Skills development showdown: Women vs men

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In the past, the business world has often been described as a "man?s world? and many
believe that this is still the case. But are women using this as a scapegoat to cover
up for their own lack of ambition or fear of success?


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Is the fear of failure holding women back from advancing in their careers?
"The advancement of women in South Africa is no longer an option, it is an
urgent requirement." - Kunyalala Maphisa, president Businesswomen's Association of
South Africa.
Gizelle McIntyre, director of The Institute of People Development, feels that more
often than not women themselves actually put up barriers to their own success
(whether as a result of their fear of failure or a lack of self-confidence) rather than
their lack of advancement being as a result of male bias. McIntyre suggests that
women should take action in their own lives to advance their careers, and offers
some advice as to how to do so.
Firstly, if women want to be seen as strong, and want to compete as strong
career women, then they need to act strong. One of the biggest drawbacks of
employing a woman is that she often uses her children as an excuse. "A woman who
is stuck in a meeting that is going nowhere will say that she needs to leave due to
having to go and fetch her children. A man stuck in the same meeting will simply say
that he does not feel that the meeting is going anywhere and that it is time to call it
a day - men have harnessed the ability to say no, women need to learn to do this
rather than making excuses,' says McIntyre. "Although the perception is that men
are not as worried about their children as women are, this is not the case - men just
don?t use them as an excuse.'
Secondly, women should avoid trying to be men in order to get into a higher
position at work. "Women?s liberty struggles hinged on burning bras and acting less
ladylike, but the world does not need more women who act like men, it needs
diversity. Through our differences, better solutions can be garnered in the workplace.
So rather than "becoming one of the boys?, be a lady; you?ll receive a lot more
respect from both sexes by doing so,' adds McIntyre. "Women need to have the
confidence to use their skills and the self-confidence not to have to change who
they are to achieve success.'
Thirdly, women need to learn to treat each other with respect in the workplace.
Unfortunately, the trend leans more towards women making derogatory comments
about other women who are in more senior positions, than men making these
comments. Although it may take a little longer for a woman to prove her clout to a
board of men, once she has, they generally accept her and respect her for it
(especially if that board of men is made up of gentlemen under the age of 35).
According to McIntyre, "As women we need to learn to stand together and respect
each other if that is how we want the opposite sex to treat us too.'

The most important piece of advice that McIntyre has to offer is that women need
to recognise the power of skills development. Many companies favour men for
technical skills training when sending staff for skills development, while women are
more often sent for training in softer skills. Although all forms of training are
beneficial, women need to learn to ask for what they want."Get everything together
yourself and do the work for the manager. Show them how the particular training
links with the goals of the company.' If all else fails, do it yourself; "Don?t make
subtle remarks about wishing to go for training. Find out what you want to do and do
it yourself.'
There are certain skills which women are naturally better at than men, although
these may still require the honing of skills development in order to be useful in the
workplace. "For example, women make better win-win negotiators, because we have
an affinity towards the people we are negotiating with, we are better listeners and
we don?t naturally have the need to win at someone else?s expense. We also have
the ability to be non-threatening, for example, in a disciplinary process, which can
work favourably for the business.'
McIntyre?s final words of advice for any woman that is trying to advance her
career are simple; "Make sure that you have good skills, including technical skills. Do
every course or training programme that you can possibly do to improve yourself.
Make yourself visible with how much you are willing to learn. Do not assume someone
knows you know something, tell them and show them that you can do it. Remember
that the only person that is going to be good to your career is you. Find yourself a
mentor to bounce things off of, we are talkers, we are good at that, and lastly, be
aware of the reality of the opportunities around you; if it?s too good to be true it?s
too good to be true.'
Issued by Trinitas Consulting

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