For women in the workplace, the odds are stacked and not in their favor.
According to a recent report from Statista, only 8% of Fortune 500 companies are led by female CEOs. And while this number represents a record-high 41 females in the top position, it’s still low. Organizations have to do a better job empowering and elevating women to the highest levels of leadership.
One new and creative way to mentor the female workforce is by teaching them poker skills. The parallels between women at the conference table and women at the poker table are clear. Much like the CEO stats, of the more than 100 million poker players in the world, less than 10% are women. Yet the skill set needed to be a successful poker player is almost identical to that required to succeed in business.
If you want to empower women in your workplace, you should start by teaching them how to play poker, specifically Texas Hold’ em. Here’s why.
Poker teaches women to be more confident
It takes guts for a woman to sit down at a poker table. It also takes guts to speak up in meetings, especially in an increasingly remote work environment. In a recent survey by Catalyst, 45% of women said they have trouble speaking up in virtual meetings. One in five felt ignored or overlooked by co-workers during Zoom calls.
Poker teaches women confidence by teaching them to be bold. Sometimes you need to be more aggressive and raise the stakes. Sometimes you need to bluff. Either way, you must exude confidence. This applies not only to speaking up and contributing more in meetings, but also to negotiating a higher salary or asking for a promotion.
Having a strong poker face is key to winning, even if the hand you’ve been dealt is not that great. In poker, as in life, the only thing standing between a player and taking down a pot with a bluff is fear.
Poker helps women develop critical-thinking skills
Critical thinking is the ability to analyze and apply information gathered through observation and communication. Nowhere is this skill more valuable or more widely used than in a poker game.
In many life situations, you won’t always have all the information you need to make an important decision. Same in poker. Players have no idea what cards the other players are holding or what cards will be dealt by the dealer. They have to analyze whatever information they can see, make observations about their opponents, consider all the possible outcomes, weigh the risks, and then place their bets. All of this has to happen in a short period of time over and over again.
This is an incredible training tool not only for building critical-thinking skills, but also for how to perform under pressure. The more a woman learns about the game of poker and the more she plays, the more these skills become second nature.
Poker delivers real-life risk-management experience
Poker is all about managing risks. How much you bet is determined by many factors, such as the number of players in the hand, your position at the table, the potential size of the pot, and how much you’re willing to risk.
In business, you’re often dealing with the same issues: uncertainty, consumer behavior, your position in the market, and the value of your product or offering. Then you have to decide how much to invest in things like advertising and future product development.
Learning to play poker forces you to perform quick risk-reward analyses throughout the course of the game. This type of repetition and thinking on your feet helps women become more comfortable and less risk-averse.
Poker enhances strategic decision-making skills
Patience. Timing. Logic. Discipline. All of these skills are important in poker and in business.
Patience is required when holding out for a larger pot or a better job. Timing can mean knowing when to fold or when to have a difficult conversation with a co-worker. Thinking logically instead of emotionally can help you keep your cool at the poker table and in heated negotiations. And discipline is what keeps you learning, striving, and showing up to play your best game in any situation.
The positive reinforcements gained from playing poker on a regular basis can greatly enhance a woman’s decision-making capability and help elevate her to higher management-level positions.
Poker encourages women to network
Finally, playing poker — especially as part of a club or training group — encourages women to network, which is something many aren’t very comfortable doing. LinkedIn found that women in the U.S. are 28% less likely to have a strong network than men.
Online networking can lead to real-world networking. Be it conferences, trade shows, networking events, or even poker tournaments, the confidence acquired from learning to play poker helps women reach out and meet new people. Poker classes for women, such as the ones Poker Power uses to teach women to play Texas Hold’ em, provide a safe, fun, and interactive environment.
Making connections with other successful women who share some of the same challenges can be cathartic as well as empowering. And having empowered women in your workplace can only help to empower your bottom line.
The character traits you look for in strong female leaders are the same traits you find in experienced poker players. By encouraging women to take a seat at the poker table, you increase the chances of them succeeding in the boardroom.
The bottom line is this. Poker isn’t just a game for men. It’s a game changer for women. Challenge the women in your organization to level up their game and learn to play poker. Our corporate poker workshops close gaps and open doors using the power of poker.