Empowerment is being surrounded by women who disrupt industry norms, women who rise to the challenge and pave the path for others to follow. I recently had the opportunity to be in conversation with a group of these empowering female leaders from various global hi-tech companies to find out what contributed to their success. One of the things that stood out? As women, we are often the first to come forward when we notice that certain things need to happen, without taking a moment to ask, “Do I need to be the one to do this?”
Unless we pay attention, it’s easy to default into taking charge of things that others could and should easily do. One of my clients, a partner in a prestigious consulting firm, shared, “I tend to hunker down and roll up my sleeves when I see that things need to get done, even though my male partners aren’t necessarily doing the same.” Paying attention to whether or not you are moving into a space of "over-responsibility" will help you recognize whether you are doing it by choice or simply defaulting to what comes naturally. Check to see if you are getting in your own way or serving the cause from a place of intention.
Further listening to these high-performing leaders, five additional lessons jumped out as to how women can grow within the tech industry without having to “hunker down,” cultivating qualities of leadership and actions that increase their sphere of influence.
1. Be true to yourself.
You do not need to be a version of someone else to be successful. Be you. Embrace your feminine side if that’s who you are. Say “no” to what doesn’t make sense for you. Each of these women understood what their unique “special sauce” was and used it to their advantage in their careers. Knowing that you are more than enough is the first step to gaining traction in your own leadership roles. Not sure what your truth is? Reflect using the following prompts:
- I am remarkable because...
- The qualities I respect in a leader are...
The last prompt is sneakily about what you respect and admire in yourself, as I believe we cannot see qualities in others that we do not possess in ourselves. By turning the lens on other leaders we admire, we turn the lens on what we subconsciously admire about ourselves.
2. Don’t be afraid to change course.
You know when something doesn’t feel right or is challenging you in a way that doesn’t help you grow? Successful leaders trust themselves and are willing to change course when growth opportunities arise. If something feels off, reflect, asking:
- What doesn’t feel right?
- What steps do I need to take to redirect my career to be in alignment with who I am?
These questions help reveal your personal values—what's important to you—and can guide your decision so that you find alignment with what does feel right.
3. It’s good to negotiate, but never with yourself.
There are always going to be opportunities you want to go after. Whatever you do, go after them. You are more than qualified. Negotiate with others about the specifics of a role, but do not negotiate with yourself about whether you are qualified for the leadership position you know you deserve. If you are negotiating with yourself, pause and ask:
- What’s the worse that can happen?
- What am I actually waiting for?
If you can live with the answers, then go for it.
4. Play to your strengths.
Create a narrative that you want people to share about you. Give them sound bites so they can represent you when you are not around. Remember your "secret sauce" and promote it. Become known as the subject matter expert, the go-to person for this unique skill set, and people will recognize what strengths you bring because you know them yourself. Take a moment and reflect on what successes you’ve had and what achievements you are proud of and use these to guide how you shape your career. A few prompts to help you tune into your strengths:
- I have a reputation for...
- What is unique to the way I work is...
- What I do differently, which has helped me succeed, is...
5. Be brave. You never know what you can achieve.
Each of these leaders shared that they went for roles before they believed they were ready, roles that challenged them and took them outside of their comfort zone. This stretched them to see what’s truly possible without waiting until they felt “ready.” Ask yourself:
- What will it take to get out of my way?
Calls from trusted advisors and friends to give you a shot of confidence help.
6. Never stop learning.
A little secret: Not one leader, regardless of gender, has all the answers. Rather, great leaders are constantly asking questions and understand that everyone is on a learning journey. This curiosity builds confidence while positioning you as a subject-matter expert. By embracing curiosity with openness, growth happens. With growth comes more confidence and willingness to be brave. Asking questions builds trust in who you are. Ask the questions you need answered to position yourself as a leader who is willing to learn.
An essential part of owning your brilliance and stepping into a leadership role is paying attention to your mindset and clarifying your "truths"—those things you do well that are truly unique to you, while also influencing what you contribute to. Each of these women took the time to reflect on their truths, understanding how to use them to raise their position as a leader. As more women enter the tech industry, knowing how your uniqueness adds value is what will support you in forging the path of your career.