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Nexford University has a mission: To enable greater social and economic mobility across the world by providing women access to high-quality, affordable, dynamic online education. This education will prepare them for a global workplace that celebrates diversity.
Nexford’s learners hail from almost 50 countries. They include ambitious women such as Faith Alfa, a current MBA student who is based in Nigeria. Faith was awarded Nexford’s Women in Business Equal Pay Scholarship.
“The fact that the scholarship was about women means that Nexford is interested in the development of women in business. That’s important to me,” Faith notes. Faith wants to become an “inspiration to other women so that they can aspire to be more.”
Faith learns alongside other women. For instance, there is Luibov Ilina in Germany, who wants to be a neurosurgeon and an entrepreneur. Luibov is studying in Nexford’s Bachelor of Business Administration course.
She says, “I have a startup project, but I realized that I lacked business knowledge. I didn’t know how to find investors or how to manage finance.” She continues, “But I understand it’s a powerful tool that I have to use if I’m going to be a businesswoman.”
1. Network with Other Women
Dr. Debbie Wilson, Faculty Chair of Business Programs
“Networking in any industry is important, especially in today’s job market,” says Dr. Debbie Wilson. “However, for women, networking is sometimes the only way to gain admission or acceptance into specific industries.
“Networking among women has grown exponentially over the past decade. Moreover, it has given rise to female-only networking groups. Not only do these groups offer advice on moving up the corporate ladder but also offer support on topics such as asking for flexible hours to care for young children or aging parents, and how to discuss salary increases.
“They also often include motivational and uplifting stories from others who have faced similar challenges or roadblocks. My advice would be that when deciding which networks to join, do a little research and make sure the network offers open communication while also maintaining professionalism.”
2. Women Use Compassion to Deliver Results
Lileth Gonzales, Assistant Professor
“It is a bit of a generalization to say that women are more compassionate by nature than men, but research shows this to be true, says Lileth Gonzales, assistant professor at Nexford.
She continues, “The University of Cambridge carried out a study and found that, on average, women have a greater ability to recognize what another person is thinking or feeling. However, being compassionate can be a double-edged sword in the workplace. Some may take advantage of you for your compassion, while others may be inspired by it and support you in your actions.
“What really matters is that you are always genuine when expressing compassion. Take the time to understand where your team members are coming from, care for them, and show them genuine concern.
“You should also look at their circumstances and do your best to take that into consideration when deciding on an action plan for your team. Show them that you are not just concerned about your personal or company goals, but also about theirs. Let your actions show that success is not just about your leadership, but about the team’s overall success in the company.”
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3. Give Praise and Recognition in the Workplace
Lori Ellingford, Learning Experience Designer
“Praising others does not diminish your own value and competency,” says Lor Ellingford. “Nor does it make you any less of a leader or signal weakness. Regular recognition of skills and achievements builds morale and dedication in your team members.
“Meanwhile, it also reinforces the actions you want continued. Employees who feel valued through recognition are willing to go the extra mile. They will help out in a pinch and are less likely to leave.”
According to KPMG Women’s Leadership Study, more than half (53%) of working women say receiving praise influences their perceptions of themselves the most. In other words, support and feedback is important for women’s self-esteem and confidence.
4. Practice Gender-Neutral Recruitment
Beth Tello, Human Resources Manager
“Hire people based on skills and competencies, never gender,” states Beth Tello. She goes on to say, “Recruiters need to be aware of unconscious bias. These are subconscious processes that affect our decision-making.”
There are four areas in recruitment where you can practice gender-neutral recruitment, according to Beth. She says:
- Write job ads in an unbiased way. For jobs where we offer flexible work arrangements, we need this to be really clear so that women who have young families are more likely to apply.
- Practice “blind recruitment” where you mask a candidate’s name, age, and gender when assessing their applications. Then, hire based on the candidate’s skills and competencies.
- Use objective assessments and score cards to determine whether a candidate is qualified or not.
- Conduct a job evaluation by looking at the rankings and hierarchy of jobs within your organization.
A report from Recruit Smarter highlights studies that show how the language used to recruit can influence whether the role will appeal to men or women. This affects the gender split of applicants. For example, certain turns of phrase can deter women from applying for some roles by implying that the job is male-dominated. Of course, the reverse is also true.
5. Adjust Your Mindset and Believe in Your Purpose
Dr. Robin Johnston, VP of Academic Innovation
“As women,” says Dr. Robin Johnston, “we need to believe in ourselves and nurture self-care. The biggest challenge with this is mindset,” says Dr. Robin Johnston.
“Adjusting our mindset means getting over the fears and doubts that we may have been conditioned to,” she continues. “These are the same fears and doubts that told us not to dream about becoming a successful career woman, business leader or politician.
“To succeed, we need to learn to truly let go of this mindset and fully believe in ourselves, and even more importantly, our purpose. When women leaders anchor their development of self in purpose, rather than in position or perception, this often increases their motivation.”
This was reiterated in a 2013 cover story for the Harvard Business Review, “Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers.” In that article, authors Herminia Ibarra, Robin J. Ely, and Deborah M. Kolb argue that “effective leaders develop a sense of purpose by pursuing goals that align with their personal values and advance the collective good.”
6. Your Network Is Your Net Worth
Olamidun Majekodunmi, Country Manager
“I’ve learned from experience that for female leaders,” says Olamidun Majekodunmi, “your network of peers is the real treasure as you progress in your career. Be it through men, women, or seniors, essentially, it’s all about leaning on your network when you need key advice or want to get something done. Arguably, it’s relationships that open doors.
“Yes, people at the top are great. But never underestimate the power of your peers. Your classmates, colleagues, and friends are all part of an ecosystem to help you grow. They are the strongest relationships in your network. Reach out to peers from different industries with contrasting skills, talents, and walks of life. This will support you throughout your upward career journey.”
7. Perception Is Empowering
Kerry Conlan, Writing Coach
“Why is self-confidence at the pinnacle of self-destruction?” asks Kerry Conlan, writing coach at Nexford University. “Is it because women try to reach the summit of perfection with everything they do? If yes, they cannot succumb to the idealistic notion that what they do is good enough.
“If this were true, then why are women so hard on themselves? Why do they feel the need to strive for perfection, even with the most ordinary things in their lives? I believe it all has to do with how women perceive themselves.
“Perception is empowering. We are what we tell ourselves, and we appear to others in the ways we present ourselves. It is time to put the self-empowering mantras on repeat until we no longer need to hear them because we truly believe them.”
A recent study from psychological scientists Natalia Karelaia of INSEAD and Laura Guillén of the European School of Management and Technology found that female leaders could benefit from holding positive perceptions of themselves. For example, their study states that positive personal perception “resulted in favorable psychological and motivational consequences.”
8. Women Should Learn to Take Subjective Feedback with a Grain of Salt
Victoria Rusnac, Marketing Director
“During your career, you’ll get a lot of subjective feedback,” says Victoria Rusnac of Nexford University. “For example, people will tell you your voice is not loud enough, you are too bossy or bitchy, you are too nice and not authoritative enough, or you have unpopular opinions.
“What I always try to remember is that feedback is a subjective interpretation based on the views of the person who gives feedback. Therefore, feedback allows you to learn how other people think and how you project yourself. So, work on the feedback that hurts you the most and make small adjustments while maintaining your authenticity. It is all about developing your toolkit rather than changing who you are.”
In fact, subjective feedback in the workplace is common. Paola Cecchi-Dimeglio writes on gender bias in the Harvard Business Review. She writes: “One of my findings, using content analysis of individual annual performance reviews, shows that women were 1.4 times more likely to receive critical subjective feedback (as opposed to either positive feedback or critical objective feedback).
“That’s because annual evaluations are often subjective. This opens the door to gender bias. For example, an evaluation might state, ‘Tom is more comfortable and independent than Carolyn in handling the client’s concerns.’
“Then, too, there is confirmation bias. As in, ‘I knew she’d struggle with that project.’ These are only two of many examples.”
Join Other Women in Celebrating Diversity
So, there you have it. Put these tips from Nexford’s women leaders to work in your life and in your business.
Additionally, join us in celebrating diversity and sharing inspiration from individuals and collectives. Discover more at Nexford University.
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