Compared to a few decades ago, women today are given more opportunities to become leaders at work. Slowly but surely, female managers, supervisors, and CEOs are becoming more commonplace as society continues to reject gender stereotypes.

Despite this, the Government Accountability Office reports that women remain underrepresented in management positions. While 42% of managers are women, they are underpaid. Full-time female managers only earn 71 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. Behind this pay gap is the same reason it took so long for women to have leadership roles: gender discrimination.

Unfortunately, gender discrimination will not disappear overnight. Nonetheless, women can work toward becoming better leaders to further emphasize that they deserve the same pay and opportunities as men. Here’s how:

Start leading now

As the saying goes: “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” In your case, this means you can practice leading others even when you’re not yet a team leader, manager, or supervisor. Doing so will show your initiative and sincerity as a soon-to-be leader. Ultimately, it will help prove that you have what it takes to further your career.

You can get started by volunteering to lead projects where you can practice overseeing a group of people. Be proactive by helping solve problems, suggesting ideas, and taking responsibility for your actions. Starting your leadership journey where you are right now better prepares you for what lies ahead.

Take up space

Women often sell themselves short so as not to appear arrogant. They let opportunities pass because they feel like they’re being too ambitious or that someone’s more fitting for it. However, it’s vital that aspiring female leaders take up more space. Doing so involves owning your rightful place as a leader and taking opportunities as they’re given to you.

A leadership study from the University of Pennsylvania finds that when women are appointed to leadership positions, it reduces gender stereotypes within the company. It puts women in a positive light, allowing workers to realize that women leaders can be as effective as their male counterparts. That’s why you should own that leadership position and overcome your fear of being perceived as arrogant. You’re already reducing gender stereotypes by becoming a leader—so if you see the opportunity to be one, take it.

Demonstrate more authority

However, it’s not enough to be a woman leader—you have to act authoritative, too. One of the struggles women leaders encounter is being doubted by peers because they’re weak. Society paints women as “too emotional” and “soft” to be in positions of authority. This is why Maryville University suggests that women leaders demonstrate more authoritative behavior in the workplace. Doing so will help you demonstrate your credibility and competence as a leader, proving that you deserve the position and increasing your employees’ confidence in your capabilities.

To practice better authority, project your voice. Whether it is in meetings or presentations, make yourself heard. Be firm and have confidence in what you say. Ensure that your people do their jobs correctly, and don’t be afraid to point out errors and help your employees address them. More crucially, be open to feedback on your leadership. Be transparent, hold yourself accountable, and actively work to improve the way you lead.

Care for your employees

Emotional intelligence is as vital as your IQ. To create a cooperative workplace, you must show that you care for your employees. Our article ‘Emotional Damage? No. Emotional Honesty!’ discusses that having emotions isn’t a sign of incompetence—even at work. Showing sympathy or worry isn’t a weakness. Instead, it allows you to be a better leader by understanding your employees’ problems. Show that you care by having regular one-on-one sessions. Here, you’ll find out if they’re struggling or burnt out and how to help.

Being a woman leader is tough because of stereotypes, discrimination, and unequal opportunities. Despite this, you can become a better leader with the tips we discussed to further establish yourself as a leader.

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