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These Women Leaders Share What Enabled Them To Reach The Top Of Their Careers

Until now, men still outnumber women in the higher ranks of the corporate world. But it's high time the women change that.

These women leaders struggled and clawed their way to the top, and now share what it took for them to reach where they are now.

 

Embrace your identity

You don't have to try and be like the men to be able to compete in a man's world. Own your femininity and use it to your advantage. You don't have to fit in with the crowd, too. Embrace your ethnicity, embrace your difference--and that's how you make a statement.

Rosalind "Roz" Brewer is the former president and CEO of Wal-Mart division Sam's Club, and now the first African-American COO of Starbucks. For her, it's about accepting and being open about your identity.

 

 

"First and foremost, I love being a woman. I never have emulated a male at any point in my career. I love it, love it, love it. And then I always talk about my race and I talk about my HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) education at Spelman College and I talk about that everywhere...I want to see more women do that: Feel good about who you are, talk about it, and lead in that light everyday."

 

Explore the unknown

Being comfortable and staying in the comfortable is easy. But what makes visionaries and good leaders are those who are ready to take on new opportunities and explore the unknown.

Alicia Boler-Davis, EVP of Global Manufacturing at General Moters, was recognized last year as the 2018 Black Engineer of the Year by 32-year-old BEYA STEM Conference by the US Black Engineer magazine. She recalls that when she was starting out, she realized that knowledge and growth will only come to those who are brave enough to seek it. 

 

 

She says, "After being with General Motors for a couple of years, I raised my hand and said, 'You know what, if I'm gonna work for the automobile industry, I need to know what it takes to build cars. I really want to work in a plant.' And at that time, that wasn't a popular thing to do...I had the opportunity to work at a plant for two years...And it was amazing because I spent two years there, I learned a lot about myself, and I liked it. I was very good at it--and I ended up staying at the plant. It was the best decision I ever made."

 

Stop apologizing

Men have always been brave enough to take what they want and what they think they deserve. But for centuries, women have always struggled with saying what they want and being who they want to be. 

Mellody Hobson is the current president of Ariel Investments and chair of the board of directors of DreamWorks Animation. In 2017, she also became the first woman to head the Economic Club of Chicao and she says that ever since she has started climbing the ladder, she knew she had to stop apologizing for being who she is.

 

 

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Hobson recalls, "I was sitting with a woman and we were talking about Valentino dresses and we were at a conference. And my business partner walked up and said, 'Oh, I'm so sorry. This conversation must be boring you.' And I said, 'Why are you apologizing to him? He entered our discussion, we were very much enjoying it and how many times have you walked into a conversation of two guys talking about the score last night and they have never apologized to me. Ever."

"I stopped doing that. Once we embrace and hold that truth to be self-evident—we are who we are—I think it just opens up a whole another world of candor and comfort and confidence."

 

Know when it's time to leave

Many of us find it difficult to walk away from a bad boss and a bad company, convincing ourselves that maybe we need to stop being whiny about the things that are handed to us. But those who settle, those who never have the courage to make a change, will never get to where they deserve.

Meg Whitman was the chairperson, president, and CEO of Hewlett-Packard and after almost seven years in service, Whitman resigned from the post, effective February 2018. According to Whitman, there is strength in knowing when to quit and one should know when to walk away from a bad investment.

 

 

"My advice to young people is if you find yourself in a company where you're being asked to do something that you don't think is right or you're feeling uncomfortable about the leadership and the direction of the company, run--do not walk--for the doors."