Despite having a record-high number of female CEOs running Fortune 500 companies, this still only represents 6.6 percent of all the companies on the Fortune list, according to CNN. While there are many factors at play that are out of your control if you want to be a female CEO—there is one way to get there: getting better at what you do.
Whether you’re a female entrepreneur, a small business owner, a team lead, or even a self-employed contractor, you still need to push the envelope to better yourself. As gender equality in the workplace moves forward, here are five ways you can become a strong female leader.
1. Slow down to reconnect
Bosses are more likely to suffer frequent burnout than individual contributors, according to a Gallup Poll. What’s more, a recent study showed that females are more susceptible to burnout than their male counterparts. Elena Carstoiu, COO of Hubgets, explains why this might be the case:
“Women entrepreneurs usually wear many hats beyond their leadership roles. They could also be mothers and spouses, taking care of their family while guarding for the welfare of their business and their team.”
The issue is: when you’re tired and overworked, you’re not connected, creative or excited about your work—this means you’re not being the best leader you can be. That’s why Carstoiu recommends occasionally taking a step back. “Disconnect from your work routine, move your attention over to other matters, go exercise or simply meditate. The secret is to free up your mind and solutions will come, even to the toughest issues you deal with at work, ” she says. You may find that when you slow down, better ideas come naturally and you work better with your team, which benefits you and everyone around you.
2. Build yourself up
As a woman in the workplace, sometimes you need to be your most vocal advocate. One way to more actively advocate for yourself is to level up your confidence as a capable leader by believing in yourself. In her book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown says, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” Don’t question your seat at the table. You deserve to be there. Period.
If you’re struggling to find that confidence, here are a few ways to uncover it within yourself and create more:
- Use power posing before meetings. Stand with your chest puffed out, arms at your side and head high. Playing the part helps you step into the role.
- Write a list of accomplishments at the end of each week to remind yourself of all the hard work you do.
- Give yourself a confidence mantra every morning and repeat it to yourself regularly throughout the day.
3. Embrace taking risks and forget about perfection
Now it’s time to get out of your comfort zone. A well-known statistic (from an internal HP study) found that a man will apply for a job when he has 60 percent of the qualifications, while a woman only applies when she has 100 percent of the qualifications.
Reshma Suajani, Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, addresses this issue in her TEDTalk. She says most girls are taught to be risk- and failure-averse, while boys were taught to swing for the fences and aim high.
“By the time they’re adults, whether [men are] negotiating a raise or asking someone out on a date, they’re habituated to take risk after risk. They’re rewarded for it. In Silicon Valley, no one even takes you seriously unless you’ve had two failed start-ups. In other words, we’re raising our girls to be perfect, and we’re raising our boys to be brave,” says Suajani.
Toss the idea of being perfect out the window and take calculated and smart risks in your role as a leader. Don’t be afraid of the missteps that will come along the way. Barbara Corcoran, entrepreneur, and host of Shark Tank has always said: “My best successes came on the heels of failures.” Better yet, take the advice of Leah Bursque, CEO of TaskRabbit: “I wake up every morning and think to myself, ‘How far can I push the company forward in the next 24 hours?’”
4. Be a champion of equality
Leading by example is even more imperative for women forging paths in influential roles. It’s up to you to shape the modern workplace by championing women and minorities, paying employees what they’re worth, and reminding everyone that equality is a two-way street.
In your effort to set an example for other females working their way up in the workforce, don’t fall into the trap of sexism towards male counterparts. This is a sentiment that Michelle Obama heralded in a speech on education. “Leadership is about creating new traditions that honor the dignity and humanity of every individual. Leadership is about empowering all of our people—men, women, boys, and girls.”
5. Create a plan and commit
Know where you want to go and keep your focus on the end-goal as you grow through various positions and companies. By knowing where you want to go, and committing to it, you give yourself a roadmap for improvement.
In some leadership roles, you may be required to take specific training. Knowing that role is on the horizon, you can plan ahead and acquire the certification before any position opens up. When the time comes to apply, you’ll be a step ahead of the other applicants, who still need to take the course.
Grow and develop your skills
A leader’s journey is continually evolving. As billionaire and CEO of Fidelity Investments, Abigail Johnson, told Forbes, “No matter how senior you get in an organization, no matter how well you’re perceived to be doing, your job is never done.” Use these steps to be an authentic leader who’s always evolving and improving.
About the Author:
Jessica Thiefels is a poet, writer, and Founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, a content marketing agency. Living life with intention has helped her move across the country, build a thriving business, and travel the world. Now she’s sharing her experiences to help others live powerfully and create a life they’re stoked to call their own on @HowtoMastertheArt, LinkedIn and in her upcoming book.
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