Historically, women have had to fight harder and wait longer to hold the same positions as men — especially up the management ranks.
However, in recent years, many workplaces have become strong advocates for female empowerment by actively working to provide leadership opportunities to businesswomen, and for good reason.
A recent study showed that businesses with women on their leadership teams are more profitable than those without.
Another substantial study conducted by Peakon asked a group of almost 60,000 employees to answer questions directly related to “women-led” and “male-led” management.
The study found that “women-led” companies — those with more than 50% female representation in management — are considered to be better in all aspects of strategy, including mission.
The age of female empowerment is here
I recently spoke to Inger Ellen Nicolaisen, the founder of Nikita Hair — an international hair salon group with 150+ locations across Europe that is expanding throughout the U.S.
In this age of female empowerment, female executives are on the rise, and they are speaking up, equipping others with tips to rise to the top, and Nicolaisen is a key example.
As a teenage mother, she once struggled with homelessness but grew tremendously from that experience. Instead of shutting down or leaving her past behind, she decided to stay put and regain her footing. That mentality, paired with her unwavering positivity, negotiation skills, and fully formed vision, helped catapult her to success — but it didn’t come without challenge.
In order to empower more women to pursue their dreams and professional goals, Nicolaisen shared with me her personal five-step guide that propelled her to leadership.
1. Lead by example.
A position is not something you get — you take it or create it. And, when you take on this new role, you must be hungry from the minute you start.
In addition to being well prepared, says Nicolaisen, do your research on the business, and be confident in your ability to provide solutions on how to improve business operations and the client experience.
Without ignoring a good system in place, show your passion by sharing new ideas on how to approach your pain points. When you work hard and help others, she says, your actions will speak for your character — something any manager is sure to take into consideration when choosing talent for career development.
2. Learn alongside your team.
Nicolaisen notes that you need to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty in every aspect of the business — especially the areas where you aren’t yet an expert.
The more you learn and share with your team, the more of an asset you become. So approach new opportunities like you would an adventure.
“Each experience or project will shape you into a better leader and more knowledgeable team member, so work every angle from exciting short-term opportunities to long-term planning,” shares Nicolaisen.
By challenging yourself to make every work day different, you’re investing in your own professional development, a quality that sets leaders apart from the rest.
3. Embrace your passion.
Forget those who say “emotions aren’t good for the workplace,” or “women are too emotional,” says Nicolaisen. She shares that emotion has the power to drive business and bring real change, and that emotion invites thoughtful discussions and brainstorms amongst team members.
“Embrace your emotional intelligence — when you are able to recognize and understand emotions, you’re able to control and express feelings appropriately, better relate to others’ thoughts and behaviors, and develop empathy, which are the soft skills that open the door to leading successful teams,” says Nicolaisen.
4. Be honest.
Everyone makes mistakes. What differentiates us, as leaders, is how we own up to them. Some may hide until their slipup blows over, others may cast blame. To Nicolaisen, you have to be the one who raises his or her hand and admits a mistake, asks for advice and listens to learn.
She provides an added bonus: “You’re helping to build an honest, accountable workplace that views missteps as an opportunity to learn, which helps push teams and businesses forward. With a mentality that focuses on the goodwill of the company rather than just self-preservation, you’re likely to find yourself in a leadership position.”
5. Be a solution seeker.
To strengthen your leadership capacity, create an environment where team members are encouraged to have open dialog and share ideas. In other words, flip the “we have a problem” mentality to an opportunity to find solutions together.
This gives both you and your team a sense of contribution and responsibility — building an overall culture of accountability that will foster growth and make you trustworthy amongst fellow management.
Bringing it home.
“When you switch your mindset from seeking the perceived power that comes with an executive role, to helping your team to grow, you will rise through the ranks faster,” says Nicolaisen.
Finally, understand the vision of your organization and embody it in everything you do as you rise to the top. And last but not least, have fun!
By Marcel Schwantes
“My biggest mistake is not recognizing the power of compounding and the ability for it to build wealth, and therefore, not investing early enough,” she says. “To me, if there is one thing that can change our society, our economy, and the world, it is getting more money in the hands of women.
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These three questions can not only play a pivotal role in strengthening an organization’s DEI culture; they can also serve as team-building exercise. The process of evaluating one’s understanding of DEI principles promotes open discussions, knowledge sharing, and alignment within the team.