Happy International Women’s Day 2021!
There are so many incredible women, young and old, powering our world and empowering each other. This month, we asked some women from the GLOBIS faculty to share their insights on how to succeed in business, as well as some wisdom from their own mentors.
Here’s what they had to say.
March 2021 Questions & Answers
Q: What’s your advice for young female professionals entering your field?
Field: Architecture & Urban Planning
Prepare yourself to become a shero!
Be open-minded, read a lot, and learn about everything and anything. Always have a plan B to navigate the male working culture. Trust your intuition on your journey.
The founders of Negotiating Women, Inc., Carol Frohlinger and Deborah Kolb, coined the term “Tiara Syndrome,” referring to the illusion many women have that just working hard enough will take you all the way to the top. So my advice is to be brave—and remember to leave your tiara at home. Meaning, prepare to work hard, but also find good coaches, great mentors, and supportive sponsors at work. You just cannot do it all alone.
Never stop learning.
Not only do you have to work hard, but you also have to work hard to make sure that people understand your efforts. There is a wide variety of jobs in the higher education sector: faculty, course and material development, faculty recruitment and training, class management, student recruitment and support, and administrative support. As you work hard at your first job, you will discover what you are good at, what you want to do, and what you are needed for. So understand yourself and find a way to get involved that makes the most of you.
Field: Creative Consulting
Perseverance, inclusiveness, and self-acceptance.
My work environment changed drastically when I moved to Japan. I transitioned from an environment in Malaysia with 90% women to almost exclusively working with men in Japan. Being in a male-dominated business environment, I learned how to empathize better with the gender gap, and my team started harnessing our differences as strengths.
As women, we should understand the challenges, but not be discouraged by them. Perseverance is key to getting out of a rut and seeking opportunities.
As women, we (also) tend to judge ourselves harshly and undervalue our abilities and contributions. Making peace with ourselves and being inclusive of other women helps us to grow as a community.
When you meet female professionals balancing work and family, acknowledge their contribution to the society and organization they work in. Don’t see their children as a distraction—mothers are already apologetic about that. We should support one another more and harness empathy to co-create a new working environment. One that works better.
Q2: What was the best advice you got from a female mentor?
“Believe in your higher potential.”
I have always had wonderful women around in all the places I’ve worked, but I’ve never had a specific mentor. That may be because I see everybody as a potential mentor, and gender or age don’t matter in that regard.
I never liked the idea of picking and sticking with one or even a few individuals to consult with for the variety of challenges in life. Yes, having similar experiences as a woman helps to connect and bond. However, I often get eye-opening advice from my male friends and colleagues because they can see my problems from very different perspectives. In that way, if I’d stuck with only the advice of other women, the lack of diversity in viewpoint would have been more harmful than not.
The best thing I’ve learned from all the people who have given me advice over the years is to believe in the higher potential within myself, even when I’m lacking confidence. So now, when I give advice (to women or men), I try to encourage them without being overly protective, honoring the advice of those who helped me.
“Seek out forest wisdom.”
It took too long for me to realize that women tend to have Tiara Syndrome. Unfortunately, just working hard is not enough in real life. You need people to support you, your goals, and your growth. I call it “forest wisdom,” based on the research of Dr. Suzanna Simard. She helped identify something called a “hub tree,” or “mother tree,” which supports other trees in the forest through underground networks. A good mother tree in the forest of your career can help you to become the best version of yourself by advising you and opening doors through her (or his) networks.
I’ve been lucky enough to have met a few of these on my career path. They taught me who I am and what my strengths are. The most remarkable thing was that they trusted me, even more than I trusted myself.
That is how you become a shero: you become a hub tree that helps others to thrive.
“Don’t be afraid to try.”
When I hesitated about being promoted to manager, a female senpai gave me two really good pieces of advice:
1. If you don’t really want to do it, you don’t have to. But if you don’t not want to do it, don’t be afraid to try.
2. If you become the manager, you could manage your work and your team members’ work much better.
I realized that I had imposed a high hurdle on myself. I had thought that people who want to be in management needed to really run for it, and that becoming a manager meant you needed to have special skills and extra confidence. But since I became a manager, I have found it rewarding to create a workplace that is good for both my colleagues and myself. I have realized that experience builds confidence.
I don’t think it matters what gender your mentor is. What’s important is that you find a mentor who can give you advice and ask questions that redefine your assumptions.
“Focus on the things you can do that your counterparts cannot.”
My mentor would share stories about women-specific challenges such as glass ceilings and societal expectations. One piece of advice she gave remains fresh.
I was concerned that my youthful face wasn’t garnering me enough respect. She said, “You should not worry about perceptions and stereotypes you cannot change. Focus on the things you can do that your counterparts cannot. And if you cannot find something suitable, carve that niche yourself. Respect will come when people see results.”
She always said that some challenges are just distractions. As professionals, we need to learn how focus on what matters.
Want more GLOBIS MBA faculty insights? Click here for more Critical Questioning.