If we want a future full of inclusive, diverse women leaders, we’ve got to look beyond who’s rising from middle management to the C-suite.
Girls are surrounded by gender imbalances every day, and when they finally enter the workforce, it’s no surprise that the majority of women can’t see themselves as leaders. We can’t be what we can’t see.

We need to support young women at work if we want to see them succeed.

In our final post in the Rethinking Leadership series, leaders were asked what advice they have for young women who are just starting out on their leadership journey that could inspire them to push forward.

What’s one piece of advice you have for young women leaders just starting out?

Jasmine Ramze Rezaee
Manager of Advocacy at YWCA Toronto, Board Member at Social Planning Toronto and Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services

Maya Angelou once said: “Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it.”

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, even if that makes you uncomfortable. Try to seek a mentor, perhaps someone not much older than you, who can empathize with your experience and guide you when you need support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when starting a new job – no one will think less of you.

I think one of the hallmarks of being young is to (sadly) have your dreams crushed when you enter the labour market. It’s tough out there, so ask for help and surround yourself with people who can support you.

I also think that the healthiest way to ask for help is when you believe in yourself and recognize your inherent self-worth. Everyone needs help but you also have to be your own cheerleader because it’s no one’s job to make you feel good about who you are. So love yourself. Ask for help because you are confident and self-assured, and you recognize that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Heather Barnabe
CEO at G(irls)20

It’s hard to provide universal advice when we all experience our professional and personal growth differently. However, when I think of the leaders I admire and their successes and failure, the one common thread is grit.

What is grit? Some days you’re going to want to burn it all to the ground, and that’s normal. Grit is sticking with it – “it” being your passion, your goals, etc. – during these times and finding the lesson, determining appropriate next steps and moving on. One more thing? Take the scary leaps, even when you don’t feel ready. I work with so many young women who reach out to me for advice on a big job offer, a move around the world, or applying to a difficult school program, and it still surprises me when they are full of self-doubt. I promise them, just as I’d promise you, that they’ll be fine. They may not do great the first time around, but refer to lesson 1 above. And then do better the next time.

Abena Offeh-Gyimah
Founder and CEO of AddaBlooms, Natural Foods

The fear of failure can be debilitating. I believe this stems from our perception of the world and of ourselves. We tend to focus on how others perceive us or what others will say. Unknowingly, we end up living our lives for others. I started farming the same year I began my PhD program, and within the first semester, I knew the PhD was not for me. I wanted to pursue an entrepreneurial career in farming and agribusiness. I was crippled by many thoughts: Who leaves a PhD for a startup? How do I tell my parents? The fear of failing alone becomes a heavy burden. It paralyzes us from moving forward and greatly limits our potential. However, two keys things have helped me overcome this fear; the first is a commitment to constantly work on myself and pursue personal growth; and the second is to spend time understanding and strengthening my life’s vision

Learn More:

Rethinking Leadership: Inclusive Leadership Qualities That Work
On International Women’s Day, Let’s Remove These Six Barriers to Women’s Leadership
I Belong Here and I Deserve to Succeed: Supporting Women Entrepreneurs of Colour

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