Fiona Smith Columnist

Fiona writes on workplace issues, including management, psychology, workplace design, human resources and recruitment. She is a former Work Space editor at The Australian Financial Review and has also covered property, technology, architecture and general news.

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‘I don’t play politics’ and 9 other ways the promotion game is different for women

Published 05 November 2013 16:28, Updated 27 November 2013 05:34

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‘I don’t play politics’ and 9 other ways the promotion game is different for women

Behaviours that are tolerated and, to some extent, expected from men would become career clangers if women tried them. Photo: Virginia Star

In many companies, the only way you ever get a promotion is to threaten to leave. It can be a high stakes game and requires a certain confidence that your boss really would be lost without you.

And while it has always been recommended that women in a male-dominated world should learn the rules and play by them, it often just doesn’t work.

Behaviours that are tolerated and, to some extent, expected from men would become career clangers if I tried them. Most women know this, but sometimes it needs to be explained to men who still can’t get their heads around how things are different for us.

Feedback from recruitment firms indicates men are treated more favourably than women if they say they will quit unless they get a promotion or more money, according to research prepared by the Business Council of Australia for its report on increasing the participation of women in senior roles.

The BCA released the report, Increasing the Number of Women in Senior Executive Positions: Improving Recruitment, Selection and Retention Practices, this week.

“Females are generally less likely to make such threats in the first place and [are] condemned if they do,” the researchers say.

The BCA has collected a number of examples where women’s behaviours may be misconstrued in their approaches to their careers.

“While neither all women, nor all men, reflect these behaviours, they appear sufficiently often for those interviewed to raise them as meaningful generalisations, or even stereotypes, that interviewers and decision-makers might watch out and adjust for throughout the process of recruitment, appointment and promotion,” the report advises.

1.“I don’t play politics”. Women may be less proactive and more conservative than men in their career management (often labelling it as politics) and more reluctant than men to ask for a role (even when they are equally or more capable of doing it, and equally or more ambitious). This could be due to women receiving a less positive response than men when they adopt the same career advancement strategies as men.

2. Money matters, not brain power. They may gravitate early in their careers to brain-challenging roles rather than revenue-generating roles in the mistaken  belief, left over from school and university, that proving themselves intellectually will win promotions.

3.Doing more for less. They are less likely to ask for more money for added responsibilities and may not ask for as much as men when discussing remuneration. This leaves them less satisfied and may undermine retention of women.

4.Hyping up. Men’s CVs and job interview responses tend to focus on the positive, identify concrete successes, appear more analytical and objective (due to language and style) about successes and claim ownership of them. They also assume they will get the role, where women are more likely to expect rejection.

5.Underselling. Men are more likely to claim to meet all role requirements. Women may be more likely to say they may not have all the requisites for a role – even when they have equal or more role requirements than male candidates.

6.Super-prepared. Women prepare better for interviews and bring notes and presentations in an effort to cover all bases. They may also ask more questions than men in an effort to prove their preparation for the interview. This may give the impression they need to know the answers, or are unsure about the role, or are micro-managers.

7.Style conscious. Women may be more likely to have thought about their leadership style because it is often under so much scrutiny and more likely to have been criticised earlier in their careers. However, they are less likely than men to have ready lists of their individual achievements.

8.Inclusive interviewees. Women may try to address all interviewers in the room, whereas men may tend to favour the alpha male.

9.Saving the best till last. Women may think out loud or tell a story with outcomes at the end. Men tend to think through an answer first and articulate outcomes up front. This may lead interviewers to regard men as being more insightful or decisive because their thinking process is hidden from them.

10.Don’t nitpick. Women, particularly when internal candidates, may be culturally less inclined to raise concerns directly with interviewers about the role and any imperfections in its design or relationship with other roles.

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