I don't have to quote numerous statistics to understand the gender imbalance in the workplace because I have experienced it personally. I found myself the only female employee at a burgeoning hospitality company. As I explored the NYC hospitality industry, I found more and more male-dominated and owned properties. I had few interactions with women in leadership positions, and found it very difficult to be taken seriously in my role as director of marketing and events.
After a year of working myself to the bone, I stood up for myself, and explained to my employer, that I needed more mentorship, more support, more guidance, and I also needed a little bit of a break. This changed the way I was treated. I was given more respect, I was supported by the team, the men I worked with stuck their necks out for me in a way that allowed for me to grow and I was given the responsibility to help hire a lot more women. When I did train those women, I made sure to treat them with respect, support and guidance in the feminine, nurturing, and very strong way I knew I needed to.
Now as a female CEO of my own company, CatalystCreativ who has 90 percent female employees, I am asked to speak on panels, and attend conferences. It is still fairly sad when in the past three panels I have been a part of; I have been the only woman. It is also frustrating as a CEO who curates speakers on a monthly basis to see the lack of women who nominate themselves to speak. I hear women come off stage and put themselves down, or I walk into a conference and see the room filled with 80 percent men, and the women in attendance are very rarely the keynote speakers. So while I may be helping with the statistics, I am still in a situation where the rest of the world hasn't caught up just yet. Through these experiences, I have learned a few key lessons in terms of being a woman in a work setting, usually with a lot of men:
1. Don't be afraid to speak up. Speak up about what you believe in, what you are feeling, what you care about, speak on stage, speak to your boss, do not keep in your beliefs.
2. Look out for other women. The more you help another woman, the more you set the tone for the type of person you are. Your daughter is watching, your friends are watching, your boss is watching; you are a role model, act like one.
3. Be sensitive but strong. I think the worst thing to do in a work environment with mostly men is try to be a man. Being a woman is a massive benefit to a company. You think differently, you feel differently, you can bring something to the table men cannot bring.
4. Don't blame men. Men who support strong, powerful women; who hire women, who surround themselves with women and listen to women, are a massive part of the solution. The more men can see how integral women are into building a company that is emotionally intelligent, supportive and sustainable, the closer we will get to closing the gender gap.