How Breaking Stereotypes About Women in Leadership Proves Successful

Elke Suber, Assistant General Counsel for Worldwide Retail Stores at Microsoft Corporation, knows about breaking stereotypes for women in the legal and tech professions.It seems that stereotypes about  women, what they want to do for work and what women can do for work has produced roadblocks to entry for millions of women in scores of different fields. Yet some women have gone against stereotype to do what they dream of doing. And scored big.Take fashion models, for example. Not that this is your average career choice, but if constrained by stereotypes, you might not expect a model would want to learn how to code. But Karlie Kloss, yes, that one who is BF to Taylor Swift and on the cover of just about every fashion magazine you have ever heard of, says she always wanted to go into science or medicine.Now that she has the wavelength to help others do what she always wanted to do, she has started a camp for girls to code, Kode with Klossy.She tells Motto magazine: “While there are endless creative applications of code, there are also many barriers to accessing computer-science education. Too few girls are encouraged to embrace their inner nerd and pursue math, science and programming. Women are underrepresented in computer-science classes, college majors and jobs. While women now make up over half of undergraduate college students, only 12 percent of computer-science degrees are awarded to women.”Take The Lead’s 4 Keys to Parity for Women take into consideration the necessary steps for women to achieve their goals. The first is to prepare, and that means to build skills for success. And that is what Kode with Klossy does.[bctt tweet=“Be the inspiration and get inspired by diverse leaders.”]The next step in the 4 Keys to is to develop, and this involves networking, mentoring and sponsorship. The third key is to inspire, to be the inspiration and get inspired by diverse leaders. The fourth key is to propel forward and that involves changing the narrative from problems to strategies and solutions.  And perhaps breaking stereotypes about women along the way.Another industry that has been historically prohibitive and discouraging to women is the spirits business. But apparently women and whiskey do mix, as women in the spirits industry are not an anomaly any longer and have started to build a presence in the traditionally-male dominated field of hard alcohol, according to VinePair.According to expert Heather Greene, “When I was first doing my whiskey events there were all men in attendance. In general 10 years ago I am sure I was the only woman anywhere. There was nobody under 40. So, here I was, I was super young and a woman. And that meant I had to hit the ball a lot harder to be where I am, make more noise and kick open a lot of doors. And, at the beginning of every presentation, I had to spend a good 10 minutes proving myself.”And in another arena that may seem an unlikely pairing, combining the two disparate ideas of luxury travel and mission-driven cultural exchanges, Tara Russell came up with the idea for Fathom. It’s a business that books tourists on a cruise ship headed to Cuba and the Dominican Republic with the participants aimed at doing good works. And it breaks  the stereotypes as women as just looking for a good time, not as philanthropic, mission-driven travelers.The president of Fathom, tells GOOD: “One of the things that was very fortunate for me was the chance to be exposed to remarkable people in leadership across teams—whether it was product development or engineering and manufacturing, operations or sales and marketing. I’d like to say I did it that way on purpose, but I just took advantage of the opportunities I was afforded. I didn’t see the beautiful patterns until later. I believe we all have a collective responsibility to utilize the experiences we’ve been given for collective good.”Finance and venture capital firms have also been traditionally difficult for women to break down barriers and challenge the stereotypes about women as not excelling as economic leaders.Finding the ways to bridge gaps between expectation and achievement, Susan Duffy, the director of the Center For Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson College, writes in Footnote: Women aren’t less likely to see themselves as entrepreneurs simply because they lack overall confidence. They’re responding to messages they receive from the world around them about who is and isn’t supposed to lead and take risks”.Duffy adds, “Only 15 percent of venture capital-funded companies have a woman on their executive team and a mere 3 percent have a woman CEO. People are twice as likely to respond positively to the same pitch given by a man as by a woman. This gender discrimination comes on top of the already-daunting fact that half of new businesses fail within five years. Perhaps women who hesitate to start businesses in such an environment aren’t risk-averse, they’re risk-rational.”[bctt tweet=“Perhaps women who hesitate to start businesses in such an environment are risk-rational.”]Farnoosh Torabi, the award-winning personal finance journalist and author of When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women, says that no matter what you set out to do in your career, and whether or not you are breaking stereotypes to do it, you can make it work for you financially and personally if you take care of your money and yourself.She tells, Inc.: “Career is very important, but we [women] also want to be at the forefront of so many other things, and there are only so many hours in the day. Sometimes we feel guilty, we almost feel like we’re not living up to our femininity and womanhood.“On a personal level, Torabi says she’s experienced her fair share of sexism in the workplace, including when one “of her colleagues routinely talked down to her — calling her ‘Nooshi,’ for instance — and insisted that she needed to read the Wall Street Journal, when she already did so daily.“If you are coming from a different field or background into a new organization that perhaps challenges stereotypes about women, this does not have to be a handicap, says Elke Suber, assistant general counsel at Microsoft. She tells The Root: “You have to break through that and realize that you have to take a seat at the table and that you’ve got a background, a difference of opinion, that is going to bring something to the forefront or help add a different voice to the conversation,” she says. And being the only female or the only black female in the room can work to your advantage.Suber, who “has worked on several of the company’s major projects, such as the launch of Microsoft Flagship stores, Xbox 360, and video games like Halo, Gears of War, and Lips,” tells Rolling Out: “I care about making sure there is a strong pipeline of talented women and people of color coming behind me, so in order for me to be in a position to help others, I have to do well so that I have the credibility.“If you are thinking of making a career hop to something in a disparate discipline that floats your boat and you feel is meaningful, Jacquelyn Smith of Business Insider says there are plenty of jobs to consider that have a median pay from about $70,000 to $100,000 that are meaningful and satisfying.“PayScale, the creator of the world’s largest database of individual compensation profiles, containing more than 40 million profiles, asked 374,000 workers: ‘Does your job make the world a better place?’” she writes.“After analyzing job meaning for 454 jobs from the Occupational Information Network), PayScale then examined median pay, job satisfaction, job stress, and typical education level for each occupation, and compiled its list of the Most and Least Meaningful Jobs in America.”Coming up with that list that includes physical therapist, audiologist, speech language pathologist, epidemiologist or veterinarian.Smith writes: “Katie Bardaro, PayScale’s vice president of data analytics, says workers in these meaningful jobs are ‘typically driven by an interest to better society and by philanthropic initiatives, rather than purely money or subject matter interest.’”