Tips For Women in the Workplace
When I first entered Corporate America I was so excited. I walked into the office with a bright smile and ambitious spirit. However, after a few months of management speaking over me and colleagues asking “how my hair grew so long,” (t’s called a sew-in). I knew I had to change my approach. Day by day I learned more about how to carry myself while being the youngest African American woman in the office.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Shantera Chatman, an author, entrepreneur, and Executive Director of the Chatman’s Women’s Foundation. Shantera started her career at 23 in aerospace, an industry ran primarily by older white men. During this time she had her tires slashed and was called the “N word.” Still, she used this time to educate uniformed co-workers on how to treat her. “Some people gravitated to it; some did not,” she says. Today she uses her experiences to help women succeed professionally and personally. I knew she’d be a great person to discuss ways my peers and I can prosper in Corporate America.
What advice do you have for people who feel stuck in their career or struggle to advance?
I’d say first make sure it’s a field you see yourself staying and thriving in. Then, stay educated. Don’t be limited to a company’s knowledge; keep yourself marketable. If a company is constantly not giving you your due, you need to know your value.
Also, use your voice. Be comfortable expressing to the powers that be that you want more, and want to move forward. If you’re expecting people to just see your success, it may not work. You have to educate them on your plan.
I’ve met a few people who find it difficult to speak up in the workplace. What do you suggest to combat that?
Try to overcome it, at least when its time for promotions or raises. When you go into a meeting and the boss is talking about what they’re going to give you, and you don’t say anything, they’ll just give you what they think is your value. Don’t allow anyone to put a price tag on you. For someone who really doesn’t feel comfortable, plan to at least speak up during the annual review, or have it in writing.
How important is it to socialize with co-workers?
I think it’s really important. I haven’t been in a situation where I didn’t need some type of positive working relationship. I personally don’t attend all of the happy hours or laser-tag outings, so I work to build those relationships. My career requires me to go meet clients. I’m not trying to be a girlfriends, but I do want people to be comfortable calling me back. Once you have that general relationship, decide how much of yourself you want to show them.
What are a few overall general tips to be successful in a corporate environment?
Understand the stereotypes with being a woman and avoid them: I’m not just talking about being emotional, but also nurturing can work against us. I love to cook and I remember one situation where everyone expected me to bring the food, and were requesting birthday cakes. Be careful with that kind of stuff. You don’t want to get into a role where you’re thought of as everyone’s mama, unless you truly don’t mind it.
Know what you’re saying before you open your mouth: Does you look show what you’re saying? Body language, attire, and communication speak way before you open your mouth. Be intentional.
Understand what you bring to the table: Be ready to discuss yourself. Men don’t have a problem saying how great they are. It’s not arrogant. It’s showing what you’ve earned. Understand your value and worth. Use your voice to share and tell what you have to say.
Shantera was working in Corporate America and volunteering at a women’s shelter when the ladies asked her to put together an event that their friends could attend as well. After a woman from the shelterer told her she was leaving because she had found a job thanks to her women’s empowerment conference she put together, Shantera knew it was something special. Ten years later that has turned into an annual conference and business.
Her story reminded me that there are many successful women who look like me, have worked hard for their spot, and are paving a way for the rest of us. I hope it did the same for ya’ll.
For press and media inquires reach Shantera at:email@example.com
Happy Women’s History Month
Written by: Kirby Carroll Wright