Breaking Career Stereotypes

Penny Herrera

The Philippines was once again ranked as one of the top 10 countries with high gender equality index based on the World Economic Forum for 2018. To add to this feat, we even climbed up two notches from last year.

The gender equality index comprises four sub-indexes:

(1) Economic Participation and Opportunity

(2) Educational Attainment

(3) Health and Survival

(4) Political Empowerment

Given these, are gender career stereotypes an issue?

Sometime last year, I read an article in that even in this day and age, women who choose a male-dominated career are still experiencing some level of discrimination.

In the same article, Jacqueline Romero, a Filipina Quantum physicist, said “There are instances when I felt that what I say is valued less than what male colleagues say, especially when I was starting out. There are also times when male colleagues are rude intentionally or unintentionally.”

Further, though the workforce participation of women in the Philippines is good according to UNESCO, there is still a need for more women in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) professional areas.

Given these challenges, what specific steps do women in the workplace need to do in order to break the existing barriers from gender career stereotypes?

Find your passion

We all know that if you know and follow your passion, everything else follows. Think of what makes you happy. Regardless of the type of career, if it makes you happy then go for it!

So many women have broken gender stereotypes in the career they have chosen such as Brooke Castillo, the first Philippine Commercial jet captain. In interviews she always says that she was never intimidated.

The key is fulfilling what your heart tells you, and most often than not you will be successful in any endeavor you choose to pursue.

We now have dozens of female pilots who were not intimidated to follow a male-dominated career.

Build your personal brand

Your personal brand differentiates you from all others. In most types of roles, whether it is male-dominated or not, there is tight competition. Hence, the need to continuously develop our skills to remain competitive.

There are 3 steps in building your personal brand, or the 3 C’s of Personal Branding:

(1) Competence – Investing in self development should always be a top priority. Be open to opportunities or assignments that are outside of your comfort zone.

(2) Consistency – Just like products wherein quality should be consistent otherwise customers will buy other brands, we should also continuously practice excellence in everything we do. Following through on our commitments is also key in building a positive personal brand.

(3) Character – Some may argue that you can actually achieve success without being true to your values. This is actually true but the key to sustaining success is upholding your integrity and consideration for the welfare of others. Without character, success may turn into notoriety.

Speak up! Be Assertive

In Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, she poses a question for all women:

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Sometimes our fear holds us back in asking for what we want – whether it is time away from our family, childcare, being judged as bossy, being discriminated on among others. For whatever reason, there are fears that hold us back from speaking up. Sometimes, we just need to replace the fear with the question above and also the mindset of “What’s the worse thing that could happen if I speak up?” Most often than not, it is less than the benefits of asking for what we want.

Be an advocate for women

There is this story of two female executives that made a pact that wherever they go, one will advocate for the other. This has paved many opportunities for both of them which helped them succeed in their careers.

One of the reasons why I was given an opportunity to write for PMAP is when one of the women members of the Leadcomm who knew that I love to write introduced me to the editor of the magazine – and the rest is history.

Once again in Sheryl Sandberg’s book she says “ It is time to cheer on girls and women who want to sit at the table, seek challenges and lean in to their careers”.

The steps to breaking career stereotypes is no different from developing your career in general and the key is to do what you love, build your brand through continuous learning, be consistent in delivering excellence, be true to your values, be an assertive communicator and help others achieve their own career aspirations.

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