See it. Be it.
That’s what I thought while watching a panel presentation featuring four incredible leaders at Traction on Demand. They were all women, which I identify with, but they came from varied backgrounds that would allow other viewers to see themselves in these panelists.
Two panelists were people of colour, one woman was a former competitive athlete, one was beaming in from Jaipur, India, and, even though all of them were mothers, they’ve had different experiences raising their children. With such diversity of thought, it was enlightening to hear about their upbringings, the factors that contributed to their leadership mindset (two of the panelists brought up being an only child) and the experiences they’ve had as leaders in the workplace.
It was clear from listening to their stories that there is no one path for a woman to become a leader. There are many factors at play that determine a woman’s life journey. But these women did have advice that could be universally applied, regardless of any outside variable.
4 pieces of advice from 4 women in leadership at Traction on Demand
1. Understand that lifting other women up doesn’t mean limiting your own ambitions
Much has been said about the sisterhood of working women. In fact, one of my favourite gifs shows women clasping their hands and hoisting one another up. This conveys the idea that we all have a responsibility to support one another, especially in situations where there are gender barriers in the way. But Anna Matthias, General Manager at Traction on Demand, says, lifting other women up doesn’t mean limiting your own ambitions.
As someone who received a scholarship to play university basketball, Anna didn’t shy away from sharing how her competitive nature factors into her leadership.
“I want it to be ok for us women to challenge each other and to be ok to be competitive.” Anna Matthias, General Manager at Traction on Demand
Anna explained this further by saying that when we challenge one another, we are more successful–and that ultimately, another woman’s success is really a shared success because of the way we’ve pushed one another to excel.
2. Do what you love and the rest will follow
Tanya Jarrett, Chief People Officer at Traction on Demand, shared with us that her career took quite an unconventional path; she had even opened up a ballet studio. But in sharing this story, her point was when you do what you love–or even if you’re still figuring it out–the pieces of your career journey are bound to fall into place.
“Even if you’re not sure, connect with people. Have virtual coffees. Ask questions and support each other.”Tanya Jarrett, CPO, Traction on Demand
She has found in her experience that being a “connector” of people is a big part of who she is as a leader.
3. See yourself as a potential mentor to women and men
It’s not surprising that the majority of the panelists’ mentors have been men. After all, men have traditionally been the leaders and decision makers in the workplace. But this is changing as women occupy more leadership positions. And not only are they acting as mentors to other women, they are increasingly acting as mentors to men as well.
“Reach out and ask for her mentorship. It’s important.”Nara Henderson, AVP, Traction on Demand
Nara Henderson, Area Vice President at Traction on Demand, shared that she currently acts as a mentor to a man, and she wants to encourage other men to think a little more broadly when they look for guidance. “Reach out and ask for her mentorship,” says Nara, “It’s important.” Not only is it important in the grander conversation of gender equality, the mentee is bound to be richer in knowledge for it.
4. Be agile and innovative in your approach to creating change
Neha Choudhary, Senior Manager, People and Culture, at Traction on Demand, brought up this year’s International Women’s Day theme–Choose to Challenge–to highlight the progressive thinking that needs to take place when creating programs. “How do women balance their professional and personal lives? As an organization or community, how can we create an extra space for them?” she asked rhetorically.
“Women should collaborate with a lot of empathy to understand the other person’s perspective to support them.”Neha Choudhary, Senior Manager, People and Culture
For Neha, it’s not just about the act of putting the right systems or processes in place, it’s about understanding that all women have a unique narrative and deserve to be respected for it. “Women should collaborate with a lot of empathy to understand the other person’s perspective to support them,” she said.
What are you going to #ChoosetoChallenge this year? Supporting and elevating women is not just about one day, it’s about how we plan to live our lives as self-identifying women or allies to women. Take a moment to think about how you can be a part of the solution. Gender equality can only come about with the participation of everyone.