Recently I had the great honor to be the keynote speaker at the MLive 2022 Women’s Summit in Detroit, MI. It was a wonderful experience and a true joy to be surrounded by a room full of bright, energized women entrepreneurs eager to learn and achieve and break down barriers in their lives, both professionally and personally. The title of my talk was “Leading Forward,” because I feel that is so important today — encouraging women leaders, particularly women in business, to boldly pursue the best that they can be. You can watch and listen to my address here.
Slowly, progress for women in leadership roles is improving
In my talk, I referenced research from 2018 that found that men are more likely than women to be thought of as leaders. The words people used to describe a good leader back then were man words. Slowly but surely, however, the command-and-control traits associated with male leaders are diminishing, as men are changing their ways of leading to be more collaborative, creative and team-building, words that sound more feminine. But, the narrative still needs to change.
When women see women in leadership roles, they think they can do it too
For change to happen, we have to show a different picture. Women need not only mentors and supporters, they need to see a woman doing the job they want to do, leading in an industry they want to go into, achieving those heights they want to achieve. As Elizabeth Marvel said, “If you can see it, you can be it.”
For many of the women whose stories I tell in my book, Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Business, they didn’t have female examples to look up to or follow. In many cases, they had to blaze their own trail. They had to break down the barriers of gender bias themselves, which meant they were often (like myself) the only woman in the room. Yes, they were courageous, but they also had purpose, another point I emphasized in my talk. To succeed, in our lives and in our businesses, we all need purpose.
For the women entrepreneurs at the Summit, here are the 10 things I gave them to think about as they go forward in their endeavors
1. The power of observation. Watch, listen, think from the outside in. This allows you to see a bigger picture, to see where you’re going. Lift your head out of the weeds and take the long view.
2. Be open to the new. Be curious. There’s emotional intelligence but I also love curiosity intelligence. Are you trying to find new ideas? They’re out there.
3. Don’t get stuck or stalled. John Seely Brown said, “The way forward is all around you if only you can see it.”
4. Stick to your guns. Have a point of view even when you’re collaborating with others.
5. Go on a journey. Get out and wander to discover things. Explore life in order to get a new vision, to see things you hadn’t thought of before.
6. Who says you can’t. Don’t let the outside define you, or take ownership of who you are. Ask yourself, Who can I be, how can I get there?
7. Men can be great mentors and allies. Your mentors or sponsors don’t all have to be women. Diversity is the key to new ideas and new innovations.
8. Women need to see other women doing what they want to do. Seek out women who are in the positions you want to have, leading in the ways you want to lead. Meet with them, ask questions, apply their lessons to your own path.
9. It’s ok to go for the gold. Dream big! And each time you reach a destination, celebrate.
10. To lead forward, it starts today. Ask yourself, What’s the one step I’m going to take today? Think about one thing you’re going to change to start you on that journey, then take that step. Who knows where it will lead?
What new discoveries might be waiting for you today? To think about opportunities for you and your business, reach out and we’ll talk about it.
From Observation to Innovation,
Andi Simon, Ph.D.
CEO | Corporate Anthropologist | Author