There are a number of leadership challenges that women in tech (frankly all women in business) face. In fact, the Forbes article 15 Biggest Challenges Women Leaders Face lists, well, 15 of them. However, here’s the good news: several are leadership challenges that you have the power to change!
At the recent Oscar celebration, Kobe Bryant won an Oscar for his animated short film Dear Basketball. Bryant, known for having the confidence to say he is going to win all the time, was interviewed following his Oscar about how he felt going into the awards ceremony.
He said that in basketball he has control over the outcome and so he can afford to be confident. He has done the hard work necessary to know that given the odds, he will be a winner. However, with an awards ceremony, he had no control. He had to just sit and await the outcome.
The amount of good luck coming your way depends on your willingness to act. Barbara Sher
Here’s the good news: you’re in a position of control.
Unlike so many circumstances for women in tech when we are faced with gender bias, inequality in pay and promotion and a lack of opportunity in a male-driven field; we have the power over some leadership challenges.
Let’s just look at three of them from the Forbes article by the Forbes Coaches Council.
#1 Standing In Their Success
Some women leaders shy away from speaking on their accomplishments for fear of being boastful or conceited. Women tend to think that it’s needed to shrink themselves to seem non-intimidating. I advise clients to gain the confidence to know that if they’re in the room, that means they deserve to be there. Shrinking does nothing but delay your voice from being heard and taken seriously. – Niya Allen-Vatel at Career Global.
#2 Speaking Up
It’s not enough to be in a role or to sit at the table. One must also speak confidently, regardless of odds faced. Women leaders fear being ostracized or rejected; however, respect comes when one’s voice is heard. I coach leaders to share their voice and perspective because it can help shape policy, the workforce, and perspective. Make your presence known as a leader and collaborator for good. – LaKisha Greenwade at Lucki Fit LLC.
#3 Building Alliances With Decision-Makers
My female clients come to me because they’ve been put down, pushed aside, or told they don’t belong at the table. It’s not easy to be bullied, but there is a way to get past it. I suggest women build healthy relationships with advocates, create a strong personal brand, establish guidelines before each project, position themselves as experts in their field, and communicate with confidence. – Christina Holloway, Christina Holloway
While not easy to overcome our natural tendencies to be modest, quiet and collaborative, it is important that we flex our Risk Muscle in each of these examples.
It’s important to be honest about your success and to be proud of all you have accomplished. In my article Own Your Professional Accomplishments, I offer additional information.
There is a time for being humble and sharing the accolades with your team but there is also a time to single out your personal accomplishments.
Experience has taught me that women are not as likely to take the credit they deserve for what they have accomplished or individually contributed to a team or project. In fact, many dismiss their career milestones as “the team”, “the opportunity” and even the company culture, which can all have merit and impact to the outcome but may not get you the recognition needed.
Take the idea of speaking up and being heard. In my article How to Have Your Voice Heard in the Boardroom, I address this issue.
Choose your words so that you are direct. How many times have you said this in a meeting: “This might be a dumb idea but…” How effective will your idea be if you are helping the audience dismiss it before you even offer it up? Speak strongly and use words that indicate your level of confidence in your opinion and ideas.
It is important that you build a strategic network of decision makers, sponsors, and allies who understand your value and know your vision for your own career goals. Positive people of influence are critical to your success. In my article Who is In Your Sphere of Influence, I talk a bit more about understanding the value of your network.
Ask yourself these questions as you reflect on who you will assemble for your sphere of influence:
- Who are my champions?
- Who will best guide me?
- Who will support me as I blossom, as I evolve?
- Who will feel uncomfortable about my plan or possibly sabotage it?
- What gaps do I have on my team?
- Who can I assist on her/his journey?
Set a goal for finding people who will be great additions to your sphere and actively seek out mentors and sponsors who will best help you develop to the next level.
Be excited about the fact that you are in control over most of the leadership challenges you face in your career. Identify what is holding you back and start to build a strategy for overcoming those barriers to your success.