Women Behaving Smartly: How to Find Your Edge in Business

Alone at Networking EventMy wise father would remind me during relevant moments as I was growing up that “life is not fair”. Fast-forward to my adulthood, and I take similar opportunities to continue the tradition with myself. This weekly dose of reality has proven to be great social therapy, and has significantly reduced my level of disappointment in life. The outlook translates suitably in the business world, where gender unfairness gets spelled out almost daily for female professionals. It’s just a fact of life that men can get away with behaving in certain ways that women cannot.

It’s been suggested that, despite all the adjustments that have been made to the cultural gender gap in our current generation, women and men are intrinsically different: We think differently, learn differently, and interact differently. As a result, the subconscious bias that we form creates the real challenge. Since one can’t modify another person’s attitudes and actions, we must remain directly in control of our own, while perpetually monitoring how we show up.

Some women feel they are at a disadvantage walking into an industry event where men exponentially outnumber them. But because attitude is a mindset, women can choose their approach strategically. Where is your edge in this scenario? In certain male-dominated industries like law, accounting and hedge funds, for instance, it’s simple to see that women have a special advantage: we stand out! If used as a point of leverage, this can turn the game unquestionably in our favor, almost to the point of, well…..reverse unfairness.IMG_8042

With a little time, creativity, and deliberate intention, you can decide how to best gain an edge in any field you’re considering. How will you stand out? What are your differentiators? Consider the following three virtues first.

Be Humble

During the Women in Hedge Funds Conference that I attended recently at Thompson & Hine, one woman on the panel mentioned that you should consider differentiators that come across as humble rather than over-confident. Since women wear humbleness better than over-confidence, this can be the foundation of your strategy.

Be Honest

Introspective behavior, when shared, explores your errors and the lessons you’ve learned. Don’t conceal your mistakes; speak about them, and embrace them. It will inspire others, and keep you outwardly honest. What better formula is there for gaining your edge?

IMG_8070Be “Smart”

Carol Pepper suggested that women need to be cognizant of the way our personal lives affect our professional lives. She offers the advice “be smart about it”. Personal is part of Professional; Stay tuned-into this correlation, and watch as opportunities emerge.

In what ways have you found your edge in a seemingly unlikely setting?