“The Singles Project” Star Ericka Pittman With 5 Ways To Succeed In A Male-Dominated Workplace
According to a US Department of Labor report, 57 percent of all US women are active in the labor force, compared to 69.7 percent of US men. With women still earning seventy-seven cents to every dollar that a man makes, the gender wage cap and gender equality is still relevant to the life of the average working woman. Many women often find themselves in “hostile working environments” fighting to assert and justify their abilities, intelligence, and worth in careers where men are the majority. Most recently, some Silicon Valley tech industry firms have been critiqued for their negative treatment of women.
We spoke with Ericka Pittman,Vice President, Chairman’s Office at Combs Enterprises and star of Bravo’s The Singles Project, about the ways women can thrive in male-dominated work environments. Check out what she had to say below.
1. Use what you have to get what you want.
Ericka Pittman (EP): Women and men have very innate and distinct qualities that are different from each other. Females [may] get discouraged or insecure when they are the only woman in the room. In actuality, they are at an advantage because they can come to the table with a very different set of skills that men don’t intrinsically pull from. Things like empathy, patience, and multitasking are three key areas where women are sharper than men.
Every single day, in my career, I utilize those strengths. I try to tap into what my counterparts are thinking, feeling, and trying to express about an objective so that I can turn it into a solution quickly. I am also very acute at listening to the group and taking consensus from the room and figuring out where the common ground is. I have to use patience often. Oftentimes, men are naturally competitive. They are more focused on making sure their point comes across. I’m more focused on making sure we get to the solution and end goal. That brings a strength in a room where I’m the only woman.
2. Highlight how you are different.
EP: Differences can be an advantage. For example, women’s voices tend to be a higher octave than men’s voices. Your voice (and contribution) can be a disruption to the noise and back and forth in a room. Sometimes femininity can be an asset to a woman. It’s very important to differentiate this from sexuality. Being feminine can bring a softer side to a monotonous room. Being a woman can also bring a perspective that otherwise would not have been contributed.
Being a woman of color can be an asset when it is relevant to the conversation, but I don’t always agree that that has to be the forefront of the conversation. I have a unique perspective on the world that helps me to see through a different lens. I think my personal experiences can help to contribute to the greater goal of the conversation, but I am not 100 percent sure that leading with the fact that I am a woman of color is the very thing that will get to the bottom line of the discussion. If talking about being a woman of color as the subject matter, then obviously, I stand to be an expert in a room full of men.
3. Don’t be afraid to disrupt the status quo.
EP: Women believe that they have to assimilate. In the 1980s, when the feminist movement resurged in the workforce, women felt like they needed to be masculine in order to compete. The visuals surrounding working women were very masculine. The idea was to create a space that did not differentiate us so that we could have equality. Women are scared to speak up because they don’t want to be different. They don’t want to be singled out about their differences versus having confidence about their contributions and realizing them being in a space is additive to the dialogue.
Being unapologetic about who I am, where I come from, and what my experiences have taught me affords me a perspective that is unique. Sometimes people are afraid to speak up. Success comes from disruption. Disruption is the thing that forwards a goal or agenda. Oftentimes, I’ve come up to solutions to strategic problems on our businesses that initially didn’t make sense, but in the long wrong ended up working for the betterment of the business.
However, a woman should never compromise her ethics or moral code to get ahead in her career. If you cannot sleep well at night with the decision you make professionally,don’t do it. In the long run, you will get what you need if you do it the right way. The cream always rise to the top. If you’re excellent in your craft and steadfast about your skill set and where you want to take your career, you will prevail. It may not be in the environment you are in immediately, but in the long term, you will see the fruits of your labor. Identify a career path, figure out your long-term goals, track the steps it will take to get there, and align yourself with like-minded individuals in those areas of expertise.
4. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
EP: People will only take you as seriously as you present yourself. When you’re not groomed properly for the right environment, it is very hard for people to make an assessment of your character. If you’re in a boardroom full of navy blue suits, it might not be in your best interest to wear a crop top and acid washed jeans and expect to be treated as an equal. If you do wear a suit, maybe wear a fuschia blouse or a nice sheath dress, something that is going to be disruptive but equally respected. The color of your hair, hair cut, types of shoes you wear, length of your dress/skirt are all important in terms of judgment calls. Unfortunately, we would love to be able to express ouselves the way we want to at all times, but there is a certain way of being in certain forums. In a professional setting, you should govern yourself accordingly.
5. Give credit where credit it due.
EP: It’s in poor taste to take full ownership of a project that you probably didn’t do all on your end. From a professional etiquette standpoint, it is very healthy to acknowledge all of the people who have helped to achieve a win. If you want to gain the respect and trust of your peer group [including men], it is important that you acknowledge them for their talents, contributions, and the things that make them great. People will support you when you support them. When you show you are a team player by giving credit for an idea or win, it makes it easier for those to support you. It’s a way of saying, “I respect you, support your talents, and encourage you to continue to contribute.”