Moving Beyond The Girl Who Just Gets Stuff Done: A Paradigm Shift For Career Advancement
Forbes, Amy Blankson
January 11, 2018
Angela “Angie” Smith was approaching the final hours of college when it was an important to take some time and work to gain experience that she later knew would be invaluable. Never afraid of hard work she worked several jobs, including helping family and never went back to finish those last credits. Cut to twenty years later and it turns out Angie was more than right. Even without that coveted piece of paper, she paved a path for herself where very few women had traveled before.
So, how was a woman without a degree able to succeed in a male-dominated, heavily educated industry? Well, according to Angie, it all began when she decided that she wanted to be more than “Angie, the girl who gets stuff done”. She wanted to be “Angie the strategic player who brings great thinking.” Realizing this was a paradigm shift for Angie. She knew she wanted to be recognized for her worth and would trudge forward with a renewed inner belief in herself.
This inner confidence was verified when she was chosen to participate in the Cisco Emerging Leaders program. Since Angie wasn’t a director at this time, she was in complete shock and disbelief to be chosen. It was a turning point in her career to know that her hard work had been recognized and that her superiors had chosen to invest in her future. The program proved to be invaluable for Angie as she was given a coach who challenged her to ask herself the tough questions and think introspectively about where she wanted her career to go. That was 13 years ago.
Since Angie never had kids her colleagues would sometimes take advantage of her availability. For a long time, she accepted this, after all, she did have more spare time than her colleagues with kids. But soon, she realized this was not only unfair, but it wasn’t sustainable either. After being faced with illness within her family, Angie began a personal wellness journey to be healthier. One of her key goals was to sleep more. She started working from home two days a week and turning off her email at night. Mirroring her career coach of the past, she began asking herself hard questions, the main one being “do I really need to do this?’ Just as Angie had altered her educational path to help her parents in the past, she shifted her way of thinking and how she approached work — but this time it was for the betterment of herself.
When we asked Angie about gender biases in tech, she surprisingly called out some of her past female colleagues. Despite all of the discussion surrounding women helping women, in her experience that wasn’t always what happened. For instance, when Angie accepted a position as a VP, she had a female boss that had been in the industry for 20 years. Although everyone knew her, they didn’t know her full value. One day, Angie sat in the back of the room in preparation for a big meeting and stayed after to interview leaders about the perception of the event. The next day, Angie asked if she could sit in the actual meeting (and subsequently sit at the proverbial table). They said, “Absolutely, you should be there.”
Because Angie had taken the time to listen, everyone turned to her for feedback, which had never been done before (particularly by her boss). So, what was the reaction from her female boss? Was it praise, admiration, a friendly high-five? No, it was to pull her aside and lecture her about appropriate attire at work. This actually happened.
Although Angie’s story may come as a shock to some, to others it’s simply par for the course. Unfortunately, it’s not only men who are unwilling to make room at the table, but competitive women as well. Rather than uniting for a place for all women at the table, we’re making it even harder on ourselves to succeed. This one’s on us, ladies. We need to realize that someone else’s success does not take away from our own and lift each other up so that all of us can succeed.