In the Facebook Live discussion “Empowering Women Leaders,” hosts Regina Honu, a 2014 Mandela Washington Fellow from Ghana; Nasera Victoria, a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow from South Sudan, and Sally Helgesen, an American author and leadership coach, shared their advice on management, career growth and personal development. The discussion, streamed across the globe, brought to light the following terms that describe successful female leaders.
“Women are natural project managers,” Nasera said, referencing her work with female entrepreneurs. “They have sound business ideas.”
Regina echoed this, explaining that young women, especially in job interviews, underplay their skills. She said they need to highlight the unique talents that they bring to the workplace.
“In a job interview, be clear about the value you bring to an organization,” Regina advised. “Go in confidently and don’t be afraid to ask for higher pay, no matter how generous an initial offer sounds.”
In addition to knowing their worth, female leaders are inspired by a calling larger than themselves, Regina explained.
“Don’t think about what anyone else is doing. Start by looking at your community and the needs that they have,” Regina said. “Then think about how you and your skills come into play.”
“Leadership isn’t a position,” Sally said. “It’s a desire to enact something, to make a specific contribution to the community and to the world.”
When Nasera wanted to create a women’s soccer league in South Sudan, she was met with criticism and sarcasm in equal measure.
“How do you convince a male-dominated field to accept women?” Nasera asked. “It started with one game, and then another. Soon we had two national teams participating in international games.”
“Every challenge can be turned into a possibility as long as you are determined to change it,” Nasera said.
In Sally’s view, leadership hinges on three areas: skills, visibility and connections.
“A lot of women think that they need to prove their expertise to earn a seat at the table,” Sally said. “Yes, expertise is important, but so is visibility and so is the quality of your network and your support.
“You can’t do something big alone,” Sally said. “You need allies and mentors.”
“People will always have an opinion about how you do things,” Regina said. “You can’t let that get to you.
“If you have to go cry in the bathroom, do it,” Regina added. “But don’t lose sight of your mission.”
Addressing some men’s gendered notions of success and the view that empowered women are necessarily aggressive, Regina simply called for a more nuanced perspective.
“A man should be proud of an accomplished woman. Instead of criticizing her, he should be proud and think: ‘I was able to attract a woman like that,’” Regina said.
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