SMASH STEREOTYPES ABOUT GIRLBOSSES
Women bosses often get an unfairly bad rap, but we don’t have to live with it. Two of them, who lead male-dominated teams, tell you how.
How to curb sexist behaviour at your workplace.
Myth 1 THEY’RE INDECISIVE Smash it:
As a leader, you’re ultimately responsible for the decisions made, says Tribal Worldwide Singapore’s managing partner and head of operations, Leslie Goh. Don’t waver, as it sends the wrong message to your team. “When there is consistency, the team can spend more time polishing up the work or coming up with initiatives and being more productive,” says Leslie.
Also, once you’ve made a decision, be transparent about how you got there. “I keep all my team members engaged right from the planning stages,” says Gauri Bajaj, director of cybersecurity (APAC) at Tata Communications. “This way, they understand their contribution to the company’s strategy.” The point is – don’t leave room for your team to guess at what you’re thinking.
THEY’RE BETTER FOLLOWERS, NOT LEADERS – UNLIKE MEN Smash it:
As a boss, you have the power to build an empowering environment for your team. So use it. Create a gender-neutral work culture and shut down stereotypes immediately, says Leslie. When a male colleague commented that the company should hire more women project managers – as the role requires an eye for detail – Leslie wasn’t having any of it. “I shared with him success stories of male project managers on my team, and highlighted their strengths and weaknesses,” she says, adding that she doesn’t allow men in her team to imply that they’re better at tech jobs than the women.
Myth 3 THEY’RE TEMPERAMENTAL Smash it:
“B*tchy”, “unsympathetic”, “too emotional”… whatever. Sometimes, girlbosses just can’t win. But no matter what judgment people choose to pass, Leslie believes that bosses have to be consistent in showing care for their team’s wellbeing. If she notices that someone is overworked and has clocked long hours, she proactively suggests they take time off to rest.
Leslie also makes the effort to ask about her team’s personal lives when she runs into them in the pantry, or during lunch – it’s her way of understanding their career and personal goals. “This way, they’re more likely to be open to coming to you for help when they need to,” Leslie adds.
Myth 4 MOTHERHOOD MAKES THEM LESS COMMITTED TO WORK Smash it:
After returning from maternity leave, Leslie had to launch a major project within a short time frame. That meant long hours in the lead-up to the launch. Tough for a new mum, but she wanted to show her team that their leader would be in the trenches with them. To get by, Leslie roped her husband and parents in to look after the baby.
Now, she gets home in time to read her two kids a story before bed. Once that’s sorted, she logs on to her work e-mail and picks up where she left off.
THEY LOVE TO MICROMANAGE Smash it:
It’s hard to work effectively if a boss is constantly breathing down your neck. Gauri knows it, so she finds ways to keep her team invested. “I prefer to give a fair amount of authority to the team by letting them participate in decisionmaking processes.”
Lose the dictator-like attitude and have some trust, agrees Leslie. If team members disagree, she doesn’t shut them down. Rather, she takes it outside and makes time to help them understand her point of view.
Oh, please – I’ve had my fair share of indecisive and micromanaging male bosses. Trust me, it’s not a gender thing.
Leslie Goh, managing partner and head of operations, Tribal Worldwide Singapore
Gauri Bajaj, director of cybersecurity (APAC), Tata Communications