We all know that women outperform men academically, but for whatever reasons our professional careers seem to be far less rewarding – both financially and personally. Well, work isn’t school, but it is the place where we spend the majority of our lives. So I ask what is that’s holding us women back from excelling? Part of it is an entrenched cultural and linguistic bias against women and part is because that same self-criticism that pushes us to excel in school is holding us back from being a standing out professionally.
Over a long career, I believe that beyond a certain threshold of performance, it is creativity and smart risk-taking that separate the standouts from everyone else. Unfortunately, self-criticism inhibits creativity. Go ahead, react positively to fear. Whether it be picking up new skills, throwing away your fear of the unknown, or just betting on the right person or plan, here are a few tips to get your started.
1. Show up and put your best foot forward
Woody Allen once said that 80 percent of success is just showing up. Put yourself out there, because there is where serendipity happens. Show up even when you are not sure that you belong and open yourself up to the possibilities.
2. Speak up
In a room filled with few women, as in nearly all tech conferences, men always speak up more than women. Lately, there has been a petition to end conference panels filled with men, but I want to challenge you to speak up more! I know it’s scary to ask questions, sit on panels, present in front of an audience, and open yourself for judgement.
But only when you speak up and let yourself be heard, do you even have the possibility of influencing the stakeholders. If you are looking to build a team, or make a point at conferences, speaking up puts you on the map and will enable other to come to you with ideas. Do it! For yourself and for every other woman in that room (or not in that room).
3. Don’t apologizing when you are not in the wrong
Women tend to apologize even when they are right. Some people say that you should never apologize. If you are in the wrong, you should apologize, but never ever apologize when you are right. Apologizing and wavering can be the quickest way to lose your credibility. No wavering! You are awesome, own it.
4. Go stand in the limelight
Women when arriving to leadership roles face the sad choice of “being loved but passed over” or “being feared and disliked.” When you stand in the public eye, we are being judged, sometimes praised and sometimes vilified. But as all good leaders know that is a part of public life, so we have to roll with the punches.
Here I’d like to quote Teddy Roosevelt with some additions to correct for linguistic bias:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the woman/man who points out how the strong woman/man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the woman/man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends herself/himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if she/he fails, at least she/he fails while daring greatly, so that her/his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
5. Lastly, bet on yourself
Lastly and most importantly, if you could bet on anyone, bet on yourself. This is a personal decision that puts you on the path to take full responsibility for your actions. An important point about betting yourself is that it is also the first step of taking charge of your life and constantly making investments in yourself. We live in the age of information and the people who control the flow of information have an unfair advantage. So learning to code is up there on my list of most valuable skills to acquire. Right here at Skillcrush, there are great resources to get started and to acquire those skills and make yourself highly marketable and eventually indispensable.
Jane Wang is a Mobile Software Engineer at Etsy, an alumni of Hacker School, and formerly a product manager and an investment banker. She writes about mobile, technological trends, and coding at Forbes, Women2.0 and TechWomen, speaks at schools and conferences, and makes things with brackets, numbers, and paint. Follow her on twitter at @janeylwang and read more of her writing at Isometric Cube.