Today’s women entering the workforce have a unique challenge. Perhaps even more than any other generation before them. They must meet and exceed expectations while also managing to deliver quality work. They also must ensure that they have their best professional interests at heart, and stand strong for their worth/values in the workplace. I’ve witnessed time and time again women struggling to achieve this balance. As a business owner and woman boss myself, I am happy to share some advice to millennial women entering the job market. As I tell my team: Print and Post this to your wall!
Answer Every Email Within 24 Hours
Following up is super important. You don’t ever want others to constantly chase unanswered correspondence. This creates resentment. I suggest some sort of acknowledgment such as 'I’m on it!' or offer a specified time frame for an expected response. Don't drop the ball(s)....and learn to juggle many!
There is no way anyone can possibly remember everything so keep an organized checklist on your desk or desktop and cross out tasks only when it is all tied up. Star or circle, in red, the time-sensitive matters so you can attend to these first.
Keep a Detailed Calendar
Register events, follow up, and plan ahead! I work with a great application called Mail Butler that allows me to prepare and program emails in advance- it’s a lifesaver!
Listen carefully during team meetings and take detailed notes. Be able to then provide the recap to all. This will not only impress your boss, but also enable your teammates to be on the same page, divvy up any responsibilities, and have clear deliverables against timelines. Keep these notes in a file to refer to often, as we all need to jog our memories (at any age!). These notes will also come in handy when you are responsible to train newcomers.
"Know when it’s appropriate to raise an issue and when it’s not, and consider the fall out first especially if it involves co-workers."
Whether it’s an invitation mock-up, blast mail proof, or a landing page for new website, always provide choices! This saves time, shows that you’re thinking ahead and in a variety of ways, and your superior will greatly appreciate the effort.
Don't Show up in Wrinkled Clothes
This tells me your attention to detail is lacking. Buy an iron or a steamer, it’s a small but worthwhile investment. Appearance goes a long way, regardless of if you're on the sales floor or in the back office. I really do believe in the saying “dress for the job you want” – and a polished look will always go a long way in impressing your employers and conveying the right message.
Go Bold or Go Home
Bring strong ideas to the table, give us something we haven’t already done, or that you can do better than we can! That’s why you were hired. It’s ok to push the envelope sometimes and take risks. As long as they are calculated ones. After a couple of months working somewhere, you will get a hang of the culture and the overall vibe. You’ll know where you can push the boundaries. Creativity in this manner can pay off in a big way, so don’t be afraid to make suggestions and come to the table with unique, out of the box ideas.
All jobs and positions are creative, not just the ones in the “creative” department. Find innovative ways to deal with mundane tasks - this can make any job more fun and fulfilling. Remember you are there to get the job done - how you do it up to you. Being creative can facilitate implementation and free up time to do new things, this is especially valuable advice for junior positions.
Diffuse, Don't Ignite
Own it if you messed up and move forward. Talk to your superior, converse if there is a concern, but don't let it fester. Know when it’s appropriate to raise an issue and when it’s not, and consider the fall out first especially if it involves co-workers. This shows maturity and makes for a more comfortable work environment for all.
Be a Team Player
The hiring process is a complicated one today as many people aspire to wear many hats (at our company we wear many gloves!) and with the younger generation especially, they are not always sure what they want in a role. It is important to get to the bottom of what you really want to do within an organization. Sometimes people are hired for one task, but realize they are better suited for something else. Identifying this can bring value to the overall operation.
Nothing is Lost on the Boss
We register everything- trust me!
Two or Three Heads Can Be Better than One
Don’t hesitate to run something by a co-worker and ask for their thoughts. They may see something you missed, find a mistake, offer insight, or have an idea. Ultimately, you want to provide the best option to your superior and egos need to fall to the wayside in order for this to happen.
"Ultimately, you want to provide the best option to your superior and egos need to fall to the wayside in order for this to happen."
Have a Sense of Humor
Bring the fun to the office! It’s important in the workplace for co- workers to laugh together and enjoy coming to a pleasant environment on a daily basis. Self-deprecation can also be useful. No one likes anyone who takes themselves too seriously!
Make Your Boss's Life Easier
Don’t be too proud to offer to make a reservation, arrange travel arrangements, run an errand or call an Uber. Facilitate the busy and chaotic life of your superior, it will be most appreciated.
Avoid Being on your Phone at the Office
Do your social media activities on your own time. Step out or take an occasional coffee break, but your attention needs to be on your job at all times. Remember that social media is part of your CV these days. So if it’s public, it better be professionally appropriate!
Don't Chew Gum
There is nothing more unbecoming for me than to see an employee smacking on a piece of gum. It’s a bad habit. Try a mint instead. Fresh breath highly encouraged!
Talk to Your Parents and Grandparents
The basic rules still apply such as leading from above, going the extra mile, etc. Skills they utilized in their jobs to get ahead are surprisingly still relevant.
The Golden Rule: ASSUMPTION IS THE MOTHER OF ALL MISTAKES! I was told this once, and is ever so true...
Bon Courage/Best of Luck!
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.