I’ve been pondering this whole woman’s empowerment issue. This is a longer conversation, but here are some of my current thoughts.
While at the end of the day, your work has to be amazing, which transcends gender, the playing field for women has been littered with land mines, some real, some perceptual.
The key for me has been is to never cast myself as a victim, and I have tried to help my students navigate the tricky waters to reach sales and production.
This is a great moment to reflect about what if anything we may want to do differently going forward.
Here a are a few tools that may be of use to you:
I found this article that gives a few suggestions as to how we can all improve our professional game. I appreciate her simple approach.
What I’ve Learned From 25 Years of Being the Only Woman at the Table
From Val Wright: “I’ve been watching you. For the last 25 years.”
I’ve noticed which of you are the most fulfilled, happy, and successful and which are exhausted, frustrated, and hanging on by your fingernails.
I’ve observed life in the male dominated-worlds of gaming, car manufacturing and technology, working with leading companies including XBOX, BMW, and Amazon, and in almost every executive team I work with, I’m the only woman present (aside from an occasional woman in the legal or HR seats)
Here are the lessons that every executive can learn about how to succeed in business:
Focus on business results
This applies to both men and women when talking to women: talk business insights, not fashion or family commentary when talking to women.
Men don’t approach other men and say “nice shoes” or “how are the kids?” They talk about the latest products, what they just read on Recode or the results of the last board retreat. Don’t tell me you like my dress. I don’t care. Or if I do, I don’t want to hear it from you. We work together. You’re not here to find your next BFF.
Don’t use a paragraph when a sentence will do, don’t use a sentence when a word will do, don’t speak when silence is needed.
Match the mannerisms of your male counterparts
A highly-successful female executive asked me this last week, “I’m continually in executive meetings where my executive male peers speak in parallel, they are loud, aggressive, and dominate conversations. I told her, “Beat them at their own game.”
Speak louder, don’t drop out of the parallel talk, find new ways to take over.
Grab a pen and notepad and frame a discussion with a diagram, physically command your space, stand when everyone else is sitting. These are all ways to grab attention.
If anyone crosses the inappropriate line, name it and confront it the first time it happens; if nothing changes, speak up and be prepared to walk right out of the door.
Pay attention to the music of your voice
Ladies, you can train your voice to talk several octaves lower. Listen to sports coaches. Learn not to “uptalk,” inserting that uptick at the end of sentences turning your statements into questions. This bad habit makes you sound uncertain, not confident.
Video yourself and listen. Watch the movie “In a World,” in which the character played by Lake Bell teaches women to speak with confidence and power.
Whether you like it or not, appearance matters
For reasons I will never understand, men get away with tatty ill-fitting clothes, though the transformation J Allard made from Microsoft geek to Xbox hipster is well documented. He hired a personal stylist and had a full image makeover.
Don’t let your appearance be the subject of conversation. Whether you are a man or a woman, invest in looking professional.
Be brilliant at demonstrating your brilliance
One of the key factors that differentiates the highest-performing leaders is that they are not just brilliant at creating results, they are also brilliant at demonstrating their brilliance. Don’t be the world’s best-kept secret while others beat you to promotions and new opportunities.
This is very raw and personal for me, and it is part of a story I have not told publicly until now. I have deleted and pressed undo on this article a ridiculous amount of times in the last week.
Here is why I am not pressing my own mute button; if my mum and dad hadn’t been ruthless when I was five and left the extreme religious cult we were born into, right now I’d be unable to wear trousers, have waist-length hair, and likely be married with seven kids having never worked outside the home or have much contact with the outside world beyond darkened windows.
While my religious experience was extreme, I see similarities of how women are treated in bizarre cults and in the workplace every day from stories I am told by senior executives or what I personally witnessed.
We all have our own version of <insert latest shamed prominent figure’s name>. Instead of sharing those stories, (and I have plenty,) I want to share these lessons, because you all, we all, have far more power to change than you realize.
Let’s work today to redefine what will be written in future history books. Starting with you, right now.
More on this topic in the future.
Enjoy the weekend!
Here’s to your successful writing!
Professor Marilyn Horowitz