“I would strongly encourage women to do ‘more than hard work’; while hard work is required—work alone isn’t enough. We need to focus on establishing strong relationships, seek leadership positions, get a mentor, and always keep the vision for growth to the next level in our careers. Additionally, make sure you have the right people in your inner circle—friends and family—because this support system is absolutely essential to work and lead at the highest levels of your organization. Then force yourself to take at least one high risk opportunity/project/challenge per year. Don’t stay in the comfort zone—it’s not where leaders sit.
“To find a mentor, joining a professional organization is valuable, as you will probably meet like-minded individuals. Also, don’t be afraid to ask someone in your professional environment to be a mentor. There is specific guidance in my book Transforming Your STEM Career Through Leadership and Innovation: Inspiration and Strategies for Women on how to find and work with a mentor.
“I wish I had known not to try to ‘fix’ every issue—at home or in business. Some things are ‘fixable,’ but some are not, especially if the others that are involved don’t want them fixed. I’ve learned to offer my input or solutions in a situation, but when I’m not the leader or decision maker, I have found that it is best to not push too hard and let the leader—lead. Even if I don’t think his/her ‘fix’ is what is needed or necessary. It was an early lesson that if I’d learned, would have prevented a lot of frustration.
“I wish I had known to ‘ask for more’ in the professional environment. I am very good at making the best of what I have in my personal life and at work. However, I’ve seen others ask for more in the way of lab equipment, leadership opportunities, and compensation—and they got it! I didn’t realize it for years that I wasn’t asking for enough in return for my tremendous level of dedication and commitment to an organization.
“I love what I do—even after over 20 years, I still love what I do. I also believe that the success of others will be impacted through my activities as a professor, innovator, and researcher. I am one of the people who actually believe what I do matters—and I’ve been blessed to hear from others and see the outcomes to know that it is TRUE.”
—Pamela McCauley, Ph.D., C.P.E., engineer, professor, speaker, and entrepreneur
“Key skills for any fellow leader: Tenacity, resilience, and learning to embrace a larger vision of success.
“You are your own best cheerleader. No one can advocate for you like you can. If you don't believe in yourself, no one else will be able to, either. And if the right opportunity doesn't present itself, you have to create your own opportunity.
“When it comes to your career, ‘No’ is just someone's opinion, nothing more. When I first spoke of my business idea—build an independent wealth management firm that is held to the fiduciary standard, focuses on women, and is ethical, transparent, and client-centric—people said, ‘Are you insane?’ So I stopped talking about the idea and started building LexION. By close of business on the day of our launch, we were profitable.
“Dream big, and then dream bigger. Find people who will continue to push you to do so. Throughout my entire career, including today as CEO of LexION, I have sought the guidance of mentors. A huge reason why I share my story is to help increase the visibility of female leaders in the finance space. Women in the C-suites, period, are all too rare. I want people to reimagine Wall Street. My hope is that other women see me and think, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’”
—Elle Kaplan, CEO and Founder of LexION Capital, the only 100% woman-owned asset management firm in the U.S.
“Over the course of my career as a senior leader in the healthcare industry, and now as a leadership performance coach, the two most critical skills I believe women must seek mastery in are communication and relationships.
“Early in our career, it is critical to be able to frame your issues and offer a point of view. Later the bar increases as we need to advocate for a position, be comfortable with productive conflict, and learn how to use our personal power to influence others. Each level we progress in, from leading ourselves to leading teams and ultimately to leading at the organizational level, requires increasing skills and capabilities in communication.
“And yet communication alone while a start will not be enough to fully progress into the leadership roles we seek. The ability to also build relationships is critical. Without relationships based on trust and respect, our voices do not get fully heard or appreciated. Many women often experience not being recognized, being dismissed, or having men offer the same perspective with recognition despite the fact that they offered the same advice. The key is to simultaneously build your communication skills and your relationships so you are looked to for your input and perspective and seen as a respected voice.
“To succeed in business today, women need to demonstrate communication skills with veritas (the ability to speak truth to power) and build relationships to establish their gravitas (the ability to influence the room as a wise and trusted advisor).”
“The biggest skill that I attribute to my success is perseverance. Life isn't all downhill, and neither is work. There have been plenty of failures, setbacks, and disappointments in my career, but the difference between being successful or not is the ability to persevere.
“I come from a unique perspective because I'm in the tech business, which is predominantly a boys' club. I think we've made leaps and bounds in equality, but there is still work to be done. I've found success by raising my hand, asking for my own opportunities, and knowing my worth. A lot of success comes from simply asking for it. If you are deserving of a promotion or a raise, don't wait for your boss to offer it to you; schedule a meeting, and refer to the accomplishments that make you deserving of your request.”
Thanks to these leaders for sharing their wisdom and experience with us!