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As a millennial woman founder, I know firsthand the obstacles that women encounter in the corporate world. Although there has been some progress over the past eight years, the representation of women, particularly women of color, is still lacking. According to McKinsey & Co, only 1 in 4 C-suite leaders are women, which is a staggering statistic. However, the situation is even more alarming for women of color, as only 1 in 20 hold a senior leadership position.
I started my first business at age 16, and now, at age 26, I am running a seven-figure fintech consultancy. But my success hasn’t come without its fair share of challenges. Like many young women in the corporate world, I have faced bias, skepticism and a lack of representation. That’s why it’s more important than ever for young women to have strategies to overcome these obstacles and succeed in the corporate world.
Here are some key strategies to break through the barriers and achieve our goals.
Related: Women Are Leaving Corporate America for Entrepreneurship. Here’s How to Support Them.
1. Build your network
Building a strong network is absolutely essential for success in the corporate world. As a young woman in this industry, connecting with other women and allies who can provide support and guidance is especially important. 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 by how many like-minded individuals you come across at these events.
- Join professional organizations or networking groups: My advice would be to look for groups that are specifically focused on supporting women in your industry. These groups can be an incredible resource for making connections and building relationships with other successful women who have gone through the same challenges you’re facing.
- Seek out mentors: As a young woman in the corporate world, having a more experienced woman in your corner can be invaluable. Look for senior-level women in your company or industry who you admire and reach out to them. Don’t be afraid to ask if they would be willing to meet with you for coffee or lunch.
- Connect with your colleagues: Building relationships with your coworkers can help you build a strong support system and open up 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 corporate world, it’s important to constantly develop and refine your skills. This is particularly true for young women who may be starting out in their careers and seeking to prove themselves. By investing in your own growth and development, you’ll be better positioned to take on new challenges and succeed in your career. Here are some ways to develop your skills:
- Seek out learning opportunities: This 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 chance 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 pushing you outside your comfort zone.
- Hone your existing skills: Take the time to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, and look for ways to improve in areas where you may be struggling. Seek out feedback from your colleagues and supervisors and use it to inform your growth and development. Remember: No one is perfect and there’s always room for improvement.
- Stay up-to-date on 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 let yourself fall behind — staying current is crucial in today’s fast-paced corporate world.
It’s easy to feel like you have to work twice as hard to prove yourself in the corporate world. But investing in your own growth and development is one way to give yourself an edge and position yourself for success. Remember, you’re capable of achieving great things — it’s just a matter of putting in the time and effort to develop your skills and knowledge.
Related: Reframing the Concept of Networking for Women Entrepreneurs: Relationships, Not Networks
3. Speak up and advocate for yourself
In the corporate world, it’s important to be your own advocate. This can be particularly challenging for young women who may be hesitant to speak up or self-promote. However, speaking up for yourself and advocating for your ideas and contributions is essential for getting ahead in your career.
Early in my career, this was one of the biggest challenges I faced. I remember sitting in meetings where I had great ideas, but I was too afraid to share them for fear of being dismissed or ignored. It took me some time to realize that if I wanted to make an impact and be successful, I needed to have confidence in my ideas and the value I brought to the table.
One way to start advocating for yourself is to be proactive in sharing your accomplishments and contributions. Don’t be afraid to speak up in 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 advocating for yourself is setting boundaries and speaking up when you feel uncomfortable or unsupported. I remember a time when I was working on a project with a colleague who was constantly interrupting me and talking over me in meetings. It was frustrating and demoralizing, but I didn’t know how to address the situation. It wasn’t until I spoke up, set boundaries and was able to establish a more respectful working relationship.
Remember, advocating for yourself doesn’t mean being aggressive or confrontational. It’s about having confidence in your ideas and contributions, setting boundaries and speaking up when you need to.
Related: 11 Women Leaders on How to Make Your Voice Heard
As young women in the corporate world, we face a unique set of challenges. But with the right mindset, strategies and support, we can overcome these obstacles and achieve success in our careers.
Remember, you have the power to shape your own career path. By developing your skills, speaking up for yourself and seeking out mentorship and support, you can navigate the corporate world with confidence and purpose.
In the end, what matters most 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 supportive network, there’s nothing you can’t achieve. So go out there, break down those barriers and show the world what you’re capable of!