In Emma Stone's acceptance speech last month at the Oscars, she credited her success (and Best Actress win) to a mix of luck and opportunity. She also included a lengthy list of people who help her day in and day out to help her achieve success. This list of names is a common element in award speeches. Where would anyone be without the support of a team?
When we look outside of the Hollywood limelight and into the workplace, we can recognize that many of us have a support system behind us, just like Emma does. They are our cheerleaders and advocates who all help us to achieve our professional and personal goals. Equipped with their support and guidance, we're able to see the big picture full of opportunities and to move to new heights.
Actress Emma Stone at the 89th annual Academy Awards on Feb. 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
Our mentors help us identify goals and ultimately achieve them, even if they're way up in La La Land. For women in particular, we know we have a different challenge than men when it comes to getting to that often desired executive position in the workplace. If we're going to reach that summit, we may need to look for a boost, or be the ones doing the elevating.
Having mentored and been mentored by women throughout my career, I have seen the benefits this type of guidance can bring. Here are some ways we can support our female friends and colleagues on their journeys.
Address realities with vigour
When we look at the composition of C-suites in Canada today, it's not always easy to spot the female leaders. A 2015 report by Rosenzweig & Company found that women hold 8.5 per cent of the highest-paid positions in the country's top 100 listed companies. Given this small group, women may have a more difficult time envisioning ourselves in the same roles.
Use any twists in the road as motivation for you to be proactive and opportunistic.
As a mentor or even a colleague, it's important to acknowledge the reality of this gender disparity in the C-suite. But don't see it as an obstacle -- view it as a challenge or opportunity to overcome or seize and encourage others to do the same. Being able to lead by example and show women of all ages that the career milestones they can achieve on their own paths is worth celebrating, too.
Connect and learn with likeminded ladies
There are more organizations, clubs and teams for women than there ever have been. From meet-ups and conferences to programs like Ladies Learning Code, the opportunities to connect and collaborate with females are endless and out there waiting for you.
If you're in the position to mentor someone at work, let them know of opportunities that suit their interests and encourage them to stretch their goals. You can also join them at a meet-up to learn and support one another as a pair. Showing time and interest in their passions is very important. This goes for both male and female mentors, too. The more you learn, the more experience you'll gain and opportunities will come looking for you rather than you always looking out for them.
Go beyond mentorship
The #GoSponsorHer campaign is a perfect example of how mentors and mentees can move forward together to create betterment for their careers, companies and industries that they work in. Campaign co-founder Laura McGee says that when you choose to sponsor a woman, you go beyond the act of giving advice and work on career development. Showing a level of commitment to someone and extending your network to theirs will create potential for unthinkable opportunities.
I know for me that my mentors have had a big impact on my life and career and have been sponsors along the way whether they knew it or not. Having had them to support me in nearly all of my endeavours is something I wouldn't change for the world. Now in the thick of my career, I've had the opportunity to act as a mentor, too. Wherever you are in yours, we as women can benefit from the advice and guidance of someone who has been there or understands exactly what we're facing and what we can overcome.
Support smaller goals on a longer journey
Most of us have likely been asked, at some point in our careers, where we see ourselves in five or 10 years. In the past, if that answer was an executive-level position, it might have seemed too lofty, but it's time to seize opportunities.
If the going gets tough, it's important that we try to brush the negative clouds and road blocks aside. Use any twists in the road as motivation for you to be proactive and opportunistic. Be sure to celebrate those career milestones with the leading ladies in your life, whether you're a formal mentor or not.
Getting to your ideal role, whether at the top of an organization or not, does take years of hard work, dedication and knowledge no matter your gender. But we can support one another along the way if we aim to improve the gender balance in the boardroom.
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Stela Stefanova is the principal of a highly competitive technical high school in Sofia, Bulgaria. She has a Ph.D. in digital signal processing and has authored many scientific papers in Bulgarian and international journals. As an instructor in the school’s rigorous networking technology program, Stella has transformed a Soviet-era high school into a technical education powerhouse. Her students regularly take home top honors at national and international networking competitions. “Our students go on to work in ICT at big companies as programmers and networking specialists,” she says. “They go into good careers and take leading positions.” Read her story here.
Dr. Akila Sarirete worked as a software engineer in Canada and the United States before joining the faculty at Effat University in Saudi Arabia as a lecturer and IT supervisor in 2002. In 2004, the university adopted the Cisco Networking Academy curriculum to expand employment options for women and help advance their careers. Under the leadership of Dr. Sarirete, the program has become a training ground for the next generation of women leaders in Saudi Arabia. She has watched the job market change, with more companies considering women for positions traditionally held by men. Read her story here.
Soso Luningo (third from left) grew up in a shack in a small village in South Africa. Through intelligence and hard work, she earned a scholarship to CIDA City Campus in Johannesburg, a nonprofit institution of higher education serving students from historically disadvantaged backgrounds. In 2003 CIDA established an ICT Academy, which has become a pipeline for graduates interested in technology and for businesses seeking skilled workers. After earning her bachelor’s degree and Cisco CCNA certification, Soso became the youngest IT technician and only woman on the IT staff at Queens Casino in Queenstown. Within three months, she was promoted to network administrator and team manager. With her salary, Soso was able to build a new home for herself and her parents in the Eastern Cape village where she grew up. Today she works as a trainer at the CIDA ICT Academy, guiding students down the same path she traveled to a prosperous, fulfilling future. Read her story here.
Babalwa Dube started as a volunteer at the Tembisa Community Knowledge Center (CKC) in South Africa and eventually became the manager and owner of a CKC in Ivory Park, a former township with a population of 100,000 black South Africans, eight schools, two health clinics, and one police station. Close to 100 adults attend classes at Ivory Park and many more regularly use its technology services. Babalwa provides support, encouragement, and a model of success, especially for girls and women. She started a women's club discussion group to motivate and empower women, and organized a Winter Camp for environment and leadership studies at the nearby Sukerbos Nature Reserve. “I was always interested in technology,” she said. “I played with boys, connecting TVs and radios, wanting to learn more. Most of the people have never touched a computer. They are scared to touch the mouse. When they start, you see the warmth in their eyes.” Read her story here.
Courtney Beard joined the U.S. Air Force in 2007. She served one year in Iraq, overseeing Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Operations for United States Forces Iraq (USF-I). While there, she completed her associate’s degree in intelligence studies and technology. After separating from the Air Force, she was accepted to the Warrior to Cyber Warrior program, a six-month cyber security program that prepares veterans for the CompTIA Security + certification and helps them improve their resumes and practice interviewing techniques. In October 2012, Courtney was hired at Cisco to provide support for customers in the public sector. “IT is a great field to be in,” she says. “There are many jobs open now and I think the amount of IT jobs will going to continue to grow over time. IT skills are challenging to acquire, but they are very valuable to have in the long run.” Read her story here.
Nada Krkobabic lost her IT job with a real estate company when the market crashed in 2008. She discovered the F_Email project, a competitive IT training program at the University of Belgrade in Serbia that combines technical and soft skills training in a small group setting, preparing women to bring their strengths and talents to the country's developing IT sector. She is now an instructor with the program and an IT administrator with a local mobile communications company. She gets to know F_Email project participants and recommends them to employers. “That personal connection is important … a network of real people connecting with each other," Nada says. "We make friends and make business opportunities.” Read her story here.
vcaknott:Dr. Elizabeth Croft is the Associate Dean of Professional Development and Education of the Faculty of Applied Science at the University of British Columbia and the NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering for the BC - Yukon Region. She has been essential in changing the culture surrounding women in engineering, in specific in the Undergraduate experience. She has been an amazing mentor to the students at UBC, helping inspire them to make a difference both in their personal development as well as their impact on society. Undergraduate engineering programs have been struggling to increase the number of women entering their programs above 20 percent but Dr. Croft has made it her goal to change this. How? By changing the whole culture. To learn about all the work she is accomplishing be sure to check out the website for her Chair: http://wwest.mech.ubc.ca/
tonyasims:My personal inspirations in STEM include: Marissa Mayer, Ursula Burns, Grace Hooper & Mae Jemison. Being able to read about their journeys has helped tremendously in my 7 year technology career as a software engineer.
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