How to make successful career transitions ? PART II

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This is PART II of two blog series on career transition. You can read about why people want to change career tracks in PART I of this series. You have one life and if you are not happy in your current role or have clear preference or another career, it is worth to try for a career switch.

” In the end we only regret the chances we did not take” – Lewis Carroll

Here are some “dos” as when you are have decided to change your career and are preparing and planning to make the transition.

Research . Get to hear from people in your desired shoes.

Talk to people in your target profile. Learn about their experiences in their career. Ask specifically about challenges they have faced and what they don’t like in their job or what they would like to change. Research current profiles and their core competencies in your target roles on LinkedIn.

Try to gain a first hand experience of your target function

If it is consulting that your heart is after, try to do one project or at least be part of it if not in active role. There is nothing like experiencing it yourself and you must try for it if possible. Most likely the first brush with the job should have generated your interest towards it but if you are planning to switch job functions based on popular perceptions about it, please make sure to test the waters first.

Look for lateral transitions in your current company

This is the safest route. For example if somebody want to move from profit & Loss core function to a support function such as marketing or Human Resources, it would be good to try to do that within your existing organization, if possible.  The risk is low and you won’t be new to everything. Industry and company remains same. Your existing network and past performance can also help you in transitioning to new role.

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Make the transition multi step , one at a time

Any job would have at least 3 components.  Try to change one thing at a time. Carry forward some common skill sets and experience which would be relevant to new role.

  1. Your Job function – Revenue generating or Non revenue generating support function. Example Marketing department.
  2. Your core competency/capability or specialization. Example in Marketing , your specialization could be digital marketing.
  3. Your Industry – The industry your company belongs to. Example IT industry.

Here if you try to change all 3 parts in one go, transition could be difficult. Plan for a multi layered transition where you can carry forward your past work experiences.

Higher education – Post graduate Programs , MBA, MS or Doctoral programs

Professional Education is one way of bridging knowledge gaps, acquiring new networks and credentials which are helpful in opening the doors. Now there are 1 Year MBA programs designed for experienced professionals. In India , PGPX from IIM A is known for helping experienced professional in switching careers. If you want to switch to teaching a doctoral program equips you for that. Professional certifications are also helpful in bridging the knowledge gaps.

Some tips on how to make career transition successful once you are in  your desired role:

” We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” Carlos Castenada

  1. Don’t give up too soon. All changes are tough in the beginning. 

mm_dontgiveupInitial months in new role are going to be hard. You would need to work harder to learn ropes of your new role and establish yourself in the organization. First 6 months, be prepared to toil and give your 200 %. The first project or assignment would teach you more than any of many more your would do.  Treat the first opportunity as a test to prove and establish yourself in the new role. Aim to not only meet expectations but exceed them. Trick is to do more than expected and pleasantly surprise your stakeholders. Believe me, the extra hard work put in during initial crucial period would give you rewards in long-term. Perseverance is the key.

2. Adapt to new role, culture and people.

Don’t just focus on getting the work done. Every Industry or company has unique characteristics and a unique culture. You need to not only adapt yourself to the new role  & its responsibilities but also to the new organization and its way of life. You need to assimilate into the new company/Industry’s culture and become one with its people, processes and the way things work. Work relationships, networking and managing stakeholders expectations are critical to success in any role and you should start working on these from day 1. You get only one chance to make the right first impression. Don’t lose that chance.

3. Reflect. Realize . Reverse the decision

Not all changes are successful. If possible, keep the lines open in your last company, Industry and networks. However things might appear from outside, there is nothing like first hand experience. Give yourself at least 6 months in the new role. Keep reflecting on your experiences and evaluating if your expectations are met. If you realize, this is not what you wanted and want to go back to what you were doing, do not waste further time and try to reverse the switch as soon as possible. Be careful to realistically evaluate if the problem is not in job profile but in your ability to settle down in any role and looking for change all the time. If it is latter, you need to work on it and fix it before attempting any more switch.

Successful career transitions are all about first seeking the change and then embracing it with all your heart and might. With lot of introspection, effort and bit luck, if you are able to successfully transition to a new career, the decision to change could transform your life. Afterall, nothing is worth it, if you are not happy.

How to make successful career transitions ? PART I

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” The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.” J.P Morgan

About one-third or 30% of human life is spent working to earn livelihood. It is important to spend one third of our lives doing something which makes us happy and content other besides providing the livelihood. Many a time, we do not choose our career, we happen to get there by chance or without design. It takes some years of understanding of our job, life  and ourselves to realize that we might need to change our career track as what we are doing does not meet our life and career goals.In 2 blog post of this series, I would be discussing the process before you actually make the career change in Blog I and how to go about making the career transition in Blog II of the series.

First things first  “there are no perfect choices, only other choices”.

If you are contemplating a career change to run away from a temporary bad situation in your current job or Industry – tough project, a tough boss, tough policies. Please remember that there are no perfect choices, only other choices and if issue lies with you settling in any job, any change would not solve the problem and you would find yourself in similar situation very soon. Make sure that the intent to change career track is for right reasons and not an escape route.

Get a one line answer to ” Why you want to change your career” ?

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There might be many valid reasons for you going for a career change. Example – being laid off, Role being phased out, Changing life stages such as motherhood. It could be simply you wanting a new, better, more satisfying and more fulfilling life. Whatever may be reasons behind seeking the change, know at high level what you expect to gain from the change. Your measurement of how successful your career transition was would be based on what you expected to gain from it.Your goal or objective from change could be for example:

  • Finding more purpose and meaning in your life
  • Setting out in a different direction in your life
  • Getting out of corporate rat race
  • Finding your mission in life, at last
  • Aligning your skill sets and interests with your job
  • Deciding to try something new
  • Get more work life balance

Know thyself well. The road to your dream career is a road that first passes through you.

Most career change seekers who fail, do not fail because they do not know about job market or how to make the transition, they fail because they did not know themselves in and out. Who can know you better than you? You need to reflect upon your life and job experiences and do a thorough inventory of your skill sets, emotions, interests and preferences. This is the most important part of your career transition plan.

Inventory of your favorite skills and fields.

Time for introspection, reflection on experiences and getting inside your heart and mind to know what ticks you, upsets you or motivates you in work and life. Put the following inventory on paper if you prefer to work in systematic way:

  • What are the skills you most enjoy using?

List down your favorite transferable(functional) skills. Prioritize them in order of importance and enjoyment for you. Key functional skills categories are people skills, data skills & operation skills. Physical skills, Mental skills, Interpersonal skills.

  • Where do you want to use your favorite skills?

List down your favorite interests, subjects, fields, Industries or fields that fascinate you. Fields that use your favorite skills. Skills inventory and fields chosen have to go hand in hand  for compatibility and future success.

It is ok to keep work and passion separate

It is said that find a work you love to do and you don’t have to work for a day. Undeniably it would be a perfect life but at the same time it is also okay if your work is not necessarily your passion.There is a reason why work is called work and hobbies are called hobbies. It is alright if two are separate. When a painter starts selling his art, he is no longer an artist but becomes a salesman. Please remember that most of the time primary objective of career or work is to take care of your basic needs and give you a quality of life and opportunities to enjoy  life beyond work.

Read about how to make the career transition in my next post PART II of this blog series.

The road to gender equality in workplace passes through home.

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Quite a few panel of experts and task forces have been set up to strategize on how to increase women representation in workplaces. What does not get due attention is the glaring gender inequality when it comes to sharing household chores at home. Women are not only struggling with the gender gap at work but also with chores gap at home. Traditionally home and children responsibilities rested with a woman and that was fair when women stayed home full time to look after home and children. Even as women are becoming a bigger and bigger part of the workforce, women still do most of the household chores and childcare leading to working two shifts – one in office and second at home.

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Social structures, Attitudes and extreme Gender stereotypes .

Gender inequalities in all areas are rooted in social structures but also in attitudes,” As per Professor Gillian Robinson, of the University of Ulster. For centuries women have been seen as care taker of home and children. It is very hard for larger part of society to break that stereotype mould and see a woman as a person with her own career dreams and ambitions. The problem is acute in socially conservative countries such as India where a man spends only 19 minutes per day on household work . In India, if a husband helps with household chores and with child care, the mother-in-law does not appreciate it because she thinks it is a woman’s responsibility. Though the new generation is changing and supporting women pursuing their careers, the older generation is sticking to the stereotypical expectations from daughter in law to take care of home and children irrespective of working full time in a job.

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Few ways in which chores gap could be closed:

Be assertive. Set the ground rules on sharing household responsibilities in the beginning itself.

Whether it is arranged marriage or love, you keep the views on sharing household work as fundamental principle on which both must agree. If any man is just and fair, he should have no reasons to not agree to share the workload at home if both the partners are working full-time. Unless you ask for it, why would anyone let go of the privilege a man has been awarded to sit and be served hot meals on the table. It is a check at ideological level and compatibility on this shared value is key to continuing your career in future stages of life with increasing load of additional responsibilities. On a lighter note, if it works as any incentive to a man – it is said  that no woman argues with a man doing household chores.

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This data is for US households. For Indian households, time spent by men on household activities is just 19 minutes per day.

Outsourcing household work to third-parties.

If at all, you are in a situation where due to any reason, your husband can not share the workload at home, next best option is to outsource the work to a third-party, if you can afford it. It is still better than doing the unequal share of work at home. Though parenting and overseeing household management can not be outsourced and would need to be shared.

Social Messaging has to get right.

Only women are shown doing household chores such as laundry or cleaning dishes. You take any advertisement of any product used in household chores, you would invariably see a woman doing it. The correct and fair messaging showing men also doing house chores can play a positive role in closing chores gap at home. Lately there have been some advertisements(Ariel #ShareTheLoad, a very good one) showing how unfair it is for working women to do all the work at home in addition to their office work. Even if it doesn’t change anything immediately, such constant messaging through popular communication channels would increase the awareness and possibly wake up the conscious of men, leading to a favourable change in attitude towards sharing chores load at home

 Raise children teaching the value of equal allocation of work at home

Sons are being raised as they have no responsibilities at home and daughters are being raised as it is going to their duty to take care of everything at home. Real change will come when children would see both the parents doing household chores. A new study this year showed that daughters are more likely to envision working outside of the home if their dad did household chores.When young boys and girls would see their dad also cooking, doing laundry and dishes, they would automatically internalize that this is how household work should be managed between a husband and a wife. Children always believe what they see rather than what you tell them. Creating an equal and fair environment at home will go long way in raising children with right values and a society which is just and fair to all.

Closing gender gap at home is key to closing gender gap in workplaces

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In a fair and just world, house responsibilities should be equally shared between man and woman, if both are working full time. But it is not the reality, men are yet not volunteering to share the workload at home though it is changing slowly. Many a time, a woman has to leave her job and exit the workforce to take care of home/children full-time because she is not able to manage both. The path to gender equality  in workplaces passes through the gender equality at home. Till we don’t close the gender gap in managing household responsibilities, working women would be overburdened with responsibilities of work and home. Women would be forced to make compromises on career, aborting their ambitions and letting go of opportunities to fully realize their potentials. We are not going to see more women in corner offices and boardrooms until we see men more in kitchen and laundry rooms.

How Technology Disruptions are Empowering Women

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Technology disruptions are transforming how we live our lives. Even if we may realize or not, we are benefiting from the breakthroughs in technology. As a woman, I feel blessed to be witnessing the technology disruptions and experience it in our daily life. In the last decade or so, there have been many groundbreaking business disruptions enabled by technology such as smartphones, high-speed internet, taxi apps, social media apps and so on. These innovations have not only transformed lives of billions of people across the world but also empowered women by making their lives easier, safer and more productive.

Here are key technology led business disruptors empowering women specially working women and are contributing indirectly in closing gender gap in workplace and society.

1. Taxi hailing apps. [Uber, Ola] Increase mobility. Affordable and safe travel.

2. Digital wallets.[Paytm, Freecharge]  Money at your fingertips rather than wallet

3. Online Retail. [Big Basket, Myntra]Freed time from shopping. Better work life balance

4. Social Media apps.[Facebook, LinkedIn] More business and networking opportunities

5. Freelancing apps. [ Upwork ]. Flexible work time and work type opportunities.

6. Free Blogspace [ WordPress]. Blogging revolution – food, fashion, you name it blogs

7. Messenger apps [Whatsapp] . New ways of selling. New business opportunities

8. Food  ordering apps[ Fresh Menu] : Less time in kitchen, more time for yourself.

9. Wearable tech [Fitbit]. Helps in staying fit and watching your diet.

10. Location tracking and safety apps[Staysafe]. : Track location and SOS calling.

11. Home and Local services apps [Urbanclap, Housejoy]. Order online, get serviced at home

Here is how these technology and business disruptions have empowered women:

1. Making day-to-day travel easier, safer and affordable

Before Uber and Ola, Autos and public transport buses were the only refuge of women for day-to-day travel. Public transportations do not give you flexibility of traveling at your choice of time. Autos are not safe and reliable. Hailing taxi through an app on your smartphone is relatively safer(not completely though), highly flexible and affordable. Taxi apps have made women more independent and in control of their day-to-day travel plans.

2. Improved work life balance for working women

It is a reality that working women are managing 2 full-time jobs, one at home and another at office. While there is little scope for maneuver to free time at office, one can work to save time spent in managing daily household chores. The boom of internet companies offering products or services delivered to your home have empowered women by helping them save time spent in managing household responsibilities. Online ordering and home delivery of key recurring purchases save time spent in physically visiting stores and shopping. This extra time gained can be spent with husband, children and on themselves. .

3. Improved safety and ability to get help in case of emergency

All smartphones are equipped with GPS and there are many safety apps which tracks your location and enables you to make SOS call in an emergency. Similarly school buses have GPS installed and you can track location of buses in which your children are traveling.

4. Flexibility in work and choice of new career opportunities

Women need flexibility of work hours, location and type of work during different stages of life. New economy jobs has empowered such women. There are many more options of part-time work through freelancing job marketplaces such as Upwork which enable women to work online and choose place, time and hours of work which suits their needs. Women are also able to choose and pursue new careers such as blogging through free blogspace providers such as wordPress. New channels of sales and marketing such ass Facebook, Instagram and whatsapp have empowered women running small businesses.

Some desired futuristic innovation and Tech disruptions which would really empower women and make their lives better.

1. Artificial Intelligence based products in following roles:

  • Virtual assistant : Assist us in running our daily lives. Take care of reading emails, sets reminders, reminds us for urgent tasks, tracks school buses , makes to do list and so on.( a la advanced version of Siri)
  • A virtual friend, philosopher and guide : Somebody who can keep us company all the time, somebody we can talk to and share our feelings( a la movie ” Her”). Built in intelligence to advice on important matters and help us in making key and trivial decisions. (a la IBM’s Watson)

2.  Advanced robots as house helps : Helps in cleaning, cooking, even babysitting.

3. Automated kitchens: Women really need some path breaking appliances which are affordable and reduce significantly the time spent in kitchen.  Indian cooking is really time intensive and women  desperately need next generation intelligent appliances. Wishlist – Roti maker, Dosa maker, currymaker.

4. Driverless cars : It is around the corner but hopefully is available soon in developing world too. Many women don’t know how to drive and not being in driving seat also give you extra time which can be utilised to get work done. Driverless cars might also be safer than traveling in taxis with drivers who are strangers to you.

Technology is touching and altering everybody’s life-like never before and I am a big fan and an early adopter of technology led products/services. I truly hope technology continues to keep disrupting the social order and keep empowering women and helping them in closing the gender gap.

Speak Up. Be Heard. Be Noticed

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Image Source: LinkedIn

Women speak up less than men do in work settings at least and I have noticed this throughout my career. If I have only one advice to give to working women to advance their career, it would be to “speak up”. When you speak up, you make your presence felt and shine the light on your potential. It can take courage to speak up – whether for your rights, your opinions, or for something in which you believe deeply. This single most change of speaking up more can empower women not only in workplaces but in overall society.

Why should women speak up more in workplace ?

  1. To make your presence felt. To be heard and noticed. To add value

In global economy and workplaces, not all meetings are in person. In a telecon meeting, if you don’t announce yourself and don’t speak up at all, you very well might not have been attended the meeting. It is important to make your presence felt by participating and contributing to a discussion. There is a reason why you have been included in a meeting and you should strive to earn your seat in a meeting and add value to it.

2.  Speaking up is critical to your growth at the company

Every meeting is an opportunity to  display your leadership potential and to build your professional brand. One can  achieve it  through speaking up at appropriate moments. Every time you remain silent, treat it as an opportunity lost. Keep a count of it and you would start speaking up. You need to earn believers in your ability to advance ahead. Speaking up more has been linked to displaying leadership potential. You earn your mentors and sponsors by speaking up and displaying potential.

 

3. Speaking up builds self-confidence – the secret ingredient for long-term success.

Confidence is not a static thing It keeps changing and you need to keep replenishing any loss of it. Speaking up has been found to be helpful in building confidence not only in yourself but of others in you. Mustering the courage to speak up can add volumes to your confidence. Just hearing your own voice in a meeting has been linked to contribute to an increased self-esteem.

4. Speaking up can get you promotions, salary raises and help

Humility is a great virtue but not so in workplace. Do not silently keep toiling and expect others to make a note of it and reward you. You shouldn’t be hesitant to ask for a promotion or to be recognised for your contributions. Do not maintain a stoic silence in those crucial performance appraisal discussions. Speak up for yourself and your efforts. In juggling between dual responsibilities of office and home, do not be afraid to ask for flexibility in work or any considerations which might help you in your work. Make your case and put it across assertively. If you don’t ask for it, you would never get it.  If you ask for it, you may or may not get it but you still at least have a shot at it.

5. Lastly, Speak up when something’s not right

Sometimes people cross lines in behaviour. You need to speak up the first time it happens. Speak up and say no firmly to an inappropriate behaviour or request. Do not be afraid of consequences. Do not let your silence be misunderstood for tacit approval.

Here are some tips on how you can speak up more and make your presence felt.

  1. speak-up-2Believe in yourself. Don’t be hesitant to put your thoughts across

Most of the things come down to your self-confidence. Speaking up publicly not only requires good communication skills and good content but also confidence and courage within. Women need to keep working on their self-confidence and self worth.It is a known fact that women speak less in meetings not because they don’t have anything to say but because they are not confident that they would add value. Even when they speak, they are apologetic about interrupting or making a point.  Don’t hesitate or apologise. Just speak up.

2. Do not judge and disqualify your opinion as not worthy of mention.

As many a times, women out themselves from a race to the top, so do women themselves disqualify their point of views as something which would not add value to the discussion. You don’t decide that. In fact you earn your seat in meeting and add value by contributing to the discussion. If you are merely present and just absorbing information, you are not adding value to others and to the discussion.

3. Be prepared. Do your homework. Make your notes.

Prepare for your meetings and presentations. Go over the agenda, brainstorm and make notes of points you would like to make. Make notes while meeting is going on. Being prepared would not only add  value to quality of your point of view but also to your self-confidence. Being prepared makes you feel ready and you look forward to the meeting to participate and contribute.

4. Learn the language of assertiveness

Using correct language can help in being assertive. Women tend to tone down assertiveness with use of defensive language and starting sentences with phrases such as ” I think” or “I feel”. Sometimes these might indicate you are not sure of your opinions. Rather use starting sentences which convey certainty such as ” I believe”, ” I am sure” or “from my experience , this is what i have seen”. Handle interruptions with declarative sentences such as ” I haven’t  finished what I am saying”. Be assertive.

4. Practice, Practice and more Practice

Practice makes perfect. Start with small meetings. Build confidence. After a while speaking up in meetings would start coming naturally to you. Even if you have been the silent majority in meetings, make an effort. If speaking up doesn’t come naturally to you, force yourself to speak up at least once in a meeting to start with. Once you are comfortable with speaking up, focus on content and adding value through the quality of your point of view.

It is not that women act differently in workplace and outside of it. A confident women who is not hesitant to voice her opinion would most likely do the same wherever she is – in office, at home or a party. To be a confident woman in workplace one day, a girl needs to grow up to be a confident woman with a mind of her own. Parents need to encourage their daughters to speak up more. Teachers need to be cognizant of giving equal opportunity to a raised hand of a girl in class. Community needs to not shut up a girl when she tries to make a point. Nobody should dismiss a girl’s point of view because well, it’s a girl’s point of view. Girls should be taught to not only have a point of view but to also have enough encourage to put across their point of view. Speaking up is akin to standing up for your opinion and for yourself.

 

1000 more years needed to close economic gender gap

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Image Source: World Economic Forum

World Economic Forum started measuring Gender gap in 2006 through Global Gender Gap report.  The Global Gender Gap Index ranks 144 countries on the gap between women and men on health, education, economic and political indicators. It aims to understand whether countries are distributing their resources and opportunities equitably between women and men, irrespective of their overall income levels. The report measures the size of the gender inequality gap in four areas:

• Economic participation and opportunity – salaries, participation and leadership

• Education – access to basic and higher levels of education

• Political empowerment – representation in decision-making structures

• Health and survival – life expectancy and sex ratio

The verdict : Long way to go before world is equal and fair to half of its population

As per report “More than a decade of data has revealed that progress is still too slow for realizing the full potential of one half of humanity within our lifetimes”.  As per report, key challenge is stagnant labour force participation, with the global average for women at 54 per cent compared with 81 per cent for men. Moreover, the number of women in senior positions also remains stubbornly low, with only four countries in the world having equal numbers of male and female legislators, senior officials and managers. In India, just 28% of females participate in the formal workforce, in comparison to 82% of males. On this sub-index, India’s rank is 135. Globally, the average female representation on boards of companies is just 14%. For India, the figure is even lower – women constitute just 10% of the boards of publicly traded companies.

Key Findings

1000 years it would take for women in South Asia to close the economic gender gap.

Yes, you read it right, it’s 1000 years, no typos here. However unbelievably shocking that number might look, but that’s what the report says when it comes to how many years it will take for world regions to close the economic gender gap. North America is going backwards on closing the economic gender gap.Take a look at figure below.

regionsEducation alone does not lead to economic empowerment for women

Education gap is an area where almost all regions of the world are doing well. India has done fairly well in closing the gender gap in education enrolment. Globally, gender gaps in education have narrowed down tremendously, with very small gaps in primary and secondary education and almost complete parity in tertiary education. While women and men emerge from tertiary education with similar skills and knowledge, there is a rather wide global gender gap of 47% in the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – with more men taking up these fields than women. Education parity not leading to economic parity shows that education does not mean economic opportunities for women and education alone does not lead to economic empowerment.

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Women on average work longer than men in the same job

Women work 39 days more than Men per year.Women spend more than 4 hours a day on unpaid work compared to 1.5 hour men spend. Even in general, combining both paid and unpaid work, women put in 50 minutes more of work time each day than men.The following chart depicts the disparity between unpaid work

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Women on average are paid less than men for same work.

As per report “Women are still paid just over half as much as men, and at the current rate of change it will take 170 years before they receive equal pay.”On wage equality, India ranks 103rd – worse than Nepal, Iran, Bhutan, Yemen, Uganda and dozens of other countries. The report notes that Indian law does not actually mandate wage equality for men and women. Gender wage gap is a problem which exists to varying degree in all countries and across industries.

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Economic value of Household and care work is very low

Women have been sacrificing careers to be full-time caretakers of their home and family. It is good to know how much low value is attached to the care work even as a paid work.Look at figure below:

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Over all report paints a very grim picture of world as far as gender equality is concerned. On one hand we read about technology breakthroughs such as mission to mars and driverless cars, on other hand women are struggling to get paid equal to men for the same work. World is moving forward on everything else and backward on closing the gender gap. 1000 years is the wait time for women of South Asian countries to see a world which is equal and fair to half its population unless Government of countries take major reforms in public policy supported by gender diversity policies at private companies.

Source: The Global Gender Gap Report 2016, World Economic Forum.

Power Dressing for Success

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“You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it”. – Edith Head

“Dress shabbily and people will remember the dress, dress impeccably and people will remember the woman”. – Coco Chanel

We may not like it but it is a fact that we all judge people by the first impressions they make. Your image is important. According to a survey of business leaders published this year by the Center of Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania, two-thirds said that when it comes to getting ahead, image makes a major impact.  Clothes we wear impact not only how we feel about ourselves but also our performance and productivity at work. In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, subjects who donned doctors’ lab coats scored higher on attention-related tasks than did those who did not. Power dressing is a tool to convey the message that you are competent, able, ambitious, self-confident, reliable and authoritative. Definition of power dressing as per wikipedia is ” power dressing is a fashion style that enables women to establish their authority in a professional and political environment traditionally dominated by men.” Margaret Thatcher, one of the first female icons of power dressing summed up when asked how power dressing should be for women  “never flashy, just appropriate“.  Power dressing is particularly useful in leadership roles where trust and authority is expected.

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Image Source:Van Heusen
  1. When in doubt, choose formal over casual: Better to end up more formally dressed than casually: Higher the position, more formal the dress code. Formals such as business suit make you look put-together, competent, and trustworthy. Irrespective of context of a meeting, for a leader it is safer to be formally dressed rather than err on casual dressing. If you would have noticed, Men CXOs can hardly be seen in anything other than business suits at least when it comes to business meetings. Unfortunately and fortunately women do not have a single approved dress code like  a business suit when it comes to power dressing. There is lot of variety of what all a  women can wear to work hence leaving scope for subjective judgement which can be good or bad depending on the person. If you are not sure, stick to commonly accepted formals for women such as pantsuits in western wear and churidar kurta in formal fabric such as cotton in Indian wear.
  2. Comfort is king or rather queen: Wear something which you are comfortable in and used to wearing. Do not attempt new styles for any important meeting where the discomfort from dress can distract you or make you conscious and less confident.
  3. Dress appropriately keeping in mind the audience and place. Be Roman in Rome. . Always factor in cultural sensitivities and mix of people you are going to meet.  Make sure what is normal for you for example short skirt or sleeveless top will be not be too bold for a conservative audience and place. If you are going to err, it’s better to be on conservative side than bold side
  4. Avoid revealing and bold clothes: You objective is to not look desirable rather to look business like and keep audience comfortable and focused on your capability rather than on your physical appearance. Studies have shown that wearing revealing clothes to work is negatively correlated with a positive opinion about woman’s capability. Stay away from low necklines, too tight clothes and bling jewellery.
  5. Choose the colors judiciously: Colours of your clothes play an important role in exhibiting power and confidence as colors already have established connotations. Accepted work colours are black (chic), navy (trustworthy), red (dynamic, aggressive), grey (conservative). Go for neutral colors and avoid bright ones like hot pinks, oranges and neons.
  6.  Appear groomed: Hair should be clean and set and should not appear unruly or unkempt. Studies have shown that makeup increases a woman’s confidence but keep makeup discrete and don’t overdo it. Clothes should be clean and ironed properly.
  7.  Wear well fitted clothes : Fit of clothes you wear is more important than your body size/shape and brands of clothes.. Do not opt for either too loose or too tight clothes.

Clothing sends out very powerful messages about who we are, so dress to make a positive impression, dressing for success is a necessary precursor to obtaining it.