How a woman can navigate a corporate boardroom

Make the time to identify someone whom you can learn from and emulate


In my current role, I feel fortunate to work with senior corporate leaders who inspire and motivate me. On route to my current role, I have faced my share of challenges. Early in my career, prior to arriving in the UAE or joining KPMG, I was told by a male boss that although I had outperformed my teammates, I would receive a smaller financial reward than my male colleague. His reason was that I had a husband to support me, in contrast to my colleague who had a family to support. At the time, I was pleased with the recognition and irritated about the money, but I was not confident enough to say anything. Instead, I voted with my feet and moved to another department.

I am sharing my professional experiences with you now to pay it forward. To say I have been lucky throughout the course of my career undermines my efforts, as well as the efforts of those who supported and mentored me. I hope you find it useful as you climb the ladder to the boardroom.

Don't try to be someone else
Strive to be the best version of yourself and be authentic. We have all encountered people who seem to hide behind a corporate mask and our first instinct is often to distrust them. Simply being yourself makes life much easier and less stressful. You are also more likely to be spotted by a selfless mentor who will want to help you just for being you.

Find a mentor
In today's competitive workplace, make the time to identify someone whom you can learn from and emulate and pick up as much as you can from them. Mentors don't have to come from within your department or firm; an element of independence can be helpful. Finding a mentor will provide you with different points of view and insights.
In my experience, the best mentors take a personal, selfless and holistic approach. Several of my mentors and bosses have become life-long friends - I still value not only their opinions, but also our sometimes heated debates.

Support others
As you climb the corporate ladder, lend a hand. Take time to reflect on your own performance and how that might benefit those around you. Provide encouragement and constructive criticism in equal measure. More likely than not, you received support and mentorship along the way, so share the value of that experience. It is incredibly worthwhile and rewarding.

Success is not necessarily gender-based
Some associate climbing the ladder with gender, falsely believing that men stand a better chance at success. This is not necessarily true. We should embrace the diversity of gender-based differences - it enables us to see issues from different viewpoints and gives a clearer picture. The professional services industry is a good example of a space where brute strength doesn't matter. The global workforce is diverse and evolving and it is imperative that professional services keep pace - if not lead - development, utilising all the resources we can. What counts is your intellect, ability, enthusiasm and effort.

Have confidence in your abilities
Many women have an inner voice that feeds self-doubt, is overly critical and reduces confidence. We would never be so unkind to others, yet we can be unkind and unjust to ourselves. Silence that inner voice. Learn to identify your strengths and value them. Focus on the positive and recognise the value you bring to your workplace. It is easy to second guess yourself when you feel you are in the minority, but that only makes you more of a diamond, and therefore more precious. Remember that you were hired because of your abilities, not because of your gender. Focus on honing those abilities.

The writer is partner and head of indirect tax, KPMG Lower Gulf Limited. Views expressed are her own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.

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