Since 1928 Business and Professional Women/USA has sponsored National Business Women’s Week®. Each year during the third week of October, BPW/USA’s members across the country take the opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the accomplishments of working women everywhere. (And there are certainly a lot of us to honor and even more accomplishments to consider!)
The objectives of National Business Women’s Week® are:
- To promote full participation and equity for women in the workplace;
- To publicize the achievements of business and professional women on the local, state and national level;
- To publicize the objectives and programs of BPW/USA as they relate to the millions of business and professional women across the country.
I have been a working “woman” since the age of 14. My first job was as a server at Grandma’s Biscuits (not the most upscale restaurant) located just outside of Atlanta. If only I knew then what I know now! Perhaps, I could have helped the leader of Grandma’s Biscuits figure out exactly what business they were in and why, which markets to serve, how to do it well and how to hire and keep the best employees to make it all work. Instead, I showed up, did what I was told and was often confused by the changing rules and priorities. As you might imagine, Grandma’s Biscuits did not end up making it as a business.
Over the next few years, I went on to hold many different roles in numerous organizations. For a long time, my parents assumed that I could not keep a job. And although that was partly accurate, I have truly enjoyed all of my work adventures and I’ve learned something of value from all of them. Conversely, I’ve also learned a lot about the challenges of being a woman at work.
At first, I proudly wore my man-woman suits. You know, the grey box cut with small silk bow tied around the neck? I carried a man-woman briefcase and hung out with the guys. Eventually, as my career began to take shape, I grew to be more comfortable being a woman at work – actually wearing colors and more feminine attire. Now, I even use cooking metaphors sometimes when making a point – in addition to all those sports ones I have managed to compile over the years. A sort of equilibrium between being a woman and being a professional with the ability to assert myself with my male counterparts was eventually achieved. Through the course of my professional journey, I’ve learned a few lessons about being a woman at work and thought now would be the appropriate time to share them with you:
- Speak Up – More importantly, don’t be afraid to be heard. Just know that sometimes women have to do it louder and more often to truly make an impact.
- Be a Mentor to Other Women – Early in life we are taught to constantly compete against other girls but as women we simply need to push past those limiting beliefs and learn to share our knowledge with others. By teaching other women, we grow stronger as a force in the business world.
- Learn From Those Who’ve Come Before You – choose a female Role Model in your field or profession (they are out there) and learn from them. Ask questions, find out about the challenges and successes they’ve experienced on their own path to success.
- Participate – Get in the game because you’ll never advance by sitting and cheering from the sidelines. And don’t worry; you can join in without being “one of the guys.”
- Confidence is Key! – Make sure that you take the time to get comfortable with yourself, your role, your expertise and your value. This way, you can identify any weaknesses or areas where you might need to improve.
- Don’t Stop – We all face challenges but it’s important that you never blame failures or setbacks on being a woman in a man’s world. Instead, look for the things you can address and take it from there!
It is my sincere hope (whether you happen to be a man or a woman) that you’ll take a moment during this National Business Women’s Week to acknowledge some of the important women in your life! We’ve come a long way and the road ahead looks good!