Despite high-profile executives like Sheryl Sandberg and General Motors CEO Mary Barra proving women can lead just as well as men, many young women are still being overlooked in the workplace. According to a 2011 article in the Harvard Business Review, many women do not speak up or feel confident at work, leading them to be passed over for potential promotions and raises.
Kathryn Heath, one of the article’s authors and managing partner at the consulting firm Flynn Heath Holt Leadership, says this insecurity could stem from a lack of female lack of female colleagues or bosses.
“If you are the only woman in the room, it is hard to be confident,” she says.
Michele Gelfand, psychology professor at the University of Maryland, suggests the discomfort women feel when negotiating for higher salaries and promotions in their careers occurs because they are trained to be nonconfrontational. It’s not enough for women to simply be good at their job, she says – standing up for themselves is also key to becoming the boss.
“Even if you are working hard and doing well, you really need to be stepping up to the plate and asking for things,” Gelfand says.
Here are eight pieces of career advice for young women who want to beat the boys and become the boss:
Promote yourself. Although self-promotion is a key step for women who want to get noticed in the workplace, many of them feel uncomfortable speaking out about their accomplishments.
“[In] their early life, girls have been rewarded for following the rules and not speaking out,” says Jane Finette, founder and executive coach at The Coaching Fellowship, a coaching center for young women leaders. “It’s just not something girls have been trained to do.”
Working hard at your job isn’t enough to get noticed, says Peggy Klaus, author of “Brag!: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It.” Young women should take initiative and tell their colleagues and bosses about tasks they’re working on, upcoming projects, obstacles they have overcome and their overall value in the organization, she says.
”You really do need to let your boss, your boss’s boss [and] your colleagues know what it is that you are doing,” Klaus says.
Write down your achievements. To help young women remember all those accolades in their careers, Jenn DeWall, a Denver-based certified career coach, recommends keeping a running list of successes. She says this document will help you remember your accomplishments when it’s time to advocate for a promotion or apply to jobs.
”We typically have so much going on,” DeWall says. “… we sometimes forget to validate our accomplishments and achievements.”
Even if you have not been in the workforce for long, the list will help remind you of your value to employers. “Do not just think that because you are young in years that you do not have things to offer,” Klaus says.
Ask for more. Negotiating is one of the most challenging tasks for young women professionals. Men negotiate more often than women and feel more comfortable doing it, according to Gelfrand’s research. This poses a major problem for women, she says, given that negotiating is key to advancing in your career.
“Even if you are working hard and doing well, you really need to be stepping up to the plate and asking for things,” she says.
To become more comfortable with negotiating, Gelfand suggests women find out what is negotiable in their workplace and proactively ask for more. “I would definitely recommend women take this skill as seriously as they do finance or accounting, because this is really going to help the bottom line of their salary and of their advancement,” she adds.