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6 unique challenges that women in business face and how to overcome them

There is no doubt that women are making great strides in the business world. Studies show that, women are better at taking calculated risks, less prone to overconfidence, more ambitious to climb up the corporate ladder, and are more successful at entrepreneurship. Yet, they continue to encounter (and overcome) unique challenges at workplace every day.

To understand the depth of these challenges and find ways to overcome them, we spoke to Kirsty Englander and Linn Rolf who are building business and leading their teams towards success.

Kirsty linn

Challenges women encounter when growing at workplace:

  1. Coming off as bossy: In the workplace, though they don’t act any more aggressive than men do, women were twice as likely to be branded bossy. While being bossy is seen as a sign of bad leadership in both men and women, it is more strongly seen as a mean and unlikable trait for women.
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    Kirsty: I am a woman in a male industry. I organize my teams and delegate responsibilities to my team members. Along making sure that my team members are happily working, I have to make them understand that the job has to be done. In this process, sometimes I do become a more authoritative leader – it is necessary for my business growth. But I also embrace my sensitive side to manage my teams better. Women can see beyond the people’s words. So, when women are stern, it must be perceived as being confident, fearless, and empowered.

    Linn: I manage a team of five. My primary goal is to help them in their daily work and to make sure we keep deadlines. I’m also in charge of planning resources for all projects and make sure we have right priorities. In this process there are times when I push my team to do better. Of course it is not appreciated, but they know that I/we need to push so we can meet the deadlines. I keep everyone updated so they can have the whole picture of the situation – this makes everything easy to work as a team.

  3. Managing a male dominant team: When young women lead older or more experienced members in male-dominated teams, giving directions and earning respect becomes difficult. Young female managers often see their new ideas being dismissed and their capabilities being questioned.
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    Kirsty: I’m a young woman in business. It is very easy for men and older women to disregard the things I say. But, this never bothered me as I always believe in what I do. Most of the time I use humor to break the ice. I say – yes I’m young, yes I’m a woman, and yes I am your boss, everyone’s cool with that?

    Linn: In Sweden, we have more and more women in higher leadership positions nowadays. For me, that’s important, because that’s what encouraged me to get into the tech business. At our office, we value gender equality. Sometimes, considering my young age, managing my team can be a struggle. But then I just work hard and win respect as a manager.

  5. Unintentionally downplaying one’s own worth: A recent study reveals that women undervalue their accomplishments when they work in a group with men. Women in a group tend to associate with ‘we’ more than ‘I’, showcasing themselves a lot less.
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    Kirsty: I am a self-taught entrepreneur. I am where I am because of the hard work I put in. I believe in myself. But there are times when I hesitate to own up my success. Women are brought up to avoid recognition and be modest in favor of traditional and feminine values, and thus are reluctant to take credits for their achievements. Good news – women are changing their attitude. Now, women are more confident and value their contribution and knowledge.

  7. Building network: From helping find new leads for a business to connecting with mentors, networking plays a vital role in one’s career growth. A recent Harvard Business Review study notes that the differences in men’s and women’s organizational roles and career prospects result in weaker informal networks for women. While professional networking sites such as LinkedIn have helped women expand their network, connecting with the more elite business networks is still a hard task.


    Kirsty: I put myself out of my comfort zone every single day just to introduce myself and start relationships. Building network outside of workplace helps me get new opportunities. Every day I make a point to tell at least 3 people what I do and from this I get at least one business inquiry.

    Active networking has also helped me find many like-minded people who form my support group. I spent many years believing that asking for help from people when I’m struggling with something indicates my weakness. But now I’m no longer scared to seek support or mentorship.

    Linn: From my background in the hotel and restaurant business, I created a large network of contacts who have also became my friends. I proved that I was a trustworthy and hardworking employee and therefore I believe people have recommended me to new work opportunities.

  8. Balancing business and family life: Striking a perfect balance between family life and work life has been a challenge to both women and men. But women are often given the message that you can’t have it all.
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    Kirsty: Since I work with businesses around the world, I need to manage time zone differences. This means I work many late nights and long hours which leave little room for other parts of my life. But with by developing right mindset and time management skills, I’m able to balance both my work and family life. I time all my tasks and deal with one job at a time to ensure optimal productivity. I love working at night. So, I stop my work at 4:30 in the evening to spend some quality time with my family. And then I go back to work for a few hours at night.

    Linn: I think it’s important to balance your life with things you love. I balance my life with activities such as horseback riding and bicycle workouts. It helps me relax, clear my mind and gives me time to reflect on my work. That’s where I find ideas on how to tackle my daily challenges and also motivation for my future goals and plans.

  10. Coping with a fear of failure: Fear of failure is a concern for all entrepreneurs. But, women fear failure more. Especially, when a woman has a stable job with a big salary, good benefits and a venerable socioeconomic status.
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    Kirsty: To me fear means to face everything and rise. Failure, to some degree, is inevitable in any business. But, it shouldn’t be viewed as a negative. With this mindset, there is nothing to be scared. In fact, fear of failure has driven me to challenge myself and do more. We should never let fears hold us back. Just believe in yourself, write down your goals, visualize your growth and work towards it. Take that anchor off your feet and fly!

    Linn: I think we all have to fail sometime to be successful. But what matters is that we learn from that failure and ensure we don’t repeat the mistake.

Kirsty and Linn reiterate the fact that challenges at the workplace are inevitable, but women can overcome these challenges and be successful by working hard and believing in themselves. A woman should stop conforming herself to others idea of what a leader should look like and make her way to success.

Vtiger team wishes a Happy Women’s Day to all women working hard to break the glass ceiling at their workplace and everywhere else.

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