In a male-dominated industry, it may feel impossible to make your way to the top. A 2012 International Business Report survey showed that only one in five women hold senior management roles globally, with less than one in ten businesses employing a female CEO. Yet women possess some of the most valued attributes of successful C-level executives, such as strong communication skills, the ability to focus on business solutions, and an aptitude for helping employees reach their goals.
In my past experience, advancing in a male-dominated world has been more about maintaining an entrepreneurial mindset and remaining persistent and less about my gender. Whether you have a vision for starting a company or an idea of what role you want to play within one, advancing in a male-dominated world is a worthwhile hurdle to jump. On my path to becoming the President of Gold & Silver Buyers, a Texas-based company specializing in the retail purchase of gold, silver, platinum and other precious metals, I’ve picked up on a few techniques for proving yourself in the business world no matter who you are up against.
- There is power in your passion. Your passion is everything. It’s what drives you to keep fighting and moving up in your career. Starting Gold & Silver Buyers excited me because it was a new concept that enabled women to make money, something I’m very passionate about. Working toward something you believe in makes you work harder, drives you to meet the goals you set for yourself and pushes you to overcome challenges.
- Redefine your benchmark. In a male-dominated workforce, it’s easy to compare yourself against a male counterpart or competitor, or to believe your gender is the reason you are stuck in your current position. Instead, try gauging yourself against a highly successful person—not necessarily someone in your field. Then, dissect their success. What attributes do they possess that you want to develop? What similarities exist, whether in management style or performance? Create your own professional growth plan based on this evaluation, and get out of the male vs. female competition rut!
- Use your innate abilities to your advantage. Instead of focusing on why so many men hold top positions in companies around the world, think about what skills you possess that companies need. Over the years, I’ve learned that I am naturally skilled at encouraging the growth and development of others. I harnessed this ability to help build a highly effective and capable team at GSB, but you could use the same skill for the end goal of delegating key functions in your own workplace. By channeling your talents where they are needed most, business associates will learn to accept you for who you are and realize the value of your skill set.
- Never stop learning. While taking a night class or attending conferences each week would grow your abilities and industry-specific knowledge quickly, it might not be a reality for most of us. Incorporate learning into your everyday routine instead by reading a book or by taking the time to really consider what inspires you. Then, cultivate those passions by learning about them. That growth will resonate in your daily life, including your professional life, if you make the decision!
- Spend less time comparing and more time doing. Constantly comparing yourself to men, or to anyone holding the position you are striving for, can make moving up the ranks feel daunting and impossible. Focus your time and energy on doing what it takes to get the top—whether that means being the most responsive person or coming up with creative ideas on a consistent basis. Successful leaders are consistent, dependable, and aren’t afraid to be unpopular. The later is often a tough one for women, but crucial in growing a department or an entire company.
I believe women have the natural ability to be strong leaders because we approach obstacles creatively and are willing to take responsibility for shortfalls, while giving credit to our team for successes. Instead of just wanting things to change, we work until they change. Strive to do what you love the most, and don’t give up until you climb to the top.