The Top Ten Lessons I Learned About Becoming a Woman of Influence

By Sarai Cruz

Despite role models from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to UN Ambassador Susan Rice, many women continue to lack confidence in the workplace. Years of discrimination may have something to do with it, but it’s also a tendency for young women, in particular, to lack self-confidence and assertiveness.

That was a perspective shared at Becoming a Woman of Influence, a workshop held March 20 at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications.

The workshop brought together accomplished women (all Florida alumni), including Gale King, SVP and chief administrative officer, Nationwide Insurance; Samantha Avivi, global marketing director, Kimberly-Clark; Katherine Green, former SVP of news, Tribune Broadcasting; Mindy Marques Gonzalez, executive editor and VP for news, Miami Herald; and Leigh Radford, vice president, Procter & Gamble.

|A Storify summary of the BWI event is available here.|

Here are the top ten lessons I learned about becoming a woman of influence:

1. In order to influence, people have to trust you.

How can someone take your leadership or opinion seriously, if they do not trust or respect you? Gale King said that you can build this trust by having your values and integrity set and knowing what you stand for. Build your trustworthiness and reliability with those around you. Katherine Green reinforced this lesson by emphasizing the importance of respect between coworkers and ultimately “staying out of the mud.” Stay out of workplace gossip, which will eventually ruin your credibility.

(From l to r) UFCJC Multimedia News Manager Bridget Grogan moderates a panel with Mindy Marquez Gonzalez, Leigh Radford, Samantha Avivi, Katherine Green and Gale King

2. Stop saying “I’m sorry.”

“How many of you in the last week or so, have either said or written an email that included the words ‘I’m sorry’?” Green asked attendees.
With the majority of the hands in the room going up, Green proved the point that women constantly apologize. Green said this happens because women externalize their failures and internalize their successes, while men externalize their success and internalize their failures. It is nature, she said, but we can stop that behavior by changing the way we word things.
“You need to learn to say it in a different way. Say ‘Got this report done. It could’ve been a little longer if I had some more time. Would you like me to put some more into it?’” Green said.

3. Having influence is not about the title or the power, but changing the world in a positive way.

King stated that early on in her career, she focused what she could do for herself. Over time, she learned that she had the power to affect others positively and that was more satisfying. We have to remember that having influence is not about you and what you have; it is about influencing the world and making it a better place. As women of influence, we have the capacity and voice to impact social issues, politics, companies and family life.

4. Ask for what you want.

When you don’t ask, you don’t get, Leigh Radford said. Women usually have this problem when it comes to negotiating salaries and promotions. We have to be assertive and get the things that we know are right for us. During the panel, Mindy Marques shared the anecdote of when her boss asked her what her dream job in the company would be and she said Managing Editor, the number two job at the paper. She was then reminded that women don’t go “for the jugular.”

5. Believe in you.

It is important to believe in yourself and have self confidence because if you don’t, no one will. Remember you are your own biggest advocate and the only person in the world who can truly tell the world that you matter. Panelists emphasized that we may not start off having self-confidence, but you should fake it till you have it. Wake up every morning and practice it until you reach a point where you believe it.

6. Know you are always being watched and heard.

You can’t decide how people will view you, but you can decide how you want them to view you. You have to know that the way you act and the things you say preach your personal brand. King reminded us that we must be positive and an optimist because no one wants to be around a Debby Downer, much less listen to them. Remember that leaders look for people who are bringing a positive attitude into the workplace.

7. Understand the culture and the politics.

You have to know the culture and politics of the work environment you are in. Also know whether or not it works for you. You can learn about the culture when you do more listening than talking. Knowing the culture and the environment you are in can also help you decide whether or not it is time to move on to your next career move.

8. Relationships matter.

To be influential, you have to have good relationships with your employees and peers. People will respond to how you make them feel. Relationships and networks are critical to your success. Mentors, both formal and informal, are important and helpful to your personal and professional life. Relationships and networks are helpful when the sun is shiny and come in handy when it’s not, King said.

|Another perspective on the event was published on Elite Daily by UFCJC student Katie Campbell|

9. Be self-aware and adaptable.

Always be open to both positive and negative feedback because this allows you to be aware of your outer persona and what you need to work on. In life, you have to keep working on bettering yourself as a person and employee. If you know what you need to work on, you have the power over your personal brand.

10. To succeed in a man’s world, know about men but also embrace feminine power.

Even though women have made a lot of progress in the last 50 years, we are still living and working in a man’s world. So how do women succeed? By understanding man-speak and behaviors and not letting it get in your way. Also embrace the qualities that make us uniquely women. Samantha Avivi said that women bring a lot to the table and we need to be true to ourselves.
Ultimately, remember to be really good at what you do and become indispensable to a company because that company will want to keep you regardless of who you are and regardless of your gender.

Sarai Cruz currently attends the University of Florida where she studies public relations with a concentration in women’s studies. She is a proud Latina from Miami, Fla., who is obsessed with social media and pop culture. She can be reached at @_saraicruz.

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