Ten things I've learned from Being a Woman in a male-dominated Industry.
Next year I will celebrate 25 years in the Telecommunications industry. It is no secret, that it still is heavily male-dominated, and maybe because I've survived it long enough,
I often get asked to speak to other women about things I've learned throughout my journey. Since we are still celebrating Women's History month, I thought it would be good to share some of that advice here, feel free to pass it on to any young women in your life!
· Don’t let stereotypes influence you: When women lead, their traits are often perceived negatively. Assertiveness is perceived as bossiness, and passion, and empathy as getting “worked up.” It is crucial to change the narrative and that antiquated mindset, and continue to lead with confidence.
· Expand your network: As a Latina with Sicilian roots, I have networking in my blood. I am your friend, coworker, confidant and cheerleader. I know I can call on you for advice, and my door is also open to you whenever you need me. However, even if you are like me and it comes naturally, but especially if it doesn’t, building connections takes commitment. Network as much as you can within your industry circles and be consistent. Strive to create genuine relationships and don’t use them only when you want to get something out of them.
· Set the stage: Sometimes, when you’re the only woman on the team, men may plan innocuous after-hours meetings or activities that alienate female members. And don’t take me wrong; women sometimes do the same thing. Instead, set the stage, create the next situation, and be an inclusive planner. Don’t leave anybody out.
· Be patient with yourself and welcome failure as a teaching moment: Failure isn’t negative; it’s an opportunity to learn, grow, and push boundaries that ultimately lead to success. Take a chance and fail. Try again and fail better, smarter, and faster, and remember that success takes time. It doesn’t simply happen overnight. Be patient with yourself, and keep showing up to do the work day after day. When you do the work consistently, success is inevitable.
· Own your successes: When you accomplish something at work, share it with your team and your boss, and let others outside of your team know. Keep a journal that tracks what you’ve accomplished. Keeping your name and accomplishments at the forefront will keep you top of mind for new opportunities or promotions. Leveraging social media has also been key to my own success and raising the visibility of my achievements and things that I want my industry to know about. Gary Vaynerchuk‘s book “Crushing It” greatly helped me with this.
· Learn to ask for what you want early on: This goes back to not being afraid to fail. There are opportunities out there that might be perfect for you, but unless you tell your boss that you’re interested, they may not know you’d like to be nominated. Ask, “what do I have to do to get to be a part of…” and then do it. The worst thing that can happen is that he/she says NO, and you are right there where you were before you asked the question. Muster up the courage and go ask for what you want.
· Don’t be ashamed of being a MOM (or a caregiver):
Strive to be in a work environment that provides you with enough flexibility to be the best mom you can be without feeling guilty about it. When I had my first baby, I made the conscious choice that I would nurse him. It was important to me. I am fully aware that as moms, we all have different aspects of motherhood that we feel more attached to, and the choice on how to approach the task is unique to each woman, and that has to be respected. I was very lucky that I was my own boss. I had an office where I set up “shop” and would pump breast milk in between phone calls and emails. I was a 37-year-old first-time mom and ready to go toe to toe with anyone who was going to question my methods. There were times I had to slip out of meetings or take a few ‘emergency’ calls in my office because I had a schedule, and I had to stick to it. Efficiency and scheduling were the names of my game, and I was able to breastfeed both Christian and then Emma until both were a year old. I consider myself lucky because I know that most women don’t have that same flexibility at work. Think of what you need from your employer to achieve the balance you want. Do your asking and negotiate hard.
· Be professional and develop a thick skin. Yes, women in the workplace are sometimes treated differently to their male coworkers. If you work in a male-dominated industry with a boy’s club mentality, it’s important not to be over-sensitive. Again, using humor to let men know that they are making a sexist joke, or are asking you to do something they wouldn’t ask of a male colleague, can be an excellent way to diffuse a situation while educating them that times have indeed changed. If you want to be accepted and promoted for your achievements, and you work in a male-dominated field, try not to be horrified when you hear a swear word, for example. You don’t want your colleagues to change the subject when you approach it. It’s not about being one of the boys; it’s about being a part of the team. And for this to happen, you may need to set aside your sensitivities.
Support women in your industry. Woman-to-woman support is the best way to change an industry that puts a limitation on gender. This means that women must actively stand up for other women and lead by example.
And last but not least, Keep it professional at ALL times. I know is hard sometimes, especially during business trips or Company parties for example, but this piece of advice is probably one of the most important ones. Never behave in a way that's short of corporate excellence, remember that in business-related events you don't only represent yourself, but also the company you work for, one should never lose sight of that.
I hope you have found these tips useful and feel free to add your own advice in the comments!