Shannon Fable by Shannon Fable
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While women make up most of the frontline fitness roles, we see a sharp decline in the number that hold traditional leadership roles in facilities, organizations and companies that make up our industry. Much debate continues around the statistics—is it causation or correlation? Solving the tricky relationship between women aspiring to be in these roles and then receiving training, grooming and opportunities to ascend to these roles is work we must do. Simultaneously, we can all agree that arming women with “secrets” for success will benefit both them and the industry, as well as those we serve.

Before diving into the six secrets, we must set a solid foundation upon which these axioms can settle. Acknowledge you are a woman, and then put that aside! Yes, there are inherent and systemic challenges to “making it work” as a female in our society, which COVID has exacerbated. Biological, anthropological and societal issues are ingrained, and plenty of institutional underpinnings exist. Still, even a recent study published in the Harvard Business Review states that “many women aren’t held back by being women, they're held back because of the ‘overworking’ nature of U.S. biz.”  

We must continue to shine a light on the inequalities we face as a collective and address how the pervasive work culture in the U.S. requires women to make unfair choices. In the meantime, charge forward as a bright mind with a big heart and innovative ideas that can change the world. We got this ... 

Here are six secrets that might help as you put on your Wonder Woman cape and get to work:

1. Own Your Superpowers

Women have many superpowers, but these three position you perfectly for leading in the world today: 

  • Communication
  • Connection
  • Empathy 

These three skills are the cornerstones of relationship selling and marketing, which are both favored in the marketplace today. In fact, a 2016 study published by the global consulting firm Korn Ferry Hay Group found that women outperform men in 11 of 12 key emotional intelligence competencies, including emotional self-awareness, empathy, conflict management, inspirational leadership, coaching and mentoring, adaptability and teamwork. These are also essential skills for effective leadership in the workplace. 

2. Pick Yourself

Now that you’re more aware of your superpowers, don’t wait for someone to ask you to the dance. Put on your most favorite outfit, grab an Uber Black and make a grand entrance. 

Women need to practice becoming radically self-reliant. 

My favorite quote that sums up this idea comes from Ash Ambirge in her book, The Middle Finger Project: “By learning to become radically self-reliant, I custom-made my own role instead of being forced to retrofit myself into someone else’s idea of what ‘work’ should look like. Because if all of us are just making it up as we go along anyway, we might as well have a good time with it, right?”

I couldn’t agree more. Often, women opt out because they can’t find the perfect role that meets the unique needs of their lives. But if you can’t find it, create it, whether that means striking out on your own or pitching a position to an organization.

Picking yourself also requires you to believe that you can. While a variety of external factors may make it harder for women to navigate traditional leadership roles in the corporate world, you must set those aside and shift your mindset. If you don’t first believe in yourself, it will be tough for others to believe in you. 

Catherine Perez, Corporate Vice President, Corporate Strategy, Partnerships and Business Development, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd, has this advice for women who want to rise into leadership: "...stop asking yourself if you can. Doubt is killer for action and promotion....If it is in your mind, it will enter others’ minds. Don't question yourself. Start walking and the path will create itself under your feet.”

3. Trust That There Are No Wrong Moves

Here’s another priceless statement from Ambirge: “A richer path, I believe, is made up of many false starts, not always resulting in triumph, but always resulting in information.”

You must act. Even when you are not 100% certain of what will work, it’s essential to jump in. The secret is to choose an action that will not cost you more than you’ll gain. You learn from your “experiments,” put your findings to work, iterate and act again. Outcomes equal information, and no move is ever wrong.

Of course, it helps if you first determine what you want or what you’re working toward. Be as specific as you can about steps that might lead you there by researching and getting curious with others who may have walked the path before you. Take time to reflect on the strengths and skills needed as well as those you already possess. Create a roadmap with little actions along the way to provide the information you need to take the next step down the road.

4. Know Your Worth

“More and more women in leadership positions are pushing the boundaries of gender equality by utilizing their strengths and leadership qualities – in skill, knowledge, experience and emotion,” Marci Martin, a contributing writer to Business News Daily, writes. “They are pursuing the things they want from their job and their career, not waiting for it to come to them. The key is confidence in all your resources and abilities, not just those represented on paper."

Worth is not only about the need to close the systemic wage gap but also about identifying your gifts, advocating for what you believe to be fair compensation, and forgetting the term imposter syndrome. 

  • Identify your gifts: Strengths Finder, an inexpensive self-assessment, is a fantastic place to start. Use this tool to identify your five best strengths objectively. Once you know, you can focus on cultivating your unique strengths to build a satisfying career and, perhaps, use the information as a confidence boost to go for it. 

 

  • Advocate for yourself: Do your research and learn what those strengths can and should get you. For what roles should you be raising your hand? What type of compensation should you be requesting? Who should you know? What should you learn? 

 

  • Eradicate imposter syndrome: Tips, tricks and mindset shift suggestions have been shared over the years to help women (and men) overcome what seems to be a pervasive issue: imposter syndrome. The article, “Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome,” in Harvard Business Review recently made me stop in my tracks. It’s almost become a universal refrain for women when asked why they are sitting on the sidelines or not going after what they truly want. 

Imposter syndrome is about doubting your abilities or feeling like a fraud; it puts the responsibility back on you to fix it. It does not consider the existing systemic racial and gender biases that might be the reason you are less than optimistic about your ability to make things happen. Not that we want to take solace in the fact that there are times when the outcome is truly beyond our control, or that unconscious bias may take us out of the running, but you are not an imposter. You might be a bit unsure, nervous or scared, and you may indeed be reaching, but don’t you deserve what you’re after? Revert to secret number two and pick yourself.

5. Avoid the Female Fallacies

On your path to success, you will need to be on the lookout for a few things we are naturally inclined to do that might inadvertently get in our way:

  • Do less, delegate more: Success requires “big brain” work, as my daughter would call it. To have space for this type of work, you have to figure out how to delegate some of the doing instead of doing it all yourself. 

 

  • Cure the disease to please: If you’re planning on doing big things, some people might not like it, and that’s O.K. And remember, you don’t have to be perfect, either! 

 

  • Stop learning, start working: A commonly cited Hewlett-Packard study on internal hiring practices found men often apply for a job when they meet 60% of the qualifications, while women wait until they meet 100% of them, believing that they will not be considered unless they meet the criteria exactly. Every woman should believe she is capable and prove it through the interview process instead of opting out.

 

  • Own your accomplishments: Begin by striking the word luck from your vocabulary. Women disproportionately attribute their success to luck compared to their male counterparts, thus downplaying the part they play in their success and, potentially, subconsciously sabotage their hard work. While it’s important to walk a fine line between being boastful and egotistical, it is time to look in the mirror and own the actions that have allowed you to arrive at your present place in life. While it’s possible that serendipitous events led you to a path you might not have otherwise wandered down, you were the one on the path and you possessed the unique skills that made it possible for you to capitalize on the opportunity

6. Ignore Everyone (Including Me)

There is no shortage of advice aimed at women looking to increase their impact. Moreover, much of the advice you’ll find is contradictory. Take the time to define what success means to you versus allowing others to define it.  

What do you believe success looks like? Is it a number in your bank account or your impact? Is it pursuing your chosen path while keeping other key areas of focus, such as your partner, your children or your friendships, intact? There are no right or wrong answers but articulating what you think will help you sort through the advice. 

Once you have a clearer picture of what success means to you, talk to those closest to you and seek reinforcement. It’s helpful to receive validation from your inner circle and align with those whom your choices most intimately affect. However, be aware that seeking too many opinions can leave you paralyzed. While your choices may not seem logical to anyone else, as long as they are right for you success will come.