Succeeding as a woman in man’s world Succeeding as a woman in man’s world

Succeeding as a woman in man’s world
21 Sep 2017

I am out and proud – a woman who graduated in mechanical engineering and, from the outset, worked in male-dominated industries ranging from automotive and plastics manufacturing to oil & gas. I practiced as an engineer, became executive chair of a large agricultural company in my native Australia by the age of 32 and semi-retired three years later to become a trainer, coach, and public speaker. My focus is on helping women build a successful career in a man’s world.

So what has been the secret to my success in an area in which so many women struggle?

I could say that it was about being in the right place at the right time or just plain, old luck. But really that was not the case. I worked hard. I also had the goal in mind that one day I would become chief executive (CEO) of a large multinational. Admittedly, I opted to step off the ladder before I got there, preferring instead to travel, volunteer and run my own successful business. But it did provide me with the focus I needed to move my career forward.

At times, it may all have seemed a little haphazard but, in actual practice, it was not. Every step I took enabled me to gain the experience I needed to progress. I always took a strategic view but prided myself in being genuine and open in the relationships I built. I was also open to being coached and mentored and gladly accepted feedback in order to grow as a leader, while still holding on to my own values.

Most importantly, I have always been true to myself. I wanted a career that allowed me to be creative, to help others and to develop myself. As an engineer, I got that – and am still lucky enough to have it.

I know who I am and how I work best. I know my values and what I am willing to do - and just as importantly what I am not.

I am comfortable in my own skin and am, therefore, not afraid to ask questions of others. While that is not to say I haven’t experienced personal doubts, fears, and insecurity, what it means is that I know where they come from and how to manage them. It has been a long journey and, at times, I have hidden myself, my bipolar self, because society dictated it. But I have accepted that no matter what happens, it all helps me to learn and grow as a leader. Most importantly of all, I strongly believe that I have truly succeeded when my replacement is even better than I was.

Scaling the ladder to success

So here are the five rungs that I believe will help you scale the ladder to success:

  1. Know who you are
  2. Understand how you work best
  3. Be aware of how you prefer to communicate and work with others
  4. Look after your own health and well-being
  5. Be clear about your goals and boundaries.

If any of them are missing, you may still be able to get there, but it will be a much harder climb.

Another key reason why I achieved what I did though was because, from the outset, my parents encouraged me to believe I could be anything I wanted to be – and I am an engineer because problem-solving is at the heart of who I am. But their support kept me on track, even when I came up against everyday sexism, prejudice and the belief I should not be doing something simply because I was a woman.

I am also aware that even though my personality is based on lots of traits that are deemed stereotypically male, I am still female. Not ‘one of the boys’, but a real flesh-and-blood woman. In fact, though, I would prefer not to define myself by my gender at all. I am me.

Because it is outdated notions of gender that result in young girls being picked on if they are more interested in cars than putting on makeup and have lots of boys as friends. The end result of these ideas is that too many girls with talent end up changing their career goals so they never reach their full potential or experience the joy of doing something they love.

But while change may come slowly, it can be helped along if we are all open about our experiences and help others understand how they have affected both us and our choices. Only by doing so can we start to move towards a world where people no longer speak in whispers about the ‘new female CEO with the understanding husband’. In the brave, new world to come, it will simply be ‘the new CEO’.

“I know my values and what I am willing to do - and just as importantly what I am not.”

 

Maggie Georgopoulos is a trainer, coach, and speaker, who is a global authority on career development for women in male-dominated industries. She is also the author of ‘Up the Ladder in a Skirt’, which has been hailed as the book for women working in challenging roles around the world.

I am out and proud – a woman who graduated in mechanical engineering and, from the outset, worked in male-dominated industries ranging from automotive and plastics manufacturing to oil & gas. I practiced as an engineer, became executive chair of a large agricultural company in my native Australia by the age of 32 and semi-retired three years later to become a trainer, coach, and public speaker. My focus is on helping women build a successful career in a man’s world.

So what has been the secret to my success in an area in which so many women struggle?

I could say that it was about being in the right place at the right time or just plain, old luck. But really that was not the case. I worked hard. I also had the goal in mind that one day I would become chief executive (CEO) of a large multinational. Admittedly, I opted to step off the ladder before I got there, preferring instead to travel, volunteer and run my own successful business. But it did provide me with the focus I needed to move my career forward.

At times, it may all have seemed a little haphazard but, in actual practice, it was not. Every step I took enabled me to gain the experience I needed to progress. I always took a strategic view but prided myself in being genuine and open in the relationships I built. I was also open to being coached and mentored and gladly accepted feedback in order to grow as a leader, while still holding on to my own values.

Most importantly, I have always been true to myself. I wanted a career that allowed me to be creative, to help others and to develop myself. As an engineer, I got that – and am still lucky enough to have it.

I know who I am and how I work best. I know my values and what I am willing to do - and just as importantly what I am not.

I am comfortable in my own skin and am, therefore, not afraid to ask questions of others. While that is not to say I haven’t experienced personal doubts, fears, and insecurity, what it means is that I know where they come from and how to manage them. It has been a long journey and, at times, I have hidden myself, my bipolar self, because society dictated it. But I have accepted that no matter what happens, it all helps me to learn and grow as a leader. Most importantly of all, I strongly believe that I have truly succeeded when my replacement is even better than I was.

Scaling the ladder to success

So here are the five rungs that I believe will help you scale the ladder to success:

  1. Know who you are
  2. Understand how you work best
  3. Be aware of how you prefer to communicate and work with others
  4. Look after your own health and well-being
  5. Be clear about your goals and boundaries.

If any of them are missing, you may still be able to get there, but it will be a much harder climb.

Another key reason why I achieved what I did though was because, from the outset, my parents encouraged me to believe I could be anything I wanted to be – and I am an engineer because problem-solving is at the heart of who I am. But their support kept me on track, even when I came up against everyday sexism, prejudice and the belief I should not be doing something simply because I was a woman.

I am also aware that even though my personality is based on lots of traits that are deemed stereotypically male, I am still female. Not ‘one of the boys’, but a real flesh-and-blood woman. In fact, though, I would prefer not to define myself by my gender at all. I am me.

Because it is outdated notions of gender that result in young girls being picked on if they are more interested in cars than putting on makeup and have lots of boys as friends. The end result of these ideas is that too many girls with talent end up changing their career goals so they never reach their full potential or experience the joy of doing something they love.

But while change may come slowly, it can be helped along if we are all open about our experiences and help others understand how they have affected both us and our choices. Only by doing so can we start to move towards a world where people no longer speak in whispers about the ‘new female CEO with the understanding husband’. In the brave, new world to come, it will simply be ‘the new CEO’.

“I know my values and what I am willing to do - and just as importantly what I am not.”

 

Maggie Georgopoulos is a trainer, coach, and speaker, who is a global authority on career development for women in male-dominated industries. She is also the author of ‘Up the Ladder in a Skirt’, which has been hailed as the book for women working in challenging roles around the world.

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