Taking the clique to the top

Woman among menAround the world, there are talks about women empowerment and how women are taking over critical roles, making a visible difference at their workplace. It does not take a rocket scientist to know that women have many battles to fight to get to the place they finally reach.

Notwithstanding the field of work, one of the most critical challenges women face today is that of ‘belonging’ to the ‘right’ groups. How much time one spends during non-work hours and with whom, might be about as critical as to how much time one spends at work. So, how does one decide how to network with the right people and eventually, how to choose a clique? Some try and fit into the ‘guys’ cliques’ – some may take to smoking to join the guys and catch up on the gossip during the smoke breaks, while some take to drinking to get into the circles that hang out in the evenings post work and find a way of getting through to the influencers. It is a known fact that smoking and drinking are both detrimental to health and adversely impact a woman’s child-bearing capacity. Irrespective, some of us choose this path.

Then there are some who join the ‘women’s’ cliques’. They fall into the circle of women who hang around with the women even during office gatherings, insist in engaging in girly talk even when there are men around. No judging either of these categories but none of these are really geared towards reaching the top.

There is also another category, though. It is that of the ‘non cliques’. Almost as if by resolution, some of us cite our personal circumstances as reasons (and there might be some really genuine cases too), to avoid belonging to any cliques. We would conveniently avoid any gatherings and find creative ways to say ‘No, I can’t make it’. Needless to say, getting to the top is a distant possibility for those of us who belong to this group.

There is hope. There is a fourth type. Women in this category do not feel the need to belong to an existing clique. They create a need around them for a group of people to want to belong to them and for what they stand for. Usually, they attract a group that is cross-gender and diverse. They stand up for a vision, for their values and their beliefs. They garner support towards their vision and draw like-minded people who are looking to belong to some clique. It takes a strong woman to stand apart from the cliques, to choose to not fall into the trap of ‘choose from what you see’ and to create her own clique. It takes someone with a solid self-belief to be invited as a ‘guest’ to existing groups and yet not feel compelled to follow existing clique norms and practices. It requires thoughtfulness and diplomacy to deal with temptations. Is your clique taking you to the top, yet?

This post is a reproduction of my weekly column  written for The Goan (http://thegoan.net).

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Stop stressing and start adapting

Stress - business person stressed at office. Business woman holdA woman is key to the culture of a house and its level of happiness. Many times, owing to the transitions we women go through, we might feel unsettled but still choose to continue life in a limbo, without making a conscious effort to adapt to the change and reinvent ourselves appropriately.

Let’s say we move to another city. How much time do we spend in consciously planning how to settle in to the culture, how to get to know the life of the locals and most of all, how to really settle in. We tend to believe we are now in a foreign land, complain about how things are different and then expect for a magic fairy (usually the man in our lives) to make us happy in the new land. The same applies to other key transitions; say motherhood. While we do read books on pregnancy and are all geared up to have a baby, how many of us consider getting coached or counselled by maternity coaches or become part of support groups for new mothers? How many of us wallow in self-pity?

The same applies to working women and how we sometimes fail to reinvent ourselves to suit our changed roles as we move up the ladder. How many of us purposefully think about a promotion as an opportunity to rethink the way we dress or how we conduct ourselves? Suddenly, we find ourselves amidst a different audience, are required to manage teams, etc. All this requires is some proactive thinking and planning on our part. While the organisation would send us for training programs, most certainly getting one-on-one guidance by hiring an executive coach would yield far better results.

The point being that one of the things we as women often fail to do is to reach out to others for help. Even if it is garnering sponsorship or mentorship, we wait for someone to assign a person to us. Nothing stops us from identifying a suitable person we feel most comfortable with and requesting them to handhold us through a transition. Sheryl Sandberg, in her book, ‘Lean In’, talks about how women tend to hold themselves back and in the process, give up critical opportunities to their male counterparts. On deeper thinking, we would find that this happens not just at work but in everyday life. All we need to do is acknowledge the upcoming change and seek active support to cope with it. Smart women do!

This post is a reproduction of my weekly column  written for The Goan (http://thegoan.net).