In celebration of International Women’s Day on 8 March, we look at how women can increase their employability quotient by improving some soft skills that are in demand in today’s workforce.
Firstly, knowing where the career gaps are and where you can stand out gives you an added advantage. The widest gap between women in leadership vs. women in the entire employee base is the widest in the Healthcare and Corporate Services sectors. The Technology and Manufacturing sectors have a low representation in women, overall. Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In states that of 197 heads of state, only 22 are women. Of the top 500 companies by revenues, only 21 are headed by women.” The balance has to be evened out.
But aside from identifying less competitive fields to go into so that you can shine brighter, upgrading your soft skills, otherwise known as interpersonal skills, can help give you an edge above those that don’t upgrade.
Here are a few soft skills you should look at upgrading for your next CV update.
Time management skills
Technology has increased our pace of life. Everything is now on demand anytime, anywhere, so it has become critical for us to know how to prioritise our time to ensure that we can be relied upon at work and at home.
Your ability to communicate is perhaps never more critical than when it comes to advancing your career. This is where great negotiation skills can come into play as you justify your application for a promotion. Statistically it is shown that women tend to be less open to negotiate for a higher salary or ask for a promotion even when they know they deserve it or they are the better candidate. So upgrading your negotiation skills can put you in a stronger position to position yourself for the next career opportunity when it arises.
For ultimate success, ensure that everyone has an equal workload or is assigned only the work they can reasonably manage. Be open with praise to recognise a job well done and also be open to ideas from others. If there is a lack of gender diversity in your company, the following statistics may help you negotiate (with your new-found negotiation skills) to turn that around. According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, if a group includes more women, its collective intelligence rises. The study goes on to reveal that, while “the standard argument is that diversity is good and you should have both men and women in a group. So far, the data show, the more women, the better.” Being able to work well in a team is critical in today’s collaborative work environment. So, make sure that everyone is clear on their roles and responsibilities, don’t assume.
Although there is a perception that men are more creative than women, it’s really down to the individual. However, the good news is that everyone can increase their creativity. Making sure you get enough sleep is one easy way to open yourself up to being more creative. Hang around with creative people as it can be catching! Take regular breaks and make your work environment as inspiring as you have the power to, whether it’s decoration of your work environment, better lighting, a window view, good music or pleasing scents, surround yourself with what works for you.
No one likes to work with people who whinge and moan all day long. Prioritise yourself so that you stay happy, then learn to spread that happiness through laughter and a positive attitude. It’s a much nicer way to work. Remember that glass can be half full as well as half empty.
This skill is especially important as you work your way up the ladder. People who are adaptable make strong, tactful leaders and it is generally being accepted today that women tend to make more effective leaders than men do. A study in the Harvard Business Review, Women vs. Men in Leadership, revealed that at all levels, women are rated higher in fully 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership. And two of the traits where women outscored men to the highest degree — taking initiative and driving for results — have long been thought of as particularly male strengths. So hone those instinctive leadership skills by being adaptable. Welcome change.
Be an effective listener. They say you have one mouth and two ears for a reason! Showing that you are listening to your colleagues improves relationships and makes challenges easier to solve because you are receptive to other ideas. Let people finish when they are speaking rather than interrupting them. They often have good things to contribute. Moreover, studies have shown that women are better listeners than men and this can become a competitive advantage.