The political drama, “House of Cards”, has caught the attention of many. In part this is due to the programme’s intricate plot and for revealing the darker side of US politics but also down to the stellar acting. It is not just Kevin Spacey’s acting that has got us gripped, but Robin Wright’s character Claire Underwood has attracted the most interest in regards to the strength of character she portrays: an attractive, confident, calculating, ambitious and ruthless woman.
The programme proves how important strong women are in the workplace and many will argue Kevin Spacey’s character would not to where he is – without her.
Despite her character’s popularity, the actress Robin Wright has recently revealed that she had to fight for equal pay, which is unfortunately a position that many women find themselves in.
Women make up almost half of the UK’s workforce, yet are paid 19.2% less than their male counterparts. Many want to take an opportunity to progress or negotiate a pay increase; but don’t know how to go about it. Sometimes, the perception can be that women need to act more like a man to get ahead, but that is not the case.
 Office for National Statistics, February 2016
Men tend to take more risks, whereas women are perhaps, more cautious. It is often the quiet voice inside that sometimes tells us that we are not good enough or not capable and that voice needs to be silenced. Women need to develop the courage to take a chance on that promotion or that opportunity without being afraid of failure.
So, where does that courage stem from? There is one simple answer. Confidence. That elusive thing that we all want more of. However, this should not be underestimated. In fact, proactively building your self-confidence is probably one of the most important things you can do in a lifetime. Courage and confidence will become the main ingredients for success in achieving new goals.
Women have incredible natural skills that we can utilise to thrive in the workplace. Firstly, we are professional networkers. Not only that, but our genuine, social nature enables us to create and sustain fantastic business relationships. We are true masters in joining up people, resources and relationships. We remember small personal details that might not seem important to someone else, but they are important to the person you are talking to and can help engage someone immediately. Sometimes these skills can be glossed over because perhaps they are perceived as less important – but they are not. They are actually very important.
Here are my practical tips to help women develop their confidence:
- Believe in the value of your natural skills to help you win overall.
Believe in the often-overlooked skills you possess and highlight the value of these to your employer.
Women tend to be:
- Socially conscious
- Great listeners
- Excellent networkers
- Natural givers
- Collaborators – sharing insight and welcoming feedback.
- Put your hand up
Put your hand up and start being braver to give something a go. Be ambitious and embrace new opportunities as they present themselves, whether this is working on a new project or taking on the responsibility of organising an office event. Putting your hand up enables more women to get ahead, allowing you to demonstrate your enthusiasm and capabilities and let your employer see them in action. Take the first step and the rest will follow.
- Recognise your potential
If you want to negotiate a pay increase, you need to have a clear and confident approach when addressing why you deserve the additional income based on your performance. Focus on highlighting the key skills that you bring to your role. This is your opportunity to positively express how the business can benefit from your valued skillset.
- Identify your best skills
You can’t be good at everything, so instead focus on your best skills and ensure they are elements that help you to thrive at work. Practise doing the things you are unsure about and they will improve over time, for example, pitching and public speaking. When it comes to negotiating a promotion or pay rise, lead with these skills. You will naturally have more confidence in discussing the areas that you know you are good at and those you have repeatedly practised.
As a closing thought, if you look at all these skills, why aren’t there more women leaders or CEOs? Without doubt, women are making their mark on the business landscape but we need to work together to say goodbye to the gender gap.
With a little courage and a lot of coffee, we can all get ahead.