If a photograph is worth a thousand words, seeing the Fearless Girl statue bravely facing off against the powerful and iconic Wall Street Bull certainly doesn’t disappoint. When I first saw this photo, it immediately brought several powerful words to mind.
Fierce. Strong. Empowered. Determined.
Seeing her inner strength as a confident youngster was very personal to me. I grew up on a working farm and when my dad died when I was 6, it was incredibly hard on me, my two teenage sisters and my young 38 year old mother.
As a single parent, Mom had to be tough to make the family work – raising 3 daughters who all became college educated, independent, strong and successful women. As challenges arose in each of our lives, we channeled our mom’s strength and work ethic to overcome those difficulties. We were individual matadors gracefully facing down our own individual bulls!
My Experience in Finance
Eventually my path led to the Financial Services industry, and while it’s very exciting, dynamic and fast-paced, it’s also incredibly male-dominated. Women make up 51% of the US population, yet they only make up 20% of financial boards and 16% of executive committees. (source) Those numbers continue to move in the right direction, albeit at a snail’s pace.
Just as the Fearless Girl is facing down challenges, I too have overcome many of my own.
As a woman, sometimes you have to make conscious and deliberate choice to make your voice heard, prove yourself and show that you have what it takes and that you’re not “just the girl” in the room. Outspoken males with strong wills and opinions are often valued, while females with the same approach are typically viewed negatively. Once you conclude your individual point of view is just as valuable, that’s very empowering!
In fact, I can’t begin to describe the unexpected shock value when they realize that you’re not just the pretty face in the room and that you actually know what you’re talking about. The look on their faces when you know you’ve surprised the other seats at the table with your expertise is simply priceless!
To prove that perseverance wins out, I was recognized at a very senior level event, and a client of mine pointed out I had a seat at the “big boys table.” Eventually that table will have a different name, but for now I’ll proudly claim that seat!
Advice for Young Professional Women
As I reflect on decades of a successful career while overcoming trials and tribulations, here are tips I want to pass along to any young woman entering a career in any industry:
- A thoughtful, non-emotional and informed perspective will get you everywhere.
- Read and educate yourself – don’t allow yourself to be outdated on your knowledge because you will be left behind and passed over.
- Find champions outside the board room and build relationships to be your advocate inside the boardroom.
- Be succinct, bring your ideas, check your emotions and do not allow yourself to not be heard or talked over.
Honestly, after being laid off two times throughout my career, I eventually realized you have to either get back up and dust yourself off or just plain fold. As they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!
Consider those moments to be a test of your character. How the world challenges you in moments of difficulty gives you an opportunity to see what you’re made of. I bet you’ll be surprised by the amazing resilience you can conjure up when the chips are down. You’ll also find lots of supportive women and men that are rooting for your success.
From one fearless girl to all the others, you’ve got this. Stay strong!
Photo credit: Mark Lennihan/Associated Press