Whether you’re an executive, in middle management or interacting with customers every, the life of a woman in business can be both demanding and rewarding.
The prominence of women in the business world continues to grow – more than 11 million companies are run by women – and the number of women who are attending college and business school has been high for many years.
But there are still challenges. It can be tough for women to reach the executive suite or even managerial ranks in some industries.
If you are a woman in business or a woman looking to enroll in a business program, here are some valuable pieces of insight to help you achieve and maintain success in the workplace.
Curiosity can fuel your success in school and beyond. Women in business can benefit from being tenaciously curious and pushing the boundaries of how business has been done in the past.
Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions. Being curious will jumpstart the learning process and ensure you are absorbing the necessary information.
Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook wrote in her 2013 book, Lean In, about the importance of being curious and confident:
"At a certain point, it’s your ability to learn quickly and contribute quickly that matters. Women need to shift from thinking ‘I’m not ready to do that’ to thinking ‘I want to do that — and I’ll learn by doing it.’ ”
An important part of learning and absorbing information is asking questions, especially so you can get a full understanding of the assignment, project, or challenge. Those questions will help you establish a better understanding of what you need to do to be successful. Allow yourself to learn from your experiences and your peers.
“My advice for emerging female leaders is to find your passion and stay curious. Always push yourself to learn as much as you possibly can and never settle for the status quo. Turning passion into knowledge has helped me to gain the respect of my peers and leaders. Learning when to speak up and not being afraid to share my opinions has enabled me to move from contributor to leader and has ultimately been critical to my success.” - Hilary Ross, VP of Podcast Media, Veritone One
Advocate for yourself and your ideas
Confidence is a vital part of excelling as a woman in the workforce. It’s about the faith you have in your opinions, skills and talents.
The stereotype of business being a male-dominated industry still exists. Because of this, women could find additional hurdles on the road to success. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and stand by them. Your level of confidence helps establish trust in your contributions and ideas. Remind yourself that you are just as capable and qualified as others in your program and the workplace.
Confidence can be expressed in many different ways. Whether you’re trying to apologize less for things that don’t deserve an apology or finding the courage to speak up during a big meeting, it’s imperative for women in a business setting to be seen and heard with confidence.
Whitney Wolfe Herd, the CEO of Bumble, spoke about finding her voice among a team of businessmen:
"You should always advocate for yourself and even if it’s a ‘no’ that you’re met with, you actually make huge strides because you stood up for yourself.”
Melinda Gates, the co-founder of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, shares a similar perspective: “
Over time, I developed the confidence to stop trying to emulate others and to lead in a way that felt comfortable and true to me, it made all the difference. So trust yourself and trust your own voice. Women speaking up for themselves and for those around them is the strongest force we have to change the world.”
Build a Strong Network
Having a strong network, both professional and personal, will ensure that you are achieving career success, especially if your network includes other women in business. Finding a mentor to encourage growth will keep you driven and focused. A great mentor can make a world of difference in a woman’s professional career by increasing confidence, providing support, and helping navigate gender-specific obstacles they may face. 87% of mentors and mentees feel empowered by their mentoring relationships and have developed greater confidence.
Stephanie Dennis, who earned her MBA at Herzing University, attributed her academic success to support from her professors.
“My instructors had experience that brought a real-world feel to the classes, and they helped me understand how I could apply classroom learnings in the workplace. Since graduating from the MBA program, I have become a better leader and manager within my organization.”
There are plenty of ways to find a mentor or to even become one yourself. Find ways to network with other women in business. Using LinkedIn or Facebook groups to connect with other women in business is another way to expand your network. The Natural Academy of Sciences found that men benefit most from building broad networks, while successful women have both a broad network and a smaller close-knit inner network of women.
Karen Leonard of Innovative Global Vision, a website design and marketing agency, spoke about the benefits of connecting with other women in business through networking groups:
“These groups have given me friendship, mentors, peers, and provided the sometimes not-so-easy-to-take reality checks and the understanding that sometimes an outside perspective can remove the blinders that come from being too close to a situation or issue.”
Making strong connections now will serve you well in your career, as you can build on these relationships long after graduation.
The path to success won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Anticipate the unpredictable lifestyle of a woman in business by developing not only strong professional skills but soft skills as well.
Sheryl Sandberg warns:
“Trying to do it all and expecting it all can be done exactly right is a recipe for disappointment. Perfection is the enemy.”
There are a variety of factors that will affect your journey as a woman in business. Embrace the ups and downs and use them to fuel your ambition and growth. Resilience and adaptability are valuable skills for any professional, but especially for women in business. Allow yourself to learn from mistakes and take something from each experience. Find solutions, not excuses.
“We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes – understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.” - Arianna Huffington, author, columnist and co-founder of the Huffington Post
A business degree can open a variety of doors. Women who have walked through those doors before you can help inspire you and guide the way to your success.
Caitlin Teske decided to pursue a degree in business management at Herzing University. Her advice?
"Take the program seriously. It can be easy to get off course when you are depending on yourself for motivation. Find a support group and most importantly, focus on the outcomes of earning your degree! It’s all worth it.”