I recently attended a women’s leadership conference called The Wisdom of Women. Throughout the day, we had the opportunity to hear from many women who have excelled in their fields and moved up the leadership ranks.
Each of them had a different philosophy about what worked for them. Some I wholeheartedly agreed with, other, not so much. But that’s the great thing about programs like this, you take from it what speaks to you and fits you.
One thing everyone agreed upon was that leaders need to learn to manage stress. The best way to do that is finding ways to integrate time during the day to rest your mind.
Latha Ravi, owner of the Flying Locksmiths and a Certified Yoga Instructor, said “Time is the biggest challenge for everyone. But if you can just find a minute here or there you’ll build up an emergency reserve so you can handle what ever comes up.”
I think everyone agreed being your authentic self is vital. You really can’t give a hoot if everyone likes you or thinks like you. Let go of the stereotypes and believe in yourself. It’s up to you not to let someone else’s opinion of you impact you and what you achieve. That’s why we should all take the opportunity to build each other up.
Our day included a panel discussion featuring women who were “Breaking Traditions.” Here we heard from women who were in professions normally associated with our male counterparts. Their jobs ranged from automotive to IT to HVAC. I can relate after working over 20 years in the utility industry.
While there are still barriers and misconceptions in the workforce, I feel blessed to live in a time where women are only limited by their personal desire to excel. It’s true there are still times we need to push the barrier and make sure our voices are heard, it’s how you do that, that seems to be the question.
One panelist suggested women needed to be tough about things and not present their female side at work. I personally disagree. I think women offer a different approach to a lot of problems and opportunities. We think differently than men do in some situations, especially when it comes to teams and people. There are a lot of ways to make yourself stand out that don’t involve you becoming “one of the boys.”
I do think, as women, we need to make sure we control our emotions in the workplace. If we practice a “respond not react” approach, you can maintain your feminine side without looking like an emotional basket case. When you think ahead and plan how you will handle situations, you can present a clear plan of action when the time comes. You look in control and capable of handling whatever is thrown your way.
Everyone agreed it was important to learn the most you can learn about the industry you are in. That’s how you prove to people you belong. If you know the product and the business, it doesn’t matter if you show up in a skirt or trousers.
One panelist suggested you needed to find out how do you get on the golf course so you could listen to what the men say and learn what’s really going on. Her thought was you have to go where the boys are or else the information isn’t being shared otherwise. While I feel there’s some truth in that concept, if you don’t enjoy the activity, don’t go. That will come across and people will pick up on it. It won’t seem authentic.
If it’s not the golf course, you do need to find times where you can have those relevant conversations. Maybe schedule lunches or just pop into an office and have a conversation. Be willing to listen and learn. You do that enough, you’ll become someone people share information with.
It’s important you realize you are there because you like what you do and you are good at it. Don’t let someone set the expectation for you. It’s up to you to show them what you can do for them and that you can fix their problems. If you can go in with an understanding of what they need and show them you can get it done, everyone will respect the results.
The one thought which generated a lot of conversation at our table was the thought that women had to work 10x’s harder than their male counterparts. While I won’t argue with the person who said this because each persons situation is different, our table was of the mindset that women who reach these points in their career are really hard workers anyway. Most of us have a strong work ethic which has been instilled in us from a very young age. We take pride in a job well done and generally don’t half ass our way through something. So maybe it appears to an outsider we are working harder – and I hope smarter – than others in our industries.
What we don’t do is talk about our part in accomplishments. Men claim their wins. Women tend to sit back and hope someone notices. Then when they do, they dismiss their work as “it was nothing.” I think we do ourselves a disservice with this practice. It doesn’t have to be done in a boastful way, but if someone recognizes your efforts, don’t downplay your part in the success.
No matter which side you fall out on the ideas and advice in this article, I think everyone would agree there’s still a long way to go for women in the workplace. There’s still disparity in pay. There’s still misconceptions which need to be removed. It’s about both sides respecting the contributions of each.
So what are the best takeaways?
1. Do your homework.
2. Be educated about your industry.
3. Show up and be a problem solver.
4. When you get the seat at the table, don’t be afraid to speak.
5. Remain authentic to yourself and ideas.