How can women progress in business?

women in business

Article provided by Michelle Reilly, CEO of 6CATS International and Founder of 6CATSPRO

In Michelle’s words, “as it stands, women are in a better position than ever to thrive in the workplace.”

While many people undoubtedly experience sexism, personally this has not been the case, and I feel there is absolutely a route to the top available for females if they wish to go for it. So, here are some of my top tips for women to progress in business:

Succeeding in a male-dominated environment

“Despite working in male-dominated environments my whole career – I haven’t really faced barriers purely due to my gender. Despite that, I would certainly say that having a thick skin is essential in traditionally masculine environments, and there may well be certain comments or pressures directed toward you that are based on gender. When I first came into the industry, I may have been judged a bit by the men that I worked with, with a few digs about being a ‘young bimbo from Essex’ – but this just made me more determined to prove everyone wrong. My advice for succeeding and progressing in a male dominated organisation is the same for both sexes. Stick to the job, always keep it professional and focus on being an over-achiever. If you work hard, people will recognise that, regardless of gender.  If you are not getting the opportunities you think you deserve, be pro-active, ask why, and act on it. Leave if necessary. Ultimately, I don’t feel the barriers that women face will truly prevent them from climbing the ladder if they are absolutely determined to get there.”


“However, if you really believe you’ve hit an impasse in your career – be that as a result of gender or not, it’s important to reach out to your wider contacts. Networking should be something ingrained in your approach to business, and by genuinely engaging with people, you make it far more likely that you will develop lasting relationships and reap future benefits. Too many people view networking as a transactional procedure. However, doing things simply with the expectation that you will be ‘owed’ something in return is the wrong approach. Use networking to share and collaborate. In these days of digital connections and networks your knowledge & experience will give you power.”


“This is one of the most essential skills for anybody wanting to succeed in business. Listen to people you want to learn from. Listen to your team. Listen to your customers. The chairman of CXC once told me, “You have two ears and one month; always use them in that ratio.’’ It may sound like a basic piece of advice – but not enough people are truly good at it. Listening will help you gather as much information as possible in order to make the right decisions, and fine tune your ability to not only build relationships that could potentially further your career, but also keep you in the know regarding opportunities to climb the ladder.”


“Actively learning and seeking out development opportunities, whether inside or outside of working hours, is a crucial aspect of career progression. In fact, this is something that I would attribute a large amount of my success to. Being pro-active and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone will not only help you gain the skills needed to thrive at a senior level, but also give the impression to those at your company that you are willing to go ‘above and beyond’, to succeed, standing you in good stead for promotion. This is something that should be practised no matter what stage of your career you are at – no-one should be complacent enough to ever think they know it all.”

Follow your heart

“At the risk of sounding clichéd, you have to believe in yourself and be prepared to take risks. The best decision I ever made was buying the business to establish 6CATS. I won’t lie – starting a new venture can be stressful – but to be successful you need to be courageous. Furthermore, whatever business you get into, make sure it’s something you’re passionate about. It is a lot easier working in a business you love than the alternative. Regarding ‘work life balance’, this is important and should be a consideration before any career step, but be realistic and honest with yourself about it. If you want to run your own business you will sometimes need to make compromises and you will always need to work hard!”

Sky’s the limit

 “As I’ve said before, while women may face discrimination and bias in the workplace –  and I don’t want to diminish anyone who has faced serious barriers with regards to their gender in the workplace – for those bright, dedicated and assertive enough, opportunities will be there and you’ll be able to take your career to the highest levels of your ability.”

About the author

Michelle Reilly, CEO of 6CATS International and Founder of 6CATSPRO – the firm’s consulting business – has 20 years’ experience in international tax compliance, rising to the top of the sector. Starting out as the receptionist of the Albany Group in 1998, Michelle quickly developed a passion for supporting the international contract industry, progressing to sales and compliance manager in her eight years at the company. Following this, she spent three years working, across the world, for Lemcon Networks as Global Compliance Manager, before moving to CXC Global where she established the EMEA business, and few years later also bought their UK business. In 2016 she led an MBO, purchasing the CXC Global EMEA agency business and forming 6CATS International. Deciding to focus exclusively on supporting the international contract recruitment industry, 6CATS has been a resounding success under Michelle’s direction. Her dedication to her career and business has resulted in the company winning multiple awards and she herself becoming Female Business Leader of the year at the 2018 Telegraph Business Awards.

Related Posts