BPW International Blog
Developing and improving your leadership skills is a critical element of your professional and business success. As a career or businesswoman, being able to gain respect among your peers is essential to being recognised as a true leader. Effective leadership might have subjective attributes, but its proof points are always found in how you interact, work with, and influence others.
Most articles on enhancing leadership skills focus on what you need to do. However, it’s also necessary to discuss the other end of the spectrum. Here we’ll take a look at the things you have to avoid doing if you want to be a better leader.
Providing Little or Unhelpful Feedback
As a leader, your opinions, feedback, and expertise matter. They matter to those who look up to you, your peers, and even your superiors. When you don’t communicate well and provide important feedback, there’s a big disconnect. Great leaders inspire those around them. One way they do this is by offering specific and constructive feedback as well as key insights and helpful advice.
However, women sometimes struggle with giving feedback because of certain reasons such as lack of time (and proper timing), resistance to critiquing others, or not being sure of how to broach the topic, especially if it’s a sensitive or emotional one. Don’t allow these things to keep you from speaking up and guiding others. Remember that effective leadership positively influences others, and one way of doing this is through giving helpful feedback.
Being Too Busy to Connect
Your time is precious. Add to that, you probably already balance many responsibilities. It’s easy to get swept up in the “everyday” and not make time to connect with your team and other professionals. However, if you want to improve your leadership skills, you must make it a point to interact and connect with others, especially your team or employees. Being absent or hard to reach gives a negative impression to others in terms of your availability in giving support and advice.
Leadership is a journey that is much better travelled with others. Making time to communicate and collaborate with your team is imperative. You should also look for ways to connect with your community or people with similar goals, such as joining industry associations, networking events, or professional groups. Constant interaction and communication hones your leadership skills, helping you grow more as a leader.
Failure to Delegate
You can’t do it all. If you run a department or a whole business, then you’ve played a role in selecting those who work with you. Have confidence in them. Don’t get trapped in the mindset that only you can do it right. This only leads to you becoming burnt out and overworked, which will inevitably negatively impact or minimise your interaction with your team.
Being a great delegator is key to being a great leader. Leaders surround themselves with people they trust and know can do the job. Without imparting responsibility on your team, they won’t ever develop to their full potential. But delegating isn’t just about assigning tasks; it’s also about fairness and proper skills, time, and employee assessment—things that are also beneficial in becoming a leader, especially in business. As you improve the way you delegate, your employees will develop their skills as well, and will credit you as part of their success.
Having a Narrow Focus
As a leader, you certainly have to realise the vision and “big picture” for your organisation. Fostering that vision is critical to success. However, it can cause tunnel vision. Your big ideas may sometimes be too vague and may be moving targets. You shouldn’t take your eye off smaller, incremental goals that, when taken together, lead to the fulfilment of your company’s vision.
Include small goals or milestones in your plans so you and your team can create a clearer path and have a better idea of what needs to be done for success. Then, celebrate (or at least recognise) when you are able to accomplish them. Doing so contributes positivity in your business or workplace and encourages working harder to reach future, bigger goals. High-level is the destination; what you have to do to get there, including the little things, is your roadmap.
Not Promoting Collaboration
Collaboration may be the most important element in being a great leader. It helps you and your team or employees transition from an individualistic to a collaborative point of view that fosters communication, builds rapport, and encourages a mutual sense of respect, responsibility, and success. When your team works together to find solutions and map out strategies, all parties feel involved and engaged, increasing their self-worth. Workplaces that lack collaboration often hit road bumps. Here is a couple of related numbers that are quite eye-opening, based on a survey of 1,400 business executives, leaders, and employees:
- 97-percent said a lack of alignment within a team directly impacts the outcome of a project
- 86-percent shared that a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication was the main reason for workplace failure
The more minds working together, the better the chance of coming up with the right strategies for success. The more people working together on a project, the better the chance of improving communication, avoiding exhaustion, and developing individual skills. As such, as a leader, you must encourage and inspire a more collaborative approach to doing things.
Your growth as a leader shouldn’t stop, and there are always opportunities to improve your leadership skills. Don’t fret if some of these mistakes sound familiar. As they say, practice makes perfect. Seeking help and guidance from fellow business and professional women is also a step towards the right direction. BPW has been helping women around the world become better business and professional performers and leaders in their respective fields for many decades. We are committed to connecting women so we can learn from and empower each other on our way to achieving individual and collective success and development.
A successful female mentor is a positive influence in her field. She will guide, teach, and advise a colleague, a friend, or another professional or businesswoman. She shares her knowledge, her challenges and her triumphs; she shares her experiences while nurturing a developing career. Through these, a mentor is giving back to the community that rewarded her efforts.
When you are an effective mentor, you show yourself to be dedicated to your profession and committed to sharing your journey. You also help ensure the future success of women in your profession or industry. When you mentor, you establish yourself as a knowledgeable, authentic, dedicated representative of your field.
“Every great achiever is inspired by a great mentor,” says Lailah Gifty Akita, founder of the not-for-profit organisation Smart Youth Volunteers Foundation in Ghana. In fact, people are more likely to survive in their business with the help of a mentor: a study found that 88-percent of young entrepreneurs made it in their field with a mentor compared to a 50-percent failure rate for those without one.
You may wonder if you are ready to become a mentor. Some effective mentoring traits are instinctive while others are learned, and several qualities or attributes are essential to mentoring success, such as the ones below.
You Understand Why You Are Successful
It is not uncommon for a woman to be successful in business or her career, and not understand how she became successful. Some simply accept their good fortune without much thought.
Only when you understand your success can you help others achieve theirs. You must be able to see the progression of your accomplishments. You will need to know what works for you, and why it works. When you understand your journey, you will be able to guide a young professional through their own.
A bit of self-reflection and reminiscing or revisiting your path may help you see your own professional progression. You will eventually see your development, your accomplishments, and the obstacles you overcame as you forged your path, and the insights you realise will not only be useful for your further growth, you can use them to guide others to success as well.
You are Passionate about What You Do
Your passion, your drive, can inspire and encourage others to follow your example. When you are passionate, you will present yourself as a positive role model and empower others to forge their own path.
If you find that you have lost some of the passion you once had for your business or profession, reaffirm your commitment to be the best at what you do. Fly beyond your job description or business values. Reaffirm the attitudes and beliefs that originally fuelled your drive to succeed.
You Are a Strong, Honest Communicator
To be a successful mentor, you must have the skills necessary to communicate constructive advice in an honest yet encouraging manner. It’s far too easy to fall into the trap of helping through vague or insincere encouragement just to avoid emotional situations.
Yes, the fledgling loves to hear that her mentor believes in her, that her successful mentor supports her. Focusing on the positive without constructive advice can be detrimental to mentor/mentee success. Honest feedback will be more impactful.
If you find you are the type of mentor who plays the cheerleader, reassess the relationship. Lend helpful advice in an area that needs improvement. Make a suggestion and gauge the response. Through mentoring, you will learn to lead others effectively.
You Are Motivated to Help Others
Knowing your input contributes to the success of a colleague is a beautiful experience. The willingness to share your knowledge does require a degree of self-confidence. On occasion, a professional may feel threatened by the success of another, even if she has a hand in creating that success.
If you occasionally feel threatened, you may be underestimating your own value. Your success will not be diminished by the success of another. You will gain confidence in your abilities knowing that your instruction and guidance have a positive impact.
You are Authentic and Trustworthy
The role of the mentor does require a bit of discretion. In a mentoring relationship, you should be able to maintain and build trust. You may be told personal or professional information in confidence. You must be able to respect those boundaries as not doing so can lead to distrust, resulting in the breakdown of the mentor-mentee relationship.
Also, make sure that you don’t hide behind “masks” when mentoring. Be truthful and be the real you as this makes it easier for you to communicate and free your mind from the struggles of maintaining a certain façade.
Being an effective mentor allows you to guide other women and, in turn, polish your own skills, from leadership to communication. As such, many aspire to be one, and it’s always wise to seek additional help if you’re really aiming to be an effective mentor. BPW offers resources, networking, and mentorship to women, enabling them to improve their mentorship skills and reach further progress in their development as business and professional women.
Despite its key benefits, many businesswomen may still think of a networking event as something that holds no real value and, thus, is just a waste of time. That's a mistake—networking is crucial to the success of businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Madeline Bell, former president and CEO of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, notes in a Huffington Post article that "These days, it’s not enough to keep your head down and produce A-plus work. You need to connect with others, be vocal about your interests and career goals, and build relationships with people you might not otherwise have met."
It's particularly important for businesswomen, especially those running a start-up, to attend networking events for a variety of important reasons, such as the ones below.
Raising Community Awareness
No matter how good your concept, work ethic, and execution of your ideas, if the community your business is in doesn't know you're there, fewer people will come knocking on your door. Networking is an opportunity to reach a wider range of people in a variety of fields. Think of it like dropping a pebble in a pond—a very small pebble can send wide-ranging ripples which represent buzz around a brand.
You see, people talk and if you let yourself known and give them a positive reason to talk about your business, you’ll be able to reach a bigger audience for your brand. Word-of-mouth is still an effective promotion tool, after all. The people you’ve introduced yourself to and the contacts you've made may very well be spreading the word about your business at other events you don't attend and to people you don’t know.
Networking events are good places to find funders. These can be venture capitalists, the local bankers, non-profit organisations, or grantors. Many of these individuals deliberately attend networking events to look for potential investment opportunities. If you have a good business plan and you regularly attend networking events aligned with your business’ values, you're more likely to get that loan or grant when you come looking for funding to expand.
Remember though that a networking event is an opportunity for making the initial connection, not to hard-sell your business. If you sense interest, schedule a follow-up appointment and come prepared with facts and figures to make your case.
Those who attend networking events range from business novices to highly-experienced captains of the industry. If you're just getting started or need real advice on a particular business topic, take a look around. You may just find mentors in the event, mentors who can give you valuable insights that will help you improve your business and address its weaknesses. Mentors are people who have ‘been there, done that’ which means they have the experience and expertise you will find useful for elevating your business.
In addition to the formal one-on-one relationship in which a mentor takes an active role, you also have the option to collect a small group of people who share your interests for discussions and brainstorming for ideas which you can apply to your business. Two heads are better than one, as they say.
Networks Attract Customers
It's always wise to think of every networking event as being full of potential customers. No matter what your business is, you never know who might be interested in your ideas, services, or products. Again, this is not the place to hard-sell. Rather, it’s more of an opportunity to build awareness among potential customers.
Be prepared with business cards to share, but if someone seems interested, schedule a meeting soon, or offer to send brochures or other materials that contain more detailed information. The key here is to follow-up as doing so can lead to a conversion. Consequently, not following-up can be taken by the person as a sign of disinterest on your part or, worse, that you don’t value their time and effort, leading to a negative perception for you and your business.
Perhaps your business has reached the point where you need to hire someone with financial expertise, a dedicated human resources expert, or a staff trainer. The more networking events you attend, the more likely you will find someone who would be a good fit. In some respects, a conversation at a networking event is like a very early mini-interview. It also helps get the word out, as someone you've talked to at an event may call a friend about the opening in your business, even if that person isn't personally interested.
Jess McIntosh, Communications Director at Emily’s List, got her career break after a conversation with a family friend’s son resulted in a copywriting position for political candidates. Jess describes how she considers young people who follow her professionally when positions open up, "because their names are in my inbox.” She says that if you go to an event and make two really good connections, “it doesn’t matter if the rest of the room saw you.” After all, that one connection might end up being the one that is really important or relevant to you in the future.
Networks Come in Different Flavours
Don't overlook the power of the different kinds of networks. Valerie Khoo, CEO of the Australian Writers' Centre, notes that online networks can also offer benefits. Khoo says, “Sample them all. Before you moan about how little time you have, just remember that joining takes all of about 30 seconds. Then browse around what each network has to offer and see which ones resonate with you.”
No matter what your business is, networking should be a major part of your business plans. At BPW, we offer tools, mentorship, and resources that will help you enhance your networking skills and strategies and develop your potential to become a well-rounded and successful businesswoman who can, in turn, serve as an effective mentor for aspiring businesswomen in the future.
There is far more to leadership than simply delegating tasks and telling others what to do. You must also inspire your team to want to follow you, even if they don't necessarily understand your vision and goals.
This is why effective leadership begins with your ability to communicate with your team the right way. Below are some of the most important communication skills you'll need to have if you want to advance in your career and become an effective leader in business.
In any business environment, conflict is bound to arise at some point. How you deal with it is a direct reflection of your skills as a leader. You need to be able to manage conflicts in the workplace without upsetting your team members when the end result is not what they had in mind. You want the resolution to be as amenable to both parties involved as possible.
To improve your skills in this area, try to act as a mediator as often as possible, whether it be through actually resolving real conflicts between your friends, family members, or team, or through role-playing exercises provided by leadership courses and seminars.
It is an unfortunate truth that, as a leader, you will sometimes have to be the bearer of bad news. In these situations, you'll need to convey the message in a diplomatic and empathetic manner to reduce the risk of upsetting any member of your team or clients. For example, if an employee has been missing a lot of work lately, you'll need to address the issue in a manner that mitigates the problem without embarrassing the employee about, say, a health issue or other personal problems.
To get better at diplomacy, one thing you could do is to think about how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of a negative message. Think about how it could be phrased to have minimal detrimental impact on you.
Negotiating is an important aspect of any business and, as such, you need to have this skill in your arsenal. Before entering into any negotiations, have a clear idea of what you hope to achieve, and don't be afraid to fight for it. Prioritise various aspects of the deal so that you know what your must-haves are and where you have some wiggle room.
This is another area where role-playing comes in handy. Try to find a mentor who is a skilled negotiator to practice with. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will be in the negotiating environment and the better results you can obtain through negotiations.
Every leader will have to get up in front of a group of people to speak at some point, whether it is for your weekly staff meeting or for a large-scale press briefing about your company's latest release. If you have a fear of public speaking, you are not alone—this is one of the most common fears the world over.
The best way to get over this fear is to practice, practice, and practice some more. It also helps to be well-prepared by rehearsing and studying your speech and related materials so that you won't worry about forgetting what to say. You may never grow to enjoy public speaking, but at the very least, you can have enough confidence in your skill to get through it competently.
While it may seem counter-intuitive to talk about listening in a discussion of communication skills, in some cases, listening is even more important than speaking. It doesn't matter if you are speaking to the CEO of your company or the newest member of your staff; everyone deserves to be heard. Whenever you are in conversation with someone, make it a point to listen actively, meaning that you are truly digesting everything that the other person has to say, not just waiting for your next turn to speak.
Listening properly tells you the problem or the requests the person you’re conversing with has, giving you a better overall grasp of the situation. This is a skill that can be put into practice in all areas of your life, not just in the business world.
While you can certainly hone your communication skills by your lonesome, it’s also wise to seek the help of others in doing so. BPW has the networking, mentorship, and the necessary tools and resources to not only help you acquire the communication skills that you need but also to improve yourself overall as a true leader in business.
Going from dreaming of having your own business to the actual building-your-own-startup stage takes determination, skills, the right amount of confidence, and lots of planning. Starting your own business and turning your business plans into reality is a serious, often life-changing task.
With more and more startups being formed and female entrepreneurs at the helm of many of them, more women will undoubtedly be encouraged to take the leap and be on their way to building their own businesses. As such, we’ve come up with several key insights that should help women who are planning to or currently in the process of starting their own startups.
Your Values Should be clear
Identify and set down your business’ core values—it's easy for a startup to veer off course because things are so fluid in the first few months or years. Having clear business values will guide you in making the right decisions and avoiding the trap of exchanging your long-term goals for short-term gains—especially crucial for those in the early stages of building their own startups since many of them will be hungry for instant success.
The business management book In Search of Excellence identified several keys for having a top performing business which include being “hands-on, value-driven” and to “stick to the knitting” which means staying with the business you know. These are echoed by Sela Tobaccowala, co-founder of the party-planning website Evite. She says that culture and values are so important that business policies and bonus programs should reflect value-driven qualities such as collaboration.
Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More
Planning is absolutely critical to the success of a startup. The myriad of details involved can quickly become overwhelming without an overall plan. Lists, notes, spreadsheets, flip charts—whatever tools work best for you, make sure you use them to the fullest. Also reserve time in your schedule for plan and progress assessment purposes to see if your current progress meets your goals and if things are, as they say, going according to plan. This way you’ll be able to know which things are working and which are not, and if you need to tweak your strategy.
Remember that adequate planning is important because it basically sets the layout for how you want your startup to be and how you’ll go about building it. Things can get messy, confusing, and downright frustrating at times when you’re forming your own company. Having an overall plan as well as contingency plans (because things often don’t go as planned) will help you regain the proper perspective, put your sights on where they should be, and prepare for unforeseen developments that can affect the creation of your startup.
Build and Nurture Business Relationships
Relationships can make or break a business. Who you know can make a big difference when forming a startup. Your networks can help you get funding or marketing assistance or deal with specific areas of your business by doing things like finding you a tax expert to help out with your financial obligations or available website developers for helping you promote online. Asking for advice from a mentor or business coach is also wise—doing so will give you valuable insights that you may not have been aware of. Never be afraid to ask for help, says Michelle Garcia, who owns Heirloom Catering. “Always just ask for help. It’s so simple and it sounds so trite but it’s true. People want to see a person be successful.”
Strategic business partnerships are also another way to get much needed help in important areas such as funding and marketing. Through sharing of resources and a goal to attain a win-win outcome for both parties, you’ll be able to plug the holes your startup currently has, helping ensure it won’t fail at an early stage, as well as gain a reputation for being a great strategic partner, which will be valuable for future partnerships. Be careful in choosing who to partner with though; you must also be prepared to protect your own assets.
While men and women tend to have different approaches when it comes to raising capital, it’s clear that both male and female entrepreneurs need to secure funding even before the first step of building a startup. Lack of funding can cause more problems than almost anything else. It takes a while to get a startup off the ground—you must be prepared to handle some lean times in the beginning. But it's also critical to have enough funds to pay employees (if you have any), buy supplies or equipment, and pay rent and other business-related expenses.
It's probably best to estimate what you need and add a bit of allowance since it’s better to be over- than under-budget. How much extra will depend on just what you're trying to do and other variables such as the availability of business space and materials.
Don't be afraid to get creative. Beyond bank loans and venture capitalists are ways such as trade equity (bartering skills or services for startup help), seed funding from a startup incubator such as Y Combinator, crowd-funding, and small business grants. It’s also recommended to seek advice from financial experts you can trust. While you might be required to pay them, they’ll be able to give you insights and the proper perspective when it comes to what you need to properly fund your startup’s operations.
Finding the Right People
Although you might find yourself going solo in the early stages of your business, even a little growth is likely to result in the need to hire others. Pick your people carefully; just like the lack of funding, hiring the wrong people is a major factor in bringing down a promising startup. Melissa Ravo and Jaime Boreana, who created Chrome Girl Nail Polish, says that you should "Surround yourself with those who believe in your product as much as you do.”
You must be able to trust people and feel confident in their skills, as you will need to delegate to them as the business grows. Once you've found them, train them well and build a good professional relationship with them. However, you must also learn who and how to let go. Having camaraderie and friendship is good and all but if they lack the necessary expertise and skills to actually do their job or grow the startup, then your business will still suffer in the long run.
Seeking advice from successful businesswomen will definitely help female entrepreneurs aiming for startup success. BPW offers members mentorship, networking, and other useful tools and resources to guide businesswomen towards the path of business growth and long-term success.
Whether you're brokering a deal with a client, working out a thorny issue in the boardroom or engaged in salary discussions, your negotiating skills can make a big difference in getting the outcome you want, or at least deal with.
Research indicates that many women often struggle with negotiations, partly because of the way they are socialised to be “nice” and to accommodate others. Luckily, negotiation is a skill that can be learned and sharpened.
Here are key insights on how to do just that.
Be Prepared and Early
Be prepared is a good motto for anyone, not just the Boy Scouts. Thorough preparation, careful research, checklists of tasks, and plenty of practice prevent you from making unnecessary concessions or failing to nail down beneficial agreements. It should go without saying that showing up on time—or preferably just a few minutes early—colours first impressions. Being late is discourteous and increases the chance that you will be flustered rather than calm and focused. Tardiness can also make whoever you’re talking to to not take you—and your words by extension, no matter how eloquent you are—seriously. Being early also gives you a chance to think about what you want or need to discuss and convey.
Know When to Hold Off
Knowing when not to negotiate can be just as important as knowing when to and how. If the odds are so stacked against you that losing is a foregone conclusion, negotiating might not be a good idea. Negotiating too aggressively early in the game—such as in salary negotiations—may also be counterproductive, especially if the initial communication is via email or letter rather than in person. Formal negotiation training and seminars on communication can also help you identify no-win situations.
Body Language Matters
Body language and tone of voice make up 55% and 38%, respectively, of what constitutes communication, according to language experts at Gengo. When negotiating, you want your physical actions to back up your words in a way that communicates openness, confidence, and honesty. Some body language tips:
- Eye contact is a powerful communication tool. Staring, however, is seen as aggressive and can be threatening. Maintain consistent eye contact, but do look away periodically.
- A handshake can tell you things about people. Yours should be firm and natural; one or two shakes, and then disengage.
- Your gestures should always mirror your words—practice in front of a mirror or even have someone video you to identify gestures and habits you want to work on.
- Silence can be a very effective negotiating tactic. An active listening silence shows respect and ensures the other person feels heard, while a deliberately non-responsive silence may, intentionally or unintentionally, spark miscommunication that can complicate the negotiation process.
Be Confident—don’t be Rattled
Anyone will tell you that confidence is a big part of many things. This includes negotiations. Being confident will mentally prepare you for negotiating. It helps you to clear your mind of unnecessary negative thoughts as well as focus on the things you need to say and how you must communicate them. Being confident in your mindset will reflect upon your body language as well. Remember, others, especially those in higher positions who have extensive experience in negotiations, can “smell” your lack of confidence, and potentially pounce on the opportunity to rattle you or push you into a compromise you’re not willing to accept.
However, it also needs to be said that you shouldn’t be overconfident. Remember, negotiating isn’t necessarily about getting what you want. Rather, oftentimes it’s more about what’s best for all the parties involved. Being overconfident can result to having a closed mind that dismisses the things other parties propose, resulting to a negotiation that can end on a bad note.
Research and Anticipate
Here you’ll need some educated guesswork. It helps to know a bit about the people you’re going to speak to such as their verbal tendencies as well as what they’re aiming for in the discussion just so you won’t be caught off-guard. Anticipate what they’re going to say or, more importantly, ask and demand. Knowing such details beforehand will be useful in coming up with the right responses and answers that can put things in your favour—or at least keep the negotiation sailing smoothly.
Practice Makes Perfect Sense
Negotiation can be seen as a more intimate version of public speaking where you talk to just one or a few people. If you’re not naturally inclined to speaking in public, it will help to practice. As we’ve said, you can try speaking in front of a mirror or in front of your friends to see just how you’re doing it and know for yourself the areas you need to improve on. Know what you need to do, the details you must go over, and what you should say.
Remember to both look and listen. Look at how you say things and your body language. Do you look confident? Are you exuding negativity? Listen to your voice. Are you saying things correctly? Are you speaking too long or too short? Were you able to discuss what you need to say? You are your biggest critic here—if it’s not good enough for you then it probably means you still need to practice.
Seek Formal Training
There are a number of training programs in the art of negotiation; some specifically target women. Margaret A. Neale, Professor of Management at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Co-director of the Executive Program for Women Leaders, offers executive leadership programs for women and conducts research on negotiation. She comments that, in order to get what you want in a negotiation, you must first think about what your counterpart wants. This is just one of the many useful tips you’ll get from attending communication seminars, especially those that specifically target negotiating.
In addition to formal training, consider looking for a mentor who is an expert in the negotiation process. In either case, you should be prepared to be proactive. Don't just take notes, really think about how what you’re learning relates to your own negotiations. Actively engage in role-playing that is common to negotiation training and be prepared to make mistakes. And, as we’ve said, continue practicing.
Balancing Your Needs and Society's Expectations
Carol Frohlinger is the author of Her Place at the Table and Nice Girls Just Don't Get It. In an interview with The Wilef Tribune discussing female lawyers and salary negotiations, Frohlinger commented that some women make the mistake of thinking life is fair: work hard, be a good team player and all will be fine. That's not exactly true, she says. “So, you have to advocate for your own best interest in a way that is culturally compatible, because the other thing we know about is the backlash women face when they ask and they get slapped because it is not socially acceptable,” Frohlinger states.
If you're looking for help or ideas regarding communication and negotiation techniques and style, you can seek advice from BPW International. We have the networking, mentorship, and other resources to not only sharpen your negotiating skills but also help you realise your full professional or business potential.
Event "Women take the initiative"
On 13 June 2017, BPW Cyprus held a special event under the banner of "When women take the initiative" (Όταν οι γυναίκες βγαίνουν μπροστά). The event, which took place at the Bank of Cyprus HQ in Nicosia, focused on gender equality in terms of career development and the race to the top, with messages that rang true to the audience and left a mark.
For real-life illustrations of these important messages, BPW Cyprus invited four dynamic role models to share their personal life/career stories: popular, award-winning journalist from Greece, Maria Houkli, Director of the Central Prisons, Anna Aristotelous, architect Elena K Tsolaki, and Director of the Troodos Development Company Ltd, Klelia Vasiliou.
The President of BPW Cyprus, Mary Papadopoulou, opened the event with a brief welcome message in which she thanked the audience for their overwhelming response to BPW’s invitation to attend, as well as all who consistently support the efforts and important mission of BPW Cyprus. Ms Papadopoulou said: "Women inspire others and are the agents of change because they are not afraid to take the initiative." Ms Papadopoulou expressed her admiration of all women who work passionately and dynamically to achieve their goals, both in their personal and their professional life. She also noted that, sadly, we have only few women role models – not necessarily because they don’t exist, but possibly because they lack exposure. This event, among other BPW activities, was designed to do just that: to shine the spotlight on the inspiring women that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Gender Equality Commissioner, Josephina Antoniou, also addressed the audience and encouraged the active participation of women in the economy and in politics. She emphasized the fact that women who dare to take the lead do so not just for themselves, but also pave the way for others to follow, thereby challenging stereotypes and preconceptions that often create serious obstacles.
Established journalist Maria Houkli briefly described her development from her days as a law student till the present. She urged women to aim high: "Make no mistake: failure is not reserved for women; and don’t hesitate to talk about your achievements" she said emphatically.
Referring to her challenging role, the Director of the Central Prisons, Anna Aristotelous, shared her own story and experiences, underlining that it takes determination, patience, focus, people skills and knowledge to ‘break’ the system but it can be done, not only to survive but even to excel in a male-dominated environment.
The successful young architect, Elena K Tsolaki, shared her path to success, focusing on the importance of setting high goals – not just for women – and the need to work hard, and work smart. She also referred to the value of family support and its positive impact.
Finally, the Director of the Troodos Development Company Ltd, Klelia Vasiliou, highlighted the obstacles she faced as a women professional that was born, raised and lives in a rural environment, and how she managed to overcome them to achieve her own goals and earn respect and recognition.
The event was attended by members and friends of BPW Cyprus, as well as officials and dignitaries including party presidents, party representatives and embassy representatives from different countries.
The event was sponsored by the National Machinery for Women’s Rights.
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The term “glass ceiling” has long been used to indicate an invisible barrier beyond which women cannot rise in the business world. This so-called ceiling may occur at any level, from a supervisory position on a factory floor to the highest levels of business and politics. Hilary Clinton made reference to the glass ceiling when she accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for President as the first female candidate of a major political party in the United States.
While women have achieved much in the last 100 years, the ceiling remains in certain cases. Some of the indications that a glass ceiling may exist are the following:
- A distinct pay gap between male and female earnings. The United States International Labor Rights Forum reports that gender pay gaps exist in every country, with margins of up to 40%.
- Although women make up 50% of the population, they are only 34% of the business operators in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
- The Workplace Gender Equality Agency found that Australian women hold only 14% of chair positions and 23.6% of directorships. Women represent 15.4% of CEOs. Of agencies reporting data to WGEA, one quarter have no women in key management personnel positions.
A Catalyst for Real Change
Still, the ceiling can be broken. Arianna Huffington, the founder of the popular news and opinion website Huffington Post, is also the founder and CEO of Thrive Global, a health and wellness start-up. At the eighth annual Women in the World New York Summit, Huffington noted, “It’s not enough for women in any industry to look at breaking through the glass ceiling. We need to actually change workplaces.”
As the first female board member at giant ride-sharing company Uber, Huffington led an internal investigation into allegations that company leaders condoned sexual harassment. She noted in her remarks at the summit that while it seems as though there are new controversies about unfair treatment coming to the fore on a regular basis, that may actually be a good thing. “What’s changing is that it’s harder to keep these things secret,” she said. “Everything is coming to the surface… That’s really the catalyst for real change.”
How to Break the Glass Ceiling
Katie Burke, the Vice President of Culture and Experience at software developer and marketer company HubSpot, has some suggestions for women who wish not only to advance but also to break through the glass ceiling. Among her ideas:
- Don't hesitate or procrastinate—if you want something, go after it. Sharpen your negotiating skills rather than just accepting what's on the table. She notes that women are often less likely to push or persist, which can hamper their efforts.
- Learn from failures and mistakes. Everyone stumbles occasionally—an examination of your efforts will help you identify what went wrong and how you can do better next time.
- Examine your own assumptions to help eliminate bias. We all have blind spots; once you become aware of what yours are, it makes it easier to recognise similar blind spots in others and to push for change.
- Set high goals and don't settle. Men, says Burke, are much more likely to set big goals, while women's goals are moderate. This is limiting, however—if you don't reach, you don't grab the brass ring.
- Build a network and solicit feedback, both positive and negative. A network will give you support as well as a kick in the backside when it's really necessary.
- Don't try to be perfect and do hang on to your sense of humour. Becoming a change agent can be risky but the rewards are great. A sense of humour can help you maintain perspective and self-confidence.
Breaking the glass ceiling should be a goal for those in business, especially women. There is increasing evidence that having more women in power results in better stock values and financial returns. These benefits may be due to a better understanding of the consumers, different leadership styles or vigorous discussions that lead to better decision-making.
To that end, BPW International is helping business and professional women discover and develop their professional, business, and leadership potential through mentoring, networking, and skill building to aid them in breaking the glass ceiling and going beyond.
In the spotlight
1) BPW Members, Barbara Ofwono Buyondo and Elizabeth Ntege, speak at the MTN Women in Business Awards 2017
On 17 March 2017, MTN Uganda hosted its annual Women in Business (WiB) Awards at Kampala Serena Hotel. The aim of the WiB awards is to celebrate the achievements of women doing business in Uganda. The focus of the 2017 awards was on what it takes for women to succeed in business, under the theme “Survival of the fittest: Partnering for success”.
During the event, Dr Barbara Ofwono Buyondo (CEO : Victorious Education Services) and Elizabeth Ntege (Co-Founder: NFT Consult) participated in a panel discussion where they shared their thoughts and experiences on what it takes to succeed in business. Prof. Maggie Kigozi (BPW Kampala President) also spoke during the night on behalf of the awards judges. She was part of the judges panel that selected the MTN Women in Business Awards 2017 winners.
2) IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, hosts Women Leaders during visit to Uganda
IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, made her first visit to Uganda in late January 2017. During her stay, she hosted a dinner on 27 January 2017 for Uganda Women Leaders, including Prof. Maggie Kigozi, BPW Kampala President and SDG5 Ambassador.
During the dinner, issues around equality, access to land, procurement and infrastructure development were discussed.
3) BPW Kampala Executive Team meets with Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development representatives
On 10 January 2017, the BPW Kampala Executive Team, led by Prof. Maggie Kigozi (BPW Kampala President), met with the Commissioner and senior management team of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.
The aim of the meeting was to strengthen the partnership between BPW Kampala and the Ministry of Gender, and to discuss ways the two organisations can work together to further the agenda of women's equality and participation in the economy and society of Uganda.
1) “Visioning for 2017” Masterclass
On 26 January 2017, BPW Kampala held a masterclass on goal setting at Kati Kati restaurant. The key speaker, Jesse Ainebyona from Imagine Me Africa, gave a presentation on how to set life goals and techniques to help achieve these.
Dr Barbara Ofwono Buyondo (CEO- Victorious Education Services), who has taken on the role of mentor to young women entrepreneurs, also spoke during the session.
2) “Social Media in Business” seminar
On 16 March 2017, BPW Kampala held a “Social Media in Business” seminar at Kati Kati restaurant. The aim of the session was to provide participants with an understanding of how to use Social Media effectively to market their businesses to a wider audience and generate opportunities for business growth.
- June - BPW Business Clinic, Dream for Africa Activity
- May - Transformational Leadership Training, Equal Pay Event
- July - BPW Business Clinic
- September - Masterclass: Personal Branding
- October - UMA Trade Fair: Work Ethics Event for Young BPW
- November - BPW Kampala Gala Dinner
Once upon a time, your career was your life. You got the necessary training, found a job, and in many cases, stayed with the same company for years, even decades. At a minimum, you stayed in the same industry. Fast forward to today and you'll see some women changing careers as they once changed hats. Even those who spend a great deal of time in training—like doctors and lawyers—may still move on to something very different after a few years. As with any life change, there are positives and negatives.
Why Make a Change?
Women change careers for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it turns out the original career just wasn't a good fit. It can be hard to know what the real world is like until you've actually spent a few years there. Or, you might have had some niggling doubts early on but suppressed them, since you already had your feet on the path. This can be especially true in professions where you can't finishing training without big educational loans. In other cases, having children can cause a reassessment of personal and professional values that puts your feet on a different path. A career-ending accident or chronic disease may also necessitate a change.
Spend the necessary time to determine exactly what's wrong with your current situation and why you want to change. This means you should examine your values, wants and needs. It can be very helpful to seek the services of a career coach. The outside viewpoint helps you consider things you might otherwise miss or gloss over, and can point you in the right direction.
A career coach can also point out important aspects of a career change that can sabotage your efforts. For example, if you have educational loans to pay off, you might have to stay in the high-powered, high-pay world for a few years before making the leap. Don't try to cut this process short; self-knowledge and careful planning can help you achieve real success in your new career.
Before You Jump
A new career may sound enticing, but it's important to weigh all the possible risks and benefits. Here are some important considerations:
Is the issue the career or the organisation/specialty?
Sometimes, it’s just a matter of knowing if the problem is the company/organisation or specific job you’re in or the career path/industry itself. For example, if what you really love is helping people make sense of complicated legal issues that affect their daily lives, the high-pressure confrontational world of the trial lawyer probably isn't a good fit.
If you find fulfilment working one-on-one with individuals over the long term to improve their health, you might do better as a health coach rather than an ICU nurse. If you like dabbling in marketing but the agency you’re in makes it hard for you to improve or if you have problems with your colleagues, transferring to another company but not to another field might be the wiser choice.
Will you need to go back to school?
Many fields require a minimum number of classes or units before you can enter or become a certified practitioner. Think about things like time, money, and your own patience—will any of these be an issue for you? For example, moving from nursing to becoming a medical writer might require a few classes in the basics of writing—going the other direction means a big commitment in terms of both funds and money. Are you up to the task? Only you can answer this part, so think about it seriously and carefully.
What current skills are transferable?
It would be better if at least some of the skills you have now are applicable or useful in the career or field you’re switching to. This lessens the need to adjust as well as the steepness of the learning curve. If you’re answer is “yes,” then you have an added incentive to switch. For example, one of the things lawyers learn to do well is research—this skill can be useful in a variety of different careers.
A nurse is often an expert at coordinating multiple activities and supervising people of different skill levels. As such, she might do well in project management. However, if you don’t have any transferable skills, weigh your options in terms of learning the necessary skills and adjusting and determine if the added time and effort is worth the jump.
Do you have the financial resources to make the switch?
In addition to the possible costs of education or relocation (i.e. it's hard to work as a cardiac surgeon in the small rural town where you have been practising primary care medicine), make sure you have the necessary money for living expenses while you're getting established in your new career.
Would you rather work for yourself?
The lure of being able to call the shots may be all it takes to change up a career. Many women entrepreneurs discovered that the career wasn't the problem—working for someone else was the issue. This can be especially true in the corporate world, where personal and organisational values sometimes clash. If you think you’re better off being your own boss, then maybe a job change is not the answer. It could be that you’re actually looking to be a businesswoman.
What's the marriage/family impact?
In today's world, women can have it all, but the reality of life is they may not be able to have it all at the same time. Changing careers is going to affect your partner and children; if you're constantly fighting a battle on the home front, your career change may be much more complicated. Make sure you take the time to explain and get the support of your friends and family.
When deciding on an important issue such as switching careers, it’s best to seek professional and expert guidance. Networks and organisations such as BPW will give you the necessary insights and advice through networking, mentorship, and other tools to help you make the right decision and be more equipped to take on business and professional challenges.
We talk a lot in an average workday. In fact, recent studies show that most leaders will spend between 50-80% of their business day communicating. Hence, it seems pretty obvious that strong communication skills is essential if one is to become a successful businesswoman.
But sometimes it just feels like we are speaking a completely different language! We say something, but our colleagues just don’t seem to get it. Or perhaps they even seem to have not heard it at all.
It is true that men and women communicate differently. Unfortunately, some of the ways women communicate may actually have negative effects when it comes to building strong professional business relationships and improving business as a whole.
As such, below are several key communication skills that can help businesswomen attain success.
Brevity First, Expand Later
The old stereotype of women being chatterboxes turns out to be true. Studies have revealed that women use an average of twenty thousand words daily. In contrast, men use a mere seven thousand. That means women use almost three times as many words!
And with the greater amount of words comes the bigger risk of confusion in what you actually want to say. To avoid this and to help ensure you’ll get your point across easier, ask yourself if you really need to say as much as you are thinking. See if there is a way to be more concise. Start with the most impactful information and then expand if necessary. Doing so allows you to make the person you’re talking to understand while keeping him or her interested in knowing more about the subject, may it be a potential strategic partnership or just how good your products or services are.
Facts and Logic over Emotion
Many women tend to be more emotional when it comes to communicating ideas. In a business setting, however, it is logic that will take you further. It would be wise to refrain from using excessive storytelling or too much reliance on emotional appeal in your communication. Instead, make sure to supply facts to support your arguments. Present logical analysis to support the points you’re trying to make. This is especially important in business where strategy and information are both essential.
However, we’re not saying you should speak like an emotionless robot. That would be wrong, too—doing so gives off the impression that you’re not sincere in your words. As they say, too much or too little of something is bad, right? It would be better to combine both facts/logic with a bit of emotion when you’re speaking. This way, you’ll sound more relatable and show people that you actually know what you’re talking about.
Be Assertive and Confident
Many women have been taught that it’s best to be sweet. A proper lady keeps her opinions to herself, right? Well, not anymore, ladies!
Speak your mind! Share your ideas and be proud of them. Women are instinctively nurturers and we may feel a tendency to put ourselves and our needs last. But the successful businesswoman will use a bit of assertiveness in her communication and get things done.
Now, this doesn’t mean be aggressive. There is no need to be rude, degrading, or condescending to make your point. This just means that you should take pride in your opinions and present them with confidence.
Don’t be Timid—Check Your Body Language
Similarly, successful businesswomen should be aware of their body language. Trends show that many women have a tendency to diminish their physical presence in business settings. This means that in meetings some women tend to be wallflowers.
In one-to-one business communication, some women are more likely to show “submissive” body stances. Take note of your physical presence and make sure that you are not unintentionally giving off the impression that you don’t matter. Even just a few minor adjustments in your body language can make major differences in how you're perceived and will show your colleagues that they should take you and what you’re saying seriously.
This is essential in running a business. Having confidence makes it easier for you not just to speak but also to communicate in such a way that you not only make others understand, you also convince them as well. Whether you’re negotiating or settling business disputes, having the right amount of confidence will do wonders.
Flexibility: Know Your Audience
For any successful business person, the key to good communication is knowing and connecting with your audience. An excellent example of this is Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Sandberg consistently makes lists of the best communicators in the world. One of the keys to her success is her ability to connect with her audience.
Sandberg is skilled in taking complicated ideas and presenting them to unique audiences in ways they personally can understand. She knows her audience and adjusts her communication to fit the event and the people in it. Here we see another communication trait often underrated: flexibility in communicating with different audiences. The more flexible you are, the better the chance of you reaching and making more people understand what you or your business stands for—always a plus in terms of marketing and building networks.
Keep It Professional
These days we can communicate in so many ways. Verbally. By phone. By email. Through Facebook and Twitter. Even apps like Snapchat let us speak virtually with the added bonus of having quirky animations. But let’s remember that there is a time and a place for each kind of communication.
Keep business matters within professional methods of communication. In person, by phone or via email are the three most appropriate ways to conduct business transactions. Social media is rarely appropriate for the workplace. And don’t Snapchat potential partners. Just don’t.
Similarly, keep the content of your communication professional as well. Communication with your colleagues should mostly focus on business. It may also involve polite communication and small talk about personal lives. But it should generally avoid truly personal subjects. And gossiping about your colleagues is never a good idea.
Keeping it professional tells others you are a professional, and you conduct your business with professionalism. You gain more respect as a businesswoman in the process.
Considering how important strong communication skills can be to a businesswoman’s successful career, the idea of honing them can seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, there are several ways to gain or improve them. Attending training sessions and seminars is one and practice always makes perfect sense. Being part of networks such as BPW also gives you the right resources to improve your communication skills as well as the tools to achieve success as a true businesswoman.
A message by Chief of UNESCO sector education inclusion and gender equality, Justine Sasse, who asked BPWI’s collaboration to post this call for nominations for 2017 UNESCO Prize for girls’ and women’s education. Please see the following call for nominations in French, English and Spanish. The explanatory note for the prize may also be accessed here.
Le 8 mars, Journéeinternationale de la femme, l’UNESCO lance l’appel à candidatures pour la deuxièmeédition du Prix UNESCO pour l’éducation des filles et des femmes. Financé par le Gouvernement de la Républiquepopulaire de Chine.
Le Prix récompense des projetsremarquablesetinnovantsmenés par des individus, des institutions et des organisations en faveur de l’éducation des filles et des femmes. Les lauréatsreçoiventunmontant de 50 000 dollars chacun.
L’annéedernière, la Direction de l’éducation de la petite enfance du Ministère de l’éducation de la Républiqued’Indonésie et le Female Students Network Trust (Réseau des étudiantes) du Zimbabwe ontétérécompensés pour leursprojetsinnovants.
Les gouvernements de tous les Étatsmembresainsique les organisationsnon gouvernementales (ONG) en partenariatofficiel avec l’UNESCOpeuventdésignerjusqu’àtroispersonnes, institutions ouorganisations. Les candidatures doiventêtresoumises en ligne en anglaisou en françaisetdoivent porter sur un projetou un programmespécifique.
Les candidatures sontévaluées par un jury indépendantcomposé de cinq experts internationaux, sur la base de leurpotentield’impact, d’innovation et de durabilité. Les projetsdoiventexisterdepuis au moinsdeuxans, êtrefacilementreproductibles, évolutifs et/ouprésenterd’importantespossibilitésd’apprentissage pour d’autres initiatives. Ilsdoiventégalementcontribuer à unouplusieurs des cinqdomainesprioritaires du prix. Les candidatures spontanées ne sont pas acceptées. Les candidatsintéressésdoiventcontacter la Commission nationale de leur pays pour l’UNESCOouune ONG en partenariatofficiel avec l’UNESCO.
Toutes les candidatures doiventêtresoumises en ligneavant le 5 mai 2017 (minuit, heure de Paris) à ce lien qui n’est accessible qu’auxÉtatsmembres de l’UNESCO et aux ONG en partenariatofficiel. Les deuxlauréatsserontannoncés par la Directricegénérale en septembre 2017.
On 8 March, International Women’s Day, UNESCO opens the call for nominations for the second edition of the UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education.
Funded by the Government of the People’s Republic of China, the Prize rewards innovative and outstanding projects by individuals, institutions and organizations that are advancing girls’ and women’s education. Laureates receive USD 50,000.
Last year, the Directorate of Early Childhood Education of the Ministry of Education and Culture from the Republic of Indonesia and the Female Students Network Trust from Zimbabwe were recognized for their innovative projects.
Governments of all Member States as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in official partnership with UNESCO can nominate up to three individuals, institutions or organizations. Nominations must be submitted online in English or French and need to focus on a specific project or programme.
Nominations are assessed by an independent jury of five international experts on the basis of their potential for impact, innovation and sustainability. Projects must have been running for at least two years, have the potential to be replicable, scalable and/or provide significant learning potential for other initiatives. They must also contribute to one or more of the five priority areas of the prize. Self-nominations are not accepted. Interested candidates should contact the National Commission for UNESCO of their country, or an NGO in official partnership with UNESCO.
All nominations must be submitted online by 5 May 2017 (midnight, Paris time) at this link, only accessible to UNESCO Member States and NGOs in official partnership. The two laureates will be announced by the Director-General in September 2017.
El 8 de marzo, en el DíaInternacional de la Mujer, la UNESCO abrió la recepción de candidaturaspara la segundaedición del Premio UNESCO 2017 de educación de lasniñas y lasmujeres.
Financiadopor la República Popular China, el Premio honra los proyectosinnovadores y sobresalientesquehanrealizadoparticulares, instituciones y organizacionesparafomentar la educación de niñas y mujeres. Cadagalardonadorecibiráunmonto de 50.000 dólaresestadounidenses.
En la edición 2016 del Premio, fuerongalardonadosporsusproyectosinnovadores el Directorio de Desarrollo de la Educación de la PrimeraInfancia de Indonesia y el FondoFiducidario de la Red de Alumnas de Zimbabwe.
Los gobiernos de los EstadosMiembros, asícomolasorganizaciones no gubernamentales (ONG) quecolaboranoficialmente con la UNESCO puedendesignar hasta trescandidaturascomomáximo de particulares, instituciones u organizaciones. Las candidaturasdebencompletarse en línea en inglés o en francés y debenceñirse a unproyecto o programa en específico.
Cadacandidaturaseráevaluadaporunjuradoindependienteintegradoporexpertosinternacionalesquetomarácomo base supotencial en términos de incidencia, innovación y sostenibilidad. Los proyectosdebenexistir, por lo mínimo, desdehace dos años, serfácilmenteretomados, ampliables y/o ofrecergrandesposibilidades de aprendizajeparaotrasiniciativas. Tambiéndebenaportarcontribuciones en uno o varios de los ámbitosprioritariosdesignadospor el Premio. No se aceptaráncandidaturasespontáneas. Los candidatosinteresadosdebenponerse en contacto con la ComisiónNacionalpara la UNESCO en supaís o unaOrganización No Gubernamental (ONG) quecolabore con la Organización.
Todaslascandidaturasdebensercompletadas en línea antes del 5 de mayo de 2017 (a medianoche, hora de París) a partir de este enlace, al quesólotienenacceso los EstadosMiembros y las ONG quecolaboran con la UNESCO. Los dos galardonadosseránanunciadospor la Directora General de la Organización en septiembre de 2017.
Please note that Marie-Claude Machon-Honoré is in charge of communication and has initiated the Liaison Committee Newslettter that can be accessed in French (Le Courrier du Comité de Liaison ONG-UNESCO) on the website of le Comité de Liaison ONG-UNESCO and in English (switch to English): www.ngo-unesco.net/fr/
Click here to access the explanatory note for the 2017 call for nominations.
A business investment offers both entrepreneurs and investors excellent opportunities to get the best returns. It’s important, however, to take a closer look at different investment options to find out what is really helping your business grow and generate more revenue. As such, you need to ask yourself a few questions to ensure you make decisions that pay off in the future.
Are Women Good Investors?
When it comes to finances, we recognise the fact that gender stereotypes exist in every society. Research carried out by Merrill Lynch reveals that gender differences between male and female investors are generally overstated. More than 80% of women investors who participated in the study believed that they could adjust their lifestyles to meet their investment goals. The research suggests that men and women are quite similar in their investing views and habits. When gender differences do arise, they are largely shaped by geographic and demographic factors and not by innate characteristics alone.
One thing is for certain though: Women do tend to ask more questions in comparison to men, but not because they don’t understand investments. They do it in order to get a clear understanding of the purpose of investment strategies. These questions work to their advantage and enable them to make wiser decisions. Let’s now discuss a few pertinent questions you need to ask yourself before making a business investment.
1. Do I Have a Thorough Understanding of How This Works?
Even the most promising investment strategies face ups and downs. If you gain a complete understanding of how it works, you’re more likely to stick to your plan even when you experience big down periods. You should have an almost religious like belief to know that things will turn around in your favour despite the temporary problems you’re facing. This will only happen when you do your best to completely understand why you’re investing in something and how it’s supposed to work.
If you fail to ask yourself this question, you may overlook a few things and have second thoughts the moment you hit a few roadblocks along the way.
2. Can I Afford This Investment?
No matter how promising any investment opportunity sounds, you need to make sure you have sufficient funds to cover your expenses, so you won’t have to disrupt or liquidate your investment prematurely. If you fail to take a closer look at your financial circumstances, you might end up putting aside money for a long-term investment without having anything to fall back on during unforeseen emergencies.
There are different financing options available to you if ever you’re short on money but are convinced that making an investment as soon as possible is the best course of action for your business. You could look at bank loans or seek the help of venture capitalists. Of course, careful thought must be given to the decision-making process; getting advice from fellow professionals or financial advisors before making the move is also wise.
3. Does This Investment Help Me Diversify Across My Portfolio?
You ought to spread your money between different investment products to mitigate your risks. Pick your investments wisely, so they work together to reach your financial goals. It’s good to have a mix of investments, so they don’t run into losses all at once. Consider your investment risks and find out how they might impact your personal circumstances.
Look up a risk profile questionnaire like this one to evaluate your risk profile. Doing so will help you determine if it’s all worth it or if the risks, sadly, far outweigh the benefits. Again, it’s all about making a wiser decision through asking the right questions, and knowing the answers to these questions.
4. Is This Investment in Line with My Priorities?
Before you put aside that large sum of money for an investment, take a good look at your top priorities. If you don’t ask yourself this question, you might end up regretting the decision you made. Will this investment help me achieve my business goals? Are there major risks involved that may jeopardise my business in the future? Are my objectives and plans for this investment beneficial to my business’ aims? Remember that an investment must not be made on a whim; it also must have value that’s relatable to your business.
5. How easy is it to get Out of It?
Despite having favourable market projections and positive past performances, investments can still go bad. Determine whether you’re at risk of losing all your money if things do go wrong. Some investments carry higher risks than others. Weigh the pros and cons and establish a good exit strategy, so you know what to do when times get tough.
By asking yourself these questions, you’re setting yourself up for having a wise investment. As a businesswoman, it also pays to keep tabs on your daily spending, needs, and wants, both for you and your business. Pick up a few tips on becoming a successful saver, so you achieve your financial goals faster and make investments easier and with less pressure.
You could also seek the help of fellow business and professional women when it comes to making the right business investment. BPW offer mentorship, networking, and skill-building programs that will guide you into making wise investments, and other important business decisions.
Being diplomatic at work or in your business is all about knowing how to deal with people effectively so no hard feelings arise. It’s about finding the right balance between your needs and the needs of your colleagues, subordinates, or superiors.
No textbook or manual can fully prepare you for life in the workplace especially in terms of your professional relationship with others. Without diplomatic communications though, you will be severely limited when it comes to navigating your requests and the requests of your colleagues and in settling disputes effectively. This could lead to disagreements and challenging work situations that shouldn’t be there in the first place.
Advantages of Effective Diplomacy
The ability to communicate with diplomacy is a skill that professionals and business owners need to master. It will teach you how to deliver bad news or critical feedback in professional situations the right way, with as little negative emotional results as possible. It will also strengthen your reputation and help you manage existing relationships with maturity, integrity, and professionalism. Lastly, effective diplomacy can help you avoid conflict and find common ground. Needless to say, this particular skill is a useful asset in negotiations, may it be within the company or with external entities.
Negative Emotions in the Workplace
Our emotions also have a major role to play when it comes to communications in the workplace. Emotions serve as survival mechanisms—they’re ingrained into our biology. Cruel criticism or a co-worker’s deceptive attacks can often send us reeling. Our minds and bodies have to struggle to respond appropriately to these negative circumstances. We might end up showing signs of aggression or sadness, depending on the situation we encounter.
According to a study carried out by neurologist Dr. William H. Frey, women cry approximately 5.3 times per month in comparison to men, who cry, on average, 1.4 times per month. This makes the issue of dealing with negative emotions in the workplace especially relevant for businesswomen. However, those who shed tears at work, regardless of gender, may also end up feeling ashamed, especially if it relates to a conflict situation or performance issue. Emotions like anger or sadness can potentially derail a person’s relationship with his or her colleagues. This is the reason why it’s imperative to know how to communicate diplomatically and handle conflict at the workplace or within your team.
Tips for Achieving Effective Diplomacy
1. Make Sure you’re Aware of Cultural Differences
What might ordinarily be seen as good or fair feedback in some cultures may be perceived as rude or negative in others. To be a tactful businesswoman, you have to be aware of cultural differences when you’re communicating with people from different backgrounds. To play it safe, you can use a gentle approach. Try to be assertive without being submissive.
For example, if you know one of your team members is often late to work, avoid calling him/her out during a staff meeting. Consider speaking to them privately instead. Tell them you noticed that they’re having a hard time coming to work on time. Ask them if you could do anything that could help them overcome their tardiness.
2. Select your Words Carefully
Try to avoid placing blame on someone. That will only make the other individual feel defensive. Instead of saying “You need to work on your presentation skills,” you could instead say “I think your presentation will be better if you spend some more time on research.” If you disagree with someone’s opinion, don’t shoot them down. You could say “I appreciate your opinion, but I see things differently.” You can then go ahead and make your true opinions known.
3. Look for the Right Time to Raise Concerns or Requests
In workplace communication and diplomacy, timing is key, especially when it comes to negative issues or situations that may involve negative emotions. It’s bad to add more fuel to the fire, as they say, by going ahead and being insensitive about when you want your voice to be heard.
As an example, if your colleague or someone on your team has just received news that they will be laid off sometime towards the end of the year, don’t rush into a discussion with them regarding the things or pending tasks you asked them to do. Wait until the time is right before pushing forward your requests—it could be when things are calmer, or when their minds are clearer and they have had time to think.
4. Learn to Be Flexible
It’s equally important to be open to other people’s opinions, especially in business or in a professional setting. There’s bound to be differing opinions and perspectives when people discuss business ideas, so you need to learn to roll with the punches and move on without being negative or disrespectful. If you’re flexible, you’ll learn how to achieve common ground with others who may disagree with your views, and also present your own ideas without coming off as someone rude or as someone who doesn’t value what others have to say.
5. Watch your Body Language
Even if you’re saying the right things, your body language may communicate something different to your colleagues. Remain calm, maintain eye contact, and a neutral facial expression during discussions or negotiations. Avoid using your fingers to point at team members as this could be seen as an expression of aggression.
One trick that could help you give off a calm vibe and body language during discussions that can become heated is taking a deep breath before talking. This enables you to release some of the tension and clear your mind, letting you think more clearly and speak more diplomatically rather than emotionally.
Achieving effective diplomacy can help gain and maintain a good working environment for your business or push you up the corporate ladder, especially in professions that involve lots of internal and external communication such as public relations and human resources. If you practice, you can develop this skill and improve your interpersonal relations at work or in your business. To help you out, BPW offers valuable guidance and mentorship that can help you achieve better communication and diplomacy skills in the workplace, as well as other tools to help business and professional women grow in their respective fields.
Pink October 2016
From 1st till 31 October 2016, the Senegalese League against Cancer subsidized mammography screenings for 2000 women. On 8th October, a free consultation of Senology was organised in partnership with the Senegalese League against Cancer which federates a number of associations of which includes BPW ZB Dakar. In total,
- 937 people were consulted
- 101 vouchers of mammography were distributed free of charge to diagnosed cases and to people at risk
- 46 subsidized mammary ultrasounds
- 18 specialists were mobilzed for consultations with 6 Midwives and more than 60 volunteers.
The numbers gathered were:
- Normal 789
- Abnormal 148
- Mammography of Diagnostic 49
- Mammographies of Screenings 198
- Biopsies Cytoponctions 28
- Ultrasounds of Diagnostic 58
- ltrasounds of Screenings 21
Consultation of October 22nd, 2016
Consultations were organised on Saturday 22 October 2016 at the Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium.
- 1447 people were consulted
- 100 vouchers of mammography were distributed free of charge to the diagnosed cases and to people at risk
- 96 mammary ultrasounds were subsidized
- 23 specialists were mobilized for the consultations with 6 Midwives and more than 150 volunteers.
The numbers gathered were:
- Normal 1258
- Abnormal 189
- Mammography of Diagnostic 95
- Mammographies of Screenings 462
- Biopsies Cytoponctions 22
- Ultrasounds of Diagnostic 82
- Ultrasounds of Screenings 21
International Peace Day
On 21 September 2016, BPW ZB Dakar Senegal celebrated International Peace Day in West Africa along with the workgroup Women, Peace and Security.
The conference, marking the International Peace Day at UNOWAS, centred on the theme "The objectives of sustainable development, components of Peace" with the sub-theme being "Women's Leadership, Peace, Security, prevention of conflict, mediation and peace building: What role for the Women?"
It was presented by Ms. Isatou Harris, Gender Advisor at the United Nations High Commission to Human Rights, Dakar. Peace and Security as Human Rights, the declaration on the Right of peoples to Peace (resolution 39/11) adopted by the UN General Assembly dedicates a fundamental right of people to peace.
1. Solemnly proclaims that the peoples of our planet have a sacred right to peace; The obligation for the States to work in the implementation of this right is also reminded
2. Solemnly declares that the preservation of the right of peoples to peace and the promotion of its implementation constitute a fundamental obligation of each State; Peace is thus a Human Right. Besides, the PIDCP commands that people be free and know their rights to liberty and security.
On 25 July 2016, members from BPW Bassam Impérial Club, with the Delegation of the Foundation TX, participated in a working session in collaboration with the technical services of the Ministry of National Education of Côte d'Ivoire for the construction of a modern College in Didablé, a locality situated in the center of the country.
The ground breaking ceremony of the modern College of Didablé will took place on 26 July 2017.
On 9 August 2016, a meeting was held between the President of the Bassam Impérial Club Amélie N'ZI, the Education Project officer, Léonie Diabate, the in-charge of Social affairs, Joséphine DJEKETH and KABRAN Assoumou, Director and Cabinet Minister of National Education.
Another meeting was held on 8 August 2016 between the President of the Bassam Impérial Club Amélie N'ZI, the Education Project officer, Léonie DIABATE and Kandia CAMARA, Minister of National Education.
On 26 August 2016, members of BPW Bassam Imperial celebrated BPW Day and wore yellow.
Christmas gift giving on 19 December 2016 by the President of the BPW Bassam Impérial Club, Amélie N'ZI and some Young BPW members to the population of Bingerville, a locality situated in the suburb of Abidjan.
Cyprus’s first ‘Eriphyle, Women of Excellence’ awards ceremony was successfully organized in Nicosia on 31 January 2017, of which the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Nicos Anastasiades, was also present.
The Eriphyle Awards were launched by the Cyprus Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW Cyprus) and the Cyprus Employers & Industrialists Federation (OEB).
In her welcome address, BPW Cyprus’ President, Mrs Mary Papadopoulou, clearly stated that the purpose of the event was not merely to recognize certain women in the business community, but also to nurture a new generation of women entrepreneurs by empowering and encouraging them.
Mrs Papadopoulou emphasized the need to ensure that businesses run by women would not remain a theoretical concept with limited implementation. On the contrary, they should be a fundamental parameter and a fully integrated component of today’s economic reality and productivity landscape.
The President of BPW Cyprus also noted the two key drivers of the country’s economic recovery and credibility: investments and the development of our most valuable resource – our human capital, our people. These people, which include a growing number of young women who have embraced this institution, are living hope that the future is here, and it is full of promise.
Indeed, Mrs Papadopoulou’s message to the young women of today was clear: “Be bold, you can; dare to dream; the future belongs to you.”
Referring to the award winners that were honoured during the event, Mrs Papadopoulou described them as two examples of inspiring individuals, who, by way of example, encouraged others to stay active and creative, and who were not content with the status quo, but always believed that everything is possible.
The award winners were chosen by the Awards Evaluation Committee from among an impressive number of nominees.
The Committee consists of the Commissioner of Equality; the President of BPW Cyprus; the Deputy Director General of OEB; the Director General of the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance; senior commerce and industry officials from the Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, and representatives of OPAP Cyprus.
The following awards were presented during the ceremony:
· Woman in Business Award: This award is granted in recognition of women who have a track record of successfully running a business or organization. The Evaluation Committee took into account, among other things, business development activities, evidence of progressive policies in relation to business management and human resource management, as well as corporate social responsibility. The Eriphyle Woman in Business Award 2016 was presented to Irena Georgiadou, Chairperson of the Board of the Hellenic Bank Public Company Ltd.
· Leading Woman Award: This award honours women who demonstrate professional excellence, community service, and actively promote and support other professional women, entrepreneurs and employees. The Eriphyle Leading Women Award 2016 was presented to Mrs Androulla Vasiliou, whose leadership skills and social participation have had a remarkable impact both in Cyprus and in the European Union.
The Awards were presented by the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Nicos Anastasiades. In his speech, the President emphasized the crucial role of women in today’s economy, noting that the awards that were launched on this occasion constituted a powerful incentive to effect change in our society; a society which still sees its women leaders as the exception to the rule of having men in leadership positions. The President then congratulated BPW Cyprus and the OEB on this joint initiative.
The event was also attended by the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment, Members of the House of Representatives, state officials, representatives of private institutions and trade unions, as well as many other members of the business community.
BPW Cyprus sincerely thanks OPAP Cyprus, which fully supported the joint efforts of BPW Cyprus and OEB and was the main sponsor of the event.
- BPW Cyprus Press Office, 2 February 2017
See the press coverage here:
Running a business is not an easy task—there will be potential problems along the way which will affect different areas, from financing and manpower to marketing and sales. As such, many businesses look to forming partnerships to help address problems or provide the things and competencies that they lack. In effect, partnerships can help solve a problem and bring a business to the next level.
There are different kinds of partnerships and business partners, from businesses or corporations that provide one kind of support, whether it’s advertising or financial backing, to joint ventures involving two or more parties which undertake a commercial project. Do you know which kind of partnership would suit your business needs best?
Finding the right partnership is daunting on its own, unless you know how to go about it. As a businesswoman beginning the search for the right business partner, keep the following tips and advice in mind on your journey.
Find a Business Partner Whose Business Goals Are Similar to Yours
Naturally, when you have an idea for a business partnership, you and your potential partner will need to have similar goals, values, and ways of reaching those goals. As a businesswoman, finding a partner with a similar vision and business values is more important than finding someone who is similar to you in general—if you’re goals are the same, you won’t be pulling the business in different directions.
Find a Business Partner Whose Skills Complement Yours
Consider your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to your business. Where does the business excel? Where is it lacking? Could you partner with another business who performs well in those areas? Finding a partner whose skills complement yours makes your business stronger as a whole and allows you to focus on the areas you’re good at while allowing you, through constant communication and observation, to gain valuable insights that will be beneficial in refining areas of your business that need improvement after the partnership contract has lapsed.
Find People That You Trust
Remember that you’re going to be working with the partner business’ representatives often. Trust is critically important to your partnership, and it’s something that builds over time. It’s not only important to work well together, but to ensure that you have similar goals, values, and views for your business' futures.
Find a Business Partner Who Is Ready for the Job
A business partner is supposed to be just that—a partner. They need to have the time, energy, resources, and skills the partnership and its resulting business collaborations and campaigns require. As much as you may want to give someone a chance, if they can’t guarantee that they’ll devote an adequate amount of time, focus, energy, and resources to making the partnership work, they won’t be a partner. If you’re not careful,you’ll end up with an additional responsibility for you and a liability to your business if you go ahead and sign on the dotted line without thinking things through.
Find Time to Research
If you’re looking at a potential partnership with another business, take time to research about its past, operations, the issues (if any)it has been involved in, and how other businesses perceive it. Doing so will reveal valuable information that will help you in your decision-making. Remember that it’s not because you don’t trust anyone; it’s more of you looking after your assets and preventing yourself from rushing into making a decision that you’ll regret.
This is especially true in the context of being a businesswoman, where other people might try to take advantage of you just because they see you as more nurturing and forgiving. Doing the needed research prevents this from happening while helping you make the impression that, as a businesswoman, you always come prepared.
Find a Business with Good Business Ethics
Making a business work right is a big deal and will require you to invest time and (in most cases) money. If you’re entering a partnership with another entity, you should be able to trust the way your partner handles financial matters, as well as their ethics regarding business finances, ideas, and the law. Remember, any trouble that your partner creates might also negatively affect you. Any unethical practices will also reflect on your business, so choose a partner you're comfortable having business dealings with.
A business partnership can either make or break your business which means thoroughly studying your options makes perfect sense. If you’re looking for relevant advice for businesswomen looking for partnerships, BPW will be able to give you the needed mentorship and insights for making the right decision.
There has been a long history of men being at the helm when it comes to leading the business world, but this is rapidly shifting. Women are venturing into business more and more and are making significant strides. There are so many examples of inspiring female entrepreneurs and businesswomen who are achieving impressive success.
Are you a woman with big dreams of business success? As you embark on your journey towards your business goals, here is some important advice to keep in mind.
Don't be Afraid to Say No
Working in business, whether you’re an entrepreneur or in a highly demanding job, means that you will have a lot of different people wanting your time. You’ll often find that your to-do list is a mile long and you can never seem to reach the bottom of it. There is always something more you could be doing. This can be incredibly draining and can leave you feeling stressed and burnt out. When you stretch yourself too thin, you can end up producing mediocre products and services because you just don’t have the time or energy.
It’s important to learn to prioritise your most valuable resources—your time and energy. Focus on the things that are most important to your business and don’t be afraid to say no to things that do not help you in achieving your goals. You’re only human! You can only do so many things at once, so focus on the crucial things and do them well.
Don't Be Shy When Marketing Yourself
Many women report that they find self-promotion a challenge because they are raised to be quiet, polite, and not to “brag.” However, a healthy amount of self-promotion is incredibly important in business. After all, how else will customers find out about you if you don’t put yourself out there?
If you really want to excel in business, you will need to learn how to advertise yourself—even if you feel uncomfortable at first. If “self-promotion” feels a little too pushy for you, you can think of it as “making your work visible” instead. The more people hear about what you do, the more opportunities you will have to help others and to grow your business.
Don't Think of Yourself as a "Female in Business"
When you think of yourself as a “female entrepreneur” rather than just an “entrepreneur,” it puts limitations on yourself and the way that you perceive your abilities. Don’t put yourself in a box—you are not your gender. There is nothing that you cannot achieve if you put your mind to it. We now live in an increasingly progressive world that affords opportunities for both men and women in business, so don’t confine or, worse, look down on and discourage yourself.
Identify Your Skills and Use Them to Their Full Potential
What are you good at? Your business will thrive when you focus on the skills that you really excel at, and then delegate other tasks as needed. You will need to figure out your business’ USP, which is your “Unique Selling Point" or "Unique Selling Proposition." This is what differentiates your business from other businesses—the unique way in which your services or your product is special. Why should someone do business with you, when there are so many other options in your industry?
Identifying your USP is crucial. If you are being true to your unique set of skills then this is something that your competitors cannot imitate. When you make your business stand out from the crowd, everything you do will become easier because customers will come to you. It’s not about being the best; it’s about being unmistakably you. Being the only one who does something is better than being the best at doing something because you won’t have to compete at all.
These tips can help guide you along your path to business success. We at BPW can provide valuable help, guidance, advice, and mentorship for women who are venturing into business. Our aim is to help you achieve your business goals, so don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ll be happy to help you out.
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Conflict is something that will occur at some point in even the most congenial work environment. The larger the team, the greater the potential for conflict. It is virtually impossible to please everyone at all times, so conflict is bound to arise eventually. If not handled effectively, this conflict can cause problems within your team, ultimately hurting your business as a whole. Luckily, women are natural problem-solvers, so you should have no problem resolving conflict with the strategies outlined below.
When it comes to conflict resolution, a proactive response is usually better than a reactive one. Rather than allowing a minor conflict to become a major issue, it is better to address the problem right away, so that your team can get back to work quickly. The longer a conflict drags on, the greater the impact it can have on your business. Although some conflicts may resolve themselves, this is not always the case, so it is better to take action sooner rather than later.
When approaching a conflict situation, don't try to take the resolution upon yourself. Even though your feminine intuition may make you want to step in and help, this isn't always the best approach. Instead, empower your team members to work through the conflict together. If they are able to collaborate on a solution to the problem, it is more likely that both sides will be happy with the end results. They will also be less likely to enter into new conflicts in the future, making your team stronger going forward.
In many cases, the two sides of a conflict do not fully understand why the other is upset. As women, we are typically blessed with the power of empathy, so try to pass that along to your team. Encourage your team members to express their concerns and make sure that the other parties have plenty of opportunities to ask clarification questions. Make sure that each party fully understands where the other is coming from before moving on. The better each side is able to understand each other's perspective, the more easily they can come up with a resolution that satisfies everyone involved.
If your team is unable to arrive at a solution themselves and you are required to step in, do your best to remain objective when evaluating the details of the conflict. This means to leave your personal feelings about the individuals involved in the conflict behind so that you can focus on the specifics.
In addition, try not to favour one side because you believe that team or person to be more important than the other. After all, every department and team member is important; otherwise they would not be there in the first place. Try to come up with a resolution that is equally beneficial to both sides. It can sometimes be difficult to put your personal feelings and emotions aside, but this is all part of being an effective manager.
One of the main sources of conflict is ambiguity. Typically, the expectations of one party may differ a little from those of another. These small differences in expectations create breeding grounds for conflict, so do your best to eliminate them wherever possible. One of the best ways to do this is to document all policies and procedures. Then, if there is any question as to how things should be done, your team can refer to the appropriate documentation for reference, effectively eliminating future conflicts before they start.
Although it is virtually impossible to prevent conflict from happening entirely, with these tips you should be well-equipped to handle anything your work day throws your way. In the end, resolving conflicts effectively can bring your team members closer together, allowing them to work alongside one another more effectively in the future.
BPW believes in empowering women and helping them become leaders in their chosen fields. We provide professional mentorship, networking, and skill-building services that help women become better managers who can effectively address conflict between the team and build strong working relationships with colleagues.
Public speaking and motivational presentations can be crucial to the progress of your career. But, despite the fact that the skills and techniques for effective public speaking can be learned and nurtured at any stage in life, many women feel it is something that they cannot do well or are even downright scared of.
However, this shouldn’t be the case. Read on to discover how you can improve your public speaking skills so you can become better at delivering speeches and presentations and stand confident in front of even the most critical of audiences.
Since practice makes perfect, you are likely to be practising your speech over and over again. During this process, take the time to record yourself, preferably on video, and then watch it back. We know this step can be awkward, but once you get the hang of it, you can now take note of your body language, how much eye contact you make with your audience, and the tone of your voice. Listen to the rise and fall of your pitch and check if your pacing is right. Are you pausing in the right places to achieve the effect you want? Are your pauses long enough to make your speech clear and audible to listeners? Did you doze off while listening to yourself? These are just a few of the relevant questions you need to answer on your way to becoming a better public speaker.
Ask for Feedback
Constructive feedback will help you identify any ambiguity in your speech. Is your message clear, particularly if you are weighing up different viewpoints? Are you using confusing language, industry jargons and acronyms, or are you mispronouncing words? You will need to take into account your audience’s age, their level of knowledge about the subject, and any preconceptions they may have about you or about the topic. You also have to learn to accept harsh feedback. If you hear something that you don’t like, don’t disagree just yet. If you have a recording of your speech, listen to it and see if the criticisms are on point. If they are, then you’ve got additional motivation to do better. If they’re not, well, at least you know you did a good job that you can improve on. Win-win!
Watch and Learn
This is a particularly useful tip if you want your speech to be motivational. Learn from those who motivate you. What techniques do they use? How do they capture and retain your attention? How do they make you feel? To motivate someone, you have to make them care. Why do you care about this person or what they are saying? You can then integrate these lessons into your own speeches. This doesn’t end here, however. The next step is to build upon these realisations and improve on them even more. You want to be a good speaker, not a good copycat speaker!
Enrol in a Public Speaking Course
Courses are available that will help you identify the specific skills you need and show you how you can draw up a template for a successful speech. For example, you will need an opening, a body, and a conclusion to your speech and you will need to remember what to say and when.
Since the opening is your opportunity to really capture your audience’s attention, you might want to learn some techniques to make a really strong first impression. A public speaking course will give you access to experts and useful guides. Alternatively, a mentor could help you develop the speaking skills you need once you learn them. A mentor who has encountered and overcome similar difficulties to those that you are encountering will certainly be a big help because he/she knows the challenges you are going through and the things you can do to overcome them.
Be Positive and Confident
Women are often worried that they will come across as arrogant, and this is sometimes reflected in their choice of words.
Avoid the following:
- I’m just wondering…
- You probably know better than me, but…
- I apologise for saying this, but…
Instead, say, “I’m going to tell you about…” Be positive, be assertive, and be confident. This lets the audience know that you really know what you are talking about and it will be better for them if they listen.
The practicalities could make all the difference as to whether or not your future speeches will be a success. Give yourself a head start by assessing the venue and any distractions, the logistics of the stage, the space available to you, the lighting and the acoustics, and the presentation aids that are at your disposal. Thinking ahead will not only make you aware of the physical and environmental factors you need to consider, it will also help you prepare better and even grow mentally acquainted with the venue, even before you step on the stage.
Good speakers are, above all, being themselves when speaking in front of an audience. Remember that women are great storytellers and have a natural instinct when it comes to human nature. As long as you are confident that you are an authority on the topic about which you are presenting, don’t be afraid to let your charisma and personality shine through.
Having said that, do take into account that your personal preferences can affect the quality of your delivery. An employee once described how she sat through a customer service presentation from a painfully unanimated speaker who, in addition to delivering a long, drawn-out speech, wore a big, loud scarf around her neck and over her shoulder. The audience were left with no recollection of the content of the presentation “but an indelible image of the infamous scarf!” It’s definitely great to be yourself when giving a speech or presenting, but you have to be also mindful of personal elements that might divert attention from your speech in a negative way.
Challenges for Female Public Speakers
Women may feel they are taken less seriously than their male counterparts, especially since their voice is likely to be less powerful or authoritative. However, this does not have to be the case if you are confident, knowledgeable, and work on your delivery. Just look to the likes of Hillary Clinton, Barbara Corcoran, Laura Schwartz, actresses Emma Watson and Angelina Jolie, Oprah Winfrey, or Sarah Kay to see that women can and do combine power, passion and eloquence when speaking in public to be extremely effective.
Successful public speaking is a useful tool in any marketer or communicator’s arsenal and will ensure that you are taken seriously in your chosen field.
It is impossible to fully eliminate risks in business, but we can work to understand and to assess them. In fact, as a leader of or as a part of a business, this is your responsibility.
Assessing, managing, and circumventing risks may seem a little daunting at first, but this need not be the case. By developing certain skills, and by inculcating certain habits into their regular working practices, women in business and other professions can take risk assessment to the next level.
Relish the responsibility, develop a strong foundation for handling and managing risk, and help to steer your organisation towards its objectives.
Key Risk Assessment Skills
There are several key skills which are instrumental in assessing and dealing with risk. Some of them you may already have, while others may require work.
Taking the Longview
Risks have a habit of stacking up like dominoes; when one falls, it takes a whole lot of others with it. This is why risk assessment should be integrated into strategic planning and long-term objectives. Weigh the risks and potential gains with the future in mind, and gain better insight into the best course of action.
It is you and your team who will need to implement the strategies you put in place for avoiding risks, so focus on what they need. They may require additional resources or support in order to minimise risk and secure a successful strategy. Consult with your team and decide what is feasible and what is not.
Knowing Your Own Limitations
From a leadership position, it is tempting to simply go it alone; to take a stand and to forge on ahead. This is foolhardy. You are not expected to know everything; but you are expected to act upon the best information possible.
If you need more data, request it. If you need to consult with different department heads, call a meeting. Fact-finding is not a sign of weakness; it is the sign of a businesswoman doing what’s right and who knows what is best for her organisation.
Master Clear Communication
You didn't get to the position you are at by getting tongue-tied or being timid, so your communication skills are probably already pretty sharp. However, clarity can always be honed and improved.
Think about the commands you give; think about the way you assign rules and roles to your team. To properly assess the risks involved with business, information needs to flow freely, and clear communication from all team members plays a major role in achieving this.
Improving Risk Assessment for the Future
There is always room for improvement. Take a look at these tips to understand how you can hone and sharpen your risk assessment abilities.
Foster a Communicative Atmosphere
As we have discussed above, we cannot assess risks without high-quality data. This data comes from many sources—including analytics, client feedback, market reports, and so on—but one of your prime data resources is your own team.
To tap this resource, make sure that the culture within your organisation is cordial, open, and communicative. Make it known that asking questions and delivering feedback is encouraged, and remain approachable. When the time comes to assess risks going forward, the information you need from your colleagues or team will be clear and easier to obtain.
Forge Good Habits
Forging positive habits requires a sort of “muscle memory” approach; if you repeat the action often enough, it eventually becomes habit.
Start by creating a schedule, and then use this to pencil in key audits, reviews, and progress reports from the different teams or departments of your business. This pulls the organisation together, creating a framework within which effective and efficient risk assessment can take place.
Keep Strategising, Keep Planning
The natural order of things is to plan first, then go ahead and carry out the task. However, true planning and effective strategising never stops. Holding regular planning meetings keeps every member of your team on the same page, and implements a comprehensive understanding across the entire business.
This means that each team—or each team member—understands not only their own duties, but how those duties affect the performance of other teams or departments within the business. The effects of this are hugely beneficial for risk assessment, as it enables you to quickly and easily gain a wide-ranging insight into the risks associated with each move.
Leadership excellence is a distinction that many women strive for. Of course, becoming a strong leader requires the development of the right set of skills to attain the corresponding positions, titles, and other professional appointments. These challenges are at times even greater for women–where pushes against the so-called glass ceiling are still an ongoing issue.
The good news is that continued hard work towards progression has shown that women can bring an immense level of benefits within a leadership position. In fact, this study on gender diversity shows that women who lead within company operations boast a remarkably higher level of performance compared to a male-dominated direction.
This raises a very important question to many aspiring women: How can you develop the right skills to become an effective leader? While the answer to this question often carries a lot of considerations, a few critical components can help you become an outstanding female leader.
Let’s have a look at four of the essential thought processes and skill development you’ll need to rise up above the fold:
1. Visualise Yourself as a Leader
True leadership starts and stops with you. By visualising yourself as a strong and capable leader, you’re already one step in the right direction.
Why it's important:
It doesn't matter what profession or position you're pursuing; visualisation is always an essential element of being a successful leader. If you can't see yourself achieving your success right now, it will become that much harder to actually get there.
How to develop this skill:
The key to successful visualisation comes in the form of imagery. Imagining the actions you need to take can empower you to actualise your vision as a successful female leader.
2. Enhance Your Teamwork Skills
The ability to unite your colleagues and employees through teamwork is a critical element towards leadership success. After all, they are precisely who you'll be leading once you reach your goals.
Why it's important:
Successful leadership isn't about some vaulted sense of self-importance, stepping over others to reach your goals, or bullying your followers into compliance. Instead, it's about fostering an environment of collaboration of collaboration which leads you and your team towards your objectives.
How to develop this skill:
Practice makes perfect with your understanding of teamwork. Volunteer to become part of a team to help you better understand the dynamics. Employ patience, understanding, and clear communication of expectations to your teammates.
Let yourself be willing to sacrifice control. Follow-up with feedback and hold yourself and others accountable. And if you and your team achieve milestones and accomplishments, celebrate with your team or colleagues. It’s not a solo effort; doing so shows you are one with the team and that you value each other’s contributions.
3. Never Forget Empathy
Enhancing your own empathy can help you better understand your team—and ultimately provide them what they need to thrive.
Why it's important:
This quote from Janet Riccio, the Executive Vice President of marketing and communications firm OmniconGroup sums things up nicely: "The qualities that are required to lead in the 21st century include the ability to connect, collaborate, empathise, and communicate—all qualities that tend to be “female” in nature. Women in leadership roles position organisations in a way that makes them fit for the future."
This typically "female" quality is what creates and maintains the connections that are fundamental within the business world. Empathy can prove to be your secret weapon towards leadership success.
How to develop this skill:
Empathy is all about doing your best to understand, relate to, and feel what other people are experiencing. Even just a few intentional actions can help you improve your ability to empathise. Examples include the following:
- Provide a venue or method to communicate problems
- Smile, make eye contact, and use peoples' names
- Listen, ask questions, and personalise your communication
- Don't immediately dismiss alternative viewpoints or ideas
- Praise peoples' hard work and accomplishments
The ability to effectively empathise will not only result to better work relationships but also to better communication within the team—ultimately leading to more success.
4. Patience and Persistence
While this may sound a bit cliché, the odds can often feel like they’re stacked against you. Perseverance can truly pay off when you’re willing to stick with it (even when you're feeling hopeless).
Why it's important:
Even the most talented people in the world had to earn the success they achieve. Take acclaimed actress Meryl Streep, for instance. During an early audition, famed producer Dino De Laurentis rejected Streep outright, rudely criticising her to his son in Italian, a language De Laurentis presumed Streep did not understand. "Why did you bring me this ugly thing?" he asked, not realising that Streep could understand him. Fortunately, Streep persevered and continued to pursue other opportunities. Within two years, she had received an Academy Award nomination for her performance in The Deer Hunter, and the rest is cinematic history.
How to develop this skill:
Persistence begins with patience. You need to learn to be patient in seeking out, finding, and pursuing your leadership opportunities and other opportunities beneficial to you and your business. From there, you need to learn how to disconnect one rejection or setback from defining who you are as a person or a professional.
While learning how to "brush it off" is certainly a difficult process, the value of this skill is the key to your eventual success. You're smart, talented, and destined for leadership greatness. Don't let a few rejections stop you from getting there.
Leadership Success: One Step at a Time
As you probably already know, you’re not going to have any sort of leadership opportunities just handed to you. But the right frame of mind—alongside a concerted effort towards the objectives you set for yourself—will help you become the successful leader you’ve always envisioned yourself to be.
BPW International is committed to empowering aspiring women leaders by providing a wide range of services for business and personal development. From mentoring and networking to professional skill-building programs, we believe in helping women across the world become leaders of their fields.
When you are giving a presentation, the spotlight is on you. So, how can you make the best possible impression and use your presentation skills to capture the attention of the room and get your points across? Here are some important tips when giving presentations:
Begin With Confidence
The first few minutes of your presentation are very important, as this is when the audience will decide whether they are interested in what you have to say—or whether they will be politely feigning interest while waiting for you to finish. According to best-selling author Simon Sinek you shouldn’t start talking as soon as you get out on stage. Many people do this out of nerves and it might show your insecurity. Instead, take a deep breath and wait a few seconds before you begin. It will show the audience you are confident and in charge.
You can start your presentation off on a strong note by beginning with a story, a joke, a shocking statistic, or even an attention-grabbing image. This is also a great time to employ audience participation, because it will get people involved and invested in the presentation right away.
Connect With the Audience on an Emotional Level
You can appeal to their intellect, but if you really want to connect with your audience you should also reach them on an emotional level. It is important to come across as trustworthy and likeable so that the audience will bear positive emotions towards you.
You can do this by maintaining eye contact, being enthusiastic, smiling and speaking with sincerity to show that you believe in what you are saying. Tell some stories that show your vulnerability and your ability to laugh at yourself, as this will help people to relate to you on a more personal level. According to Kevin Daum, entrepreneur and best-selling author, humour is one of the best ways to establish rapport with your audience.
Don't Use Notes or a Script
For a more effective presentation, rehearse what you want to say until you have it memorised and can say it without looking at notes or a script. This will allow you to stand up straight, maintain eye contact with the audience, and project your voice more while you are speaking. A script acts as a barrier between you and the audience and your presentation will be much more effective without it. Simon Sinek also recommends making eye contact with specific members of the audience rather than panning across everyone. It will make a deeper connection and the entire audience will be able to feel it.
Keep It Simple
Another problem that many presenters have is that they try to fit in too much information into an unnecessarily long and confusing presentation. It is important to identify the key message that you want your audience to take away from your presentation.
Think about this main point and distill it down until you can say it in no more than 30 seconds. Then, go through your presentation and eliminate anything that doesn’t contribute to the audience’s understanding of that one key message.
Get Creative with Technology
Your presentation will go a lot more smoothly when you have put it together on a computer program that is specifically designed for this purpose. PowerPoint is a popular choice, but there are many other great options that will allow you to create a high quality presentation. CustomShow is cloud-based and allows you to create customised presentations, Prezi can be shared on different devices, and Haiku Deck helps you make elegant-looking presentations with over 35 million stock photos. These are just a few of the many options, so try a few and see which one works best for you.
A major mistake that many presenters make is being so nervous that they rush through their presentation, mumble their words, and look stiff and uncomfortable. It can be difficult, but over time you can train yourself to feel more comfortable being the centre of attention.
Many people find that it helps them to seek a quiet space before the presentation and visualise the presentation going smoothly. Take a few deep breaths to give your brain the oxygen it needs and you will trick your body into feeling calmer. During your presentation remember to speak more slowly and take time to pause and breathe between sentences. The pauses will feel like an eternity but they will sound normal to your audience. The slower speaking pace will make your presentation easier to understand and will also calm you down.
These are just a few of the ways that can help you give a more effective presentation and really impress your audience the next time you are in the spotlight. For more great advice on presentations and career success, resources like BPW are there to offer professional women a wealth of information to help take their career forward.
Image credit: pixabay.com
We all know that staying calm under pressure helps in any crisis situation, be it because your software’s been hacked or all your staff called in sick on the same day. When we’re composed and confident, we have the ability to move mental mountains. The trick is having a structure in place to deal with any ‘mountain,’ no matter how big or small.
Crisis manager extraordinaire and author of ‘Good Self, Bad Self: Transforming Your Worst Qualities into Your Biggest Assets,’ Judy Smith, says, “In order to take control of the situation, you need to be proactive, rather than reactive.” Here’s where a solid crisis management plan puts you one step ahead of your issues.
In any crisis, the steps we need to follow are fairly simple:
· Investigate the cause of the problem.
· Identify possible resolutions.
· Implement resolutions.
In order to successfully carry out these steps, a crisis management plan not only acts as a preventative measure, but also provides clear guidelines to follow, in the event of any mishaps. It should include:
· Risk assessments of possible scenarios that could negatively impact your business and guidelines as to how to deal with them.
· An identified support team with specific duties to combat issues and source solutions.
· A clear communication strategy.
However, in the midst of emotions ranging from frustration to anger to fear, whether they be your own or your employees', your crisis can quickly escalate beyond the clear path of a management plan. Take heart though, it’s likely you intrinsically have all the skills you need and, in fact, studies have shown that female managers are far better at taking initiative and engaging staff than men are. These skills are paramount in seeing you through any crisis.
When you harness your amazing natural abilities and follow the steps below, you give your inner ‘crisis manager’ the power to conquer the odds.
Slow Down and Put Things in Perspective
It sounds so obvious, but slowing down, breathing and giving yourself a moment to respond, rather than reacting to the adrenalin pumping through your veins, is often the hardest thing to do. Unless you’re in a ‘flight or fight’ type of situation where your life is in danger, you can afford to step back and view a crisis from a bigger picture perspective.
This, in turn, helps to remove any personal views or emotions in order to clearly see a way forward. A regular meditation practice helps foster a sense of calm. There’s an array of meditation apps available to help you calm your nerves, including MyCalmBeat and Headspace.
Ask for Help
Your support team might include tech advisors, suppliers, staff or even the local plumber, depending on the nature of your business. Though this team is invaluable in helping to solve a crisis, a trusted advisor can help you arrive at potential solutions.
Your advisor might be a mentor, a colleague or a friend you trust and respect. Because they won’t be emotionally invested in the situation, they’re likely to view the scenario from a different perspective, offer a fresh approach and alleviate some of your anxiety. This lets the confident, organised and results-driven entrepreneur you are re-emerge from stress and shine.
Don’t Jump Ahead of the Crisis
It’s very easy to get caught up in the ‘what ifs’ of a crisis, and it happens to the most successful entrepreneurs. For example, perhaps your company misses a crucial deadline due to extenuating circumstances. Before you know it, rather than looking at the facts and sourcing a solution, you begin to envision the inevitable collapse of everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
This kind of thinking leads to excess stress and an inability to see ‘outside the box’ in order to solve the dilemma, making it a trap to avoid at all costs. Always bring your attention back to the steps at hand, in real time. Once the crisis has abated, you can document what went wrong and the potential outcomes in order to add to your preventative crisis management plan.
Remain Flexible and Patient
Being flexible and patient in the path of a storm might sound counterintuitive, but fostering these two simple skills gives you the ability to rise above the chaos to see your way forward. You can’t plan for everything, and even the most detailed plans might derail because of unforeseen issues. Therefore, patience helps you calmly investigate solutions, while flexibility allows you to change course, when necessary.
With incredible insight, the ability to multi-task and fantastic communication skills, female entrepreneurs are at the forefront of effective crisis management. When you invest time in a plan and actively foster a mindset that views crisis as an opportunity to improve, no mountain is too high.
Women in STEM careers, or the lack thereof, have been a major topic of discussion lately. We recently examined what could be done to encourage more women to take up STEM careers. In this blog, we focus on the fact that women are dramatically underrepresented in the world of computer, despite pioneering some aspects of it and showing serious skill in the field. Though the Bureau of Labour Statistics estimates that by 2020, there will be 1.3 million new jobs in computer sciencethe question remains as to how many of those positions will be filled by women. The National Science Foundation report on women in the field of computer science is also grim, stating: “The proportion of women is lowest in engineering, computer sciences, and physics.” However, this was not always the case.
Pioneering women in the field of computing
Did you know that the much coveted .com domain name was an evolution of the work of Elizabeth Feinler back in 1974? Or in 1842, Ada Lovelace became the “first computer programmer” after becoming an integral part of Charles Babbage's analytical engine?
In fact, here’s a list of the women who were pioneers in computing and some of their outstanding achievements:
· 1949: Grace Hopper was a United States Navy officer and one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I. She came to be known as the "Mother of COBOL".
· 1962: Jean E. Sammet developed the FORMAC programming language. She was also the first female president of the Association for Computing Machinery.
· 1962: Dame Stephanie "Steve" Shirley, founded the UK software company F.I. She was concerned with creating work opportunities for women with dependents and predominantly employed women. Out of the around 300 programmers, only 3 were male. This discrepancy remained until it became illegal with the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. She adopted the name "Steve" to help her in the male-dominated business world. From 1989 to 1990, she was President of the British Computer Society. In 1985, she was awarded the Recognition of Information Technology Award.
· 1965: Mary Allen Wilkes was the first person to use a computer in a private home and the principal developer of an operating system (LAP) for the first minicomputer (LINC).
· 1965: Sister Mary Kenneth Keller (1913–1985) became the first American woman to earn a PhD in computer science. Her thesis was titled "Inductive Inference on Computer Generated Patterns.”
· 1984: Susan Kare created the icons we use today and many of the interface elements for the original Apple Macintosh in the 1980s. She was also one of the first employees of NeXT as the Creative Director.
The crux of the problem… A huge confidence gap
Dr. Penny Rheingans, a professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at the University of Maryland, rightly points out – there is a huge confidence gap between men and women when it comes to the Sciences. She says, “If you look at male students who leave computer science programs, it is usually because they are not doing well academically, whereas with women it is because the program was challenging and they are afraid they won’t succeed. Women often leave in good academic standing, but fear that the work will become harder. In truth, although the work does get harder, by then you have grown and have more power and more skills. Women have a hard time internalizing this, believing in themselves.”
Also, a recent study indicated that women might be more intuitive and successful coders than men. But if the dwindling number of women in computing is anything to go by, the concern is that the gender gap in computer science may only widen. Therefore, women need to be supported and encouraged to deal with the pressures and challenges of computing. We explore how below.
The role of mentoring
Mentoring can play a particularly important role for women who are in the field of computer science. The help and support for women in the computing field is aptly pointed out in an article titled ‘For women in computer science, a little mentoring goes a long way. This article highlights the story of Dr. Neha Narul (PhD), working in the area of distributed systems from MIT and who credits her perseverance to one of her professors - Tom Cormen. Acknowledging his role and how he has influenced her, Cormen says: “Research shows that women tend to be more self-critical. If you take two students who are doing equivalent work, the male might say, ‘I’m doing fine,’ whereas the female might say, ‘I’m struggling.’ So we need to encourage the women who are doing fine. [We need to tell them] ‘Hey, you’re doing fine. You should keep going.’ That’s what I do.”
Encouraging women from a young age
An article on Computer Science Online points out that action must be taken at an early age to encourage girls to pursue careers in computer science by employing the following techniques:
· Making computer science fun by including interactive games and demonstrations that appeal to young girls.
· Showing girls and young women the bigger picture on how a career in computer science makes a difference in the world. This will help them understand their potential to make a difference with the use of their knowledge and creativity.
· Showing girls that math ability is not a gendered privilege granted to men and that success can be achieved with perseverance, as with anything.
· Involving girls in spatial skills training (thinking through visual processing), which is an important step in building their confidence in their computing abilities.
· Exposing girls and young women to strong and successful female role models in the fields of computing and technology. This will inspire them to push forward and show them that a successful career in computer science is achievable.
Women have successfully made a name for themselves in the world of computing since the middle of last century and there is no reason for it to stop now. This goes to show that not only are women scientifically and technically creative, but they can successfully solve problems in any field. By introducing girls to the field at a younger age while encouraging and showing them that a STEM career is possible, more young women are more likely to enter into fields such as computing later on. Also, by guiding budding and young women computer scientists successfully through mentorship, women are more likely to stick with computing rather than giving it up.
Last year, McKinsey Global Institute published a report on gender equality that was nothing short of an eye-opener for many. The report finds that women can add $12 trillion to the global economy if every country took steps to establish gender parity. This is 11% higher than what it would be if no such specific steps are taken.
In under-developed and developing countries, women lack equal access to critical areas like education, healthcare, basic amenities, security, financial inclusion and technology. In developed countries, women still find themselves being pushed behind when it comes to financial inclusion, key decision-making and access to technology.
Unless countries proactively strive to pursure gender equality in the economy, the problem of lack of gender will continue to exist. There are a few steps that countries can take to mitigate this problem:
Access to Compulsory Education for Ever Girl Child
One of the key reasons for this disparity among the genders is the difficulty or lack of access to education. Doing so requires governments to invest in new school buildings, appropriate facilities and training to train new teachers. Countries must augment their education improvement efforts with awareness programs.
By building schools as well as improving awareness, parents especially mothers, will understand the need to get their daughters educated. In the war-torn country of Afghanistan for example, infrastructure development and awareness campaigns have resulted in greater enrolment of girls in schools. When women are educated, not only are they in a better position to find employment; they are also able to make better decisions regarding their own lives and that of their family.
Gender Disparity in the Professional Sphere
Women often have to face gender disparity in the workforce. There are many job roles that have a stigma attached to them that manifests itself in the form of gender disparity. For example, women are traditionally considered less suitable for certain job profiles like engineering or jobs that require extensive travelling. This excludes them from many job opportunities, limiting their career prospects. Furthermore, they are often paid less than their male counterparts in spite of having similar job responsibilities and work hours.
Recruitment firm Glassdoor finds that Australian women earn about 83¢ for every dollar a man earns. Companies need to make a conscious decision as part of their corporate social responsibility to provide equal opportunities and pay for women, both in terms of employment and in career growth.
Women in decision-making roles
Women need to be seen more in key decision-making roles – as elected representatives, as part of governing bodies, corporate boards and the like. Women occupying powerful positions can direct more focus on gender issues. Even in developed nations, we see many women who dream of being self-employed but are unable to start a business because of funding issues.
In spite of innovative ideas and willingness to work hard, women report facing discrimination while approaching investors for funding. A 2015 Women in Global Business study found 39% of women exporters and over 50% of domestic women entrepreneurs felt their gender negatively impacted their chances of securing funding. It will take tremendous social consciousness for this to change. Women as key decision makers have the power to drive this change.
Lack of adequate training
Many times, a lack of guidance can hamper women’s growth potential in her career. Training programs can be offered to help women cultivate professional skills that can help them get more easily employed. This can also help women entrepreneurs identify and harness suitable technology in their workplace. Increased networking among women professionals can help in peer-to-peer dissemination of knowledge that can help women be better equipped in their professional roles.
A number of companies today are taking steps to ensure that the female members of our society are given equal opportunities. Leading companies like Telstra, ANZ Bank, Westpac Banking, among others have implemented policy changes that have resulted in greater retention of female employees. Today, 44% companies are hiring more women into traditionally male-dominated jobs. When women are recognised as active contributors to society and given their due in every area, society stands to benefit from all-around economic growth and prosperity.
We’ll be honest. We want you to succeed as a woman entrepreneur just as much as you do. Not only because empowering professional women in business is our passion, but also because women make excellent business leaders, some would say even better than men.
Research by the Centre of Entrepreneurs, an independent, UK-based think tank, found that female leaders are more likely to focus on sustainable growth, to recognise and mitigate risk, to actively and continually invest in self-improvement, and to have greater ambitions for growth and expansion. In Australia, women make up just over one-third of all business operators, and the numbers are growing as women are becoming more qualified, sharpening their skill sets, and are increasingly motivated to start their own organisations.
What does it take to be successful at starting your own business? Many women are taking the plunge but not all are able to build a lasting venture. What are the skills that women like Jessica May (Enabled Employment), Emma Welsh (Emma and Tom’s), and Janine Allis (Boost Juice) have cultivated that have helped them to make such a huge impact?
Aside from possessing grit, courage, and desire, there are a few talents that can set you up for success. Here are the essential skills that every woman entrepreneur should develop.
Every entrepreneur will tell you, there is nothing more important than being able to network effectively. How to network like a pro? As with anything worthwhile, you have to build. Start small and then expand. Talk to people, attend conferences, seek out events where you are likely to find like-minded individuals. You will find lots of people that are interested in being engaged. These people can connect you with others (and you them), and so on. The process never ends. Take the time to build your relationships authentically, and you will be shocked by how far your network will take you.
Never underestimate the power of good communication skills. Someone who is able to build trust and influence others through a conversation or a newsletter will have a much easier time with clients, employees, investors, and supply chain contacts. Keep in mind that communication skills go much deeper than being able to persuade someone. Being able to listen and taking other people seriously will go a long way in earning the respect of those around you. Taking a relevant class which identifies intercommunication techniques, is an excellent way to brush up on your skills and to continue to develop the.
How well can you keep track or your ideas, plan out your daily tasks, and forecast three months, or three years, into the future for your business? If you are writing everything down on sticky notes, than your organisational skills could probably use some work. Managing a business, even a small start-up, is a dynamic responsibility. You have to be able to stay ahead of events, obligations, and communications if you want to survive.
There are so many excellent applications available today that can help you develop your skills and stay organised with everything from time management to business finances. Use them! It is also helpful to take an honest look at your ability to stay on top of things and to make changes accordingly on a routine basis.
You may have decided to start a business because you want to follow your passion and make an impact – that doesn’t necessarily mean you came into your leadership role because you wanted to be someone’s boss. As an entrepreneur, it is important to cultivate the mindset of a leader. You are in control – this is your business. You call the shots.
This also means you have to know how to manage, problem solve, coordinate, and delegate. You have to instil pride and motivation in those who work for you, while also commanding respect and drawing out the best in people. The most effective way to cultivate leadership skills is through experience. Along the way, if you need help, consider hiring a mentor or business coach.
Patience is often overlooked, but it is an essential skill for women entrepreneurs. If you have this skill mastered, then nothing can stop you because you will persevere through it all. Running a business comes with many ups and downs, with setbacks, and roadblocks – all of these can be viewed as opportunities for intensive learning. If you are patient – if you can accept that as long as you make a plan, work hard, adjust to changes, and constantly strive to improve – you will succeed.
Be proactively patient and you will reach all those goals that you set for yourself, and plenty that you never even realized you were aiming for along the ways.
Women are often credited with the art of persuasion, but more often than not this is a complement on their ability to persuade people at home. When it comes to negotiation at the workplace however, they tend to step back. Why does this happen?
Leigh Thompson and J. Jay Gerber, Professors at Kellogg university believe that when it comes to getting the best deal for themselves, women “set less aggressive goals than men; they make less assertive opening offers; and they don't choose to negotiate in situations where men do.” This impacts their professional lives negatively as women graduates get paid only 93 cents for every dollar paid to men.
What are we doing wrong?
A dedicated researcher on gender negotiations and senior lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School, Hannah Riley Bowles gives some insight into what holds back a woman for negotiating a better deal for herself. Some things she observed:
· Stereotypes hold women back from advocating for and discussing issues such asa payrise or promotion. This happens because they feel uncomfortable or hesitant for going against perceived female ideals.
· Women are good negotiators when it comes to negotiating or advocating for someone else, which is more in linewith their ideals as a carer.
· The fear that that others may perceive them as being “bitchy” or “bossy” holds women back from asserting their rights to better terms.
· Some women are not comfortable with acting assertive and authoritative for the sole purpose of influencing people. This affects their presentation and weakens their image asthe other end of the table can usually see through this façade.
Addressing these problems is the first step towards better negotiation skills. We have come up with 4 ways women can become expert negotiators.
How to negotiate better
Know Your Worth
Ellen Archer who is the managing director of women-led angel investing organisation, Golden Seeds, and veteran of Disney, Random House and Simon & Schuster, gave sound advice at the Women’s Insights on the Art of Negotiation “We have to change the conversation and expectations,” she said. “Know your value and go [into a job or salary negotiation] with what you’ve achieved and why you deserve more.” This applies to negotiations in general. Be confident of what you are capable of and why you deserve what you are negotiating for.
Listen to Understand
During negotiations, people have a tendency of being focussed only on their objectives, but this could be a barrier to a successful negotiation. By listening to the other side, you can tailor your discussion to design an agreement that benefits everyone. “It comes down to how well you listen,” says former Hearst Magazines President Cathie Black, in her keynote speech at the Women’s Insights on the Art of Negotiation “By listening, you can negotiate better because you learn what would benefit the other party. It sets a different tone by creating a conversation and fosters respect, understanding and sharing. The most effective negotiation comes from understanding, not just selling. If you have learned to listen, you’re providing intelligence. If a negotiation is one-sided, then only one person wins.” Hence, by listening with the intention of understanding, you can better gauge what terms and conditions will work best with the other party.
Show Them How They Benefit
By showing the opposite party that you accommodate their interests, you are likely to have a better negotiation. This tenet draws from the “Think I, Talk We” approach promoted by COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg. When the negotiation is focussed only on what you want, it becomes a demand, setting the wrong tone. Rather, if you focus on what the other side stands to gain from the negotiation, they will be more inclined to see the value in the deal that you are negotiating.
Structure Your Negotiation Appropriately
Finally, how you ultimately structure the negotiation itself plays a major role in the success of your negotiations. Every negotiation can be simplified to a simple framework. Professor Margaret A. Neale of Stanford Business School and co-director of the Stanford GSB Executive Program for Women Leaders outline 4 basic steps to a successful negotiation:
· Assess the situation and see if you actually can influence the outcome;
· Plan thoroughly on how you could influence him or her, what your goals are in the negotiation, and what the other side expects;
· Ask without holding back;
· Package the proposal by looking at the information that you and the counterparty have and create a win-win situation.
Negotiations are a challenging part of your professional life. But it is possible to become an expert at it. Women around the world have proved that it is possible to get out there and claim what you deserve; they have sharpened their skills as negotiators and are aspiring for more every day. Connect with them through BPW International and learn from a strong network of highly talented achievers.
The Los Angeles Times recently published an article titled “U.S. women take a stand over pay equity, sending ripples through soccer's world”. Although the article highlighted the disparity in wages between men and women in Soccer, it brought forth a more widespread problem that is not limited to the U.S. soccer team alone. Women in professional sports are facing wage discrimination throughout the world.
Carli Lloyd, two-time Olympic gold medallist and FIFA Women’s World Cup champion, sheds light on the severity of the situation. She says that the United States men’s and women’s national teams each play a minimum of 20 matches annually. The top five players on the men’s team earnan average of $406,000 from these games. However, the top five women are guaranteed only $72,000 each year. Male players get almost $69,000 for making a World Cup roster, while their female counterparts get only $15,000 for the same.
This highlights the discrimination that the team has to face. The U.S. women’s soccer team won the Women’s World Cup title in Canada last year, and drew the highest American television rating for soccer in history. They generated $17.7 million in profit for the federation! Despite this, the team still faced lower pay rates compared to their male counterparts.
In Australia last year, the Matildas took a stand against their federation’s refusal to pay players more than $21,000 a year. The team, which currently ranks fifth in the world, went on strike to make their point. Their efforts paid off as the dispute was settled in favour of the team. The top Matildas’ players now receive $41,000 a year, with additional second tier income.
Golf is another example where female players earn much less than their male counterparts. In the 2015 US Women’s Open, the winner of the tournament only took home $810,000 despite having a total purse of $61.6 million. On the other hand, the male counterpart of the tournament paid its winner $1.8 million. This again underscores the unfair gap that exists in wages in the realm of sports.
However, the situation is slowly changing for the better. The world is starting to accept that women are equally capable in the field of sports and deserve equal merit and compensation. Policies such as Title IX in the United Statesensure that women are compensated on a level equal to their male counterparts.
Addressing societal attitudes toward women’s sports is also a key aspect of solving this problem. For example, ‘The Girl Can’ campaign held by Sport England encourages women to participate in sports at all levels. Broadcasters, who televise sports, are also playing their part by increasing coverage for women sporting events. In the long run, this will indirectly shorten the pay gap by way of increased sponsorships due to higher broadcasting revenues. Recently, an article titled Professional Women’s Sports Aren’t Going Anywherereported “Less than 4 percent of girls participated in high school sports in 1972, by the time the W launched over 30 percent of high schools participated. Today, nearly 3.3 million teen girls play sports, and that number has increased twenty-six years in a row.” This shows that the world is starting to understand that women are being treated unfairly despite their talents. This is problem that is a subset of a much larger issue, which sees women not being treated the way they deserve to be treated.
This growth is reflective of a positive trend which points to a day when men and women play on an equal field. Until then, we can do our bit and continue encouraging these women who make us proud despite the disparity and inspire us to become better human beings.
“Women represent a powerful source of economic growth and opportunity. They produce more than half of the world’s food, and control about $20 trillion in consumer spending. However, financial exclusion holds back many women from participating in the economy and from improving their lives and those of their families,” - article by the World Economic Forum on ‘Why financial inclusion for women is critical for shared prosperity.
Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking, drives home the point: “We know that financial inclusion is one of the best on-ramps for a broader introduction to the formal economy and on-boarding to labor force participation and wide economic participation that we are all so eager to see women take part in.”
In recent years, the cause to including women financially has gained greater attention as seen in the efforts taken up by organisations all over the world. Alongside exploring these efforts, we also look at what more can be done.
What is Financial Inclusion?
Financial inclusion is simply the access to formal financial services.
When it comes to women entrepreneurs and employers, the World Bank acknowledges that women do face significantly greater challenges than men in gaining access to financial services, especially in developing countries. Even if women can gain access to a loan, their lack of financial education coupled with facing difficulty in utilizing other financial services and restrictions imposed by society and family results in them ultimately being financially excluded.
Leading the Way
Traditional banks, institutions and governments are currently paving the way for financial inclusion by integrating these efforts into their operations and through their corporate responsibility programs. In providing microfinance and services, where women make up 75% of the 200 million microfinance clients worldwide, these giants are truly leading by example to empowering women to be financially secure.
· The Citi Foundation is one such institution. Their program, SCALA, is in collaboration with the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) and helps “connects low-income microentrepreneurs with business opportunities. Through SCALA, anchor companies, microfinance institutions (MFIs), and NGOs work together... to expand economic opportunities for low-income microentrepreneurs.”
· International Finance Corporation’s Banking on Women program is another excellent example that aims to increase access to finance for women entrepreneurs. IFC’s Banking on Women Bond Program in particular was conceptualised to “attract greater investments to help financial institutions profitably and sustainably serve women-owned businesses.”
· The National Australian Bank in partnership with Good Shepherd Microfinance has made possible more than 90,000 loans to low income Australians. Their goal is to touch one million people by 2018.
· BNP Paribas microfinance portfolio is quite impressive too. Of the 100 women who received group loans from an Indian microfinance institution included in BNP Paribas’ portfolio, 92% reported that their standard of living had definitely improved and 91% said that it positively impacted their self-confidence.
With the increasing number of organisations and institutions proactively taking steps to include women financially, this will certainly make for a positive impact in the lives and professional aspirations of women around the world.
What more can be done?
While having an account with a bank, financial institution or mobile money provider is the first step towards financial inclusion, enabling financial inclusion involves much more. In the Global Findex Database 2014, the World Bank notes that empowering women with quality financial tools and advice, provision of loans, access to savings accounts, cashless payment systems, insurance and other related services will prove vital to the success of financial inclusion.
Microfinancing too is a key strategy and another aspect of focus. As mentioned earlier, women currently form “75% of the 200 million microfinance clients worldwide”, according to an Ernst and Young study on empowering women through financial inclusion. Given that a majority of women use microfinancing as a solution to becoming financially included, supporting microcredit options and sites like Kiva will contribute to helping fellow women.
Organisations like the Australian Financial Inclusion Network are working hard towards the goal of financial inclusion and are extending the opportunity for others to get involved too. By learning about the various programs available regardless of where you are, making the best use of it for your business, and spreading the word and educating others on the benefits, we can go a long way in making financial inclusion a possibility in the lives of women around the world.
The rapid increase in the number of female entrepreneurs shows that women have the potential to not only create a product or service, but also make something enormously successful out of it. That being said, female entrepreneurs have to fight their battles in raising funds for their business, and here’s why – Women Accessing Capitalreveals, “In 2013, less than one in three loan applications for women-owned firms were approved. A 2014 Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship report on barriers to women’s entrepreneurship found that women receive only 16 percent of conventional small business loans. This amounts to 4.4 percent of the total dollar value of all small business loans, leaving women-owned small businesses with only $1 out of every $23 that is being loaned to small businesses.”
As the numbers suggest, obtaining financing as a women entrepreneur is no easy task. This is why we have compiled a few helpful tips to get you on the right track when it comes to pitching your idea to an investor and overcoming this obstacle:
1. Where do you see your business going? - Instead of speaking about what your business is, catch a potential investor’s interest by talking about what your business can do. Giving investors a clear picture of where you see your business in the next five years and why you think it has the potential to get there is important.
2. Do you have a business plan to reach your intended targets? - Investors are interested in the particulars of how you are going to scale the business. Have a detailed marketing plan, list out your human capital requirements to reach your targets, give them specifics of whether your sales effort will be direct or indirect. Having a detailed business plan is a key element of getting financed, as investors will want to understand your process of reaching your intended targets.
3. Have you calculated your financial needs to sustain your strategy? - Investors want cold facts. They want to know the numbers and how you plan to get there. Will you be able to answer questions about what you foresee to be your capital needs over time or what your breakeven timeframe could be? Prepare yourself before you pitch to investors. If numbers are not your thing, get an expert to do it for you. If you cannot get the financial details right, then a CFO maybe a worthwhile investment.
4. Do you have client testimonials? - Nothing screams success like a customer’s testimonial. Include them on your website and make them a part of your marketing tactics. This can help you show investors that you can deliver and bring in happy customers and consequently, more business.These testimonials also prove that your products are of value to your target market indicating that you are able to meet your customer’s needs. Furthermore, a happy customer recommending your product will attract more customers. This powerful marketing avenue can be very beneficial to an up and coming start up like yours.
5. Are you a confident individual? - You may be able to provide the stats and have a great product but when it comes to getting an investor to open up their wallet, your leadership qualities are just as important as the business itself. They need to believe in you. They have to be convinced that you have the entrepreneurial skills to scale the business to new heights. Therefore, invest in yourself first; work on gaining the presentation skills, and the confidence to wow them. Make them believe that you have what it takes to achieve the goals you have set for your business. Remember, you have to sell you leadership qualities to convince investors that the business is capable of growing.
Where should you go for funding?
When you have your pitch ready and your confidence strapped on, you need to know where you can go for funding. You can put in your own money or turn to friends and family. If you want to source your funding from other sources, here are a few examples:
1. Loans from banks and credit unions - There are many options for women-led firms in banks nowadays, so do your research and find something that allows you to take the biggest loan at lowest interest rates.
2. Angel investors and venture capital firms - This is a great avenue to explore; but there is a highly competitive arena and you will have to fight to get funds from angel investors and venture capitalists.
3. Crowdfunding websites - If you have a great product or want to start up a creative endeavour, this is one of the most popular sources you tap. Crowdfunding allows you to attract funding from regular individuals and customers if your product impresses them. This form of funding can also be the least expensive as you may not have to give up equity or worry about loan paybacks.
4. Home equity credit lines or loans - Terms vary with location of course, but typically you can get 75-80% of the value of your home (minus the remainder of your mortgage).
5. Economic development programs - There are many initiatives, like 10,000 Women, an initiative of Goldman Sachs, and International Women’s Development Agency, to encourage women-led firms. Many women have hugely benefited from these programs.
With these tips in hand, finding an investor should be a little less daunting. Persistence is important however, so do not hesitate to follow up with prospective investors. If you get rejected, find the reason behind it – the answer will prove helpful when you pitch to subsequent investors. Every pitch rejected is a lesson on where to make improvements. Getting funded is one of the most challenging aspects of entrepreneurship. BPW encourages women who overcome such challenges in their lives to be an inspiration to others.
Recently, we talked about how women are uprising as thought leaders. Sheryl Sandberg, Malala Yousafzai and Ellen Baker were discussed as being models for thought leadership. These thought leaders are ordinary women who, using their talents and expertise in specific fields talk about extraordinary things, inspiring men and women from all walks of life. Here are three other women who have used their professions, overcame personal challenges and used opportunities in life to inspire women to become thought leaders.
Kara is a technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal and is popular for her columnBoom Town, which talks about the “people and culture of the high-tech gold rush”. She also founded All Things Digital, where she served as the co-executive editor. As an influential woman in the tech sector, her voice is respected by the tech community, which she uses to speak out about the way women are treated in the tech sector. “Easily one of the most influential women in tech, and arguably the most powerful female journalist in the industry, Kara Swisher is a force to be reckoned with,”says Firas Kittaneh, the CEO and co-founder of One Mall Group. “Kara unabashedly addresses issues that most people are uncomfortable talking about. For instance, she frequently castigates tech companies for failing women. She is a strong advocatefor a society that is more progressive in its attitudes towards women.”This was evident in her volatile article, The Men and No Women of Web 2.0 Boards (BoomTown's Talking to You: Twitter, Facebook, Zynga, Groupon and Foursquare)that spoke about the lack of women leaders in the corporate world. It ruffled many feathers and whipped up a storm.
Simone is fast becoming a noted voice and a thought leader within Twitter circles for her efforts to empower women in business. She is a founding investor of the ‘The Next Women Crowd Fund and the founder and CEO of ‘The Next Women, a business magazine – both efforts focus on helping professional women by giving them access to capital, programs, and networks. As 99 Faces brings out, “The Next Women is the first award-winning online Women’s Business Magazine and Networking Forum, with a focus on start-ups and growing businesses, led, founded or invested in by women.”
Her dedication to helping women can also be seen in the many different ventures that she assists in. She is behind the concepts of Female Internet Heroes, and The Next Women Mentoring programme to name a few.
From karate kid to a thought leader, Karen Gately’s journey is inspiring. She is an author, speaker and advisor on leadership and performance. The author of two books, The Corporate Dojo and The People Manager’s Toolkit, Karen regularly contributes advice to such forums as Leaders in Heels and Women’s Agenda. From winning her 1st Dan black belt at age 14 to working tirelessly to help women realise their potential in business, she has proved to be a fighter and is helping other women do the same through her guidance and support in these forums and books.
These are ordinary women who have used their experience and learning to help others plan their careers or become successful entrepreneurs. This goes to show that women from all walks of life can become an influential part of society. More and more women are reaching out as mentors and thought leaders, creating a paradigm that cultivates leadership skills. Tools to facilitate this new trend are already in place, with many using social media as the microphone for their voice. It is now up to the women like you to leverage this to go on and become thought leaders.
“Opting out,” the “mummy track,” the “second shift” – these are whole new terms to describe the phenomenon that has impacted the lives of millions of women.
Does motherhood mean an end to a woman’s career? To continue working or to opt-out—is it really a choice women have to make? Is there a way you can have your career and still be a great parent?
“Opting out”, a term coined by Lisa Belkin, has become a phenomenon that has drawn a lot of interest in the recent past because of the impact it is causing on a whole segment of the labour force. Kaiser Family Foundation partnered with New York Times and CBS News to conduct a poll of nonworking adults in the United States and found that 61% of women chose to leave the workforce because of family responsibilities as compared to 37% of men. That 61% represents a segment of highly skilled professionals at the prime of their career and productivity; a great loss indeed.
Your biggest worry is probably losing out time spent with your child.
As a working mum, one of the biggest struggles comes with the guilt of not doing enough for your children. There is no reason to stress as findings from a Harvard Business School study show that daughters of working mothers are generally much more successful, earn more, and are more likely than others to become bosses.
This suggests that it is actually a great thing for you to be working and becoming a role model for your children to look up to.
The bigger loss at hand is actually you.
The key findings in a Harvard Business Review article on examining women graduates leaving the workforce, titled Keeping Talented Woman on the Road to Success
· Women experience an average loss of 18% of their earning power when they opt out of work.
· In business sectors, women’s earning power falls by approximately 28% when they take a break. The longer the break, the more severe the penalty.
· Women lose a shocking 37% of their earning power across sectors, when they spend three or more years out of the workforce.
Simply put, for women who do choose to opt out, they will find it tougher to integrate back into the workforce and will have to settle for less. In such unfavourable conditions, mums will not be motivated to get back to the working force which attributes to a significant economical loss as well as loss of skills and knowledge.
Flexible Hours – A win-win situation for both working mums and companies
Fortunately, in Australia, the Paid Parental Leave schemeswomen return to work. Although this is a step in the right direction, there is still much to do on a global scale when it comes to offering flexible work hours.
Many companies recognise that working mothers are an invaluable asset and have worked out great ways to retain them, including revising their working hours. One of those is Johnson & Johnson. One woman who has worked at J&J for the past 15 years and who had her first child at the age of 40 said: “I thought I only had two choices—work full-time or leave—and I didn’t want either. J&J’s reduced-hour option has been a savior.”
The odds might be against working mums at the moment but there are many mums who are making the balance work. Jennifer Owens, the editorial director of Working Mother and director of the Working Mother Research Institute, is one such mum. At the end of her maternity leave, Owens was in an emotional turmoil – wondering if she should stay at home with her new born, or opt out. In an article she wrote, Owens reveals that she decided to surge ahead; and after a decade, she is happy that she didn’t opt out. “I'm glad I still have my career. I support my family, I am valued at work, and I'm a role model to both my daughter and my son,” she says.
Women shouldn’t have to be made to choose between whether to work or opt out. Instead, there is a third option, which is to balance both family and career. While this may still be a struggle, companies can do their part by looking into measures, such as flexible working hours, to helping women cope with both aspects. This not only benefits women and their families but also companies when the skills and knowledge of these women are retained and remain assets to the company and to the workforce.
The UNESCO Institute for Statistics has revealed that only 12% of engineers and 30% of science researchers are women. The number of women in Computing has fared much worse, having decreased from 35% in 1990 to just 26% today.
As all jobs, the works of scientists and engineers are well respected for their contributions to society and yet there remain a small percentage of women who are in the field. Why is this so?
One of the main reasons points to gender stereotyping, that women are not capable and that the jobs are better left to the men. A prominent example is the remark made by Nobel laureate Tim Hunt on favouring single-sex labs because female scientists cause “trouble” for men in the lab. Not surprisingly, his comment drew severe criticism, and more importantly, threw light on the kind of sexism women face in the field of science.
Such gender stereotyping attitude has even affected well-intentioned but misguided efforts to encourage women into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields. A classic example is IBM’s “hack a hairdryer” campaign. A video (now deleted) featured experiments with hairdryers and specifically called for women to get involved. The campaign raised a widespread protest for its stereotypical representation of women in tech, with many expressing their outrage through the hashtag #HackAHairDryer.
While IBM’s campaign backfired, their effort to encourage more women to take up STEM roles should be recognised. Ultimately, we want to start getting women to consider career options within STEM fields.
Here are 3 ways we can get the effort going in encouraging other women, especially the next generation, to explore their career options and no, you don’t have to be working in the STEM domain to play your part.
We start with overcoming the greatest barrier, a psychological one.
1. Weed out unconscious biases in girls - The place to start from begins in our own homes and society. Unconscious biases affect girls from a tender age and these negative mindsets need to be uprooted so girls will grow up knowing that they can hold jobs in the STEM industry if they want to. There’s a need to first recognise such biases in order to see them happening, and once you do, you might see it happening around you more than you realise.
Take the Carnegie Science Center for instance. It recently received flak for their Science with a Sparkle workshop. Where Boy Scouts were offered science sleepovers, field trips and workshops on chemistry, astronomy and engineering, girls were offered only one workshop - the “Science with a Sparkle” workshop. This was an attempt to “dazzle” girls into learning how science relates to health and beauty products by letting them try their hand at becoming a ‘cosmetic chemist’.
In their defence, the Science Center admitted that in spite of offering engineering, chemistry, and robotics programming for Girl Scouts in the past, the response was zero. Apparently, enrolments happened only for "Science with a Sparkle" and “Sleepovers at the museum.” While this is disturbing, it’s a fact that even in this age, this generation of girls are still growing up thinking that STEM careers are not for them and if so, think that the careers need to be sugar-coated to be made appealing.
Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck, addresses this concern in her research on mind-sets and its impact on our lives. She talks about the stereotype girls have to face – that they are not as capable as boys in math and science –and says that this can definitely be overcome by developing a “growth mind-set,” as opposed to a “fixed mind-set”. “Maybe girls haven’t done well historically, maybe we weren’t encouraged, maybe we didn’t believe in ourselves,” she says, “but these are acquirable skills.”
Encouraging girls to acquire that growth mind-set, even in small ways, will go a long way in developing their self-confidence in pursuing careers in STEM. This needs to start right from childhood, with parents, teachers and even social circles creating the right environment for girls to pursue the “non-traditional” studies and/or career.
2. Create an inclusive environment for women too in STEM - This Business Insider article explores several reasons why girls and women are not comfortable in choosing a career in STEM. Apart from the usual reasons of bias and stereotyping, women are also subjected to teasing (in school and at work), marginalisation when it comes to career advancement and resource allocation, and unhealthy competition.
Businesses are aware of the critical need to make their work environment more inclusive to women. Apart from comprehensive child-care programs and flexible working hours, businesses are promoting more women on their boards and offering greater incentives to ensure that the work gets done in a fair and productive environment. This will help women see that they too have an equal chance in excelling in the field as much as what men are perceived to be able to do.
3. Stand up as Mentors - “The mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates and the great teacher inspires,” said William Arthur Ward. If you are a woman who works in tech or science, demonstrate what it is to be successful in the field as a woman and inspire many others to break the mould. By being a mentor, you are also able to pass on valuable knowledge to women in helping them excel in the field of STEM.
Groups like BPW are also dedicated to providing a platform for women to benefit from the mentorship of successful women all over the world.
Efforts are in place to encourage women into STEM careers, but there can always be more done from each of us. If you can help break the stereotype or be a mentor, join the movement and make a difference for all. If you have stories of inspiring women you know who are in STEM careers, we would love to hear them too.
What do the legendary Ella Baker, Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg, and education activist Malala Yousafzai have in common?
Despite being in different generations and advocating different ideals - they are leaders who spur others to act for the better. Besides having made a name for themselves as incredibly strong women in what were male dominated sectors, they also have what it takes to influence and lead by example; they are what we now call thought leaders.
According to The Center For American Progress, only 14.6 percent of women are in executive office positions despite holding almost 52 percent of professional level jobs and 60 percent having Bachelor and Master's degrees. This shows the potential that exists for women to take up leadership roles, and it is exciting indeed to see that many women who have made it to these leadership roles are going a step further to motivate others to follow in their footsteps. These women are forming an era of a new kind of leadership as thought leaders.
What makes a Thought Leader?
“Thought leaders are the informed opinion leadersand the go-to people in their field of expertise. They are trusted sources who move and inspire people with innovative ideas; turn ideas into reality, and know and show how to replicate their success,” says Denise Brosseau of the Thought Leadership Lab.
A thought leader doesn’t just have an opinion and talk the talk, she walks the walk and paves the way for others to follow. They are women who aren’t afraid to speak out for what they believe in and put their money where their mouth is.
Forbes magazine lists the three key qualities of successful thought leaders as Drive, Expertise, and Presence – the drive to make a difference without monetary gain, the expertise that makes them a reliable source of information and inspiration, and the presence to convey conviction and move others to action.
Scores of women have demonstrated these traits and have come to influence the world as thought leaders through the decades. Consider the three extraordinary women we mentioned and see how these women are influencing society and other women.
Ella Baker, born in 1903, was one of the leading figures in the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s. Her contribution to the NAACP, Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee are noteworthy. Her stand on human rights and equality spanned nearly five decades until her passing in 1986.
Ella’s nickname was Fundi, a Swahili word for a person who teaches a craft to the next generation. “Give light and people will find the way,” she said and lived by it every day of her life. Ella’s unwavering support and counsel to organisations like the Third World Women's Coordinating Committee and the Puerto Rican Solidarity Committee made her athought leader that motivated many more to continue the causes she had strongly fought for.
The COO of Facebook and a well-recognizable advocate of women leadership, Sheryl Sandberg is an icon in a class of her own. Her book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, has empowered millions of men and women all over the world and how they deal in businesses. The groups she started, Lean in Circles have also been doing great with nearly 22,000 Circles in 97 countries and 350 college campuses.
“Leadership,” she says, “is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” Sandberg’s advice and mentorship on the Thought Leaders Network is an example of her focus on helping other women achieve their goals.
The young and determined Malala Yousafzai, who survived an assassination attempt, went on to become an educational activist and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for her efforts as an advocate for education for girls. She now travels around the world, fighting for her cause and advocating like-minded girls to raise their voices too.
The Malala Fund pushes on to “bring awareness to the social and economic impact of girls' education and to empower girls to raise their voices, to unlock their potential and to demand change.”
Her #BooksNotBullets campaign is moving millions to come together for education. “On behalf of the world’s children, I demand of our leaders to invest in books instead of bullets. Books, not bullets, will pave the path toward peace and prosperity. Our voices will continue to get louder and louder until we see politicians and our governments invest in the education of their youth rather than military and war,” said Malala.
These are just three women who have used their influence to reach out to other women as thought leaders, inspiring the world and continuing to do so. The power of the Internet is equipping more and more women to reach out as mentors and thought leaders. BPW salutes these women and continues to bring together a platform to reach their voices to women the world over.
In our previous blog we touched on three basic aspects of your body language at work, including how you make eye contact and use hand gestures. In this blog, we delve deeper into specific situations where your body language can be critical in landing the deal or simply exuding confidence at social events.
Tackling that presentation
It’s normal to get butterflies in our stomach when faced with a large audience or when we are about to walk into that client meeting or presentation, but a few tricks will leave none the wiser about the state of your nerves.
· Breathe. Our voice gets extremely pitchy when we are nervous; breathing opens up the vocal chords and infuses power back into our pitch. Be conscious of your breathing and pace yourself with calming breaths in between sentences.
· Unclench your jaw as clenching it only tenses your muscles and gives you a defensive stance. Release your lower teeth away from your upper teeth and breathe out of your mouth to unclench.
· Fiddle with your jewellery or papers or continuously tuck your hair behind your ears. This is a dead giveaway that you are a bundle of nerves.
· Constantly toss your hair or touch your neck, as this could be construed as being flirtatious, so be careful with those gestures as well.
Networking is an important aspect of every businesswoman’s career. While the content in your conversation is important in leaving a good impression, so is your body language in showing how you carry yourself. Converse with confidence to add credibility to your words and leave a lasting impression with the other party. Small things like how you speak or hold your head during a conversation can make a huge difference to what you are saying and how your words may be interpreted.
· Stand upright and hold your head up high and on an even plane with the other person you are conversing with. This will show that you are taking their words into consideration and are listening to what they are saying.
· Keep on nodding. When men nod (a short, brisk nod at that), it usually conveys agreement; but women nod to convey that they are listening. Nodding your head for every sentence can convey the idea that you are easily agreeable. Minimise over-nodding or over-smiling and do so only when you are in agreement.
· Be Sarcastic. Dry humour in small doses is fine but do not be known as a person who employs sarcasm as a way of belittling others; this is not the way to appear confident. Smirks, rolling your eyes, and belittling smiles are nonverbal cues for sarcasm that need to be thrown out.
With employee engagement becoming an important aspect of an all-rounded business, you may find yourself increasingly attending office parties. They are great; giving you an opportunity to socialise with colleagues and deepen relationships, not to mention the opportunity to get to know senior staff outside of a business setting. While the ability to unwind over drinks are great, the same event could turn into a disaster zone if you lose your poise, the effects of which could follow you to your workplace and leave lasting impressions that you won’t be able to live down.
· Smile and be welcoming. You might be a tough nut at work but give your colleagues an opportunity to see that dazzling smile. Don’t overdo it though.
· Lean in when you talk. Doing so is good in social occasions as it makes you appear engaged and interested, but be mindful that it doesn’t come across as an invasion of the other person’s space.
· Mingle around and talk to different groups of people. Yes, your senior staff may be here but this is a great opportunity to get to know others who work in different teams or locations.
· Wait to be approached, instead, take the initiative.
· Slouch in corners. You may not be a party person, but this is an opportunity to engage and people are going to notice if you appear withdrawn.
· Go over the top on the drinks and giggles. Parties are definitely an opportunity to let your hair down, but remember that you still have to work with these people. Be friendly and enjoy yourself but keep your poise and maintain professionalism.
As a professional woman, it is extremely important to be aware of what your body is “saying.” Simple things like posture and eye contact as well as our overall demeanour at events, both official and social, can make a big impact on how we are viewed at the workplace and our consequent professional success. Keep these points in mind and work on them until they become a part of who you are. Ask a friend or a trusted colleague to pitch in with suggestions. We hope both part 1 and 2 of the blogs have been helpful to you in bettering your body language at work. Do share any other tips you may have!
How important is your body language in a professional environment? According to UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian whose research helped establish the effectiveness of spoken communication, 55% of what you convey comes from body language. This is closely followed by your tone of voice at 38% and use of words at only 7%, thus proving the vital role of non-verbal communication.
It’s important to realise that men and women communicate differently and have unique sets of body language to convey different things. In this blog, we talk about three critical aspects of body language at work – your power pose, gestures and eye contact.
An open and expansive body language boosts your confidence and conveys a more confident image to others. Psychologists Dana R. Carney, Amy J.C. Cuddy, and Andy J. Yap compared two poses on making one feel empowered; the first, an open, expansive "power pose" and the other, a tight, constricted pose. Respondents reported feeling more powerful in the power pose and their testosterone level, which is linked to assertiveness, spiked by 19% in the open posture. Empower yourself by opening up that pose if you haven’t been doing so.
· Sit forward with your arms on the table in a meeting instead of keeping your arms on your lap or closed in.
· Be closed and constricted. Folding your arms across your chest conveys a protective stance that portrays a weak image; worse still it could convey dislike and indifference. Avoid it at all costs.
· Hands clasped on your lap, hunched shoulders, and legs closed tight together or tucked in, all convey a restricted body language and should be consciously avoided.
· Standing with one leg crossed in front of the other causes an imbalance that makes you look vulnerable and unsure of yourself; uncross them.
Gestures speak louder than words. Focus on gestures that reflect positively on you and avoid the ones that can make a negative impression.
· Talk with your hands. Gesturing is directly linked to speech; moving your hands while you talk can actually minimise those hesitation fillers that could ruin your presentation and add emphasis to your words. Take note not to over gesture.
· Use open hand gestures that show the palm of your hands to convey confidence and candour. These gestures have more persuasive power than closed gestures.
· Keep your hands at waist level and gesture on that plane. This will avoid distracting your audience.
· Steepling is an age-old gesture that connotes self-assurance and confidence. Use this occasionally by bringing your arms in front of your chest and pressing the tips of your fingers together.
· Point your finger directly at people. It can be perceived as rude and offensive.
· Point your feet towards the door or away from the person as it could make look like you’re trying to get away. Yes, you can gesture with your feet too! Placing your feet toward the person will instead make you appear more engaged.
This is one of the most important aspects of body language that you should pay attention to. A downward gaze implies that you are unsure of yourself, a piercing glare can come across as hostile and unfriendly while a shifty gaze can imply that you have something to hide. Balance is key.
· Look at the other party’s imaginary triangle. The American Management Association says that the best position for eye contact is if you focus on an imaginary triangle, the base of which are the eyes and the mid forehead is the apex. This gives you the "look of business" and you “nonverbally signal a no-nonsense, business-like approach.”
· Be aware of cultural difference; Americans expect you to maintain eye contact 50-60% of the time; whereas this may be construed as a form of disrespect in a few Eastern countries. A safe option is to look into the other person’s eyes long enough to notice what colour they are.
· Look at the person’s mouth when they are talking; this can be misinterpreted as being flirtatious.
As you can see, there is a lot more to body language than a firm handshake. In our next blog, we will get more specific about what body language you should employ for situations at work such as when talking to your co-workers, or presenting at that important client meeting. Stay tuned.
We know men and women behave differently. But is this true of the way men and women network as well?
According to Kelly Hoey, Connector, Catalyst and Co-Founder of Women Innovate Mobile (WIM) Accelerator, “Women tend to build deep and narrow networks and men wide and shallow ones.” Studies have also shown that men, in networking, are two times more likely to use “a position of seniority to gain access to the centre of power” compared to women who are less likely to use their position of power to negotiate terms for their own benefit. In fact, women are five times more likely than men to agree that they find it hard to network with senior management.
Interestingly, a large part of leadership today is not about the number of hours you clock in sitting at your desk, but rather the time you invest in building a concrete network. The ironic part is that in their constant strive to get ahead, women actually spend more time on completing tasks and doing work, dismissing social engagement for the lack of time. While men engage in frequent conferences and golf dates, women tend to reserve their out-of-office time for household commitments. As a result, networking takes a back seat.
What makes networking so important for your career?
The study by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor: 2010 Women’s Report states that men and women entrepreneurs with a larger and diverse network are able to expand their business much more than those who haven’t yet tapped the power of networking.
The study also emphasised that women entrepreneurs showed greater inclination to private sources of advice, while networking with non-private advisors is what resulted in greater levels of innovation and internationalisation—clearly, women are not making the best of networking.
Frequent networking helps in crafting a comfortable space where professional boundaries are blurred by familiarity. It helps build teamwork and gives women the opportunity to find business leads that are otherwise unavailable within company walls; and peppering work life with a healthy shot in the arm of social engagement is only bound to make a career much more exciting!
How Do You Get Started?
1) If you don’t know where to start, consider reaching out to like-minded individuals via social media as a first step. LinkedIn is one of the best forums to start a narrative with entrepreneurs who share similar goals as yours, and is also a platform that male entrepreneurs use widely. Though women are mostly on sites such as Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, LinkedIn is where women entrepreneurs should be—it is where professional women can network and tell their stories.
2) Don’t just stick to networking with the ladies; get in touch with the men too! The reality remains that a large chunk of leadership positions today are still occupied by men. Including your male counterparts in your network can provide the bridge towards an unexplored world of clients, vendors and employees – all integral elements to magnifying your business operations.
3) While you are still on the fence about being a part of a professional networking group, ask yourself certain questions before you decide to join them. Find out who is part of the group, how they communicate, what the purpose of the group is, and what hierarchy of people make up the group and what you can achieve out of joining this group. From monthly mixers and community service clubs to women’s business organisations, there is no dearth of professional networking groups you can join to build your business. One such is BPW, where the opportunities to meet like-minded professional women are aplenty and transcends beyond your geographical boundaries. Being part of the organisation, you become not just a member but also part of a family. Find out more about BPW and their updates, made regularly by BPW members, on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
4) Grab any chance you can get to strike a conversation – be it in the cafeteria or even at the parking lot! And if you are out of town at a conference, don’t just retire to your room post-session to bury yourself in paperwork, mingle! Business travel is one of the best opportunities to connect with a wide spectrum of businesspersons who can share valuable experiences and even give you tips on how to climb your way to the top. Fellow businesspersons are also probably like you, eager to meet new people, which makes the networking part so much easier. This is also a great time for you if you are a BPW member to get to meet your other BPW members from the area, opening up more networking opportunities!
Networking opens a universe of opportunities, and also brings with it unexpected benefits. It will give you the chance to learn and explore new ideas and skills, augment your self-confidence, and help you forge unique friendships. So, open your mind to meeting new people; you are sure to find fresh avenues for career advancement and self-fulfilment.
Jennifer Fonstad and Theresia Gouw made news when they started Aspect Ventures, the first female-led venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. Aspect, like other women-led VCs such as Cowboy Ventures, Illuminate Ventures, and Forerunner Ventures are, optimistically, leading the way to an era that shows an uptick of women in a largely male-dominated VC sector.
Why is there a need for such a growth? Does it benefit women entrepreneurs, as it is believed? Let us delve deeper to understand this phenomenon.
Female entrepreneurs on the rise
A study by CrunchBase reports that “In 2009, 9.5% of startups had at least one woman founder, but by 2014 that rate had almost doubled to 18%.” The figures are a testimony to the tenacity and talent of women; however, a closer look reveals that VCs had no great role to play in this success.
Another research states that between the years 2011 and 2013, less than 3 percent of companies that received venture funding had female CEOs. According to Business Insider, in the technology industry, women founders constitute fewer than 7% of start ups that get VC funding. These numbers indicate that in spite of the number of women entrepreneurs increasing, it is still a struggle for them to get VC funding.
What does the uptick in women-led VCs mean for female entrepreneurs?
A study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America examined responses to entrepreneurial pitches in the context of “gender, physical attractiveness, psychological persuasion, bias, role expectations, and entrepreneurship”and found that entrepreneurial pitches by men are given much more preference by investors, compared with pitches presented by female entrepreneurs. This happens despite the content of the pitch being the same, suggesting that more women-led VCs could provide for a fairer chance for female entrepreneurs.
VCs with female partners seem to also be more inclined to invest in companies with a female CEO – a case in point is an article publishedin the NY Times on how female-run venture capital funds are altering the status quo. Mariam Naficy, founder of Minted, an online marketplace of independent artists, found an early investor in Sonja Hoel Perkins who is a founder of Broadway Angels. Naficy raised about $89 million and was quoted saying, “Without being able to see quantitative evidence of better design, most male investors couldn’t allow themselves to make the leap.” She added that almost every female investor she met believed that the Minted community was producing far fresher and more unique design than its competitors.
One paper, titled Women-Led Firms and the Gender Gap in Top Executive Jobs, illustrated that companies with women on the board or as CEOs are more favourable to bridging the gender gap and are open to a more merit based evaluation of employees; offering much higher pay to women than non-women-led firms. The numbers are significant: “female executives in women-led firms earn between 10-20% more than comparable executive women in male-led firms and are between 3-18% more likely to be among the highest five paid executives in these firms as well.” The paper defines that the rise of women as venture capitalists is a tremendous boost to female entrepreneurs, which in turn is a boost to female employees.
Tap the potential
The industry is seeing more angel investors, venture capitalists, and female entrepreneurs coming together to invest and share advice on funding and investments; but there is still abundant unexplored potential such as the many women entrepreneurs awaiting seed funding to get their ideas to the marketplace. However, because the majority of venture capitalists are men, who are likely to find nothing in common with these entrepreneurs’ ideas, it becomes harder for female-led start ups to get funding, as the research findings of the Center for Talent Innovation reveal.
The need for the gender gap to narrow is imperative, and this is possible only when there are “more opportunities at the associate entry level and more support in the form of women associations for female investors already in the industry,” says Jenny Lee, Managing Partner, GGV Capital. Beth Seidenberg, a partner at KPCB, also suggests fixing the top of the funnel by creating role models for female VCs and training women in technical skills.
We hope to see many more women join the ranks of venture capitalists in the coming years, toppling the challenges of gender bias and ensuring that women entrepreneurs are taken more seriously when they pitch to funders.
One of the most important qualities in a leader, says Forbes, is Clearly and succinctly are the keywords. This definitely applies to both genders, but women have a stereotype to fight against in this aspect. This blog will discuss that stereotype and how we can beat that myth.
The Stereotype - ‘Women talk too much.’
Every culture has a variation of these proverbs, with most of them implying the urban myth that ‘women talk too much.’
Articles with titles like “Here's Why Women Love to Talk” or thisstudyfrom the University of Maryland School of Medicine, discuss reasons why women talk more. However, they do not provide absolute proof. In fact, the study talks about children and their development in speech. The exact words that precede the study are: “it has been well documented in children, where on average girls tend to speak earlier, with greater complexity, than boys...” The study actually proves that girls speak better (not more) than boys.
There are actually studies that prove the stereotype wrong. An interesting article entitled “We knew it! Here’s why men talk MORE than women,” reveals results from a Princeton University study that shows that men are more assertive and talk more in most social and business situations! The fact remains though, that women have this gender stereotype to contend with.
Betty Ann Heggie, a columnist on the Huffington Post says of women: “We build rapport by apologizing, complementing, and seeking approval. All of this opens the door to discussion and negotiation.” This approach is great for reaching group consensus, but not when leaders need to communicate decisions and bad news, on a daily basis.
Dale Spender, the famous Australian feminist, conducted her own survey on the stereotype and after three years of study she realised that women actually talk much less when compared to men. She says: “I decided there and then that women were good at the art of conversation – where the art of conversation was getting men to talk, generally about themselves.”
Here are a few pointers to strike the right balance in your communication as a business leader:
· Say what you mean in as few words as possible. Fewer words spoken means that there is much more clarity, and your listener has no excuse to pretend he or she doesn’t understand.
· Distil complex thoughts and convey them in simple, memorable terms. If you don’t understand a term, they won’t understand it.
· Drop the sanitized “corporate voice”. Let your language and your words reflect you.
· Control your message by getting to the point instead of over explaining.
· Don’t rush to be the first person to pitch in and fill the silence. When in pressure, a good negotiator knows that she will weaken her stand if she speaks first.
· Be extra conscious that you don’t attach unnecessary emotional baggage to your words. Be direct and honest.
Do you have some pointers to share? We would love to hear them.
Today, as reports show, “women earn roughly 97 cents on the dollar compared with men who have the same college major and perform the same jobs.” The same report shows that women are actually out-running men at the start of their careers.
The Gap Widens
However, a study conducted by Jaison R. Abel and Richard Deitz examined the gender pay gap for the mid-career group, which is college graduates aged 35 to 45. The reports show that in this age group men earn about 15 percent more than women.
The high wage premiums that women earned in fields like engineering, business analytics, art history, and other majors, are completely lost as they near mid-career. The social services majors, for instance, had a 16 percent female wage premium atthe beginning of their careers, but by mid-career the tide had turned into a 10 percent wage premium for males.
A Thomson Reuters study shows that in Universities, the gender gap is still wide. Though Australian universities can boast of 40-45 percentage of women in academics (comparable to Finland, and second only to Turkey), women account for only 28% (2013) for posts above that of a senior lecturer. For Europe, this percentage is at 20%. (2010)
Why is there a gap?
There are many papers and studies examining the reason for such a marked widening of the gender pay gap. They include:
1) Protective Paternalism: As discussed in our previous blog about protective paternalism, women are often denied growth opportunities on the premise that they need to be protected. As a result, promotions and career opportunities are denied to themasthey progress in their career. The hard-won wage advantage at the beginning of their career ceases to exist when such opportunities are handed to men instead.
2) Gender stereotypes: Stereotypes about career women who also play the role of caregiver and homemaker affects their growth and pay. The thought is that women who reach for higher positions are neglecting their traditional role. This leads to poor evaluation and loss of promotion opportunities.
3) Focus on family: The careerof a woman is often seen to take a back seat during mid-career because of her role in raising her family.The lack of flexibility in most jobs forces women to have to choose between their families and their career
4) Pay dependant on number of hours worked: Pay and incentives in some professions, like law and medicine, are dependent on hours that you can dedicate to them. This tips the playing field against women who have to raise families, and hence can only work lesser number of hours
Bridging the Gap
Despite facing these very real challenges, the rise of the number of mompreneurs and women leaders is proof that women are not calling it quits.
The paper by Goldin C., A Grand Gender Convergence: Its Last Chapter, is more than positive that a change can be achieved even in the workplace. An enhancement in temporal flexibility, achieved by a change in the way jobs are structured and remunerated, may be a boon in this regard. Equal pay for work with fixed and flexibly scheduled jobs is one of the changes proposed.
What is your view on this? Do you think it will help?
A mompreneur isn’t just a name tag to describe a female entrepreneur who is also a mom. Instead, it signifies the whole new work-lifestyle that mothers around the world are embracing. It is a movement that embodies the delicate work- life balance that mothers are successfully managing, as they run lucrative businesses and strive to raise responsible adults.
Claire Winson, founder of EntrepreneurMom, explains: “Mompreneurs are not different to other entrepreneurs or businesswomen, but often their needs set them apart.Mompreneurs often approach business differently, and allocate resources and time in a manner that is more conducive to an equal balance between family and business.”
The key to mompreneurship, if we may coin the word, is equal balance.It isn’t about thrusting your child to the care of a nanny and focusing on business; it is about being a good businesswoman and an excellent mother.
No easy feat
The perceived premise surrounding mompreneurs is that they stumble on some great innovation while raising their children and gain instant success. This is usually true when it comes to most mompreneurs, but even then the instant success tag is usually deceptive. Behind that instant success is the hours snatched from the much needed rest between caring for their children, the painstakingly laid out plans despite mindnumbing exhaustion, and the total dedication to giving their children better lives.
Therefore, it is no surprise that the biggest challenges that mompreneurs face are time and resources.
Despite the many challenges, mothers around the world are succeeding. Here are 7 takeaways from 25 successful mompreneurs who know what it takes to focus on the bigger picture while facing the daily grind of small little tasks:
1) Put your health first; you are no good to your children, your business, or yourself if you fall ill or have a burnout.
2) Know what to let go and what to go after. Learn which trade-offs are worth it.
3) Learn to multitask but always be present; always give the task at hand your full attention.
4) Use countdown timers and set schedules even if it seems like they don’t work. Make room for contingencies and learn to adapt.
5) Delegate whenever possible. Have a babysitter on speed dial or outsource your accounting.
6) Involve your children in your work. They are a great source for ideas and feedback. As they grow up, give them responsibilities and include them in your team.
7) Ensure that work and home duties are given the same level of respect and attention.
The most important thing is to keep your chin up, suggests Grainne Kelly, mompreneur founder of BubbleBum and mother of two kids. “Surround yourself with like-minded women who are an inspiration and who will provide encouragement. Positivity allows you to see the potential that lies within you and gives you the faith to step outside of the box to achieve your dreams.”
BPW supports initiatives that encourage mothers in their endeavour to run and manage businesses. Personal Development Programme for Unemployed Young Mothers, which empowers women with the training necessary for the world of work, parenting, and life skillsis a feather in their cap. We also organize and participate in sessions that help spread the importance of empowering women - The Single Mothers Empowerment sessionAdenike Adeyanju-Osadolor, BPW International regional coordinator of Africa and was one instance where we could highlight the challenges faced by women (especially single women) in Africa.
Know more on how you can get involved in our programs and projects that are spread around the globe.
Developed countries like the UK and USA report that women only make up 10-13% of the workforce in the tech industry. This industry is male dominated to the point that nearly all stereotypes of programmers/engineers/mechanics are described as being male; with little or no attention given to the women who are qualified and lead the trade.
Why it is the way it is:
The non-profit organisation Girls Who Code reports that nearly three quarters of middle school girls are interested in these subjects, but unbelievably less than one percent choose Computer Science as a college major. This is attributed to the lack of support that women are given to make this field their choice of career. Jane Lansing, a veteran in the software engineering sector, comments that it’s the minor outrages that make life difficult: insistence by others on her code being reviewed by male colleagues who are less than qualified to do so; questions being directed to male co-workers even though she is right there and she is the one with the expertise.
Why something should be done about it:
Women have more than proved their mettle and have contributed largely in the increase of diversity and innovation in the tech industry. Women are proven to be early and eager adopters of technology; and therefore can push for faster and more effective results – outcomes that the tech industry thrives on. Women think and feel differently to men and therefore add an extra dimension to the industry, helping to solve real world, common problems with advancing technology. The next two industries that are primed to be overhauled by technology are healthcare and education – both fields that are primarily led by females. Women therefore have this added incentive and understanding to take the lead in implementing new world technology in these key society shaping industries.
What is being done about it?
1) Inspire, equip and educate girls with computer skills
2) Encourage women to take the lead in the industry
The tech industry too is also waking up and listening to the large women army of programmers and engineers. Isis Wenger, a software engineer, started #ILookLikeAnEngineer after being criticised that her “pretty girl” looks wasn’t “remotely plausible as a picture of what a female software engineer should look like.” Within days the hashtag reached more than 75,000 tweets in over 50 countries and created a media stir that caused the industry to wake up and take note that women in the industry are a force to be reckoned with.
What should we do about it?
Yes, the trend can be bucked and it already has started. We need more women in the tech industry to empower other women to join in. This will pave the way for today’s and tomorrow’s generation of girls to stand out not only for being the single woman in the crowd of men; but rather because they are leading the tech industry from the front. Meg Whitman and Weili Dai would certainly agree!
Nice – one word that could be the nicest compliment or the worst insult. When it comes to women in the workplace, sadly it is usually the latter. “Being nice” is often seen as a weakness, and as a barrier to competence. Is “being nice” really a liability?
A meta-analysis from 2011 rocked the age old norms of a male dominated niche: “Leadership now, more than in the past, appears to incorporate more feminine relational qualities, such as sensitivity, warmth, and understanding,” it said. These feminine relational qualities are actually the qualities that define today’s leadership.
People like working with nice people. However, the question then arises - “Can she get the job done?” Being nice is a delicate balance. Here are tips on how you can achieve that balance.
Apologize where necessary
Women tend to be apologetic and are much quicker to say sorry than men, which is not a bad thing. Being nice would definitely mean that you apologize for what is your fault. But do not be apologetic for things that you don’t have to. You don’t have to be sorry that you feel for that employee who broke his hand and you don’t have to say “Sorry, but I think your remark was demeaning.” Keep in mind that the word sorry has the ability to make serious demands sound like requests.
It is a cutthroat world out there, but you don’t have to be. David Rand of the Human Cooperation Lab at Yale University, whose centre was established with the intent to examine the behavioural economics of niceness, has found in his research that it Pays to be Nice. Trust, loyalty and relationships are developed only when you are nice and people like you. Therefore, developing and demonstrating qualities that make you a nice, trustworthy person is good. Of course, ensure that others know the line; that you will cease to be nice if they attempt to take advantage of you. Set indicators for yourself and stand your ground.
Setting standards and living by them is always respected. You may get some flak for it - Diana Ross did: “Just because I have my standards, they think I'm a b*tch”. It is important to set standards, but don’t let your determination to stick to your standards keep you from being flexible when you have to. You can make allowances for someone without compromising your stand.
on employee engagement asks questions on cultural environment of the company – including areas like praising, mentoring and positivity. Nice managers care about their employees, share their expertise freely and praise a positive contribution quickly. So the important thing is not to assume nice as being weak. Instead niceness is a quality that is highly rated in the business world, and in real life.
Here’s the bad news. According to the EOWA 2010 Australian Census of Women in Leadership only 8.4% of the Board Directorships in corporate Australia are women. And more than half of ASX200 companies have no women in their Board of Directors (2010). Alongside this, Australia has dropped 8 places to the 23rd position in the Global Gender Gap Index by 2011.
According to a study by California State University conducted across Asia, Europe, Canada and the US, gender disparity is widely prevalent, and affects salary and promotion. On an average, men earn $4600 more than women. They are also perceived to have a better ability to handle stress.
What causes this gender disparity in the corporate world? Is the system to blame, or does the fault lie deeper? According to Harvard’s Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common project, one of the biggest stumbling blocks that teen girls constantly face is gender bias. In this blog, we talk about how this bias develops during childhood, and what parents and teachers can do to change it.
The Budding of a Bias
The gender bias that we fight vehemently against is actually born right in our drawing rooms; we inadvertently plant it and we don’t even recognize it as a weed that blooms in our children. The first step is to be aware of this.
23% of the teenage girls preferred male over female political leaders while only 8% of girls preferred female political leaders! Childcare leadership showed better results, but that only underscores how deeply embedded gender stereotypes really are. We try to root out gender biases in the workplace, in the senate, in everyday life; but the bias may be right inside the heart of a little girl and inevitably shapes what she does with her life.
A 2013 Gallup poll found that 35% of respondents would prefer to have a male boss, while only 23% of respondents would prefer to have a female boss. What was even more surprising is that a majority of the 23% were female respondents.
Mothers and their daughters
Problem:The MCC study also showed that “Mothers’ average level of support was higher for councils led by boys than by girls.” This is of serious concern; what a mother thinks about a woman’s role in society is usually the first introduction that a daughter has about stereotypes and a woman’s capacity.
Solution: Mothers, and fathers too, must first root out the biases in themselves.
· Be mindful of what you say; “boys don’t cry,” and “ladies don’t raise their voice.”
· Find out about men and women who are braving stereotypes -a woman in construction work, a male nurse- and make it a topic of conversation at home.
Here are a couple of key areas where parents and teachers can make a concerted effort to change this unconscious bias:
The Glass Slipper Effect
Problem: The Harvard study explains that assertiveness and such leadership qualities are attributed to men, whereas qualities like compassion and warmth are linked to women, which make girls feel they aren’t leadership material.
· Be very aware of the glass slipper effect; don’t call a girl “bossy” when she takes the lead and a boy a “sissy” when he cries.
· If you hear children using a term that implies a gender bias, ask them what they mean by it and what it may convey.
· Assign boys to care for the garden or a sick person and get the girls to help fix that door. Mix it up and help them develop a well-rounded personality free of stereotypes.
Problem: Girls see other girls as competition, rather than allies and are constantly sizing each other up based on looks, the same study elaborates.
Solution: Work on developing girls’ self-esteem.
· Talk to her about your struggles fighting stereotypes and instill in her the importance of breaking them.
· Make a conscious effort to help her see the good in her friends, both girls and boys and have a good mix of friends from both genders.
· Teach her public speaking skills, ask her to imagine herself as a senator, help her to fight off derogatory comments.
Now for the good news! Awareness about gender disparity does make a positive difference. The bias can be weeded out, and sooner the better. Here are some resources to help you with it:
Women-owned businesses are poised to significantly impact the GDP, but there are some challenges ahead. What prevents women from contributing equally to their economy? Is it cultural norms? Legal restrictions? Or lack of investment?
Globally, cultural norms are fading slowly and in many countries legal parity is becoming a norm. However, a daunting number of challenges remain for women, even in developed nations, as the playing field continues to tilt towards men.
Is the system flawed?
Investing is serious business, whether it’s in a tech start-up or an entrepreneur venture. While the availability of finance has increased over the years, if a government is serious about reviving and pushing entrepreneurs, it must also make necessary legal and structural reforms.
When it comes to women, the complications get notched up a little more. Globally, women entrepreneurs face an uneven playing field, with very few economies (a mere 20 out of 128) treating men and women equally under the law. So it’s astounding that the GEM (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor), in a survey of 67 countries, found the following statistics:
· 126 million women starting or running businesses
· 98 million operating established business, those that had been around for more than 3.5 years
With these solid numbers to showcase to the world, more economies need to mend their laws and support women in business.
Why support women – do we really need them?
The World Bank has proven that education, health care and financial responsibility will increase gender equality and economic growth, while Coca Cola is taking women empowerment to the next level through their 5by20 programme – 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2020 – through training, mentoring and access to financial services. Women’s entrepreneurship is widely believed to be an assuring path to economic progress, especially in those countries that are lagging behind.
According to a recent report by Goldman SachsGiving Credit Where It Is Due:
“Investing in women and girls is one of the highest return opportunities available in the developing world, as a wide range of economic research shows. Our own work has demonstrated that bringing more women into the labor force can significantly boost per capita income and GDP growth.
Closing the credit gap for women-owned businesses (small and medium) in the BRICs and N-11 countries over the next few years could boost real income per capita growth rates in those countries by around 85bp on average.
Per capita income could be on average around 12% higher by 2030 across the BRICs and N-11 countries”
What are the changes required?
While there are multiple areas that need to be addressed, there are two key areas that governments and institutions can, and should, focus on for immediate results:
· Access to capital - One key area that needs a total revamp is the access women entrepreneurs have to capital and credit. The International Finance Corp.’s initiative, ‘Banking on Women’, is pumping $813 million to banking institutions globally to help anchor loans to women, so that banks will feel secure enough to lend their own cash.
· Reforming the legal system - Bringing about changes to the law regarding women-owned business is going to be hard work. There are certain correlation between property rights and marital laws which keep women from becoming complete participants in economic decisions. For example, according to the World Bank, in economies where there is gender parity in using property, 36% of firms have women participation in ownership, whereas in economies where there is not, only 28% of firms do. A change here is paramount.
Despite these challenges weighing them down, women have succeeded even in the toughest of terrains. The advancements in technology have definitely played their part, for example, women in Iran have started businesses by cleverly using Instagram as a sales platform. However, to positively impact the GDP numbers, both banking institutions and the government must also play their part for women entrepreneurs.
A transformational leader enables organisations to achieve change. Women were found to possess some of the characteristics that make them capable of being a transformational leader in their respective enterprises, according to a study commissioned by PwC.
The epitome of transformational leadership
A study commissioned by PricewaterhouseCoopers assessed 6,000 business leaders in Europe, and categorised them according to the leadership styles used to lead a company toward change. Out of the six leadership styles, the research found that a strategist leader is the one most effective in turning a company around. A strategist type of leader is “likely to have wider experience of settings, people, and also of failure,” according to PwC. “This engenders a humility of perspective and resilience, so that they know what to do when things don’t work.”
As such, a strategist leader is inclined to look at circumstances through various perspectives and they use their authority ‘creatively’ to bring about change in their organisation. They lead with passion and courage; such that they deviate from the norm to improve the workflow or processes. To be successful, however, they need to fit in well with the organisation to persuade people to change.
In being able to achieve change, a strategist leader is the one most likely to exhibit the traits of transformational leadership. A transformational leader inspires people to follow them by gaining their trust and their respect first. They model the appropriate behaviour in the organisation, and they rally everyone to work around a common goal and a purpose. Transformational leaders also empower people to realise their potential and they encourage them to offer input in problem-solving processes. Instead of exercising power and control, a transformational approach to leadership promotes a mutual relationship between superiors and their subordinates in helping each other achieve a worthy purpose.
According to the research, 10% of female business leaders and 14% of leaders aged 55 years and above exhibit a strategist style of leadership. For companies aiming to achieve a complete turnaround, this means they should consider women and older members of the workforce for positions of leadership. If businesses want to stay ahead of their competitors, they need to eliminate gender inequality at the top and allow women to ascend the corporate ladder.
What are the characteristics that women have that make them a strategist leader, and thus effective in demonstrating a transformational approach on leadership? Let’s take a brief look at these attributes.
Why women can achieve transformational leadership
In an analysis of 45 leadership studies at the Northwestern University, it was found that men are more likely to adopt a transactional style of leadership, while women are more likely to employ a transformational style. A transactional style of leadership entails implementing punishments for poor performance and giving out rewards for good behaviour. Meanwhile, a transformational style of leadership aims to motivate and develop others to improve their performance. Women are initially predisposed to adopt a transformational style of management because they are socialised to be nurturing to others, the analysis found.
As such, women may simply be more inclined to exhibit a transformational style of leadership through their innate characteristics, which are below:
1. Women encourage participation and collaboration – As mentioned earlier, a strategist type of leader evaluates a situation from multiple perspectives. Women have this similar trait as they place value on communication, collaboration and participation in running an organisation. When the company is faced with problems or promising prospects, women are inclined to use a transformational leadership style by encouraging all the stakeholders – from employees, directors and investors – to provide their input and to work together. They encourage everyone to provide their opinion and to participate in either problem-solving or creating a plan of action. As a result, employees or investors would feel valued, and will place their trust on the leader.
2. Women build relationships to motivate others to perform better – Unlike men, women form strong, interpersonal bonds with their subordinates to encourage them to improve their performance. Men, on the other hand, use a threats-based approach to discourage negative behaviour. This may create an environment of fear and prevent employees from doing their best. Meanwhile, women leaders leverage interpersonal bonds to highlight the potential of their employees and encourage them to improve. In turn, this approach provides motivation for workers and pushes them to exceed expectations.
Similarly, BPW International knows the importance of relationships in helping professional and business women reach their potential. As such, the organisation has instituted a mentoring program where women seeking to advance in their field or career can connect with women who are already established in their profession or business. Through this, the mentor can share career-related knowledge and experiences, and help the protégée develop in her chosen profession and business.
BPW has even taken this further through its Twinning program. In this initiative, a BPW club connects with another club within the same industry, or that has shared interest or profession. The other BPW club may be in a different part of the world, but they form a relationship to encourage social and cultural exchange and to grow together. These clubs can visit each other or trade newsletters to facilitate the exchange of ideas, or even to implement a mutual project for women. The two BPW Clubs establish their relationship through a Twinning Charter.
3. Women cultivate inspiration by rising to the position of leadership – Though it will be difficult for companies to admit this, women find it hard to ascend the corporate ladder because of the stereotypes held against them. For instance, when women start to raise a family, they may be deemed as less competent because the employer believes that they will prioritise their children over their work. As a result, they may be passed over for a promotion. Since it’s hard to climb the corporate ladder, women who are able to reach the top are seen to have worked really hard and therefore command respect from their colleagues and subordinates. They can inspire others to work under a clear vision because people know that they have spent a tremendous amount of effort to get where they are.
Carolyn McCall, CEO of British airline easyJet, drove the company to a fourfold growth in share price by reducing the delays in their service. She also implemented cost-cutting in fuel and provided allocated seating to win the hearts of business customers. McCall had no prior experience in the aviation industry, but with hard work, she enabled easyJet to achieve a turnaround in business. This earned her the respect of her employees and even competitors.