Early in my career, I recognized that to be a successful leader, I needed to find my voice. It's a vital skill for women at work, and it's top of mind for me this International Women's Day as we're challenged to "be bold for change," not only for a single day but throughout the entire year. Finding your voice means sharing an opinion, supporting progress, celebrating achievements, and championing equality. So I want to challenge all of us, both men and women, with five ways that we can have a voice, be bold together and create real change this year:
Embrace what terrifies you. An early mentor inspired me to do one thing every day that terrifies me. It's one of the best pieces of career advice I ever received. When you push beyond your comfort zone, it can shape new attitudes, change perceptions, and help women forge bolder paths in their careers. Afterall, risk taking is a lot like physical fitness. It requires discipline and exercise to build this skill, so you have to start doing the work. Speak up in your next meeting, present your newest idea to a senior executive, or raise your hand for the job that no one else will take on. Take action, even if it scares you.
Celebrate women shattering the glass ceiling. Inspiring women work in all industries, but we need to do a better job sharing their stories and encouraging younger women in the workplace to pursue leadership roles. I have been inspired by women like Indra Nooyi, who is a great example of a successful female executive skillfully leading Pepsi whilst raising a family. Indra has spoken openly about the importance of her role as a business woman, wife, mother, and daughter. This kind of transparency is critical for women in business and proves that work-life balance is really more of a puzzle. By spotlighting more female leaders, we can help demystify the many paths to these roles.
Pay it forward as a mentor or executive sponsor. If you have ever been mentored or sponsored throughout your career, it's time to pay it forward! Both male and female executives need to step up and take active roles in mentoring to promote a more diverse, successful workplace. I have been mentored by extraordinary leaders over the years who supported high-potential female talent. These relationships can help challenge and inspire you, but mentees must also be active participants in the dialogue. Show up for the conversation with a specific skill in mind that you want to develop or project that you're stuck on and work towards a solution.
Be a problem solver and share your "wins." At Yahoo I work with a smart, talented team and I encourage them to be proactive problem solvers. I also challenge women that I mentor to focus on areas where they can deliver measurable results and impact their business. Regardless of their level, I ask them to identify challenges and present plans that address them. It's difficult to argue with results and it's time for more women to regularly speak up about their achievements - after all, discussing success is expected in business!
Recognize brands that play a part. Advertisers are stepping up their game and seeking to empower women in their campaigns. Who can forget the inspiring #LikeAGirl program from Always? Adidas also launched a recent campaign, Unleash Your Creativity, that tells the stories of fifteen female athletes focused on defying convention. These campaigns show that we're moving in the right direction, but I believe this is just the beginning and a sea change is ahead for the advertising industry.
The more we speak up and find our voices, the more we develop that muscle, and it soon becomes second nature. Starting on International Women's Day, I encourage everyone to be bold, speak up, and play their part to celebrate women year-round. We must work together to change biases and build a positive culture for women, not only in workplace but around the world.
HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today
Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email firstname.lastname@example.org