Around the boardroom table

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Things are different than they were even a few years ago for women in business

I have been a woman in business for many years.  When I started my career, I was a young woman among a handful of females in a male dominated field.  In my first management role, I had a staff of eleven financial advisors: ten men and one woman.  At a national management conference of roughly 250 managers, I was one of ten women.  Yes, I know well the feeling of being a woman sitting around a boardroom table of men.  The successes and challenges of women in business are near and dear to me.

In the early years, I was bothered if someone assumed I wouldn’t last.  I was hurt if I felt I wasn’t taken seriously.  I was angry when I overheard colleagues saying I must have landed the account because clients wanted a pretty blonde.   But as time went on, my skin grew thicker and I weathered the storm.  I focused on my goals, kept my head down and worked hard.  I was steadfast in the belief that work ethic, intellect and professionalism would win out.   Succeeding despite people’s assumptions was satisfying. 

Mine is only one story.  Women in many different types of business are succeeding every day despite the rocky road they may be travelling.  In fact, women are increasingly successful in business all the time.  I think it is important for women to know their work as entrepreneurs and in business leadership is being noticed.   Women need to be confident they have what it takes to be successful.

My advice to women starting a business or taking on a leadership role in a corporation would be:

Work hard, be yourself and be honest – these three attributes will form the backbone of your reputation and eventually pay you dividends.

Sticks and stones – people can be mean sometimes.  Don’t let them pull you down.  Keep focused on moving your business forward in a positive manner.

Maintain your professionalism at all times – professionalism is a cornerstone to your success – you can’t let it slide.

Be faithful to business planning and crunch your numbers – make a commitment to regular business plans and financial reviews.  Check the status of key business measures so you always have a good pulse on where your business is.  Planning will help keep you ahead of the curve, and could give you insight to potential risks before you reach them.  Know your numbers inside and out.

Surround yourself with the kind of people who you would be proud to be associated with – when hiring staff or creating business alignments choose carefully.  They are a reflection of your business.  Treat people fairly and work to maintain positive business relationships.  When a bad business alignment exists, discontinue that relationship as soon as prudently possible, or it could do your business more damage than good. 

Courageous conversations need to be had, and hard decisions need to be made – don’t put these off.  Do these in a clean concise manner and move on.

You’re not Wonder Woman – These are my mother’s words, and as women in business we are notorious for this.  Don’t take on too much at once, and keep balance with work, home, family, volunteering, community, and time for yourself. 

Remember the national management conference I mentioned where only 10 of 250 managers were women?  Flash forward eleven years at the same national management conference.  This time, I was the national manager for leadership development, now presenting to an audience of almost 300 managers.  By then, there were close to 30 female managers in the group and here I was, a woman, taking a place at the helm.  I could see the tide had started to turn.  Women in many different businesses and leadership positions previously dominated by men are experiencing a similar shift.

Now, in private practice for the last several years, I continue to be amazed at the number of women colleagues, friends and clients who are successful in their own businesses.   I have the good fortune to have crossed paths with many amazing business women through my career.  These women have faced similar challenges, each with their own story, and risen to the occasion.  My hat is off to business women everywhere.  In some small way, we have all taken part as pioneers for women’s business success.  Our daughters’ futures are looking very promising.

 

Link to column as it appeared in Elgin This Month May 2012 edition (page 22)

 

Stephanie Farrow, B.A., CFP.,  Stephanie has over 20 years experience in the financial services industry, a diploma in Financial Planning from the Canadian Institute of Financial Planning, and Certified Financial Planner designation.  Stephanie has been writing a financial planning column for the local business magazine Elgin This Month since 2010 and hosts our Farrow Financial Blog and Twitter @farrowfinancial.  Stephanie and her husband Ken Farrow own Farrow Financial Services Inc., are busy raising three young children and actively involved in the community. Our Financial Services Team.