May 17, 2018
In November 2017, the World Economic Forum announced that the disparity between men and women’s opportunities in education, health and politics has actually increased rather than decreased. In Silicon Valley, the lack of gender diversity and continued bias against women remains ingrained in the professional world.
Societal and organizational changes are necessary in order to fully achieve gender equity in business. Until these shifts take place, there are some steps that young women can take to navigate their careers effectively.
As part of my research as a Hackworth Fellow with the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, I asked 12 high-powered women in various fields and industries ranging from venture capital to sports finance to share their insights on how women can navigate the murky waters of gender inequity.
From these conversations, I have consolidated their advice into 10 key steps to help young women own their careers.
1. Find Mentors and Sponsors
Behind every successful person stands mentors and sponsors. When looking for mentors, don’t look for one type of person, such as your boss, or keep a preconceived notion of what your mentor will look like. Mentors are often not members of your team, your department or even your organization.
Look for someone with whom you click and relate to, then create a genuine relationship, making sure that it feels like a mutually beneficial relationship and not just a one-way street.
2. Speak Up and Speak Up Early
Speak up early in meetings, because if you stay quiet at the start of the meeting, you probably will not say anything at all. While it can be daunting to give your opinion to senior members, the organizers included you in the meeting because they value your perspective. Additionally, if you have questions, ask them! Don’t be shy about clarifying things and if you aren’t comfortable broaching a question in a larger meeting, then ask afterwards individually.
3. Keep Things Professional
Be polite and professional to everyone. Sometimes men can get away with being rude or brash, but there is a professional expectation for women to remain polite. This becomes part of your brand, so be very careful to protect it. Additionally, cut yourself off after one drink at work events, for nothing good happens after the second drink. If you want to be taken seriously, stay sober.
4. Remain Resilient
Not every job is going to be your dream job, but every job that you have will teach you something new and introduce you to new people. Don’t be discouraged if the job you start with is not the one you love. Learn everything you can from that experience and take it with you to your next opportunity.
5. Work Hard and Work Smart
Stay out of office politics and focus on producing great work. Avoid distractions and instead keep your goals in your line of sight quantifying and communicating your successes.
6. Take Ownership of the Interview Process
An interview is an opportunity for you to learn about the company just as much as it is about the company learning about you. Take the time to ask questions about management style and company culture to see if it is actually a good fit. Don’t be so anxious to secure a job that you allow a company to run your career for you.
7. Be Willing to Fail and Fail Gracefully
Putting yourself out there is scary, but forge ahead believing you are capable. When you make mistakes—because there are going to be times when you screw up— take responsibility for it. Let it roll off your back and continue moving forward.
8. Trust Your Own Abilities
Be confident. Confidence does not mean that you have to be the loudest or most boastful person in the room. Have faith in your own abilities.
9. Ask, Ask, Ask for Opportunities
Don’t wait for opportunities to be offered to you. Create your own opportunities and continue to ask for what you want. Volunteer for things, even if they are outside of your comfort zone. Men ask for things, so women should not be intimidated by the process. We too must take control of our careers.
10. Pick Your Battles Carefully
If you make a mountain out of a molehill or fight every little battle that comes your way, when something comes up that really matters, your voice will not have much sway. What you fight for affects your personal brand, so pick your battles carefully. Then, once you come across something that you are willing to fight for, fight like hell.
Emily Monroe is a senior management major.