To state the obvious, 50% of people are women. In our society, we encourage equal opportunity for all But as of 2019, only 2.8% of venture capital funding in the US went to women, only 17% of Corporate Board Seats were held by women and less than 6% of all Fortune 500 Companies had a female CEO. While there are countless articles which highlight the statistics, I think 2020 is the right time to rethink what’s possible.
1.Clear Your Head (Literally)
It’s easy to get caught up in what success should look like, based on what other people are doing. As you prepare to think about what you really want, and what success looks like for you, take a moment each day to clear your mind so you can consciously start to sort through which thoughts are helpful to you. Find a quiet place in your home where you can be undisturbed. Sit quietly, and focus on your breath. Close your eyes, and become aware of your thoughts and try to let them go.
2. Define Your Vision
With a clear head, start to map out a picture of what your ideal future looks like in five years. Categorize elements of your vision into areas that are important to you. Then ask yourself questions about each one. Keep in mind that there are never wrong answers. Get as specific as you can. As you get clear about what you would like our future self to look like, make it more concrete by creating a vision board. Add pictures and remember to take a peek at it each day. This exercise helps you maintain the vision of the life you’re building.
3. Be Aware of Unconscious Bias
We all hold images and beliefs in our subconscious which can impact the way in which we behave and react unconsciously. For example, a quick search on Google images for “CEO” will serve up pictures of caucasian men. When you enter a room, be aware that, like the algorithm on Google, people may not assume you are the CEO. Also, check your own unconscious bias as you’re meeting others for the first time. Are you making any assumptions about who they might be, or what role they might have based on the way they look or are dressed?
4. Spend Some Time in the Details of the Day
As you define what your ideal life looks like, think more carefully about the details of it. If you’re thinking about starting a business, what might the ideal work environment might look like? Startups have brought us countless changes to the world of work including casual dress, dogs in the office, and remote work. As you think about your business, what changes to a work structure would you be interested in making to optimize your life? Similarly if you are in a traditional job, take some time to think about how your current work structures are empowering women (and men) to be successful at work or not.
5. Leverage the Power of Networking
Whether you’re building your own business or working within a larger organization, it’s critical to grow and cultivate your network. Attend local events in your industry. Get to know other people in similar positions, and genuinely build relationships. Don’t expect anything in return. Networking isn’t transactional. It’s about cultivating long term relationships. You may just as easily find yourself helping someone on their journey, as you hope they may help you on yours.
6. Replace Fear with Hope
Countless leaders have called on people to be unafraid to fail--that great success is the result of many failures along the way. And that is true, but I think it’s important to recognize that it is frightening for many people to fail. Just remember, fear is actually a future-focused emotion. If you’re feeling fearful or anxious, stop and think about what could happen that would make you feel hopeful or excited instead? Hope and excitement are also future-focused emotions, but they are harnessed in an assumption that the future will be positive. Even with perfect execution you may fail for reasons beyond your control. But the one certainty we do have is that you can’t build the life you want if you don’t take that first step and try.
About the author: Claudia Reuter is an experienced entrepreneur, executive and board director, and author of Yes, You Can Do This! How Women Start up, Scale up, and Build the Life They Want (Wiley 2020). S he currently serves as GM Americas East for Techstars. She is also a member of the board of directors of Lessonly, and a member of the editorial advisory board for Innovation Leader. Passionate about sharing more stories about what's possible for women she is also the creator and host of the podcast, "The 43 Percent”.
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