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What are your best tips for being a successful woman in a male-dominated industry?
- Be confident
Study after study has compared confidence levels in men vs. women. Entire books have been written about confidence (or lack thereof) in women (e.g. The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman). But here’s the main thing you need to know: you are not hard-wired, as a woman, to be less confident than men. And you do not have to act or think like a man to become confident. Confidence comes from being truly, authentically, unapologetically yourself. You will never be perfect (no one is) and you will, hopefully, always be learning and improving. But be confident right where you are, focusing on your strengths, knowledge and abilities (rather than getting caught up in your real or perceived shortcomings). Remember, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt
- Know your stuff
Confidence is also rooted in being highly informed and prepared. It is still a sad reality that women in traditionally male industries are automatically perceived as less knowledgeable and less qualified strictly because of their gender. Therefore, commit yourself to thorough preparation and constant learning. Enjoy the education process and stay informed/engaged in industry developments. Then, don’t be surprised when you are underestimated, particularly in negotiations.
- Carry yourself professionally
You will never be able to eliminate disrespect entirely, but you can control how you carry yourself. You can command respect by maintaining simple, common sense standards. You communicate messages by how you act, how you dress, how you treat people. Control the things you can control.
- Have a sense of humor
While you always need to conduct yourself professionally, you also need to approach life with a sense of humor. The ability to put people at ease and lessen the tensions in situations with humor will serve you well.
- Listen and educate
Working in a male-dominated industry, it would be easy as a woman to be constantly offended by prejudices and insensitivity. But it is truly amazing what you can learn about people and how you can affect them – as well as the circumstances around you – when you choose to listen and educate, rather than live offended. Often people hold on to preconceived notions based upon life experiences OR lack thereof. When you ask questions and listen, you can start to see why certain individuals feel a certain way. That gives you the opportunity to educate others.
- Understand your strengths and know how to use them
Realize that, as a woman, you are different from men. Not inferior, just different. Focus on how those differences can make you better! Generally speaking, women are problem-solvers. We bring valuable insights and perspectives, creatively working to create synergies and solutions that are vital to the success of any industry. Groups involving more women tend to find better, more novel solutions. Again, the diversity of thought and ability to build consensus while analyzing pros and cons are strengths women bring to the decision-making process. When you realize what makes you different actually makes you better, you can stand tall in any room and any situation.
- Face fear head-on
The opposite of fear is action. And taking action in the face of fear produces courage. When we experience fear, intimidation or the feeling of being completely overwhelmed, a common (and natural) response is to freeze…to lock up. When we take steps forward in confidence – when we take action – we punch fear in the face! (Don’t believe this? Try it! It truly works.) And as you overcome the urge to shrink back, you grow stronger and find courage to face every battle.