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.

Wonderful Wednesday Sixty Six
Wonderful Wednesday Sixty Five
  • Áine Danger Gumery

    Yes to all of this. It’s a similar situation working in tech, it’s mostly male. The amount of times I would ask questions and the man next to me would get the answer. Or I would make suggestions to have them ignored and then I’d get one of the men on my team to make the same suggestion – turns out it’s a great idea… ffs. I lost my steam in the end. Being a software tester you have to fight your corner every day as it is, throw in being a female. The shit got tiring. Then having one of the women decide I shouldn’t be team lead and be a complete and utter d!ck. Well I just didn’t have the strength anymore at the time. Complete career change and some travel later – I’m much happier and it was the right decision for me in the end. Fair dos to you for keeping on kicking. High fives batwoman!

  • You’re my hero, Michelle – I loved this! (especially the bit about feeling 45% confident. I’m trying to commit to memory lest I continue to mistakenly believe that everyone’s operating at 100 while I’m not!).


  • Great tips! I like how you motivate while you are writing your tips. It made me feel that I need to be more determined and unapologetic and definitely fake it till I make it 🙂


  • Love this post and totally relate to all of it! I am all for the fake confidence, I think it makes up about half of my job!!

  • Alice Young

    Scrappy gals all the way 🙂 (and yes to the Phoebe Monica reference). Loving your work as ever. Goddess 🙂 x

  • Amy

    Excellent reminder about confidence – now I just need to get better at faking it!

  • Such a great post. I work in Technology, which has a similar gender disparity, so I can definitely identify with what you’re saying. I’m a firm believer that pretending you are confidence actually breeds confidence in you. And just like you said even if it doesn’t breed confidence there is always gin!
    L x

  • I also work in Financial Services and this is SO true!! I am a big believer in the fake it til you make it philosophy, especially as I suffer in a major way from imposter syndrome. I think it’s really important to remember that you can be successful as a woman, I see so many women in my business being aggressive and I just don’t want that to be the example!

    Wonderful post Michelle!

    Sam x

  • I LOVE this post Michelle! I couldn’t agree more with your points, especially the fake it til you make it! My collegues all believe I’m incredibly confident but those close to me would completely disagree. It’s crazy what faking it can do isn’t it! I’ve just finished Big Magic by Liz Gilbert and I bloody loved it!
    Peta x

  • feelin like i am SO damn ready for monday tomorrow since reading this post! amen to absolutely every single point. plsu, all about the gin on the kitchen floor, always.

    katie xx lacoconoire.com

  • This is just the kind of post I needed to read as I feel that I definitely need to work on my confidence and speak up for myself in work situations more as in my last role I tended to ‘people please’ which is something I need to work on in myself as it comes with a whole baggage of anxiety and over-thinking, but posts like these are the first step there to encourage myself to be a little more courageous so thank you for this Michelle, loved it, and it’s so useful and I’m hoping we do see more and more diversity in workplaces across the board as time goes on too. – Tasha

  • Emma Fisher

    This. Yes. I am over here questioning my career choices (and company choices right now as it’s starting to look bad for my career if I carry on down this path!) and this has just made me feel all inspired to go out and try and do a bit better. Well, once I stop reading blogs, obviously! It must be tough to put a foot down in FS – we do a lot of work with them at my company (we provide encryption software for FS) and it’s all men i speak to! Go You. Kick Ass!