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By David E. Hubler
Contributor, Online Career Tips
In a two-week period in May and June, 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment, giving women the fight to vote. Ratification by the states followed, and women went to the polls for the first time in 1920.
By an ironic twist of history, the 2018 midterm national elections sent a record number of women elected to Congress. In all, 110 women now hold seats in Congress: 87 in the House and 23 in the Senate, for a total of 20.6% of the 535 members. In addition, five women non-voting delegates now represent American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in the House.
Women Now Lead Some of America’s Biggest Companies
In business, women are leading some of America’s biggest corporations, including:
- Marillyn Hewson, chairman, president and CEO of Lockheed Martin
- Mary Bara, chairman and CEO of General Motors
- Abigail Johnson, chairman and CEO of Fidelity Investments
- Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and CEO of IBM
- Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
- Phoebe Novakovic, chairman and CEO General Dynamics
In this era when so many women are stepping out as leaders in government and business, it’s fair to say that women have finally – and permanently – broken through the so-called ‘glass ceiling,’ even if some residual problems remain. Many of those women have reached the highest levels in their career path by not fearing failure.
Sandberg: Stop Focusing on How Worse Things Can Get
One of the most successful women in business is Facebook’s Sandberg. She tells prospective women entrepreneurs that “no matter how many difficulties you have faced so far in your life, stop focusing on how worse things can get. You have to believe that you can find a way to turn things around and give yourself that much-needed second chance.”
Huffington: Failure Is Not the Opposite of Success, It’s Part of Success
Co-founder of the Huffington Post Arianna Huffington adds, “Everybody makes mistakes, it’s part of human nature. Use your mistakes as a way to improve yourself and to help yourself grow. That is what’s most important. We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes – understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.”
Skimlinks CEO Alicia Navarro Also Has Advice for Female Entrepreneurs
Alicia Navarro is co-founder and CEO of Skimlinks, a London-based company that enables online publishers and merchants to track product links and analyze and monetarize them. Skimlinks connects 60,000 publishers to 48,500 merchants around the world, generating $2.5 million in sales every day, according to the company website.
Navarro graduated at the top of her class from the University of Technology in Sydney. She then worked for a couple of tech companies, including IBM. But when she applied for a position with Google, she was turned down.
Later, she started two businesses that failed. In 2008, she cofounded Skimlinks in London with a college friend, Joe Stepniewski.
As a result of her experience with initial failure and finally success, Navarro offers would-be women entrepreneurs seven tips for ultimate success:
- Community matters: Being an entrepreneur is hard and lonely. You’ll have a lot of highs and lows, but being part of a community that supports each other is vital. That got me through my hard times. Knowing people were going through the same things that I was.
- Failure can lead you to success: Before Skimlinks, I started a couple of businesses which all failed. Those failures spurred me on to take jobs that would teach me the skills I lacked during each failed business attempt. Skimbit — my original business that became Skimlinks — was a licensable social shopping tool similar to Pinterest that also failed, and that was harder because I spent two years and all my savings building it. But through that process, we invented a means of monetizing the content on our site which I then realized was the most innovative and exceptional aspect of what I’d built over the previous two years.
- Fake it until you make it: Even though the product was not even built and I had no clients and lived in Sydney, I told my first UK-based client otherwise, and won the business. In one month, from August 18 to September 18 of 2006, I built the product from scratch, sold my car and furniture, quit my job, and moved to the UK where I hired two engineers, set up in an incubator in London and started Skimbit.
- Focus and capitalize on strengths instead of being a victim: I’m always asked about being a woman CEO in the tech industry. I never understand why. Running a company over many years is incredibly hard. The only way to win is to be good at solving problems. Any problem must be overcome; that’s my job. Being a woman is not a hard “problem” to overcome; if anything, it’s been a total advantage to me over the years. Any disadvantages that might accrue to it I just solve by focusing on my strengths and finding solutions to overcome the challenges.
- Invest in your own health and happiness: It is easy to become consumed with work and the pressures that come with being responsible for so many people’s livelihoods. However, the role of a leader is not just a functional one, it is also an inspirational and motivational one. To perform well, you need to be the best you can be — physically, emotionally and spiritually. This means taking time for vacations, eating well, exercising and spending time at events and conferences that aren’t necessarily directly related to your business, but that make you a better person.
- Strive to be a leader in the industry:I have no interest in being a follower. I want to build products and a business that are doing something new, exciting and disruptive in an industry, and be the best at it. At Skimlinks, we’ve built the best technology for helping monetize and leverage shopping intent, and we’ve created a network of the best publishers in the world, so we have the most comprehensive data. No one else has combined the affiliate business with the data/insights business in the same way we have, which is why we attract the best publishers.
- Think explicitly about your company culture: Our culture is one of the best things about Skimlinks. We even have a name for it: #skimlove. It’s the way we operate. We lead with love and humanity. We celebrate and support each other. We win business by being good people, not just building good things. We have it in neon letters on our wall. It’s a concept that is very special to the team, and defines how we hire, how we do business, and how we work with each other.
If you polled any of the top women CEOs above, they no doubt would subscribe to these tips whether or not they actually formulated each one as they climbed the corporate ladder. Their success is proof of such sage advice.
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