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How to Beat the #1 Mistake Women Make at Work

Mel Robbins
April 26, 2019
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You Deserve To Be SEEN: How Women Can Come Out From Hiding at Work

This year I’ve traveled across the country and heard from thousands of women.

What have you told me? How excited you are to start your business and how nervous you are about quitting a job and starting the job search all over again. You’ve shared how you have so much to offer but feel left behind and under-valued at work.

As a woman in the workforce, I know the struggle is real. So I dove into the research and discovered something game-changing: There is only ONE strategy for women that correlates to getting paid more. One.

And that’s how visible you are.

First up: It’s time to get out of the shadows!

A few years ago, there was an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that suggested women hide their genders in order to have a better chance at landing a job.

Um, what?! 😲😲😲

Rightly so, it sparked huge fireworks. Let’s get this straight: being a woman is NOT the problem, an out-dated corporate culture is.

But many women I know are really good at making themselves disappear when it comes to the workplace. Not as in running away from work. No, women are phenomenal at getting stuff done. I’m talking about how you avoid getting recognition for all you do and what you know.

Of course, it’s not an intentional act. Years of conditioning tell us that we’re supposed to hide. Or be seen and not heard. That our job is to serve and then behave by retreating back into the shadows. Most of the time we don’t even realize we do this.

Ladies, it’s high time we cut this out. You have a voice and important things to say. You deserve to be loud and proud at work and I want to show you how.

Here’s why it’s so important.

While girls tend to outperform boys in school, the tables are reversed years after caps and gowns are put away. Women still follow the rules, yet powerful research from the non-profit leadership group Catalyst found they lag behind their male counterparts in leadership roles and compensation. Women take on extra projects, negotiate salaries in the hiring process, and seek out necessary training. Yet still the research found male participants out-salaried female fellow MBA graduates by more than $31k.

Why? The issue is likely attributed to a number of underlying and unaddressed factors that include persistent stereotypes, attribution of office housework to women, unrealistic expectations on work boundaries, and insufficient childcare support.

That’s not just bad news for women. Firms with a more diverse employee population have consistently higher rates of innovation and market share, while those with a strong showing of women in leadership roles pull in increased profit margins. So while statistically it makes sense for the corporate world to be more inclusive, it ain’t happening.

But there is good news! Because while inequity is still very real, research has nailed the factor that seems to make the most difference for women. If you want that promotion you deserve and the salary that comes with it, you need to come out from hiding.

Research finds that the #1 factor that impacts your salary and movement within a company is visibility. So it’s time to make yourself visible.

How do you do that? I’m so glad you asked.

Second strategy: Time to be a meeting maven

Every time you enter a meeting, you’ve got a chance to become the MVP (Most Visible Person).

From the way you sit (are you slouching in the corner or are you standing tall in the center?) to the way you speak (do you say your words with confidence or pose your statements as questions?), it all matters.

One of the most important things you can do in a meeting is share your ideas.

You know how you’re sitting in a meeting, and all of a sudden you have this amazing idea to share and then instead of speaking up you start thinking about it? And thinking. And that voice in your head talks you out of saying anything because it might be a silly idea and then a colleague speaks up and offers that very idea you were thinking and everyone loves him for his innovative and creative ideas and you dip your head back into your notebook.

THAT. Right there. That is the type of moment that makes or breaks your career. Those are the moments when you can speak up and make your brilliant ideas heard…or you shrink. And invisible you stay.

People only know what you’re doing based on what you say and what they hear. Research finds that women who don’t speak up are perceived as having less influence. It’s not that you don’t have great ideas; it’s that you doubt yourself before you speak them. Your next idea might be the one that changes your work culture, leads to an innovation, or increases your company’s net profits. So speak up before you think yourself out of it!

And since we’re talking ideas, how will anyone hear yours if you’re sitting way at the end of the table? Nobody puts you in a corner and it’s time to command the attention you deserve. When it comes to business meetings, find your rightful spot next to others at the same level (or higher) than you, most likely near the center of the table.

And what were you doing during that meeting? Were you head down in a notebook the entire time? Women who spend most of their meeting time taking notes tend to be viewed by others in the room as administrative help. So unless that is actually your job, keep your head up and tune in so you can process what’s being discussed and offer your input. If you want to be ready to make that genius point, stick to jotting bullet points. Fewer notes means more you.

Third up: Housework has no place at work

Office housework is the invisible, yet necessary, work that all companies need to have done…but will never put you in running for the next promotion. Organizing the company holiday party, picking up lunch for everyone, or being assigned to a hiring committee was not likely part of your job description, but research finds that women–particularly women of color–are more likely to be asked to “volunteer” for this kind of work while men only need show up.

While you do want to be seen as a team player, this kind of work is 1. Totally invisible and 2. Keeps you from the important work that gets you noticed and promoted.

What to do when you’re always being assigned Cupcake Queen for birthday parties? Plan ahead. Document all the events you’re helping with so once you notice it’s becoming a regular gig, bring it up with your supervisor. Let them know you appreciate the experience these events have given you, but now you’d like to spend time on projects that are more challenging. Having a conversation like this will not only help get you out of doing housework, it steps up your visibility and willingness to grow.

My gift to you

Here’s what I want you to know, just in case you don’t realize it already: You can do what you set your mind to; it all comes down to visibility. And that’s good news. Because no matter what role you’re in, your visibility is something that’s always in your control.

You have the power to make your life look the way you want it to, one small action at a time. And I want to help you make that happen. I’ve designed this free, exclusive video content just for you. Sign up for my free Women in Work initiative here and I’ll see you in your inbox!

And if you’re realizing there are women in your life who need to see this, please forward this article. I’m on a mission to empower as many women as I can, and you can help.

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