While women are making slow gains in the business world, according to a recent survey from Pew, only 10% or so of the top executive jobs at American companies are held by women. For many years, it was assumed that this was true because women just weren’t suited for the work done by executives. More recent research, however, has shown that companies led by women dramatically outperform those led by men. So how can women raise their chances of success in the world of business?
Find Your Passion
Being a woman executive is hard, so making sure that you absolutely love what you’re doing is going to help you succeed. Every entrepreneur gets to the point when they would rather lock themselves into a very small closet than look at their product, business plan, or social media account one more time, but the more you love what you’re doing, the longer it will take for you to get there, and the sooner you recover.
You’re going to be spending more than 40 hours a week of your life, potentially for a very long time, to get your product or company the visibility it deserves. Make sure you’re going to enjoy the process and the reward.
Find a Mentor
Mentors are a great tool for all entrepreneurs, but for women, they are absolutely crucial. Multiply marginalized women in particular will benefit from having the advice and feedback of someone who has quite literally done what they’re trying to do and faced the challenges they face. Women may need to look farther afield than men to find a solid mentor; they may need to connect with women through the internet and social media, creating groups and networks that can expand past the boundaries of a particular city or community.
This can help women pool and share their knowledge, working together to create a stronger foundation to rise together.
Find Your Funding
Women historically struggle to access traditional funding through banks. Some loan programs are directly working to change that by offering loans specifically to marginalized women, but those programs can be highly competitive. If you’re trying to get your first business off the ground, you still may not be able to access those funds.
Crowd-funding, however, is one method of raising business capital where women tend to excel. It’s not entirely clear why; do women choose lower goal amounts? Do they tell better, more compelling stories? Do they have wider social media platforms with more passionate followers? Whatever the reason, crowdfunding tends to be a method of capital raising where women have better access than their male counterparts.
If you are going to try and crowdfund your business, make sure and do your research: find the right platform, know how to build a social media following, and get the word out.
Manage Your Presentation – But Don’t Obsess
There are endless articles written about how women should perform in the workplace in order to avoid discrimination. The most well-known recent example is that women shouldn’t allow themselves to “uptalk,” the habit of letting the vocal tone at the end of a sentence lift slightly. Many people consider this to be indicative of asking a question, and feel that this makes the speaker sound hesitant or insecure.
But suggestions like this ultimately put preventing discrimination unfairly on the shoulders of those who are being discriminated against.
It’s important to be professional in the workplace. Women should understand good managerial techniques and be clear on how to have good, assertive conversations. They should also understand that what is considered assertive for a male coworker may be considered aggressive for them. But instead of softening their own presentation to try and compensate, they should speak up when other women are being treated unfairly, working to change the culture of the corporation.
Support Other Women
And that leads into the biggest and most important point of how women can get ahead in the business world: by supporting other women in the business world. This means standing up when women are mistreated, believing other women who speak out about discrimination and harassment, and going public with stories of unfair treatment. It also means reaching a hand back down and mentoring women who are on their way up. It means believing the stories of women who are multiply marginalized and making sure that their needs are being met just as much as the needs of white women.
A single woman getting a corner suite in a high profile company is a victory for that one woman, but if that success and experience isn’t extrapolated outward, it will not ultimately make a positive change over time.