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Lessons for women in male-dominated professions

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Margaret Thatcher died on 8th April and the United Kingdom is bitterly divided on the kind of funeral proceedings befitting the former prime-minister. It is true, she was disliked by many due to her controversial policies and convictions but she was Britain’s only female prime-minister (for 10.5 years) – a great achievement in itself and a tough act to follow.

Despite her contentious political legacy, one thing stands true – her amazing work ethic, determination to achieve what she had set out to do, and an immense amount of perseverance and thick-skinnedness she exhibited to carry out these goals despite often strong resistance of her cabinet and the British people. Moreover, being the first woman prime-minister surrounded by the cabinet full of men required high levels of confidence and assertiveness.

There are a few lessons I believe women in male-dominated professions can learn from Mrs Thatcher and her career to be successful at their jobs:

  • Don’t hide or suppress your femininity. There are numerous occasions when it can be used to your advantage. Your unique abilities, empathy, specific communication style can differentiate you from others in your organisation. For instance, in top sales jobs usually dominated by men, women can really make a difference working with challenging clients. The same is the case in the sales environment at investment banks where employing ambitious women has become a regular occurrence. Being yourself is the best way to earn respect of your colleagues and bosses. Mrs Thatcher was not unknown to use her charm (and sometimes even tears) to get her own way. 
  • Don’t be afraid of failure. Everyone will encounter various setbacks during the course of their careers. One can either get ‘subdued’ and ‘sunk’ by failure or, on the contrary, can use it as a springboard to attempt something new and to turn this negative experience in their favour. Failure and challenges should inspire you to act, to change something, to prove you can still succeed and get to the top. The key theme here is not to give up in the face of unavoidable challenges. ‘Defeat? I do not recognise the meaning of the word!’ (M. Thatcher)
  • It is really a given that to get promoted, to exceed your boss’s expectations and stand out among  your colleagues you will need to work hard and work hard every day. Thatcher once said, “I do not know anyone who has got to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but should get you pretty near”.  If it is so obvious, then why do so many people slack and cut corners in their jobs? Well, oftentimes we do not like what we do and end up in a particular job by pure circumstance or out of financial necessity. We are all guilty of this but once we realise that we don’t get inspired by what we do, we can try and re-assess are career path and aspirations. I believe that it is never late to take a step back and try to change the course of your career, attempt something new, something that you have always dreamt of doing. Fair enough, it takes a certain degree of courage and determination, but it can well be worth the effort to escape the ordeal of having to show up somewhere you would rather avoid every morning. So work hard and find something you are truly passionate about. “What is success? I think it is a mixture of having a flair for the thing that you are doing; knowing that it is not enough, that you have got to have hard work and a certain sense of purpose” (M.Thatcher).

2 Thoughts on “Lessons for women in male-dominated professions

  1. The key, as any career coach will tell you, is in the last paragraph of the article. Find something for which you are passionate, and you will succeed with hard work. Hard work doesn’t feel like work at all, when you love what you are doing.

  2. Dasha Amrom on April 16, 2013 at 5:32 pm said:

    Yes, absolutely correct. But often it takes a lot of willpower and courage to trade stability and safety of your old job for something completely new and untested.

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