The Future of Female Leadership
As humans endeavoring to move ahead in today’s world, we tend to get a little lost. One of the ways to bring ourselves back onto the path that we set out on, or at least to whatever branch we’ve wandered onto, is through inspiration. Seeing potential embodied in front of us sometimes is the key that unlocks our own potential.
That’s how I felt when I attended a panel that discussed the barriers and bias facing diversity, inclusion and advancement. It was a panel on the potential to realize my potential.
The five panelists were women who were innovators and change-makers in wildly diverse fields, ranging from social enterprise connectivity to political change to celebrity fashion. The common thread was their candid insight into being in a leadership and entrepreneurial position as a woman, and how navigating these roles could still be tricky even in this day and age, but so worthwhile.
Each panelist had a story to share, encouragement to give and candid realizations that there is still a lot of work to be done. The one thing I came away with was that it can be done. "It" being taking that risk, moving ahead in your career with impunity and delving into an idea even without having every last duck in a row.
Here are four key takeaways from these entrepreneurial inspirations
As a woman, know your worth. According to Catalyst, a non-profit organization with the mission to accelerate progress for women in the workplace, women currently hold 29 (5.8%) of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies.
“[Behavioral] evidence compiled over the past two decades suggests workplace gender bias not only persists but thrives in ways many of us don't even realize, particularly for women in male-dominated professions.”
Descriptive bias in the workplace tend to give women the character of warm, caring, deferential, submissive and prone to emotional outbursts. These stereotypes do not invoke leadership. However, the key to breaking stereotypes is to not let them diminish your perceived worth. Show your knowledge and skills, define your leadership potential, and not just know your worth - believe in it.
If you're creating something, define what problem you are solving. This might be an obvious statement, but it bears keeping in mind. You often need more than good intentions for a solid business plan. Knowing the problem you are going to solve even before developing a business plan will steer you in the right direction - it will also tell you whether you are competing in a crowded space, or if you’re well-positioned to approach an area that doesn’t have any solutions being offered.
Communicate with your donors, communicate with your investors - be transparent. An article by Fast Company shared that “people are drawn to companies who are transparent.” It’s not just about making the people who are funding your project/company feel comfortable about their investment, but also about being open and honest to your total audience. It’s about building a culture of trust and communication that puts your endeavors in a positive light.
Have your finances in order if you are starting a business - passion is not going to bring in the big bucks. Know your numbers. Ideas alone are not moneymakers. Ideas coupled with a strategic business plan and a solid understanding of cost-benefit from both a product-level, as well as an overall operational level - that’s a moneymaker. Knowing your numbers means knowing where to streamline or invest. It also makes you a lot smarter when speaking to investors about, well, investing - you can speak on their terms and get that much closer to clinching the deal.
Entrepreneurship is a daunting exercise in my mind, but hearing how these women were able to forge ahead in their very different paths despite the additional barriers of being, well, as a woman it was inspirational.