The biggest problem is thinking you can’t do it, or it’s not possible. For #Girlboss Sarah Liu, founder of the Dream Collective (a platform that trains young women for leadership roles), it’s about breaking gender stereotypes.
Go for the job – even if you don’t meet all the criteria
Most women apply for a job only when they feel they’ve met 90 per cent of the criteria, according to trade publication Adweek. Not so for guys, who feel confident enough to go for it despite meeting only 60 per cent of the requirements.
The numbers get grimmer when it comes to leadership – fewer than two in 10 people who sit on boards in Singapore are women. What gives? Self-doubt, says Sarah.
To push women to dream big and take ownership of their careers – whether it involves a job, a new role in the company, or a promotion – The Dream Collective helps them map out a career plan, develop strong financial acumen and keep innovating, as well as maintaining their well-being while juggling work and family commitments.
“No one gets what they deserve in life, they get what they negotiate for” – that’s the mantra Sarah lives by. “Only 7 per cent of women negotiate their first salary. And guess how many men do? It’s 57 per cent.”
In fact, The Dream Collective programme had a participant who was paid a single salary although she held two job titles. Through the programme, she learnt how to build an argument and make a case for better pay. It totally paid off. “She even got the company to backdate her pay to when she started taking on her boss’ role,” Sarah adds.
Don't let anybody's opinion limit you
Growing up, Sarah was told she couldn’t stay out late, even though her brother could. She was told that her only job was to marry well. And she was told that she would never be able to be her own boss.
She didn’t pay attention to a single one of those opinions. She decided instead to just do her thing. “Women are taught not to be aggressive, and when we are, it’s not necessarily welcome. For men, aggressiveness just shows that they’re confident,” Sarah points out.
Asian women, in particular, tend to seek others’ opinions and approval before embarking on something new, which is why teaching women to be decisive when it comes to their careers, and to stand firm on their decisions, is a cause close to Sarah’s heart. “It’s important not to let others’ imaginations be your limitation,” she says.
Get your guy to step up
“Unless men play an active role at home, women cannot be empowered to play an active role in their careers,” says Sarah, who’s married. Even though the couple don’t have children, she loves that her husband shares the load for chores, so she has time to focus on her work.
How do we get our guys to do that? Simple. Expect them to pull their weight. Sarah points out that women often feel they can’t ask their partners to help out at home because that’s “women’s work”. All that does is to set up barriers for yourself. “It’s important not to have limiting beliefs for yourself and for your man,” she says.
Learn - even from a hellish situation
In Sarah’s previous job, she had a boss who wouldn’t let her speak up at meetings and even made her work when she was hospitalised. But she didn’t quit on the spot. Instead, she saw these challenges as “character-building”, and pushed herself to learn as much as she could on the job. And she’s a better person for having gone through that “baptism of fire”. “You have to find purpose in what you do, and recognise that there’s a season for everything,” she says.
This article was first published in the January 2018 issue of Her World magazine.