When 32-year-old Tejas Nanu graduated with a degree in mass media from the University of Mumbai a little over a decade ago, all she knew was that she wanted to make films. “Doors would open easily for me given my project work and excellent academic scores, but when I’d ultimately go in for the meeting, people were taken aback because they expected to meet a man. My name isn’t exactly a girl’s name. Instead, they found this five-foot frail girl, and almost immediately said I wasn’t right for the job. I was constantly met with ‘It’s going to be a lot of late nights,’ or ‘We just don’t think you’ll be able to keep up’. But I worked hard and I can proudly say that I’ve managed to carve a place, albeit a small one, for myself in the industry.” Nanu works as an independent producer making corporate films for various multinational companies, and is currently co-writing a series with a friend from the industry.
Like her, there are many women who are constantly met with rejection for the mere fact that men don’t think they’ll be able to cut it. For Kajal Mehta*, her story wasn’t any different. “When I graduated with a B. Tech in Information Technology from K J Somiya College of Engineering, Mumbai, all I wanted to do was build websites and apps. I managed to land a job with a tech giant in Bangalore, but was constantly undermined by my peers and seniors. It didn’t help that I was one of three girls in the entire team. But I worked hard and always managed to find an easier way to do things as compared to my male peers,” says the 26-year-old. “It took a lot of time and energy, and not to mention resolve to stick it out. In the end, I managed to earn the respect of my peers, and even got noticed for my efforts.”
Naturally, things are easier said than done. But if you do find yourself in a male dominated work place, be confident in your abilities, and follow these tips to help you excel:
Constantly self-analyseYour career is a continuous and evolving process. Naturally, you need to begin with self-assessment. Why? Because this is the foundation of personal and professional growth. When you monitor your progress, you’ll be able to understand if you’ve picked up any new skills, what your strengths are, and what you need to work on. This will allow for a holistic approach to improving your overall skillset while giving you a clearer picture of your capabilities. Women tend to focus on grey areas instead of what’s black and white. A rational approach to your capabilities and potential is what will get you ahead.
Don’t forget to networkBelieve it or not, but networking is considered the single most powerful tactic to accelerate and sustain a successful career—whether you work for yourself or in an organisation. It is a reliable tool if you do it the right way and with the right people. However, it is generally observed that most women tend to be quieter and docile instead of leading the conversation. Taking charge is a great way to get noticed and the best way to reap the benefits and exploit this tool. You need to engage in interactions that highlight your skills, talents, and potential development. Remember, collaboration is the key as it will expose you to a larger group, and showcase your capabilities simultaneously.
Promote yourselfDon’t be afraid to speak up. By this, we mean offer to do something even if it can be challenging. No matter what idea you may have, don’t be afraid to voice it. Remember, putting your ideas on the table will help get you noticed. Be confident, and keep in mind that there will be people who are going to underestimate your potential; just ensure you’re not among them. But don’t go overboard. Do what you can manage, put in that hard work and effort, ask for help when you must, and things will fall into place. In fact, research shows that women who tend to be more aggressive and assertive when the situation calls, are the ones most likely to get noticed and/or promoted.
Beware of mansplainingIf you’re new to the job, or even industry for that matter, be prepared to hear clichés like ‘It's not done that way’, or ‘You are new to this field so you are probably not aware about how things are done’. Statements like these are bound to make you feel incapable or inferior. Don’t let them. You bring a certain credibility and skillset to the table, so be prepared to assert yourself when it calls for it. Confidence and convictions will prevail. And remember, be polite, cooperate, but ultimately do things the way you know works best.
Find a mentorYou know that saying, ‘I get by with a little help from my friends’? The fact remains that like you, many women have tread the same path and have managed to jump those hurdles they encountered along the way. It makes sense for you to learn from someone who’s been down that road before, instead of winging it, and losing momentum over avoidable mistakes. Find someone you can look up to and learn from. And if you don’t know anyone in your field, you can always network and ask for their guidance.