Challenges, Confidence, Diversity and Inclusion, Empowering Women, Leadership, Tips, Working Women

Women Having a Voice in a Male Dominated Workforce

I had the opportunity to serve on a panel last week and share my insights on Women Having a Voice in a Male Dominated Workforce. The authentic and grounded conversation…..as well as some of the questions from the audience reinforced the need to continue these conversations. Over the next few blog posts I will share some of the conversation with you in hopes that you find the conversation helpful/insightful and meaningful. Perhaps to share with others as well! The panel structure was interesting – there were three women and two men on the panel which provided some interesting and balanced perspectives.

With 20 years of leadership experience in the network and field operations industry across the country – network operations; construction; plant maintenance; dispatch and field operations – it was interesting for me to reflect on my experience as an operations leader as I prepared for the panel conversation. I have come to appreicate the unique opportunities I have had throughout my career. And I also have come to understand my responsibility to others in support of their career journey. #payitforward

The first question from the moderator was: “As a female in the cable industry, what are some challenges you were faced with throughout your career and how did you overcome some of those adversities?” Kind of awkward for the men panelists but generated a laugh. I jumped in to share my response to the question along with some potential steps the audience could apply:

The challenges and the steps to address the challenges:

Having my voice heard

o Learn to project your voice and speak with confidence

o Always sit at the table and sit strategically at the table

Being taken seriously

o Never offer to take notes

▪ Don’t allow yourself to be delegated as note taker

o Review agendas for every meeting

o Practice before presenting and ask for feedback

o Anticipate difficult questions

Being “tested” and having to always prove myself

o I never felt like there was anything I couldn’t do while I was growing up. My parents believed in us and often told us …..”You can do anything you want if you put your mind to it and work hard.

▪ No promise of being the best. No easy way to achieve your goals. Hard work. Focus. Commitment. Simple, practical advice

o Trust your instinct and understand if you are being tested

▪ Seek time with the tester – ask for coaching/feedback/support

Diversity and Inclusion, Empowering Women, Leadership, Working Women

Women’s Networks: Not for Women Only

Three months ago, a group of passionate and powerful women started the conversation around the potential of creating a Women’s Network ERG (employee resource group) in our Division HQ location. This past Friday, we held a coffee social event to measure the interest level in this affinity group. We had over 70 people join us to learn about the Women’s Network. There was so much energy and excitement, we quickly realized this forum will serve a need for many!

Membership in and connection to ERGs is one of my passions – especially the engagement found in a Women’s Network! I know how very powerful an ERG can be for its members. Working for my prior company, I was involved in the Women’s Network. I have seen firsthand the impact that an ERG can have on employees – from professional development to career opportunities to community connections. Throughout my career I have experienced those benefits myself.

The creation of this Women’s Network drove a few different thoughts for me over the past month. We clearly continue to have real opportunity to support one another and drive a community of women in a space where we can develop, mentor, inspire, and network! However, I am convinced that we will need to consider some things going forward (some obvious, others not so much):

• Women in the workplace cover multi-generations that encompass different experiences, different needs as those generations mature through a career. How can those multi- generations co-exist in areas of professional development, mentoring, workplace interests etc.?

• How does talent development for women address the generational spectrums?

• How do we ensure we can preserve a meaningful focus on women’s issues in the workplace (and in life) while starting to invite men to the conversation?

It is critically important that we invite men into these conversations and initiatives. We need to ensure men are at the table to broaden awareness of some of the issues important to women in the workplace and the women in their lives. We have had these conversations amongst us, as women, for a very long time. However, I am certain that inviting men to the conversation develops more awareness and leaders who can appreciate the perspective of women in the workplace even more deeply. (This could frankly be said for any ERG – hence an inclusive approach to membership and inviting others to an affinity awareness drives a more holistic organization)

I am grateful that I work for a company that embraces diverse thought, diverse background, diverse geography, and diverse experience. A company where every person in an organization has a voice, a thought, an idea. A place where we can create a village of support and connection! The creation of culture of diversity and inclusion drives happier employees, engaged employees, and a strong healthy business!

 

Challenges, Confidence, Diversity and Inclusion, Empowering Women, STEM, Working Women

The challenges of being a business woman in a “male-dominant” field and the opportunities for excellence: Our journey, our commitment and our legacy!

“Why would a nice ‘girl’ like you want to work in a field like this?”

“You are the first woman supervisor I have ever had in my career.”

“Wow – I would never have thought you’d come down into this manhole to learn to splice.”

“Would you take the meeting notes Leslie?”

Me: “I have someone I’d like you to interview for the open manager position.”
The Director on my team: “Ok, great, what is his name?”
Me: “Why would you assume it is a ‘him’? The candidate is actually a ‘her’….”

Over the course of my career – working in the field of criminal justice as a police training coordinator and work with the US Marshall Service and the National Institute of Justice and then moving into the field of telecommunications in network, field, construction, and technical operations roles I have encountered skepticism, challenges, and years of being one of the only women on the team. None of that was ever an issue for me. My competitive spirit, my goal to excel (personally and professionally), my desire to leave a team, an organization, and a business better than it was before I arrived – all those things superseded any challenges as a woman in a male dominated field. I dove right into learning the technology, the field, the art of leadership, and the people. Learning the organization, the skill set of the work, the directional goals, and how I could best support/lead was where I spent my energy and effort.
The above quotes are comments shared with me over the years from 1990 until today. Advice from a Chief of Police as I considered a field in criminal justice, an introduction to my first switch technician, my favorite cable plant technician, a peer Director who was a man, and a Director on my team – a collection of comments from the men I worked with over the years.
All of this skepticism and doubt created a stronger work ethic and a passion to prove that a woman could not only meet the opportunity to be successful in a male dominated field but could rise to the occasion and excel. Achieving excellence has been a critical goal for me personally and professionally as I have forged my path.
What have I learned?
• People can do anything given the opportunity (with the right knowledge, skills, and ability) and with a support infrastructure, women can be equally (and often times more) successful in male dominated fields.
• Paying it forward is not simply expected – but required. In order to ensure women rise in non-traditional fields, those who have cleared the pathways (no matter how much clearing or how little clearing has to be done) must reach out to other women and support and lift their journey. We owe that to one another.
• Never ever be the one who takes notes in the meeting or gets the coffee – never!
• Be certain you sit at the table – always.
• Make sure your voice is heard – in meetings and on calls.
• Focus on your knowledge, skills, and leadership – improve them and excel at them. Do not focus on the naysayers.
• Know that every opportunity that comes your way is an opportunity to continue to clear the way for the next generation of women to rise higher and make more of an impact with fewer obstacles. That is a part of your legacy!