MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How can more women leaders instill confidence in the workplace? is written by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.
A few weeks ago at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook (fb), told participants on a panel, “Men still run the world — and I’m not sure it’s going well. It means we’re not using the full talent of the population.” There are plenty of examples of how expectations at work and at home have held women back, which has shaken confidence. Fortunately, there is now a spotlight on the shortcomings in supporting, recognizing and awarding women leaders. But if we work together, female leaders can smash all stereotypes. So, while the rest of the world catches up, I encourage female leaders to drive their own personal success:
According to a study in the Harvard Business Review, women react differently under stress than men with regard to risk taking. Women sometimes play it too safe or are hesitant to approach risks. But given we live in a time of rapid change with dramatic business model shifts and evolving, technologies that require new skills, the biggest risk is not taking any risk at all. Risk taking is key to success so let’s not be held back by patterns or gender stereotypes, and be willing to take risks that generate concrete results.
Make the ask
Recently, I was in a meeting with top leadership executives from a multinational company, and the CEO challenged a woman to be more forceful in asking for a top position that she was had been hesitant to approach but clearly deserved. It was a wake-up call to me that women in large organizations often don’t stand up and aggressively ask for the same kind of promotions or compensation that men might do in a similar position. Professionals across the board need to challenge themselves to make the “ask” for what they are aspiring to be. We are all responsible for blazing our own path, but with this responsibility comes the courage to take hold of the opportunities that will help advance our careers.
Don’t try to be like “one of the guys”
The workplace celebrates the individual. In fact, it’s our various perspectives and skills that determine the success of a company. There are many innate qualities all of us have that make us good leaders. So find what makes you unique. Don’t try to copy the traits of male colleagues, but take advantage of what makes you a strong leader, and leverage your own skills in an authentic and confident way.