Well 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.