How Women Can Succeed in Finance - Support One Another
At age 24, I was promoted at a large bank to a sales position held mostly by people twice my age. How did I do it? I took a backward move the year before and accepted a lower-paying job for the opportunity to get this bigger position.
I became an overqualified assistant. However, my bosses knew I wanted to be considered "on deck" should a bigger position become available. They prepared me by saying it could be years before my opportunity. I was young and had the patience to wait it out.
I was probably more surprised than anyone else when a senior sales person left and my boss took me aside and asked me if I thought I was ready to be promoted. After all, I was planning on years in this assistant role and only a year had passed. This boss said he thought I was ready and the job was mine if I wanted it. Excited to find out a boss I respected thought I was ready, I happily accepted the promotion.
I prepared for weeks for my first client meeting, and was enthused about the opportunity to present in front of my biggest client. A senior female relationship manager, who had worked with my predecessor for years, accompanied me on this first call. This relationship manager told me she would lead the meeting, and I should just follow her lead. I smiled and nodded and thanked her again for the opportunity.
The meeting kicked off and one of the first things this woman said to the client was, "Can you believe they stuck me with Buffy over here?" I immediately turned around to see if she was speaking about someone else in the room because surely she was not talking about me. The way she had emphasized "Buffy" assured me she was not stating this as a compliment.
I proceeded through the meeting the best I could, and confronted her afterward. She claimed she was just making a joke, and I countered that she was not only offending me; she was calling my qualifications into question before the client.
I know I was half this woman's age and she may not have liked me for whatever reasons, but she had the opportunity to become my mentor that day and help me through my new career opportunity. Instead, she chose to take the path of pushing me down and making me feel bad about myself.
This was a situation that happened to me, but I know I am not unique. I have heard stories and know plenty of women who choose to make other women the enemy instead of supporting them. It is a choice I will never understand.
After the Buffy incident, I made a point to support other women throughout my career, even if I didn't personally get along with them. I always use the term "The rising tide lifts all ships." When I help others, especially women, I am really helping myself as well. Some of my greatest work relationships were with women who I supported and who supported me in return.
Before you judge or hurt another woman's career, think first how you can help her. If she is young and acts inappropriately, then you should counsel her in a constructive way about appropriate work behaviors. If you mentor her and assist her along her career path, then you give her an opportunity to succeed and you gain an ally in the process.
If you are someone who has been mistreated by another woman in the office, try to speak to her about it constructively and give her tips for how she could have helped you. If she can't be changed, then change yourself and make sure that when you are given the opportunity to be a mentor and role model that you are an inclusive one rather than a divisive one.
The rising tide really does lift all ships and yours will go far if you help other women.