How You Can Demolish the 4 Big Myths About Women in Business
Sponsored For women, shattering myths about their skills is all in a day’s work. We break down four of the worst myths out there — and show how hiring and promoting women can also boom your business.
Pursuing a savvy, risk-assessed career in business can be one of the most invigorating professional challenges a person can undertake. However, for the numerous women who make this leap every year, there’s an additional set of challenges — myth-busting.
We spoke with a career development professional and a chair of the board in the pharmaceutical industry about how women can smash not only barriers, but these damaging myths as well:
1. Women are bad at numbers
“I’ve seen women who work in graduate school spaces become engineers, get mathematical biology Ph.Ds, and who have an amazing ability to work with numbers,” says Katy Montgomery, global director of career development at INSEAD.
Katy remarked that women have to bust this myth on a fairly frequent basis because, as she said, “at the end of the day, the results speak for themselves. But unlike men, women aren’t getting the benefit of the doubt until they produce those results. And once they get results, they have to advocate on their behalf. The initial result sometimes isn’t enough to change minds or affect myths. It’s a burden of proof that’s on women. They have to [produce results] again and again.”
2. Women are bad at negotiating
The ability to self-advocate is one of the most indispensible gifts a woman can give herself. “I was a lawyer in a previous life,” says Katy. “In law school, we were taught how to advocate on behalf of a position, to think strategically and logically work through an argument. Those skills translated to business.”
Katy laments that some people believe that in order for women to succeed in areas of business like negotiating, they have to act softer and kinder than their male peers. “You have to be your authentic self,” she said. “There’s too much advice out there — ‘you need to play it this way, you need to play it that way’ — but people can smell when you’re not being authentic.”
The path to presenting yourself as an authentic negotiator can be paved with resilience. “By not getting into negative self-talk, I really think women can build resilience,” says Katy. “The more resilience you build — if you practice this — you’ll be able to withstand the hurdles. Resilience is one of the ways to reframe how you see yourself in the work context — saying, ‘I am good enough.’”
3. Women aren’t made to be CEOs
“Women are incredibly creative,” says Erin Gainer, chair of the board and former CEO at HRA Pharma, also an MBA alumna of INSEAD. “They’re good at problem-solving … all the traits we look for in [leaders].”
“The problem,” Erin says, “is that women lack role models and aren’t taught to have confidence in their skills. As a result, they end up coming up short when it comes to selling their concepts.” Erin’s advice is to look at what makes you unique, apart from being female:
“Find a purpose in what you do. Having an underlying mission that resonates with personal values is an incredible driver of success. It’s always important to find an angle. Get over gender bias by finding what makes you unique.”
4. Women are too emotional
Finally, many of the myths about women in business come from turning positives into negatives, and this is one of them.
“There’s this idea that women have a tendency to be more emotional,” Erin says, “but I think allowing more emotion into the workplace can be positive, leading to more personal connections and a more nurturing workplace.”
For young, aspiring women, it will be critical to know that they don’t have to “be like men” to succeed. Many of the traits that have been seen as “too feminine” for business may be exactly the change we need for the future.