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Career advice from girl bosses we love

Girl boss holding coffee cup with hand on hip on empowering pink background

Happy Monday, Feministas! Today we'd like to interrupt our regular scheduled programming to share what we think is some pretty stellar feminist career advice from some of the most powerful women working today. Because let's face it, work can be wonderful, but it can also be a major slog and sometimes all it takes is a little inspiration from the greats to either get your head in the game or to motivate you to make a change.

So whether you’re fixing to go full c-suite or just get the respect you deserve, these women have seen a thing or two and, in full feminist fashion, have shared some tips to empower other women on the come-up. And we’re not talking about a specific brand of green tea or transcendental meditation. Just good old-fashion career advice by and for feminist women on their grind. Let's do this: 


1. Don’t feel the need to imitate men

- Marjorie Kaplan, Group President of the Animal Planet, Science & Velocity Networks

She was one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business for her work in turning around a plummeting Animal Planet back in 2012. Since, she’s taken the network as well as a few others to new heights, but had some trouble finding inspiration as she rose to power in a male-dominated industry:

“When I was coming up, all I had were male CEOs to gauge what a CEO was. At a certain point, I just had to abandon all that because I didn’t relate… It’s women leaders I’m most inspired by right now — I just wish there were more of them.”

She credits women with one of the more important lessons she’s learned in her career as well: “kindness [is] not the opposite of ambition and drive. It’s powerful to choose to be nice.” We love this feminist career advice. Men may hold a majority of the power (for now!), but that doesn’t mean they’re the gold standard for how to lead or accomplish things. No two women work the same way by any means, but some of those classic feminine super powers like empathy, a willingness to share and collaborate, and even simple kindness are qualities to own, not hide. 


2. There’s always a price, so pick yours

- Venus Williams, Founder & CEO of EleVen

Venus Williams knows a thing or two about success. And since her tennis stardom, she’s made a successful transition into fashion design with her own activewear brand, EleVen. When she spoke with Fast Company about how sports influences her mindset in business, she shared this bit of wisdom: 

“There's always a price. If you decide not to put in the work, there's a price. You won't succeed or get to the level you possibly could. If you do put in the work, there will be sacrifice there too — your time or your sleep or your peace of mind. There's always a price and you have to pay it."

With that in mind, she reminds us that we have the power to choose. Either we put in the work and get what we want, or we don’t. Just don’t be surprised when you get overlooked for someone else at the next opportunity. As far as feminist career advice goes, this is as practical as it gets, but that’s the kind of thing that becomes clear when the stakes are high and you know what’s it’s like to win and lose. 

3. Networking sucks, but community doesn’t

- Cecile Richards, former President of Planned Parenthood 

Ahhh, networking. A truly polarizing topic. Some people thrive on the energy of shop talk and would willingly happy hour (yes, we just used that as a verb) every day of the week. Others go to work each day with an arsenal of excuses lined up just on the off-chance they receive an invite (sorry, I have to feed my sister’s neighbor’s parakeet). Whoever you are, we pass no judgement, but the way we see it, two opposing truths have emerged on the subject: 

  1. networking gets a bad wrap – we’ve all met our fair share of sleazy folk with fat contact lists and one too many favors to ask 
  2. it’s actually really nice to have a support system in your industry

So what do we do? Cecile Richards thinks we all ought to build ourselves a little girl gang, and to do it with sincere intentions:  

“I think what is happening is more taking joy in the success of other women, realizing there's enough room for more than one of us in each of these endeavors. In fact, the more of us there are, the better it's going to be for everybody.” So whether it’s at your existing job, in your industry, or in your day-to-day life, if you can build yourself a band of sisters, commiserate and lift each other up, the possibilities are endless. 


4. You have to stand out to move up

- Leigh Gallagher, Director of External Affairs at Google

If you’ve been lucky in life, you may have experienced the dream—you’ve worked hard and someone has noticed without you having to say a damn thing. Maybe this led to some feel-good praise, maybe even a new career or life opportunity. Good on you, lady. 

The sad truth, though, is that so much hard work goes unrecognized, especially as you progress in your career. Leigh Gallagher, one of Google’s most powerful women has this advice: you have to learn to self-promote and assert yourself, even when it’s uncomfortable.

“You mustn't expect someone to point to you and say: 'we would like to give you a pay raise and a promotion.’ You need to raise your hand and say: 'Look at me.' It's not everyone's instinct to do that, but you're doing yourself a huge disservice if you don't.”

There’s so much research out there on imposter syndrome and how women lack confidence despite their many skills and qualifications. Let’s all use this as a reminder to behave at work like we’re white men on Wall Street (we’re kidding, but only kind of). You are magical, know your worth!


5. Setbacks happen, perfection doesn’t exist

- Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief at Vogue

You’ve heard it before. So many women pass up job opportunities because they think they’re not qualified. But even once you’ve landed a job you want, it’s all too easy to forget that everybody makes mistakes—truly, they do!—and absolute job security does not exist. And that shouldn’t scare you. 

Fashion icon and all-around boss chick, Anna Wintour—you know, the one with the bob and the sunglasses—has famously said that “everyone should get sacked at least once. It forces you to look at yourself.” And she’s not just blowing smoke. Over thirty years ago, she was fired from her Junior Fashion Editor job at Harpers Bazaar because her boss didn’t like her style, and she now refers to that moment as her lucky break.

So many women consider themselves perfectionists and have a very low tolerance for their own personal failures. But keeping in mind that you can’t predict the future and, yes, some things are simply out of your control, can take the edge off those unexpected twists that life inevitably throws at you. Easier said than done, but it’s good advice all the same :)


6. Ditch the path and just do

- Tina Roth Eisenberg, Entrepreneur & Founder of Creative Mornings, Tattly and TeuxDeux

Tina Roth Eisenberg is the perfect example of someone who makes it up as she goes and kicks ass every step of the way. She encounters problems in life and drops everything to solve them. When she moved to NYC in 1999 and felt like a lonely designer, she started CreativeMornings, so she could make some friends and build community.

When she wanted a simple to-do list app to help her check off the things she did throughout the day and couldn’t find one she liked, she started TeuxDeux, the best to-do app of 2010 according to Fast Company. When her daughter returned from a birthday party with a temp tat she hated, she started Tattly, which now partners with hundreds of designers on fun temporary tattoos for kids and adults alike. 

On her design blog, she shares this career advice: stop acting like you have a set path. No one does. Just DO.

Be a boss and share the wealth

Digging on all this feminist career advice? You know what to do. Empowered women empower women, don’t they? Share what you’ve learned with women you care about, and start that girl gang Cecile Richards was talking about. 

Oh, and sign up for The F Word and get more of the good-good each week, straight to your increasingly feminist inbox. Talk soon, ladies.

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