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what can I expect as a woman in business?

As a woman approaching the world of business, I am constantly being exposed to certain issues that women face in the working world. Thus, it is understandable that I am very intrigued about what I can expect in the working world.

Women in the industry

I spoke to a former female employee of a large and successful cosmetic brand, Clinique, to get an insight on how the environment was when she worked there, 30 years ago. My aim was simply to understand her position as a young female employee in times when seeing women in managing positions was relatively uncommon and asked her for any advice that she may have.

The career of this former employee began when, at the age of 24 year-old, she interviewed for the position of assistant to the general manager, who was a man. She mentioned that it was her way in, and that this job was not uncommon for a female, in that time, even stating that she “rarely saw men in assisting positions”. The motivation behind her choice was that once she was in the company, then she could climb the ladder by proving her passions and hard work. With this motivation, she was offered a job within less than a year as the head of sales promotions. She stated that it was as though she needed to prove herself since she felt people might underestimate her due to the combination of her young age and gender. She was continuously studying things she encountered each day and that she did not fully understand, also attending evening courses to enrich her knowledge of economics. With this mindset, she kept earning the trust and respect of her colleagues and superiors, which led to another job promotion after a couple of years - head of sales. In this new position, she was required to hold meetings and negotiate with external parties. She was “always motivated and inspired to keep learning and working extra hard”, and was even offered another job promotion as head of marketing and sales by the age of 30. Although she experienced this success at such a young age, she still felt that “it would have been easier if [she] had been a young man in the same situation, as [she] still felt that [she] had to prove [her]self constantly.”

A final note

On this last note, I wish to conclude with some advice that she gave to me to be successful despite hardships that may be encountered. Although she worked 30 years ago and times have changed for the better, her advice still remains relevant.

Her tips:

  1. When you join a team, be brutally honest with yourself. Analyse who you are within that team. Look at your strengths, your weaknesses and what you bring into it. Do not try to blend in, work your unique characteristics and knowledge.

  2. You will have to deal with a lot of different people. There may even be people that try to go behind your back, for their professional gain. Don't waste your energy on those people, stay professional, on-task and be prepared.

  3. Be honest, transparent and non-biased. Unfortunately, some people have a misconception that warmth, kindness or any informal behaviour, comes across as unprofessional, especially in women. In her experience, this is completely wrong; she felt that the more relaxed and transparent her interactions were - while still being prepared - the more productive, creative and comfortable were her relations.

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