3 Common Workplace Challenges Women Face When Climbing the Corporate Ladder

Successfully navigating 3 common workplace challenges women face when climbing the corporate ladder delivers workplace success. Everyone faces challenges at work, but for women the challenges may be different. Oftentimes women may not speak up in meetings with their ideas. Sometimes others in the room coopt a woman’s idea as their own and take credit for it. Understanding the importance of everyone’s input creates an atmosphere of collaboration not competition. Women may feel that they need to recover their voice in order to succeed. And women often struggle with the fact that women want to be nice and don’t assert ourselves so challenges when climbing the corporate ladder present obstacles to success. Our mothers often taught us to defer and deflect rather than take credit for our contribution. These three strategies will help you face these common workplace challenges and navigate the corporate environment. 

It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”

  1. Finding your voice

Corporate cultures often suppress women’s voices. As a result women may leave their true passions unspoken. Bringing your whole self to work helps you find your voice. Because women may not know their own voice, they fear speaking out at work.

Speaking up and asking for what you want takes courage, and it usually pays off. Many women don’t speak up and ask for the promotion or plum assignment because they fear rejection or don’t show the requisite self-confidence in their skills. Getting the job requires you to understand the situation and prepare to succeed.  Finding your voice is the first step towards getting and keeping a seat at the table.


These Four tips will help you find your voice:

  • Be prepared and know what you want to accomplish.  Prepare with reasons why you are right for the assignment or project.  Ask for the promotion or assignment from a place of preparedness.
  • Increase your self-confidence. Take a self-assessment and understand the value you bring to the table. Find a mentor who can help you determine your worth and articulate how those benefits relate to what you are asking for. “Believe in yourself. If you don’t know what value you bring to the table, no one else will.”
  • Make contributions with purpose and an understanding of what’s needed to succeed.
  • Come to the table with an opinion or option that you can back up with data and show that you did your homework.

Make your voice Heard

  1.     Being Heard

Once you have found your voice it may feel difficult to be heard. Research has shown that men are more confident while women are more competent. Speaking with self-confidence helps ensure others hear you. These 6 tips from Shelley Zalis, at Forbes will help you be heard:

  • Give credit where credit is due. Women in the Obama administration used a technique they called amplification. They recognized each other openly for their achievements, accomplishments, and ideas. When a colleague has a good idea, compliment her on it to discourage men from taking credit for her idea.
  • Open the floor to another woman. After making your point, direct your attention to a female coworker and ask her if she has any additional thoughts. Women are often unable to break into the conversation as men dominate the floor. This strategic approach increases the chance that others hear you.
  • Practice speaking up whenever you can. Even when it is a small internal meeting, use that opportunity to practice your skills. The more often you speak up the easier it becomes enabling others to hear you.
  • Start with a positive, not a negative. Review your unconscious speaking habits and be sure to use forceful or powerful language. When we worry about what others will think, we may speak hesitantly of downplay our own ideas or input.
  • Be mindful of your tone. Practice a strong tone of voice. Avoid raising your voice at the end of a sentence, which can indicate a question. Speak with a steady even tone. Practice with a trusted friend or record yourself to identify any unconscious habits or tone of voice issues.
  • Stand on your own two feet. Stand up for yourself. Mentors and colleagues are great, but it is critical that you are accountable for your own ideas, work, and input.

Four Strategies Using Resilience to Recover Your Voice

  1.     Recovering Your Voice

Resilience helps you find your voice. Because it acts like a muscle, the more resilient you become the stronger it grows. Life always deals out setbacks and challenges. Self-control and resilience delivers greater strength for finding and expressing your voice.

Resilience exemplifies the capacity to get back up, brush yourself off, and jump back in. These three tips help you recognize, develop, and maintain a resilient life force.

  • It isn’t personal. Keep reminding yourself that the only person you can control is you. Check out your feelings and remind yourself that it isn’t all about you. Most people come into a situation with their own motives and filters. Distancing yourself allows you to see the situation more clearly without the emotions. 
  • Be aware of your filters. Each person views the world through a set of filters that includes their sex, family background, and basic personality traits. As a result your filters mix with life situations and these factors color the way we react and view situations. Consequently, self-awareness underpins resilience.
  • Taking a strategic approach to situations means that you step back and review the issues without emotion. Consequently, you can then make a clear decision about how you want to respond. You decide how you want others to view you. As a result you better understand your situation and the filters that color your perspective on these common workplace challenges.
  • This probably feels unnatural at first, but with practice your resilient approach grows stronger. Resilience takes practice and work to develop and maintain. In the light of setbacks review what happened and assess your part in the situation. Ask yourself, “What could I have done differently to foster a different outcome?” Be objective, try to remove your emotions, and then make a decision to try a different approach the next time. Use your emotions as a way to gage the situation and make a decision about how you want to respond.

Most of all value yourself. Self-love fosters finding your voice, being heard, and developing resilience. As a result, self care says, “I value myself and my well-being.” And remember no one is responsible for you, but you. Especially, list three things you want to say or want others to hear. And list ways you can be more resilient and less reactive.

“Women are still in emotional bondage as long as we need to worry that we might have to make a choice between being heard and being loved.” Marianne Williamson

Understanding these three common workplace challenges women face while climbing the corporate ladder gives you great insight into why you may feel stuck. It highlights the areas you can focus on to grow in your career. If you work these three strategies and still find it frustrating or challenging, coaching can help. Please reach out, if I can help you find your best path forward.

Pat Magerkurth is a life/business coach who studied women in the workplace. Her extensive experience developing resilience and speaking out can help you find your voice and be heard. Contact her at pat@inviaconsulting.com for a free consultation.

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