Interview with Jane. Advice for and Assistance to Other Women

posted November 20th, 2014 by Janet Graham - Leave a Comment

I asked Jane when she considers her career in its entirety whether there is anything she would do differently.


She says: “No. Upon reflection, I’m pretty happy with where I’m at. Maybe in my twenties I would have been a little less blunt.  I softened with age, but in my twenties I may have been a little more blunt than may have been beneficial but that’s just part of being young but other than that, I’m pretty happy with my life in general and with my career.”


I asked Jane whether she makes a concerted effort to facilitate the success of other women in her workplace, industry, and community and if so, how so and I asked her for her advice for other women who want to do the same.


She says: “I get involved at the local school level.  I go to elementary school, middle school, high school, and talk about the STEM career fields to children, girls especially because they’re so under-represented in these career fields. I look for these opportunities. All schools have these career days and even if you don’t have a child at that school, they love having speakers come to the school on career day and talk to all the kids.  You have to be able to adjust your speech between what works for a five year old and a twelfth grader, but the thing is I believe it’s a pipeline problem and you need to inject yourself early on in the process and you’ve got to get them excited about the field.  If you explain science as this big puzzle that is meant to be solved, you make it seem like a mystery which they can help to solve. You have to make it fun, otherwise if it’s just boring facts and figures nobody is going to want to get into that field.  If you wait until they’re adults a lot of them have already made a choice to take a different path, so you need to get to them early.  That’s one of the things I do at sort of the entry level, kids in kindergarten through grade 12.


“The other thing I do is mentoring. It’s interesting, just today I had a mentoring call with a sophomore at a local university….I do these ad hoc mentoring things which means when I see the opportunity I just kind of jump in…I met her when she was a waitress at a local pizza shop. While I was waiting for my pizza, she really caught my attention. She just seemed like such a hard worker and she had a little college sweatshirt on and I knew she was home on school vacation.  She was extra kind to a family there with a special needs child. I have a couple of special needs children in my family and so any time I see somebody who takes a shine to children like that and tries to help them out, it’s very meaningful for me. When she did that I thought, I’m going to offer this young girl my help, mentoring or whatever it is.  I started talking to her and I gave her my business card and told her that I was impressed with her customer service.  I didn’t even know what she did for her major or anything, but we connected and I have been mentoring her ever since. If you look for opportunities, if somebody jumps out at you, you need to jump on it and help whoever you can.  It’s like paying it forward.”


I asked Jane whether she felt she had had a significant impact on her organization, however she defined it and its commitment towards women in the workplace.


She says: “I definitely have made an impact there.  I was the first female to ever hold my position in probably my last three leadership roles. I was the first one, I was the one hitting the glass ceiling and breaking it.  Since then, if I look at my organization, we’re probably balanced 50/50 in leadership roles, women to men, and it’s not that I’m actually recruiting women or excluding men or anything like that. It’s because women are more apt to apply for the jobs now and so you have more people in the candidate pool. As far as making my office more female-friendly, I definitely have done that because whether it’s for my male or female staff I want them to feel like they can have a work/life balance because that’s how you retain good employees.  I don’t want them to feel that they have to make a choice between having a healthy home life and providing good support in the office and so it’s adding flexibility in their schedules.  It’s allowing them to work extra hours one day so that way they can scoot out a little earlier another day if they have a school event or something.  It’s also incorporating things like tele-work when you can.  I must say I put organization first, though, in defining things like tele-work policies.  I don’t ever want to get in a situation where it’s become sort of willy-nilly where people do whatever they want.  I mean, we need to make sure we’re meeting the mission.  But if you can do that and be as flexible as possible, that’s the best of both worlds.”


I asked Jane whether she considers herself a feminist and what feminism meant to her and her generation and whether she thinks it’s a critical value today in the world.


She says: “When I think of feminism, I’m a generation X person and the true feminists were probably the generation right ahead of me, so I think of the baby-boomers and that age group who did a lot of trail-blazing. They opened up the doors that weren’t open for their mothers certainly.  I don’t necessarily consider myself a feminist per se because by the time I came along it meant that those sort of barriers just weren’t as prevalent, although they were still there.  I have some funny stories when I first started off in the work force with men saying some silly things. They were putting their foot in their own mouth and that sort of thing, but it wasn’t a barrier that prevented me from succeeding.  So no, I wouldn’t consider myself a feminist because that’s sort of the generation just a notch older than I am.”


I asked Jane of all the things she had talked about whether there is any specific advice she would want to offer to a young women, in particular the secrets of her success and how she differentiates herself.


She says: “The secret of my success has been my ability to build solid relationships with people, whether it’s somebody who works for me, somebody I’m working for, or somebody who I rely on for information to be able to do my job.  It’s all about relationships.  If people trust you they’re going to tend to want to work with you.  If you’re somebody who’s burning bridges to get ahead eventually that catches up to you.  Build relationships that are based on trust and integrity. Integrity meaning that people can expect that you’re going to do what you say and that you’re somebody who’s trustworthy.  I would also say you need to be creative.  What separates somebody who is technically competent from somebody who’s absolutely a star is being creative and innovative and thinking outside the box and not always thinking of the way that its always been done. Be somebody who’s thinking about where we’re going as opposed to where we’ve been.  You need to approach everything with enthusiasm.  A lot of times younger women think about enthusiasm and they think they are going to get tagged with being known as a cheer leader or something, and they kind of buckle it down and try to emulate their male colleagues.  I say use your enthusiasm and your femininity to your advantage in the sense that it separates you.  If you’re not enthusiastic about what you do and what you bring to the table, who else is going to be?


“One of the other things I would say, even from a female perspective, is to understand the difference between being assertive and aggressive.  Assertive is fine.  Assertive means that… we all have time constraints, we all have deadlines, and it’s important to be clear and to communicate clearly what those constraints or deadlines are, but being aggressive where a woman tries to over-compensate because they’re female, that’s not good.  You need to strike a balance between assertive and aggressive.”


What Strikes Me?

Opportunities to mentor young people can happen anywhere


Pay it forward


Build solid relationships with people


It’s all about relationships


If people trust you they’re going to want to work with you


If you’re somebody who’s burning bridges to get ahead eventually that catches up to you


Build relationships that are based on trust and integrity


Integrity means that people can expect that you’re going to do what you say you are going to do


Be creative and innovative


Don’t focus on the way things have always been done


Think outside the box


Focus on where you are going as opposed to where you have been


Approach everything with enthusiasm


Use your femininity to your advantage in the sense that it separates you


If you’re not enthusiastic about what you do and what you bring to the table, who else is going to be?


What Strikes You?

Please comment.


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