Irina Soriano is vice president at Seismic, the global leader in enablement. She is a TEDx and keynote speaker as well as the author of Generation Brand, a modern playbook for cultivating one’s life-brand to develop long-term career-changing skills.
Held back by the typical societal and workplace roadblocks, my insecurities that I wasn’t good enough to advance faster or be paid more grew. It kept me frozen in place for some time. But, once I decided to leave the company, I was ultimately able to start demanding the career and life I wanted. And the reward was worthwhile.
Women in the workplace still earn 82 cents per dollar that men make in 2022 (the same as in 2021), according to Payscale’s state of the gender pay gap report. However, with women looking to return to the workforce as we continue to push toward workplace equality, companies and employees don’t have the privilege of being patient.
In most workplaces, I’ve realized women have to command respect rather than demand it. So here’s how employees can create more space for impact:
- Build your confidence: Despite our inherent power, women are prone to suffering from a lack of self-confidence, dramatically impacting our career trajectory and opportunities. Next time you’re not put on the project team, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback why. Or, if a peer gets a promotion that suits you better, openly discuss the situation with your leader to understand the reasoning. If you believe you’re worth it, others will follow suit. Furthermore, you are setting an example for the next generation of women on how to manage a career.
- Define your purpose: True success comes from serving others, and serving others becomes more impactful with a purpose. Your purpose doesn’t need to be groundbreaking—it can be as simple as a passion, profession, or an interest. If you don’t think your role is fulfilling your purpose, ask team leaders or members of senior leadership how you can get more involved with tasks that allow you to stretch your skills and shine. Ask for participation in projects that put you out of your comfort zone. Be bold in asking questions and making recommendations. The more you take risks, the wider you can cast your net and expand your skill set.
- Increase your authenticity: I (and many women) have been told since my early career that I was “too ambitious,” “too intense,” “too loud,” too….everything. These comments force us into a female stereotype and lead many women to hide their true selves out of fear they won’t be liked or accepted at their company. To set an excellent example for the next generation of women, it’s imperative to be authentic in who you are and what you do. Simply checking boxes doesn’t add value to a business. We need women, and all employees, to let their true selves shine unapologetically.
Women trying to advance their careers and salaries are often eventually compelled to take supporting roles with lesser pay grades. There is a daily double standard in the workplace we’re still working to overcome to embrace our power and pursue the opportunities at our disposal.
That’s why it is critically important to command respect to advance at the same rate as your male counterparts, especially when working in male-dominated industries. Commanding respect through your attitude, actions, and behaviors is key to fighting gender parity—and, more specifically, being accepted for who you are. Your confident self may not emerge overnight, but given time and practice, she can change your career for the better.