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As a millennial woman founder, I know firsthand the obstacles women face in the corporate world. While some progress has been made over the past eight years, representation of women, especially women of color, is still lacking. According to McKinsey & co, only 1 in 4 C-suite leaders is female, which is a staggering statistic. However, the situation is even more alarming for women of color, as only 1 in 20 hold senior leadership positions.
I started my first business at age 16 and now at age 26 I run a seven figure fintech consultancy. But my success has not come without its fair share of challenges. Like many young women in business, I have faced bias, skepticism and a lack of representation. That’s why it’s more important than ever that young women have strategies to overcome these obstacles and succeed in the business world.
Here are some key strategies for breaking through the barriers and achieving our goals.
Related: Women Are Leaving Corporate America for Entrepreneurship. Here’s how you can support them.
1. Build your network
Building a strong network is absolutely essential for success in the business world. As a young woman in this industry, it is especially important to connect with other women and allies who can provide support and guidance. Here are some ways to build your network:
- Attend industry events and conferences: This is a great way to meet new people and learn about the latest trends in your field. You might even be surprised how many like-minded individuals you meet at these events.
- Join professional organizations or networking groups: My advice would be to look for groups specifically dedicated to supporting women in your industry. These groups can be an incredible resource for connecting and building relationships with other successful women who have gone through the same challenges you are facing.
- Find mentors: As a young woman in the business world, having a more experienced woman by your side can be invaluable. Find higher level women in your company or industry that you admire and get in touch with them. Don’t be afraid to ask if they want to meet you for coffee or lunch.
- Connect with your colleagues: Building relationships with your colleagues can help you build a strong support system and create new opportunities. Take the time to get to know your colleagues, ask for their advice and insights, and find ways to collaborate on projects.
Related: Women Entrepreneurs Face Unique Challenges. Here’s how to thrive in the face of adversity.
2. Develop your skills
In the business world, it is important to constantly develop and refine your skills. This is especially true for young women who may be at the beginning of their careers and want to prove themselves. By investing in your own growth and development, you are better positioned to take on new challenges and be successful in your career. Here are some ways to develop your skills:
- Look for learning opportunities: These can include online courses, webinars, and training programs that can help you build new skills and knowledge. You can also seek mentorship or coaching from more experienced professionals in your field. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – everyone starts somewhere!
- Volunteer for new projects or initiatives at work: This can give you the opportunity to learn new skills and take on new responsibilities, all while demonstrating your value to your team and organization. Don’t shy away from opportunities that push you outside your comfort zone.
- Improve your existing skills: Take some time to think about your strengths and weaknesses and look for ways to improve in areas where you may be struggling. Seek feedback from your colleagues and supervisors and use it to inform your growth and development. Remember: no one is perfect and there is always room for improvement.
- Stay informed of the latest trends and developments in your field: Read industry publications, follow thought leaders on social media, and attend conferences and events to stay informed and ahead of the curve. Don’t get left behind — staying up to date is crucial in today’s fast-paced business world.
It’s easy to feel like you have to work twice as hard to prove yourself in the business world. But investing in your own growth and development is one way to give yourself an edge and position yourself for success. Remember that you are capable of great things – it’s just a matter of putting time and effort into developing your skills and knowledge.
Related: Reframing the Concept of Networking for Women Entrepreneurs: Relationships, Not Networking
3. Speak up and advocate for yourself
In the business world, it’s important to be your own advocate. This can be especially challenging for young women who are hesitant to speak out or promote themselves. However, standing up for yourself and advocating for your ideas and contributions is essential to moving forward in your career.
Early in my career, this was one of the biggest challenges I faced. I remember being in meetings where I had great ideas but was too afraid to share them for fear of being rejected or ignored. It took me some time to realize that if I wanted to make an impact and be successful, I had to be confident in my ideas and the value I brought to the table.
One way to stand up for yourself is to be proactive about sharing your achievements and contributions. Don’t be afraid to speak up at meetings or presentations and share your ideas and insights. Look for opportunities to take on new responsibilities and demonstrate your value to your team and organization.
Another important aspect of standing up for yourself is setting boundaries and speaking up when you feel uncomfortable or unsupported. I remember once working on a project with a colleague who constantly interrupted me and talked over me during meetings. It was frustrating and demoralizing, but I didn’t know how to handle the situation. It wasn’t until I spoke up, set boundaries, and was able to build a more respectful working relationship.
Remember that standing up for yourself doesn’t mean you have to be aggressive or confrontational. It’s about having confidence in your ideas and contributions, setting boundaries, and speaking up when needed.
Related: 11 female leaders on how to make your voice heard
As young women in business, we face unique challenges. But with the right mindset, strategies and support, we can overcome these obstacles and achieve success in our careers.
Remember that you have the power to shape your own career path. Developing your skills, standing up for yourself, and seeking mentorship and support will help you navigate the business world with confidence and determination.
In the end, what matters is staying true to yourself and your values. Be authentic, be resilient and never stop pursuing your goals and dreams. With hard work, dedication, and a support network, there’s nothing you can’t achieve. So get out there, break those barriers and show the world what you’re capable of!