Recently I attended an annual luncheon to celebrate International Women’s Day organized by the local Chamber of Commerce, featuring an annual recipient of the Woman of the Year Award, and keynote address. This event draws a few hundred women from business and social services communities in the region and is a valuable way to connect, and re-connect with many of my network. That’s why I make it a point to attend this particular event annually… it’s like one-stop shopping to catch up with people and say hello.
Each year’s award recipient and keynote offer something different. Some resonate more with me than others. This year’s Woman of the Year, Rosemary Hale, I’m proud to know personally and work with currently on a committee. Her speech drove home a mutual passion we share, but also talked about her many years as an educator, and her fascinating “story”. Part of that story was being named the first female dean at Brock University (Dean of Humanities), a position she accepted and held for years, breaking ground on projects that have come to change the face of the city we call home. A position she was granted because of the respect she garnered from her colleagues, and her superiors.
Keynote address followed by Hamilton-native and past-President of Lakeport Brewery Teresa Cascioli, who sold the company for $201 million. Among other things, her current passion project is promoting financial literacy in kids from 5 years old, and has written a series of books to help parents and educators do that. Her keynote spoke about her experience as the President of a brewery and how she took it from bankruptcy to 15% market share and buy-out from a competitor for $201M. She too shared her fascinating “story”, but also drove home valuable points as a woman in leadership in a male-dominated business.
One of those points is something I’ve lived and breathed my entire 15 year career in financial services, which is to avoid playing the “woman” card. Earn the respect of your peers by being prepared, knowledgeable, and professional. She said a few times in her address that her male peers didn’t view her as a woman. I went through the same experience – where you’re not viewed as the female colleague, but rather a colleague, an equal. I’ve seen over the years women try to use their sex (or just sex in general) to accomplish more, or manipulate scenarios to get further ahead, when if they had simply shown up, earned the respect of their colleagues, and acted in a professional manner they would have gained more stride.
Respect was something that both of those women had in their careers, and is something that women in any type of business should strive to earn from their community.
What is respect, and how do we earn it as a small business owner?
In this social media savvy world, respect and more importantly self-respect is fleeting I fear. Too often are we seeing women “putting themselves out there” with the intention that if they’re themselves (ALL of themselves) in a mass public forum, that will somehow earn them the respect of their colleagues and community. That letting the world into the mundane of their everyday lives, or the most personal aspects of their “stories”, will garner them respect. It may backfire. The idea that any media attention is good for business and using social media as self-generated media attention (a la Kardashian practices) may get people talking about you and what you’re doing, but isn’t earning you any respect.
The two women, Rosemary Hale and Teresa Cascioli achieved by working hard, setting goals, having drive and ambition, and earning the respect of those in their communities and industry.
As you move forward each day, building your business empires, think about what you want your “story” to be when you’re accepting the Woman of the Year Award, or giving a keynote address about your life and business.
Will you be able to say you achieved without playing a “card” to get you further ahead or as an excuse why you’re not?
Can you be a leader at that table and no one notice or comment that you’re a woman, but rather a knowledgeable person in business?
What do you feel you’re doing every day to earn the respect of those around you, in business, in friendships, in your community?