It’s been relatively well documented that companies with greater gender diversity make more money, and that female-led businesses earn their investors superior returns. Yet the percentage of women in C-suite level positions around the world is still – let’s be honest – pretty dismal. And yet, slowly but surely, more women are rising through the ranks and taking the lead, in turn inspiring other young women entrepreneurs as they go. We take a look at some of the advice that helped them, and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.
Hire people with skills and strengths you don’t have
It’s natural to want to hire staff you relate to, who come from similar backgrounds and have experience in the fields you understand – but this can be a mistake. Jena Abernathy, senior partner with Witt/Kieffer, explains why she aims to showcase talent in others:
“Hire people smarter than you and don’t be threatened… Take time to meet with them and get to know them… I love to showcase talent on my team, and I believe it’s our legacy to develop others.”
Stay in the know and dedicate time to research
It’s all too easy to get caught up in the things you need to do today and take your eye off the bigger picture. Haley Altman, CEO of legal tech company Doxly, makes a point of setting aside time for daily research:
“Never stop learning about your industry and the competitive landscape. You will be expected to be at the forefront of major trends or shifts… so arm yourself with the research to make decisions. I like to set aside time every morning (blocked off on my calendar) to do nothing but read industry publications, and also take a look at what our direct competitors are up to.”
Don’t be afraid to be nice
If treating others well, offering a kind word, connecting with your colleagues and employees on a personal level and being approachable is what comes naturally to you, then don’t feel that you need to change that to fit in in a male-dominated industry. There’s this idea that women have to behave more like men to get ahead in business – yet it may be just these stereotypically more ‘feminine’ traits which are one of the reasons they tend to make better leaders.
Work with the pros
In today’s ultracompetitive global and technology-driven marketplace, you’ve got to tackle an increasingly wide range of business functions – from dealing with social media to handling HR issues and analyzing complex business data. You can’t be an expert in everything – and that means reaching out for help when you need it, something female leaders often find difficult as they feel it makes them appear weak.
Shoving that idea firmly aside and partnering with the right people, companies and organizations who are experts in their field can take your business from good to great. Whether it’s outsourcing your digital marketing, hiring an experienced IT project services company to help you better leverage or scale technology in your business, or working with a business coach to give you insights you might otherwise have missed, asking for help can pay off big time.
Nurture your own self-confidence
Every woman has likely found herself in a room full of male colleagues sprawled leisurely back in their chairs, positively oozing ease and comfort – and perhaps found herself wondering how on earth they manage to look so confident and relaxed. If this sounds like you, president and co-founder of events marketplace Eventbrite, Julia Hartz, has the following advice to offer:
“Don’t second guess yourself. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, and bring out the best in you… Don’t let fear get in your way or build a confidence gap.”
For many women, confidence is one area where you may need to ‘fake it before you make it’. If you’re aware that your body language could be making you look defensive or nervous, Julia even suggests a little power posing – or more accurately, postural feedback – may be useful!
Find a mentor and be a mentor
Running a business is tough – regardless of your gender – and finding ways to keep yourself inspired and motivated is important. Following inspirational leaders online, going to talks by successful businesswomen and attending networking events can all be helpful. Keep your eyes open for someone you connect with, and if it feels right, ask them to be your ‘official’ mentor.
Finding yourself a protégé who you can in turn pass your experience and wisdom onto – and who almost certainly has lots to offer in return – is a good way to pay it forward and can be immensely rewarding and mutually beneficial.