Women have come a long way to the modern powerhouses we see today, and the journey isn’t over yet.
Five of the University of Florida’s most influential female alumni recently returned to where their journeys started and shared the secrets to their success with rising stars from UF’s College of Journalism and Communications.
This empowering panel could hardly be duplicated, but these eight habits are sure to bring young women closer to their goals.
1. Have confidence or fake it.
Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer for Nationwide Gale King said,
“If you’re going to succeed in the workplace, you have to be self-confident.”
Achieving self-confidence, though, can be easier for some women than others. For those who have a tough time remembering just how fabulous they are, King suggests faking the confidence needed to command respect.
"Faking it" doesn’t mean hiding your true feelings or being afraid to admit you don’t have everything under control. But, if you need a good cry after a difficult day, let your emotions out in private and come back to your workplace looking as strong as ever.
The alone time could even be therapeutic while you reflect on what has made you feel so overwhelmed.
2. Stop saying, “I’m sorry.”
“Women have a habit of externalizing failure and internalizing success,” said Katherine Green, former senior vice president of news for Tribune Broadcasting.
We’re all guilty of saying “I’m sorry” when we don’t have to, but women have to realize this bad habit devalues us all.
Executive Editor and Vice President for news at the Miami Herald Mindy Marques said verbalizing our perceived weakness gives ammunition to those against us.
Rather than saying “I’m sorry,” use constructive feedback to either encourage others to do better next time or to ensure you do the same for your employer.
3. Know you deserve everything you have.
“We’ve come a long way, baby!” King said. But, today’s professional women have to acknowledge the hard work it takes to keep moving forward.
The pay gap, for example, must be knocked down. That obstacle can only be conquered, though, when women recognize they deserve what they have and ask for what they want.
“When you don’t ask, you don’t get,” said Leigh Radford, vice president at Procter & Gamble.
If you believe you deserve a raise, ask for it. If you want a promotion, ask for it. If you want the corner office, ask for it. Never settle for second-best.
4. Learn man-speak, but don’t let it change you.
“Man-speak” may not be an intentional part of the relationships your male coworkers have with each other, but it’s real and it can hinder women trying to find where they fit in.
The women of UF’s “Becoming a Woman of Influence” workshop agreed women have to study man-speak and use it to their advantage. That doesn’t mean we have to change how we do business, though.
“Understand what it takes to be successful in a man’s world, but be true to yourself,” said Samantha Avivi, global marketing director for Kimberly-Clark.
It’s important to know what makes men successful, but women also have to identify what they bring to the table that men typically do not.
Personality traits like compassion, nurturing instincts and elegance can give women the advantage over their male colleagues.
5. Be positive.
At the end of the day, employers want someone who is positive and dedicated to making their whole team look good. That doesn’t mean you have to be all sugar and rainbows 24/7, but having a can-do attitude and facing challenges without losing your cool makes you indispensable.
Part of that positivity comes from treating your coworkers with respect and being mindful of what you say.
“Stay out of the mud,” Green warned. What seems reasonable to say at the time could get you fired if repeated out of context.
6. Cultivate relationships to build a strong network.
“Your network absolutely contributes to your net worth,” King said.
By finding a mentor or acting as mentor for someone else, especially other women, you build a powerful wall of support around yourself that will be there to help when you need it.
A reliable network may not only get your career where you want to it be, but also provide personal support when you need it most. Having people who understand you as a human outside of the great work you do allows you to feel comfortable at work.
And, when you feel appreciated, you’re likely to want to work even harder than you already do.
7. Know when it’s time to move on.
Knowing when it’s time to leave a position or company gives women the power to own their successes and build more.
“Think about what fits for you, and know that if it doesn’t fit, you don’t have to stay there,” Green said.
Sometimes, the time to move on comes when you’ve done all you can do for a company, or when you are no longer being challenged.
Other times, the time to leave comes when those around or above you take advantage of your dedication to good work and keep the credit for themselves.
Know when you’re being taken advantage of, and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself.
“You’re the only one who can decide what you will and will not accept,” said King.
8. Pay it forward.
Influential women get to enjoy some pretty fantastic perks. But, perhaps, one of the best parts of becoming a woman with power is the chance to give back to those who made a difference in your life and those who still need help.
Despite coming from a background that did not guarantee her an education or professional success, UF alumna Gale King recently pledged $1 million to the university.
The money's primary purpose is to provide scholarships to first-generation, academically exceptional students from modest backgrounds.
She has asked that preference be given to students pursuing degrees in journalism and communications.
With dedication, hard work and personal strength, women everywhere can make a difference like this, too.
But, as King said, “We still have work to do.”