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Five big reasons why it’s tough out there for women

Five challenges women face on their way to the top and 5 ways to charge right through them, as told by Dr. Sulochana Segera—the founder of Women In Management

Your superpower is inside you

The truth is, whether you are a woman or a man, the climb to the top is going to be a challenge. But, when it comes to a woman doing it, there’s a whole other level of challenges.

1. Sacrifices, not choices
In our social structure, men are presented with choices—whether he takes this new position or accepts a great new package etc. But for women, the choice is given with a sacrifice—this new position, or a healthy family life? That great new package, or the pregnancy? Take it or leave it. It comes down to this attitude that women have to sacrifice and put in extra.

2. A culture that suggests boss factor = b**ch factor
Women leaders have an unfair reputation of being brutal. So, rather than appreciating her journey, mostly she’s just being judged. Sure, there may be some tough female leaders, but it’s obvious that women being expected to be ‘delicate and submissive’ (which doesn’t tally with the idea of a leader), is why this stereotype exists, rather than the actual number of hard-boiled boss ladies out there. Basically, if she is at the top, she cannot be kind, right? Wrong.

3. The cat fight myth
It’s a myth that women are not supportive of other women reaching for the top; I find more men are unsupportive due to a lack of respect and understanding. There is an attitude among some men that women ‘should pay a price’ for getting to the top, making them hostile and unappreciative towards females at work.

4. Lack of a mature conversation on marriage roles
Too many brilliant women give up career dreams due to the lack of open, mature discussions prior to marriage about expectations. In traditionally patriarchal cultures like ours in Sri Lanka, most men find the idea of their wife being better paid or having a higher position at work, threatening. This is something that no one speaks about

5. Role models, role models, role models.

Role models really matter when you are a woman leader, because otherwise we tend to insinuate men to project authority, leadership and competency, losing our identity. Women need to see how women lead, the way only a woman would.
Your superpower is in you
But despite all this, your best is inside you. And here’s how I would sum up my top 5 ways to tap into your inner superpowers and cut past all the challenges.
Be yourself. Have role models but don’t become them.
Just because you’re a leader, don’t hold back to ask for help.Talk to someone you trust. Use your network—your partner, your mother, closest friends who know your strengths and weaknesses.
Appreciate jealousy. Because it’s just the only way some people know how to react towards your success.
Remember to be open to discuss your career and family life with your partner. Don’t leave room for the blame game or bitterness later on. Make your plan for success together.
Know that careers cannot be made overnight. When you get an opportunity, go for it wholeheartedly—there will be more, but they won’t be the same. Women can fail and it’s not the end of the world. Pick yourself up and do it right the next time.

Wear your superpower
The way we work is different to the way men work. Women are more intuitive; we are masters at using subliminal cues; and, fashion is part of that. Power dressing is something we derived for work, from this inherently female superpower. It’s not just about wearing branded or expensive things, but about what you wear becoming an extension of who you are and your values. For me personally—the positivity I find in being a woman, being unafraid to be judged, and leadership are the key supepowers I channel with what I wear to work. What are yours?