Business is filled with inconvenient, uncomfortable realities. One such truth for women is this: to be truly successful, you need to be better. The natural implication of that statement is that we have to outperform men. While that’s my point, I’m not seeking to engage in a confrontational us-versus-them debate. I’m not pointing fingers or wringing helpless hands.
With that out of the way, let’s explore two ways of looking at this reality. Simply put:
1. Don’t think about gender disparity. Buck up, and get over it.
2. Gender disparity exists in the workforce and it’s undeniable. You’ll never be judged the same as the boys.
Acclaimed real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran falls into the first camp. She put it like this: “Forget the fact that you're a woman and out-hustle everyone else. Being an entrepreneur is all about hustling harder and persevering longer than the next guy. Whether you're a girl or a guy makes no difference,” she said.
Nina DiSesa, chairman and chief creative officer of McCann New York, has a different take: “As long as men and women are different, as long as we are battling one another for the top jobs, there will always be a double standard. Everything men and women do will be judged differently…We must always work smarter, think better, manage more humanely, and be more patient than our male counterparts. This is the price we pay for joining their club.”
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These perspectives are interesting, but there’s more to the story, especially for women. To achieve and be valued on your terms (a recurrent challenge for women), you must be in an environment that recognizes your skills and your high standards of achievement.
The Chinese philosopher general Sun Tzu provides a lot of direction that modern women can use to advance our careers. Sun Tzu’s battlefield genius has been influencing (mostly male) business readers for many years. He emphasized the importance of being in a location where the army can succeed when he said, “One who occupies the field of battle first and awaits the enemy is at ease.”
For women, this means advantages, even “feminine attributes” you may have, such as collaboration, intuition, sensitivity to your surroundings, independence and more, must be allowed to shine in your organization. If they’re not, you’re missing out. The organization is too, but that’s their problem.
You must keep focused on what you want and arrive there before your competitors, be they rival companies or rivals on your way to the top. To overcome the obstacles you’ll face along the way, you’ll need to be better—much better. That’s simply what it will take. Are you up to the challenge?
* This article is adapted from Sun Tzu for Women: The Art of War for Winning in Business. Becky Sheetz-Runkle is the author of Sun Tzu for Women: The Art of War for Winning in Business: www.suntzuforwomen.com. She writes and speaks about issues relevant to women in business and Sun Tzu. She holds the rank of Grand Master in Jujitsu.