By Sarah Pinch, Managing Director of Pinch Point Communications
I have encountered some fantastic advice during my years in business. From working in the BBC to the NHS and all of my ventures in between, especially now running my own agency, I’ve been lucky to accumulate fantastic mentors and advisors. Most of the advice you receive as you move through your career is invaluable. As many of us will find, however, there will also be times when you’ll be given advice which just doesn’t quite add up.
Here are some pieces of advice which I suggest that women should not follow, during their battles in the boardroom and beyond:
· Don’t be too pushy
Pushy is one of those words, a bit like bossy, which is often assigned to women and yet is very rarely used when it comes to our male counterparts. It’s a dangerous terminology and this kind of label is the sort which often holds back powerful women and makes them think twice about their behaviour. My advice – don’t. Nine times of a ten, a pushy woman’s behaviour is identical to that of a strong, driven man. Ignore the advice to keep quiet and own your ambition, setting straight any other perceptions along the way.
· Oh no, we don’t do it like that around here
If you have come up with a new – and better – way to get things done, don’t hold back based on the naysayers who would rather hold fast to ‘the way things are done’ rather than consider the benefits of a new system. If you’ve got a good idea, have faith in it and push it forward at every chance you get, proving its merit in every way you can to show that you can improve the process and still get the same, or possibly even a better, outcome. Don’t allow other people’s fear or complacency to hold you back.
· You are far too young to apply for that job
Nonsense! This gets said far too much – and thought even more! If you meet the criteria for a job and can write a very strong application to do it, then there is nothing to hold you back. Age is entirely meaningless in business; it’s about aptitude, so be confident in yourself. Ageism, like sexism, is illegal in the workplace anyway.
· Forget your femininity and man up
This usually manifests itself in the following ways, in my experience: being told to wear glasses more often to look more serious, lower your voice to speak in a deeper tone like our male colleagues, wear trousers and flat shoes and wear less make up. This is all ridiculous and just goes to show that some people still find it hard to accept that women, with all our feminine wiles (!), can actually be good at business. Wear what you are comfortable with; Hillary Clinton has just realised that being proud of her femininity might just get her into the White House!
· Don’t have children… or… have children
This advice is not only entirely unethical and completely out of order, but it is also illegal. Working in an environment where others pry into your private life and personal decisions and try to sway them is not only unacceptable, but it can also have a very negative impact on your own progression and confidence. If you have been given this kind of ‘friendly’ advice, I strongly suggest, you consider your options immediately in terms of leaving the job altogether.
· Don’t ask for a pay raise, wait to be recognised
This is really poor advice. In a competitive environment, or even a less competitive one, it’s important that you are recognised for your talents and contributions. If you feel underappreciated, you will get less satisfaction from your work and your performance is likely to suffer as a result; so don’t let it get that far. Don’t be afraid to flag up your successes and be proud of your achievements, complete with evidence, and ask for a review.