key to overcoming this tendency is to try at all costs to be direct and maintain a keen focus on business goals and objectives.

You don’t have to try to be ‘one of the boys’ just because you are surrounded by boys

Women often feel intimidated when primarily talking business with only male executives.  Negotiating deals with all types of people on a regular basis is a given when one is in a leading role.  As a consequence, in order to protect themselves, some women have a tendency to over compensate.  Often, they feel the need to adopt conventional male behaviours such as being overly harsh, aggressive or over-competitive.  In dealing with this challenge, the idea is not to compromise your nature as a woman in trying to conform to a man’s idea of how a leader should present ‘herself’.

The challenge of the ‘Mompreneur’

The question of whether or not one has achieved a healthy state when it comes to sustaining a work/life balance is often raised, especially among mothers who work in the corporate world or who are entrepreneurs, also commonly referred to as ‘Mompreneurs’.  The ‘dual’ nature of a corporate Mom or Mompreneur’s responsibility towards both business and family often presents a unique challenge in itself.  Balancing the books on one hand and the toddler on the other is by no means an easy task but, the key to resolving this issue is to develop effective time management skills in order to create a realistic and manageable balance between family and business priorities.

Dealing with ‘old school’ values – overcoming the rules and dictates of tradition

Commonly experienced among business women in Africa, a significant challenge that is often encountered is that of overcoming the ‘rules and dictates’ of tradition, where certain ‘cultural’ values require that the ‘man or husband’ should be the breadwinner.   When a woman aspires towards entrepreneurship or taking on a leadership position within a large corporate, this is often seen as her wanting to assume the leadership role of her husband.  This challenge sometimes appears in situations where the husband or father is himself a business owner.  Male children are often shown preferential treatment towards being groomed to one day take over the role of the husband or father in business and female children are frequently overlooked.  To effectively deal with the sensitivities involving this type of challenge one needs to believe in oneself and know that, especially in this day and age, in order to succeed one need not be bound by gender-based limitations that belong to the past.

Don’t let the fear of failure hold you back – aim for an Oscar!

The fear of failure is a major concern amongst women who are otherwise well-equipped to tackle a leading role, according to Babson College’s 2012 Global Entrepreneur Monitor.  To overcome this challenge the key is to pay minor attention to this major concern –  don’t hold back – give your best performance at working hard at ignoring the persistent inner voice of doubt that tries to talk you out of aiming for that Oscar!