Women are the backbone of our families, companies, and nation, and we want to keep celebrating all the achievements of women everywhere. We took to LinkedIn to ask what kind of questions people had for our #WomenLeaders about their experience, and they have answers. Our very own shared their thoughts on these important topics and offered their advice gained from firsthand experiences.
It is our hope to share some inspiration to our community on how truly wonderful it is (and should be) to be a woman.
How can women navigate power structures?
Amie Hibbins, COO: Self-awareness and confidence. Inside any industry are networks you can be a part of - and ones that might be close to your SME or general interests. Join those, get a mentor, and meet leaders in the space that you are passionate about. My first mentor was someone that was very different to myself who had a very large network that I could gain access to and ultimately give me exposure to areas of a business that might typically be closed off to me. Common leadership traits among women are "resilience, innovation, persistence and empathy". Be proud of what you are good at and share your voice.
What has been the most significant barrier in your carrier?
Jennifer Spicher, CRO: As a women leader, I think the most significant barrier in my career, which I have definitely overcome, was my own self. As a mother of two kids, wife, daughter, sister, etc., I wasn’t sure I could have it all until I realized that I could. I had a husband that gladly took a back seat to my career and stayed home with our kids while I traveled the world in my various roles. Once I realized how high my career could go, and saw the possibilities, and had the “back office” support at home to know that my kids had their dad at home, my career took off. It wasn’t without sacrifice, I missed a lot of games, practices, band concerts, etc., but I did make the important ones. And I don’t regret any of it.
Ashley Smith, VP: Me! My own self-doubt or feeling like an imposter. I’ve realized over time that leadership and leading is not about knowing all the answers or being perfect. Every leader brings something different to the table, and trust that you are in the room for a reason.
Jinefer Pippas, VP: Myself. For many years I lacked the courage to take the leap. I knew I could take on the next role, I was just afraid of the unknowns. Afraid of potential failure. I had a mentor once tell me that even in failure, the lessons learned provide growth. So, I shifted my mindset and started to look at opportunities as a way to focus on my growth instead of whether I would succeed or fail. Even if the outcomes haven’t been exactly what I anticipated, I only see growth, and that equals success. There are no barriers we can’t get over or around if what we truly want is on the other side.
How can we better mentor each other?
Jinefer: We really need to be a sponsor, not just a mentor. Let’s promote each other’s visibility and ensure leadership hears about our successes. Be invested in each other’s success. Too often we have this feeling of constant competition. Instead of competing, hold each other’s hand as we climb. Raise names for opportunities and promotions. Then when that promotion is received, support each other on our journeys. Be vulnerable. Share our lessons learned and more importantly, how we grew from the experience. Celebrate each other’s growth and successes and be genuinely happy for the other. Genuinely.
Amie: Mentorship programs have become very popular over the last few years, but although it sounds exciting to mentor others, we have to check in with ourselves before accepting the task. From the mentee perspective, it is important to know exactly what you want from such a relationship before you embark on a quest. Ultimately, you need to ask yourself: Do you have the right skills to help this person? Do you have the time to put into the task? I believe a mentor should be there as a supportive arm to the problems that arise, ask the right questions, and help with advice that produces solutions.
What advice would you give to young women entering this profession/ organization?
Amie: Build your brand, be professional, be the person that you would reach out to for advice or for business, the person you would want on your team. Think of yourself as a swimming duck. Calm on the surface but flapping under the water to get to the destination - whether that's a placement or a positive interaction with a client! View yourself as solution orientated and if you have a bad day that's ok - clear your head and start again the next day.
Have you ever had a time where you felt inferior to those in the room with you? How did you move past that and gain trust in the room?
Dawn: When I was younger in my career, I definitely did. However, I was fortunate enough to have some very positive mentors in my life that recognized the gifts that I had to empower myself and others. They showed me to stand firm in my abilities to impact change and to serve others. I learned from them not to ever “compare and contrast” which is what leads to self doubt and the feeling of inferiority.
Diana Hinojosa, Manager: Absolutely, as the leader of our Clinical Healthcare practice, I work with employees and managers who have been in my industry for longer than I have, but I think the most important thing I’ve learned is to remind myself the reason I’m there. Am I here to add value, to learn, or to give my input? Once you know your intention, you can set yourself up for success to your own authentic capacity. Secondly, I think it’s even more important to face the thoughts you’re having of inferiority and getting to the root of it. Are you there to prove yourselves to others? So often, we’re so focused on the perception we think others have of us that we paralyze ourselves from being fully present and use experiences as a learning opportunity. When I find myself in that situation, I start talking back to my thoughts (internally) to help me not over identify the negativity. I choose to take a deep breath and focus on the things that are within my control.
Jinefer: I was in a client meeting where I was only 1 of 2 women with 8 or 9 men in the room. I was slated to speak first but the meeting was kicked off by a man showing a video of why men are smarter than women. I wish I was kidding. I just kept reminding myself what I was there to accomplish and that I was the one with the skill and knowledge to ensure the project was successful. We are not inferior to anyone. If you find yourself feeling that way, remember….You are in that room for a reason, show them why.
Jennifer: Many times, I have been in a room where I look around and see people with titles and job responsibilities much greater than mine. In that moment, you have to realize that life is about perspective. They invited me to that meeting because I bring a different perspective. I have an experience that they don’t have, I have an opinion that they want to hear. In those moments, I firmly believe that you have 2 ears and 1 mouth and should use them accordingly. I also realize, that they put their pants on one leg at a time, just like I do. Leaders want to hear different perspectives, that’s why you are in the room. They want to understand your experience and your opinion, so give it to them.
Do you have any advice for women looking to build confidence and resiliency over the course of their career?
Ashley: Understand that not everyone is going to be your cheerleader and that is OK. The criticism or negative behavior you encounter are lessons you can learn from. Take it, learn from it, and move on.
Dawn: FIND MENTORS! Women and men that recognize your strengths and help you cultivate those without becoming arrogant. Your mentors will help you with what I call your “growth opportunities” and this will build your confidence & resiliency. In turn, YOU will become a mentor and show others to see their strengths and encourage them to shine their light brightly.
Diana: Something I’ve learned that continues to help me through my career is understanding that confidence is a skill that can be worked on and improved. I think the first step is identifying the areas you don’t feel confident in and where you’d like to be. It’ll give you a better overview of where the gap is and working with a coach or a mentor is a great resource to help you bridge the gap. This can include setting new goals and identifying any limiting beliefs that are stopping you from pursuing new goals. I also like to set monthly goals for myself to do one thing outside of my comfort zone and to remind myself of all the challenges I’ve already overcome when I need to remind myself of my resiliency.
How do you create opportunities for yourself and make yourself stand out in and industry where women might be overlooked?
Jennifer: In building your career, make calculated moves. Each time you are considering a job change, ask yourself, what am I going to gain by taking on this new job/role/function. Each time you shift or move roles, you should be gaining something that you aren’t currently getting in your position. i.e. Going from being a single contributor, to managing a small team. Going from managing a small team, to managing a larger team, going from managing a large team in a division, to a different division that you may not have any experience with. You learn and grow by challenging yourself. Each time, gaining new experiences and different perspectives. This is what makes a good leader. I will also say that as a leader, don’t ever lead from behind, lead by example: meaning…..you need to be prepared to roll up your sleeves and do the work that you are asking your team to do. If they see you jump into the trenches with them, the respect they will afford you is tremendous. Lastly – great leaders hire people that are smarter than them, they hire people that have traits and characteristics that they don’t have to help bring them knowledge. Do that, make sure you surround yourself with people who are more talented than you and then don’t be afraid to let them shine! Your job as a leader is to develop them into what they want to be.
Ashley: I’ve always been a problem solver and doer. Early on, when I would see an issue, I would figure out a possible solution, bring it to my supervisor, and inevitably be the one to carrying out the project. I think being proactive, not just identifying problems, makes an impression.
Dawn: I might be in the minority here, but I feel lucky that the women I have worked alongside with and myself have never felt overlooked in our industry. I also think men can be overlooked as well. The best way to create opportunities is to ALWAYS “lead from the front”. Don’t ever ask your team to do anything you wouldn’t do with them or alongside of them. This creates loyalty, trust, respect and humbleness. If you practice mindfulness, kindness and integrity your actions will elevate you organically to stand out amongst men and women. It will also allow for people to wonder “what’s different about this person”, “why does she/he have so many clients, employees and other leaders that admire them or want to learn from them”. Take yourself out of the equation and serve others, empower others, lift others up. This will always create opportunities for yourself and others. It's the secret sauce to living a happy and rewarding life.
Diana: I believe you can always create opportunities for yourself if you figure out where the gaps are and what value you can add to your company or industry. It’s important to be proactive in where you want to drive your career instead of waiting for someone too. If you continue investing in yourself through workshops or education on how you can further your skill set, you’ll always find a way to contribute. I also strongly believe that it’s important to have other women or mentors that can support your ideas and can encourage you to pursue those ideas.