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How One Skill Is Getting Women Ahead In The Future Of Work

Updated: Oct 18, 2019

We've been Looking at the top 10 job skills needed for 2020 and as women, we are excited for the opportunities that lie ahead.

Interestingly, two of the skills listed did not appear on the 2015 list at all, highlighting the changing face of the working world - and one skill in particular stands out as something in which we believe women excel.

Top 10 Job Skills Needed in 2020

1. Complex problem solving

2. Critical thinking

3. Creativity

4. People management

5. Coordinating with others

6. Emotional intelligence (new)

7. Judgement and decision making

8. Service orientation

9. Negotiation

10. Cognitive flexibility (new)

Emotional intelligence is arguably a quality in which women have the edge over men. Now before any feathers get ruffled, of course, there are plenty of men who possess this skill! But on the whole, it's fair to say that emotional intelligence is generally something which comes more naturally to women – and this is not a gender stereotype, there is research to support this!

There are even subtle differences in the way men and women actually “do” emotional intelligence. For example, women tend to be better at empathy, whereas men seem to have the advantage when it comes to managing distressing emotions. It’s clear that both men and women have different strengths and qualities to contribute to emotional intelligence. Nevertheless, this is definitely a skill which women can (and should) look to harness, to get ahead at work.

As we know, when we work on our natural talents, we turn these into our key strengths, which can help us win at the career game. Many women are beginning to understand the career value of emotional intelligence and know that theirs is already pretty good; so those who are working on developing this into one of their killer strengths are really setting themselves up for success – and we think that’s a pretty smart move!

Take a look at how women are mastering their emotional intelligence to get ahead:

Understanding emotional intelligence and its relevance in the workplace

First and foremost, we need to ensure we fully understand exactly what emotional intelligence is and its implications within the workplace. Without this understanding we run the risk of missing the point. Broadly speaking, emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage our own emotions; the ability to facilitate and utilise those emotions and the ability to recognise and respond constructively to the emotions of others. These are fantastic abilities to possess in life in general, but they are equally significant in a career context and are particularly pertinent to leadership – studies show that the most effective leaders demonstrate high levels of emotional intelligence.

Nurturing our emotional intelligence

Many women already possess innate emotional intelligence, but that’s not to say that those who do not cannot cultivate it – and those who do should not assume there is no room for improvement! It’s a skill which can be developed and anyone can make a conscious effort to improve their emotional intelligence. By making a point of tuning in to our emotions – learning to recognise and understand our feelings; by increasing our awareness of how we manage those emotions and how we could improve on that and by developing our social skills – becoming a better listener and communicator – we can hone our emotional intelligence and give ourselves the edge in the workplace.

Exploiting gender stereotypes to our advantage

Whilst we are always striving to tear down gender stereotypes, there’s no reason why we cannot exploit outdated preconceptions to our advantage in the interest of progress! The soft skills involved in emotional intelligence have historically been viewed as more feminine qualities, which could go some way to explaining why women have the upper hand in this department. But we can take this one step further – because there may still be some lingering sexist stigma attached to emotional intelligence, this may cause some men to hesitate. As women, we won’t feel any such social pressures and can seize this opportunity to push ourselves to the forefront and let our talents and capabilities shine for all to see!

Working on our self-control

The one area where men out perform women in emotional intelligence testing is self-control – this could be considered our achilles heel and therefore shouldn’t be overlooked. Women are naturally more empathetic, meaning we are often sensitive to the negative emotions of others which trigger a nurturing response. Men on the other hand, tend to register these emotions but then switch into problem solving mode. Whilst empathy is a valuable and admirable trait, a cool head in a crisis is equally crucial. By working on our self-control and practising techniques to effectively regulate our emotions in these situations, we can benefit from the best of both worlds and ensure we retain our advantage!

There’s no dispute, diversity in the workplace is paramount and there's a very real necessity to see more women in key decision-making positions to ensure businesses utilise the unique strengths of both women and men. What’s also clear is that the future of work is going to favour a different skill set to those which we have seen in the past and excitingly, if we choose to take advantage of this, we could begin to reap the benefits of a long overdue levelling of the playing field.

By Gemma Coldwell - Contributing editor


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