Women Are Breaking Down the Barrier; Here's How

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Amy Jo Martin discusses the early findings of her new study and shares the emerging characteristics of  women who are at the top of their industry. See her speak at tomorrow's City Meetup in Las Vegas.

The rise of women is not the downfall of men. Women are one of the most valuable resources in the world. Currently, our society is using far less than half of our intellectual capital and we have many problems to solve, beyond the business world. This isn’t necessarily about feminism or equality; it’s about evolving as a society, global growth and equal contribution.

After navigating through the last decade as a (fairly) young female in a male dominated industry – called business – I realize there is more to this conversation and it’s my responsibility to help surface the topic and encourage more conversation.

Women Are Breaking Through the Barrier

Countless research studies have been done which prove that women are not equal to men when it comes to salary levels, job placement, startup funding and even decision-making in society. However, some women ARE still able to breakthrough.

We’ve all witnessed them. From high-powered CEOs or COOs (Sheryl Sandberg?) to entrepreneurs in your own town to the Olympians, politicians, journalists and other influential women you’ve encountered.

What is it about these women? We need to focus on their formula. What are the common denominators among certain women that allow them to experience hockey stick growth when it comes to their levels of influence and impact? If we can identify them then we can replicate them and therefore accelerate the process of women breaking through.

Replicating the Formula

I’m in the initial stages of conducting a study among all types of women who have soared. Interviewing major corporate executives that we all see in the headlines to small business female entrepreneurs in our local communities and then professional female athletes and artists, recognized globally. I figure that together we can identify how some women have been able to soar and what other women need to know in order to replicate the formula.

The concept of this study was sparked by curiosity. I’ve never considered myself a feminist and I think I’m of the generation that was a bit turned off by activists. I’d never thought of myself any different - any better or worse. I’m on a mission to help accelerate the process of women breaking through.

And how do we define “breaking through”? That’s one of the biggest questions of all. Is there a happiness quotient within this formula? Likely. Lots of answers yet to be discovered.

The Emerging Characteristics of Influential Women

The goal is that this quantitative and qualitative research will expose common characteristics that women who have broken through have. Eventually, those characteristics can be shared and taught so we can accelerate the process of women breaking through.

Throughout the interview process, I have identified some early, emerging characteristics that women who are breaking through have:

Competitive – Not the nasty stereotype of “I win, you lose.” Instead, a sense of group competitiveness is present in these women. They’ve built a solid cohesive team that is competitive in cohesion. They are not afraid to fail and in most cases their philosophy of leadership is to lead by consensus versus dictatorship. There’s a difference between playing not to lose and playing to win. These women are on the offensive side.

Confidence – These women know how to gracefully take a compliment. Rather than getting uncomfortable and shy when someone compliments them or their work they own it with class as if it’s matter of fact (because it actually is). “If we believe we’re inferior, we will be,” is what they believe. There seems to be a fine, yet distinct, line between insecurity and humility. They are comfortable with celebrating not only their accomplishments but also themselves.

Coachable – They crave constructive criticism. Critiques go hand in hand with being coachable. Women who have broken through seek feedback on their performance because they know that this is one key path to improvement. They thrive when they experience these “learning moments” of humility and self-reflection, which is necessary for growth. Some people call it thick skin, they call it a unique opportunity to leap forward.

Fearless – Have a strong affinity to taking risks and fear less than most people do because they’ve witnessed the upside. Failure is a part of the game and it is welcomed because lessons can be applied to the gain the next win. There’s no fear of failure. Freedom to these women means living a life of fearlessness.

A few other emerging trends I’m noticing are that these women don’t believe that just because you’re a woman you’re handicapped. It never occurred to them that they’re any different or less capable than men. Simply wasn’t in their mindset. In fact, many of these women realize it is important for men to mentor them.

Also, I’m noticing that when you tell these women “no” it’s motivation to them. You’re adding fuel to their fire if you tell them they can’t do something or they’re not capable regardless of their gender, race or age. They simply dismiss those factors and instead of taking time to acknowledge the absurd notion they use the nonsense as motivation to run laps around those who suggest the idea.

I’m currently seeking a research partner to help me with the quantitative portion of the research study. A senior scientist of sorts. Know of anyone? Please email me at amy [at] thedigitalroyalty [dot com].

See Amy Jo speak at Women 2.0 City Meetup Las Vegas on Thursday, May 1st.

Photo from BiblioArchives / Library Archives via flickr. 


About the guest blogger: Amy Jo founded Digital Royalty to help companies, celebrities, professional sports leagues, teams and athletes build, measure and monetize their digital universe. In 2012, Amy Jo published the New York Times Bestseller, Renegades Write the Rules. She travels the world to speak about the latest trends in social media, how to monetize various social platforms, and how to successfully build a personal brand by utilizing social media. Amy is also a regular contributor to news outlets including the Harvard Business Review and Sports Business Journal.