13 Successful Women Share Tips on Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling
Most of us have grown up with the understanding that entering the workforce as a woman comes with its own set of challenges — lingering sexism, power imbalances, and a gender pay gap are just a few that come to mind. In traditionally male-dominated industries like tech, real estate, architecture, finance, and venture capital, things can be especially tricky.
We reached out to a handful of highly successful career women working in these fields to get their take on how to be a powerhouse on the job. There’s no doubt these insights will inspire you in your rise to the top — whether you’re the only woman at the office or part of a killer female-only team. Keep scrolling for their advice.
1. Tune in to culture. “When you are interviewing for a new job, pay close attention to the company’s culture. It can vary greatly, even within a given industry. I’m exceptionally lucky to work… in a special place where we not only allow for many different kinds of leaders to lead, but where we actually reward people for fostering a culture of vulnerability, collaboration, growth, and evolution, so we can all achieve our highest potential. This has been a critical component to my professional success and day-to-day happiness at work.” — Annie Gottbehuet, managing director, individual advisory services at TIAA
2. Support other women. “Without question, I would not be where I am today without the support and encouragement of other women in the workplace. It was absolutely critical to my career trajectory, as well as my overall growth and empowerment. Together, we are rewriting the rules of what it means to lead in the workplace — but there is still much to be done. We need more representation of women on executive boards, which is proven to benefit business, as well as a larger share of women in tech jobs and in C-suite roles. It is absolutely crucial that we continue to encourage and mentor one another to take on more leadership roles, seek out promotions, and help establish a healthier work-life balance.” — Christa Quarles, CEO of OpenTable
3. Look for the yes. “There was a time when I had to make multiple attempts and approach three different teams just to coordinate one deal. If I listened every time someone told me ‘no,’ I would always be stuck doing the same thing. I truly believe there is always a creative solution to every problem. Stay true to yourself and always keep a positive mindset. Most importantly, pay it forward!” — Natalie Cheung, general manager of drone light shows at Intel
4. Stay confident… and humble. “I have learned to find confidence in myself and my work. As the only woman, you can help bring a different perspective to the table that is often needed. At the same time, I believe that every day should be treated as an opportunity to learn and gain new insights. Therefore, you need to balance confidence with the ability to trust, respect, and collaborate with your coworkers.” — Linda Jiang, head of industrial design at Essential
5. Believe in something bigger. “Being in a male-dominated industry for over 30 years, I have learned that the most important lesson is to never lose sight of who you are, and always, always, always be true to yourself. Maintain your faith in something more — whether it’s your faith in God, your core beliefs, your spirit, or your moral center. Once you achieve this mindset, you’ll value your knowledge and hard work and, through that, anything is possible.” — Maile Aguila, senior vice president of residential sales at Swire Properties
6. Focus on the opportunity, rather than the challenges, of being a trailblazer. “When I began at The Glimpse Group, I was excited to be the only woman working at that tech startup, because it meant that I was responsible for setting the expectation for other women to eventually follow. Since my first day, the company has on-boarded some really incredible women with strong work ethics and bright minds. I am proud that my performance influenced the hire of these women… I know so many women that were beaten down by their jobs and various industries their careers were in, but this new industry is a completely blank slate with little prejudice or preconceived assumptions.” — Katelyn Coghlan, General Manager of In-It VR, a subsidiary of The Glimpse Group
7. Find your tribe. “Advocating for yourself is a lot easier when you are surrounded by people who support you. Find your allies and find your team. When you’re choosing a new job, don’t just pick the hottest company of the moment. Pick a place that fosters an environment where you can thrive. There are walls everywhere, but often, there are also great people — especially women — who are working hard to break down those walls brick by brick. That’s how we create real change, in all fields and careers.” — Emily Chang, author of BROTOPIA: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley ($28)
8. Know your worth. “Being women in a field filled with men has helped us learn about self-worth. [As women], we have so much insecurity and anxiety when it comes to our ‘price tag,’ whether it be salary or the cost of the products or services your business provides. Instead of giving yourself the pressure to demand a high price straightaway, take time to test incremental increases with various clients or by project. Know your self-worth and create a case around it. That value will change over time, so make sure you are continually checking in with yourself.” — Jane Lee and Eva Chan, founders of Launch Pop
9. Use your intuition. “A lot of women are told not to bring emotion into business. I say to stay in tune with your emotions, and don’t be afraid to let them help guide you in the workplace. They have paved my career! Women in business carry an incredible amount of innate intuition and emotional intelligence that I don’t believe my male counterparts tap into enough. This important quality has guided me to grow my brokerage firm from 40 agents to more than 800 over the past 10 years.” — Mayi de la Vega, founder and CEO of ONE Sotheby’s International Realty
10. Use your differentiating qualities to your advantage. “Do not try to downplay any of your femininity or any aspects of your emotional being that make you who you are. Instead, use it to your advantage. Realize that in a male-dominated industry, the very essence of a woman at the table is a differentiating point and will be viewed as such. The ability to differentiate or diversify is often used as leverage in business.” — Natalie Diaz, chief of staff at Time Equities
11. Be you. “I am so proud of women. We are working our butts off with such dignity and collaboration. No longer are we undercutting our sisters in the office or downplaying our skills to be subservient to men. We are standing together, expressing our opinions, and moving mountains. My advice? Be proud of your womanhood, build relationships that count, seek community, and emotionally tune in. Yes — tune in to your emotions! Your passions and perseverance will skyrocket you to the top. Anyone pushing you down… let them go.” — Nicole Liebman, director at Hudson Realty Group
12. Don’t overthink it. “Working in a male-dominated industry, I quickly realized that I needed to rise above it, meaning I don’t dwell on the fact that I am in the minority. Kick ass and you will rise above it. Don’t focus on the people who want to pull you down. Find someone else to work with, work somewhere else, or tell yourself they don’t matter, and you will quickly realize that there is no gender when you reach the top of your game.” — Jessica Worman, co-president of M2G Ventures
13. Be fearless. “Architecture has been called the ‘most masculine of arts,’ and yet, when you lift the veil, you find both men and women hard at it. The profession is not for the faint of heart, and it requires great teams and intense collaboration. I grew up during the feminist movement when there was a new freedom to challenge traditional roles. I never had any doubt that women could achieve great things. I was fearless and vocal and unwilling to let gender stand in the way of achieving my potential. Constantly and consciously find meaning in every challenge and build strength through every experience to fuel your creativity, ideas, and strategy.” — Marianne McKenna, founding partner of KPMB Architects
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