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Empowering women in the workplace

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Part 1 – Conditioned to Fail

Calm down gentlemen, this is not a male bashing series or a call for women to abandon their roles at home.

Instead, it’s a call for women to begin to ditch the self-defeating behaviours that impede their careers and personal lives. It’s a wake-up call for working Caribbean women to realise their full potential and develop the confidence they need to lead top companies in the Caribbean and in the international arena.{{more}}

Work is not new to the Caribbean woman; many own and have owned businesses that support their families. however, when we look at the role women play in larger organisations, the equation changes drastically. Men occupy the majority of top business leadership positions in the Caribbean for a number of reasons.

1. For decades, women entering the workforce had been conditioned by society to enter “helping” professions like nursing or teaching. Women who chose to enter the business world occupied secretarial roles or worked as bank tellers as those were the available options.

Even as our society progresses, it’s still not common in the Caribbean to hear teachers or even parents encourage their daughters to seek out a leadership role in a top business, so young girls rarely hold these aspirations, and role models are few and far between. With no sense of direction, too many young women find themselves distracted by the opposite sex and settle without ever realising their full career potential.

2. Women face the choice of pursuing a career or starting a family. This is a choice that men do not have to make and so his entire work life could be devoted to building a career. Women on the other hand lose status whenever they pause to raise a family. Does this mean women should abandon the family to make strides at work? Of course not. A woman is not successful if her family suffers while she desperately tries to climb the corporate ladder.

However, times are changing and it’s becoming common for men to stay at home while women work outside the home as the breadwinner. It may take Caribbean men a little longer to grasp this concept, but in the meantime Caribbean women can begin to seriously build their skills so when family obligations lessen as children grow older they will be ready to assume the position they want.

3. Women who even stand a chance of attaining a leadership role often meet opposition from small-minded, insecure people (men and women), and the women themselves often hamper their own careers by unconscious behaviours that discredit them as serious professionals. Women sometimes are their own worse enemy but fail to see it as society has conditioned women to think, speak and act in ways that are detrimental if they are to survive in the business world; it’s time to step out of the box and begin the process of empowering Caribbean women as leaders in the workplace.

Over the coming weeks we will examine a few of the common problems women face and create for themselves in the workplace with their behaviour. The book “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make to Sabotage their Careers” by Louis Frankel will be our jump off point for this series. This is a must read for every working woman.

•Karen Hinds is an international author, speaker and consultant and presidentof Karen Hinds Seminars. Send comments and suggestions to [email protected]