5 Rules for Young Women in Business

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5 Rules for Young Women in Business

by Olessia Kantor
Lifestyle Professional Dignity

I subscribed to Fortune Magazine in 1998. Being a woman in business, I keenly and closely watched the Most Powerful Women (MPW) list. I diligently read success stories and any relevant advice for women in business that I could get my hands on. The recent list just blew me away! Women are having a stronger impact on our world than ever before. Women are increasingly visible as corporate leaders, particularly in executive positions. We are working in more industries and more control over the trajectory of our careers. Just as recently as 2009, the women ranking in the “Worlds Most Influential People” list were few and far between, topped by Angela Merkel (#15) and Hilary Clinton (#17), both career politicians. Last year saw seven women making the list: Angela Merkel at #5; Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve at #6; Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil, at #31; Park Guen-Hye, President of South Korea at #46.

The original 1998 list of MPW mostly included members that came from industries with a premium on creativity: advertising, media, and entertainment. The most recent list features a more diverse range of leaders: Mary Barra (CEO of GM), Indira Nooyi (CEO and Chairman of PepsiCo), Ginny Rometty (CEO, Chairman and President of IBM), Marillyn Hewson (CEO, Chairman & President of Lockheed Martin), Ellen Kullman (CEO& Chairman of DuPont) top the list. Then, of course, our heavy hitters: Angela Merkel, Christine Lagarde, Janet Yellen, and Hilary Clinton.

Amidst the recent domestic violence scandals plaguing NFL athletes, the league thought it best to hire females to the staff managing these scandals, hoping to save the reputation of the family-oriented sports organization. These women are absolute rule breakers, shattering stereotypes and in many cases pioneers; they lead not only in business but also help redefine women's roles in the industry. They empower the younger generation of women to step up.

I remember starting out in the diamond industry. I was totally isolated in an industry that was predominantly owned and run by Orthodox Jews. I remember waiting, all nerves, at a door of an elevator. When the doors opened and I saw the blank stares from the chauvinistic men in attendance, I knew I couldn't get in. They thrived on their rules and women were absolutely not part of their game. Perhaps if I were to concede to a role of a secretary…otherwise, this was a boys’ only club.

Looking back I want to give some advice to all women who are just starting their professional careers:

  1. You Are Enough.

    You will face inequality in business every single day, learn to expect this. Become professional. Be the first one in the morning and the last one to leave, take the fewest vacations and the least time away from the desk to go to the bathroom or have lunch. Be determined and brave, you will attain your goal.
  2. Value Your Dignity.

    Remember, this is a man’s world, (as James Brown soulfully reminds us “…but it wouldn’t be nothing, without a woman or a girl…”) and if you want to become a professional asset, never become a topic of gossips, rumors or scandals. I have worked with men my whole life, they talk about absolutely everything and nothing is off limits. Do not become a topic outside the office. Keep your woman’s prowess, seduction and flirtations out of your career. This has been the downfall of so many women, who assume that discretion is a mutual unspoken agreement. Work harder, work smarter and keep the business separate from your personal life. That is the only way to be recognized as an equal.
  3. Hire Competent Help. 

    When it comes to parenting, hire a nanny. Don't feel guilty. At least one day a week create time when you are with your family WITHOUT the telephone, internet - any distractions. Devote yourself to your family as much as you do your career. Check in and make sure everyone is happy and feels valued, from your parents to your spouse and children. This is the price to expect: the harder and more devoted you are to your career, the more resentful and expectant your family and friends will be. Do not look to them to value or validate your work. They won’t. In truth, they will see this time as a small compensation for you abdicating your stereotypical gender role as a home maker, and for all the time you are not around.
  4. Never Stop Learning.

    I'd like to think this one speaks for itself. 
  5. Be Bigger Than Your Frustrations, Obstacles Or Glass Ceilings. Find The Opportunities Tangled Up In The Chaos.

    Arthur Schopenhauer put it best: “I have not yet spoken my last word about women. I believe that if a woman succeeds in withdrawing from the mass, or rather raising herself from above the mass, she grows ceaselessly and more than a man.” Short-term struggle for long-term satisfaction is more rewarding than instant gratification every time. I have been there, and you will get through.