Business. It’s a man’s world so to speak. Being an entrepreneur is challenging enough but being a female entrepreneur is even tougher. Women in business are constantly subjected to stereotypes and double standards; this makes focusing on growing your business and watching your bottom line even more challenging.
Although being a female entrepreneur has its challenges it is not without its perks as well. It’s always nice to have doors opened for you or to get to sit first at business lunches. However the biggest obstacle women in business face is not earning respect and acceptance of their male counterparts and peers, but learning to be a lady and maintain their femininity in the corporate world.
Here are a few words of advice I have with regards to being a lady in the corporate world :
1. Dress appropriately
Never dress in a provocative or revealing manner. Marilyn Monroe said it best
“your clothes should be tight enough to show you’re a woman but loose enough to show you’re a lady”
Avoid any skintight clothing or plunging necklines that might garner you the wrong kind of attention. Stick to business attire such a business suit or dress for formal meetings and conservative casual attire for weekend meetings. A lady should be well put together so don’t be afraid to add in accessories such as a necklace or bracelet. If in doubt always opt for a more conservative look.
2. Mind your language
No matter how tempting it may be resist the urge to curse, swear or hurl insults. Using coarse language will ruin a polished image and make you seem unprofessional and crass. If you are subjected to profanity or insults do not retaliate or engage in a altercation simply walk away.
“Profanity is the effort of a feeble brain to express itself forcibly.” – Spencer W. Kimball
3. Don’t take things personally
In business and in life not everyone will like you or agree with you or the way you do things. You will be faced with negativity. The key is not to get offended. Getting offended and angry never solves anything; in fact it just causes you more aggravation and frustration. If someone doesn’t like you or what you do don’t try to change their mind. It’s just their opinion and it doesn’t determine your success or self worth.
4. Show your appreciation
When someone goes out of their way for you, say thank you. Show your appreciation by calling them (yes I said actually calling them and speaking to them) on the phone or sending them a hand written (not typed) thank you note. You can also go one step further and treat them to coffee or lunch. Sometimes sending a text or email just isn’t personal enough.
5. Learn to be gracious
Being gracious is one of the key components of being a lady. Whether in business or in your personal life treating others with respect and dignity will never make you seem weak or small. Although the business world is competitive and sometimes ruthless, a little kindness and courtesy goes a long way.
“I think sometimes it’s more important to be gracious than to win “ – Dorothy Kilgallen
6. Know your table manners
Table manners are extremely important in the corporate world as you will be attending business lunches and dinners. Knowing which fork to use and how to behave at the table is as crucial to your success as knowing your product. If you are unsure about your table manners or etiquette in general investing in etiquette and protocol training is strongly recommended. When it comes to etiquette never assume, always ask an expert.
“The world was my oyster but I used the wrong fork” – Oscar Wilde
7. Expect respect but don’t demand it
As a woman in business you should expect respect from your peers and counterparts, but to expect it you have to earn it not demand it. You can earn respect in the way you act and how you run your business. Know your product, who you’re selling to and why you’re in your chosen field of business. Never demand or force others to respect you and worship you.
“Being powerful is like being a lady, if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t” – Margaret Thatcher
Praveeni Perera is the CEO and co-founder of Professional Edge Consulting a corporate training company based in Ottawa offering training and coaching services to clients around the world. She can be reached via Website, Twitter, Facebook or her Blog.