I have had the honor of co-chairing a committee dedicated to raising scholarship money for the children of Marines and Navy Corpsmen. During the year, I have been working closely with a young lady who is truly impressive. She is supporting herself while pursuing her education and supporting other family members in need. Not a different situation by far, I am certain there are more women out there doing that and then some.
What makes young Alexandrea unique is her burning desire to have an impact in everything she does. She is not shy about offering new ideas and differing viewpoints. I expressed to her how appreciative I am that she is not just donating time but enthusiastically involved. Sadly, she expressed how the attributes I applaud have been viewed negatively at her job.
We talked through a number of suggestions and of course the most important suggestion I gave was “get a mentor!” Her response to that was heart breaking—the senior women were not supportive. She had made the effort only to be rebuffed.
Since that conversation with young Alexandrea, I have queried a number of very impressive young female executives about the role senior women in their various organizations have played in their development. The responses ran the range of being very supportive to incredibly non-supportive. Non-supportive!
Why is that? More importantly, what is one to do about that?
What have I found in asking the question—why? Many of the female executives that have ascended to the highest levels of many corporations have, in many cases, done so on their own. No other women were available to them for mentorship or guidance. Many had to “play the game” as it was put to me, by being as manly as the men. Some of the lucky ones had men who were enlightened enough, I would say confident enough in themselves, to take a woman under their wing to mentor and guide.
Oddly enough, far too many women in that category do not see the need to take another woman under their wing. Rather, they expect the young female executive, to do as they had done and “make it on their own.”
What is a young female executive to do? I recommend three things as imperative—believe, invest, and take action.
The single greatest thing to do is believe in yourself. I could go on with the psychology of this statement, I will not. I am not a psychologist. I am a leadership expert. Having led thousands of Marines and civilians over my lifetime, I can tell you, without self-confidence you are done. In the business, vernacular—the first sale is to you.
It is not enough for me to say be self-confident without giving advice on how to build confidence. That leads to my second piece of advice.
Invest in yourself. Women seem to have a difficult time investing in themselves. I read a wonderful piece by Kathy Caprino, “The Top 5 Reasons Women Resist Investing In Themselves And How It Hurts Them.” It is a great read on understanding why women hesitate to invest. I recommend the read.
Bottom line—any investment in you will pay off. Why will it pay off? That leads to the last piece of advice.
I heard it said while attending a lecture at the Thunderbird School of International Business, teach a man how to fish he will feed himself and his family. Teach a woman how to fish; she will feed the nation. Women educated and trained have consistently outperformed their male counterparts.
Women have started more businesses over the past decade than men. Women owned companies put over $1.3 Trillion into the U.S. economy last year. Take action, the companies you work for will benefit, the companies you own or start will do exceptionally well. Your families will prosper beyond your wildest imagination.
It is sad that all women who have arrived at levels of influence and success do not all see the need or the inclination to mentor and guide up and coming female executives. You may not be able to change that. So, do what you can—believe in yourself, invest in yourself, and take action.
Alexandrea, your mentor, will arrive. In the mean time follow the advice given. I believe in you! I believe in all of you.