Confidence & Negotiating Skills Key to Business Women’s Success

Business women who want to get ahead in male dominated industries such as the financial and private equity sectors need to improve their self-confidence and negotiating skills, Georgina Squire, head of dispute resolution at Rosling King LLP says.

Speaking at the BVCA Summit in London, Squire discussed the challenges facing women in business with Claudine Collins, the UK managing director of advertising agency MediaCom.

Collins, one of Lord Sugar’s most trusted confidantes and winner of Media’s Most Inspiring Women in the industry, has been an advocate for diversity in the workplace for many years.

One of the highlights of the discussion included a point taken from The Glass Wall book by Sue Unerman and Kathryn Jacob. A glass wall, as opposed to a glass ceiling, represents an obstacle for women who are left out of office conversations, which are taken to the pub or the golf course by their male peers.

This boys’ club culture can exclude women from career enhancing opportunities, but can be overcome if women are proactive. By consciously requesting time with their superiors for lunch or a drink, business women can create a situation where more informal conversation can be had and where they can showcase their achievements at work.

Another issue that women need to tackle is a tendency, out of modesty, to talk themselves out of a job. Said Collins: “Very often, women will not apply for jobs unless they believe they are 100% qualified to do it, whilst men often don’t think that way.”

Similarly, women are much more reticent about putting themselves forward for promotion or asking for a salary increase. Collins continued: “We women need to stop focussing on our weaknesses and spend our energies on improving them. We need to start focussing at what we are brilliant at and we need to sell our qualities.”

Attracting the best female talent has long been a challenge for companies aiming to balance the gender gap. A report from the Government Equalities Office states that bringing the balance of women’s productivity and employment to the same level as men could add £600 billion to the UK economy, whilst equalising participation rates could add 10% to the UK economy by 2030.

Despite the fact that the number of women in leadership roles in FTSE 100 firms has more than doubled over the last five years, according to FN’s Sixth Annual Women in Finance Survey, there are still only 26% of women at board level, so there is still a notable gender imbalance in the financial services sector.

Private equity is one of those areas where this imbalance is most apparent with 40% of companies having no female executive committee members at all.

Georgina Squire concluded: “Women represent 50% of the human race and it is fundamental that their input in the financial sectors, particularly in private equity, is not lost. In a world where we have a female UK prime minister, and a female US presidential candidate, it is great to see that barriers are starting to be broken down and the contribution that women can make is being recognised in male dominated sectors, including Private Equity.”

(Source: Rosling King LLP)

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