Habits of Successful Women

Habits of Successful WomenWell this is a departure from the norm isn’t it? Not a spaniel or self-effacing comment in sight. Yet. Give it time, there’s a whole post to go. I’m 97.5% sure that one of the habits of truly successful women is the ability not to blabber on instead of getting to the point.

It’s hard to be a woman in lots of professions but particularly in financial services. There are many MANY reasons but the crux of it is that men still dominate the profession. Women are very much in the minority and being a minority creates an innate mistrust, an inexplicable lack of confidence. In short we have so much more to prove.  As the only woman walking into a room of men in suits I know I have to work harder to prove that I (and my fabulous shoes) belong there, that I haven’t just stumbled in without my tea trolley. There is of course not a single thing wrong with being the tea trolley dolly except when it’s assumed that that’s what you are because of your boobs.

I’m slowly but surely learning so much about not only what it takes to succeed in a profession in which I am the minority but also about the kind of woman I want to be with that. There is an (incorrect) opinion that women have to ‘be more man’ to succeed corporately; to be aggressive and domineering and overbearing and forceful and a million other words with horrid connotations. There’s a presumption that those traits that will ultimately make me excellent at my job – compassion, personability, empathy, a genuine interest in others, creativity – make me less capable than those who go full Wolf of Wall Street. Nuh uh, fraid not. And this is not to say that men cannot also be empathetic and creative and compassionate, it’s just that those traits are not traditionally associated with this profession and therefore not associated with those traditionally occupying this profession.

I’m on dangerous ground so let’s move on to the habits of successful women, in my humble opinion:

Be Unapologetic Not in the never say sorry when you’re wrong way, that just gets on folks wicks. When I go to industry events, there can be a little group of women huddled in the corner being given a wide enough berth to suggest leprosy. Turning on your woman radar instantly reinforces a ‘them’ and ‘us’ scenario. Don’t do that, don’t be sorry to be there, don’t seek out the women. Head high, big girl pants on and get stuck in.

Be Determined Yes, it’s a trait of all successful people, not just the women but it doesn’t hurt to reinforce it. You’ll need a lot of determination to get you over the barriers that irrefutably exist in getting to where you want to get to when you’re in the minority.

Be Scrappy This is probably not a million miles from determined but I think I mean resilient. There have been days throughout this journey on which I’ve arrived home and sat on the kitchen floor swigging gin and wondering exactly what I thought I was doing. It’s takes a certain amount of scrappiness to pick yourself up from that, to put down the gin and keep on moving forwards.

Aside 1: anyone else only associate ‘I’m scrappy!’ with when Phoebe tried to phase Monica out?

Aside 2: I mistyped ‘gun’ for ‘gin’. If you’re sitting on the kitchen floor playing with a gun then you’ll need more than scrappy.

Be Confident Join me in the 100% fake it til you feel it camp. I’m probably at about 45% in the confidence stakes. People I talk to about this say they thought I’d be much higher. Truth is, the majority of the time I’m terrified. Terrified of being found out as an imposter, terrified of getting something wrong or of dropping an f bomb at the wrong time.  I’m getting good at not letting the terror show. Hide those shaking, fidgety hands, take a few deep breaths and smile. You can hide a lot with a smile.

Be Knowledgeable The gender disparity in my sector means that women automatically have so much more to prove. I’m so early in my career that I cannot possibly go into any room and be the most knowledgeable one there, but I try. I do my research, I read, I learn and go in ready for anything. There’s part of this that’s just doing a damn good job anyway isn’t there? Do that. Do a damn good job.

That’s all I’ve got. Don’t apologise and fake it a bit. Now go, take over the world.

NB how you measure ‘success’ is entirely up to you. I’m not suggesting that you have to have a professional services career to be successful. At all. You do you, just kick arse at it.


Never Stick To What You Know

Whenever I dare to write something semi-political or to discuss what is going on in the world on my small internet platform, I’ve come to expect a response. Mostly a positive one but there is always be some prat who thinks I should wind my neck in, stay on message or stick to what I know. The wonderful thing about the internet is that everyone has a voice and so very many people are unafraid to use that voice to tell you to get back in the kitchen.

No surprise then that the morning after Meryl Streep’s impassioned Golden Globe speech on Sunday night, the vocal masses are out in force. In a not particularly veiled reference to the President Elect, Ms Streep used her huge platform to highlight the importance of the mainstream media in holding decision makers to account. She implored journalists and anyone with a voice to challenge injustice, to not let hateful rhetoric pass by uncontested. She used her influence to persuade her peers and those who idolise her and her impressive body of work, to stand up and be heard in the face of overwhelming negativity.

Of course, the first thing I read on Monday morning was a whole thread of comments telling her to ‘stick to acting’ which, in the unshakably objective opinion of anonymous internet users, she’s not that good at – that’s right trolls, hit ‘em where it hurts.

As a citizen of a nation about to change beyond all recognition, why shouldn’t she use her platform to discuss that change? To empower others to challenge and influence. Whether you agree or disagree with what she said, there is no doubt that it is her absolute right to use whatever means she has at her disposal to voice her opinion.

There’s also the small fact that she is a human being. At the heart of Meryl Streep’s missive was the well documented mockery of a disabled journalist by the President Elect.  As human beings, it is the responsibility of every single one of us to speak up on behalf of those who have been treated unjustly and to challenge those who feel it somehow acceptable to treat others with such contempt.

When we stop challenging these sorts of behaviours, when we stand by and silently witness, we are failing at humanity a bit. So thank you Meryl Streep, thank you for showing the world that speaking up is the right thing to do and do try not to let Donald’s response that you’re a ‘Hilary lover’ keep you awake at night.

Never ever stick to what you know, never let injustice go unchallenged, always use your voice.