Smashing the Glass Ceiling: 7 successful businesswomen share their tips

Active business woman portrait

It’s lonely—and manly—at the top. According to Catalyst, Women currently hold a mere 4.6% of the CEO roles at Fortune 500 companies. Yet while few females stand atop the corporate ladder, a growing number of upwardly-mobile women are assuming other senior executive roles.

To find out the secrets of trailblazers, I asked seven successful women from across leadership roles, industries, and continents to share proven tips that have helped them navigate the business world. Remember, everyone’s idea of success—and how to achieve it—is different, so use this advice to guide your own path to the top and become bolder in the boardroom by applying their encouraging wisdom:

1. Speak up and set boundaries

“Never be afraid to speak out, even if you are the only woman in the room. Always believe in yourself; your opinion and knowledge are important. Never accept sexist comments or jokes as normal because you want to fit in. If you do, it will ultimately undermine your position. Listen to your team and constantly evolve in your position.” ~ Fiona Cowhey, Chief Operating Officer, Sword Security, Ireland, UK, Brazil, and Canada

2. Demonstrate respectful, well-rounded professionalism

“Life Tip #1: Be open to hearing and understanding others’ perspectives. While you don’t have to agree with them, you should treat them respectfully. Work Tip #1: Employing both practice and theory adds to your credibility and effectiveness. Understanding and using trends and relevant research can only benefit your professional practice.” ~ Rose Campbell, Labour Relations Advisor, Canada Revenue Agency, Toronto

3. Take risks and help others

“Be positive. A leader’s vibe is contagious. Be curious. It is the best way to learn. Be adventurous. Even the roles that don’t look like a step up are important steps along the journey. Be a mentor. Make sure you help others along the way. And at the end of the day, be a bit lucky!” ~ Pam Laycock, Senior Vice President, Strategy & Communications at Metroland Media Group, Toronto

4. It’s all about how you GSD

“Be clear when communicating what you want and why you need it, so others can help you achieve your goals. Be resourceful by removing potential barriers and risks, so you can continue moving forward and get stuff done (GSD)! ~ Jehane Adam, Change Management Consultant, Toronto

5. Be open-minded and authentic

“Be open to new experiences and embrace life’s challenges. Look at each challenge as a learning opportunity to grow professionally and personally. Be true to yourself and authentic. When your values align with your actions and words it creates a positive environment where people are willing to work hard, and care for one another and the success of the team. This outlook has led me to roles of increasing responsibility and international opportunities I never imagined were possible.” ~ Angela D’Aguanno, Managing Director, US Finance Operation, Cushman & Wakefield Inc., New York City

6. Take ownership of your professional image

“Remember that you belong in that boardroom, so act like it and own your presence. You’re not lucky to be where you are today—you’ve earned it! Remember, success does not equal perfection. Instead of beating yourself up for being imperfect, focus your energy on something positive. Finally, since women rarely sing their own praises, and aren’t always well received when they do, use mentors and find a champion to act as your PR manager.” ~ Fotini Iconomopoulos, Principal, Forward Focusing, Toronto

7. Passion and perseverance inspire others

“Being personally invested in what you are doing serves as the best motivation and source of confidence. We often face barriers in the form of explicit, systemic, and soft sexism.  The drive and motivation to overcome these barriers comes from having a passion for what you do. Passion and determination are also what inspires others to follow your leadership.” ~ Meagan Ralph, Chief Operating Officer, Commport Communications International, Inc., Toronto

Overall, the common themes of curiosity, confidence, and competence are these women’s secrets to achieving success in business leadership roles. Thank you to these inspirational professionals who made time in their busy schedules to voluntarily share a mentorship moment with other women. To get more fearless females in our boardrooms, let’s apply these practical ideas, and generously share them with our colleagues, friends, and daughters.

What is YOUR #1 tip on how to succeed in business? Share your thoughts in the comments section, below.

Posted on: July 7th, 2015 by

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