Published on March 15th, 2016 | by Nancy F. Clark0
Secrets To Success For Impatient Women
By Seema Miller—
I love Leonard Cohen for his soul-searching voice and lyrics that go beyond bling. But I don’t see the dystopia he sings about in his iconic song “Everybody Knows.” Yes, the system is broken–especially for women–and there are many people trying to fix it. But that takes time, and patience has never been a virtue of mine. I was brought up to believe that the one thing I can change is myself. Here are a few tips that will hopefully help while we wait impatiently for the world to change.
It’s not a man’s world.
This is America. There was no “One Child Policy” to skew demographics toward men. For the first time in history, more women have college degrees than men. So if you are a woman starting a career in corporate America right now, you have the advantage. There is no reason you can’t beat the best man to the top. Gertrude Ederle did that 90 years ago, when women were considered to be the weaker sex. She showed the world that a woman can swim across the English Channel and do it faster than any man. Today, there is no sport, office or conversation that is immune to the power of the Y chromosome. Every office has a Ronda Rousey that can trump a Floyd Mayweather.
You belong here–act like it.
As a woman the size of a 12 year old, I don’t look like I belong in situations made for regular size adults. This is especially true in tennis. When I play mixed doubles, opponents try to overpower me by hitting every ball in my direction. If I believe what they do, then I become the weak link. If I stand my ground and return every ball with unexpected ferocity and focus, they get flustered and look for another strategy. Everyone finds themselves in an intimidating situation at some point in their career, whether it is a conference room or a company cocktail event. When you do, prove them wrong with a firm handshake and a passionate point of view. Return their volleys. Make them believers.
Make effort seem effortless.
Watch a woman struggle with her bags at an airport. Not just a subtle struggle–a real obvious one. Chances are a stranger will stop and help her. If she’s travelling with a colleague, then that other person will most certainly share the load. You wouldn’t expect them to add to her load– that would be downright cruel. It’s no different at work. If a woman looks like she’s struggling to keep up with things, then the instinct of a male or female boss is to give a big project to someone else. It’s their way of helping out. So, the next time you complain about being overwhelmed with getting everything done in time to get your kids from daycare and prepare dinner, know that you will get a sympathetic ear but probably not that next big project.
Say no to catfights.
While most stereotypes are harmful, this one is downright insidious. It threatens to reverse the progress women have made. At some point in your career, you will find yourself pitted against another woman. This is when the workplace dynamic can devolve quickly into a high school cafeteria and otherwise mature people act like the cast of Mean Girls. I have one inflexible rule: no direct competition. Not with women, not with men and definitely not any cats. My goal is to be better than I was yesterday, not be better than someone else is today. Besides, I refuse to contribute to that malicious stereotype.
No one has it all.
Not Gwyneth Paltrow. Not Sheryl Sandberg. Not even the golden boy with the perfect teeth in your office. As branding and advertising professionals, we tell clients that brands can’t be all things to all people. They need to take a stance, commit to some things and sacrifice others. Sacrifice is easy to preach, hard to practice, but impossible to avoid. Even if you believe the reports about multitasking moms who fit 37 hours of work into 24 hours, they are still giving something up. It may be their sanity, their 20-year high school reunion or their ability to daydream. Yes, the infrastructure of care is sorely lacking in culture today. But let’s question the term “have it all.” Doesn’t it sound fictional, not to mention greedy? The more I traveled for work, the less I saw my son. Somewhere along the way, I went from primary parent to secondary parent. It was the biggest and hardest sacrifice I had to make. “Have it all” is an illusion, just like eternal youth. Personally, I think there’s nothing more beautiful than the wrinkles that come with a life well lived.
Yes, we live in an imperfect world. But the reassuring truth is that it isn’t conspiring against you. So banish your doubts and forge ahead. The world will eventually catch up to you.
Seema Miller is Chief Strategic Officer at David&Goliath, an LA-based creative ad agency known for its brave culture and helping challenger brands outsmart goliaths. She has marketed everything from fast food to laxatives, fashion to groceries and cars to toys. Business Insider recently named Miller one of the 30 most creative women in advertising. See her latest work at seemamiller.com.