How Being A Certified Woman Owned Business Can Help Grow Your Company

How Being A Certified Woman Owned Business Can Help Grow Your Company

Looking for a community to have your back? You’re in luck. Ellevate Network is the largest community of women at work. We show up for each other, helping everyone — no matter their background or aspirations — build a career they love. And, more importantly, we mobilize our collective power to change the culture of business. Join Ellevate for free today.

If you’re a woman who owns a business — congrats! It’s fantastic to hang your shingle and go off on your own. There is another advantage to being a Woman Owned Business: getting officially certified as one on federal and local levels. The government and large corporations are the largest buyers of goods and services and often award contracts specifically to women. These contracts can be constant, reliable sources of income.

In her recent webinar, Jean Kristensen of Jean Kristensen Associates explained what it takes to get certified and how to navigate securing government and corporate contracts. Kristensen has started three businesses that have been successful thanks in large part to being a Woman Owned Business and winning government contracts. She now advises women on how to understand the system.

[Related: Join Ellevate virtually for our Inclusive Managers and Leading With Empathy Series Capstone Event, our final discussion about the next steps we all can take to create Inclusive Workplaces. During the 2014 fiscal year, the U.S. government awarded 267,168 contracts to Woman Owned Businesses for approximately two billion dollars. The top contacts were awarded for professional services, medical and surgical supplies and administrative support.

Some businesses also have a 5% goal for subcontracting work to Women Owned Businesses once they win a contract. This can be as high as 30% in some state and local jurisdictions. So even if a Woman Owned Business doesn’t directly win a government contract, they can still gain business through subcontracting. But you have to know how to find these opportunities in the first place.

What Is The Purpose of Certification?

Being a certified Woman Owned Business is a tool designed to increase opportunities for women. It’s not a charity program nor does it give women special treatment. It’s designed to increase visibility. It’s also a way for government and corporations that have the aforementioned subcontracting goals worked into their contacts to meet directly with Women Owned Businesses.

There are two kinds of certifications: Women Owned Small Business and Woman Business Enterprise. A Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) is a program that provides greater access to federal contracting opportunities for Woman Owned and Economically Disadvantaged Women Owned Small Business. (EDWOSB).

The program allows contracting officers to set aside specific contracts for WOSB and EDWOSB that will help federal agencies achieve the existing statutory goal of 5% of federal contracting dollars being awarded to WOSB. An EDWOSB meets a certain financial criteria. The owner’s assets, excluding their business and their home, is under $250,000. That woman, and her business, in considered economically disadvantaged.

WOSB certification is overseen by the Small Business Association (SBA).
In order to be considered to be a WOSB the company must:

The SBA will verify this information by collecting documents such as tax returns, bank statements, operating agreements, etc. They will also ask for birth certificates and passports to prove citizenship. WOSB is unique to the Federal government. It is a program that a person can self-certify for. As long as you can prove that your company is owned by women you can start marketing your company, almost immediately, as a Woman Owned Small Business while the documents are being verified.

The second classification is Woman Business Enterprise. This certification is used by local, state, and other quasi-government agencies such as authorities, airlines and in the private sector. The qualifications for a WBE are similar to those of a WOSB. The company must:

It’s also important to know about:

What Does It Take to Succeed As A Certified Woman Owned Business?
Just because you get certified doesn’t mean that government contracts will magically start appearing at your door. Kristensen said the key is to have a plan when it comes to winning bids.

The Ability To Do Business And The Power Of Teaming Up

It’s important to know what type of project could you take on. Contractors will likely ask about the last project that you worked on that is similar to what they are looking for. Buyers often say that inexperienced companies are not going to cut their teeth with them. You need to have some level of experience in their space in order to be a contender. One way to get around this is to team up with someone who has experience for either a full contract or a subcontract.

Kristensen did this with a cleaning company whose contract with a large bank also needed to supply security. Kristensen ran a security company, and it was a great fit. She then went on to pitch her company’s security services to other banks and in turn won many more contracts.

Let Buyers Know Who You Are

Once you research what groups are buying in your area, make sure they know who you are. Research shows that it takes 18 months of continual effort before you score your first contract. That said, a commitment to marketing yourself is key to staying on buyers’ radars. Kristensen recommends consistent but meaningful communication with buyers.

Good public relations such as a professional website, social media, direct mail, email blasts, etc. are all tools to let people know about your services. Make sure your target audience sees you and knows you. Highlight your unique unique service offering and position yourself as thought leader.

Looking for a community to have your back? You’re in luck. Ellevate Network is the largest community of women at work. We show up for each other, helping everyone — no matter their background or aspirations — build a career they love. And, more importantly, we mobilize our collective power to change the culture of business. Join Ellevatefor free today. Read the rest of this article here

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Six Reasons For More Aussie Women To Join The Tech Industry

The significance of gender diversity in the workplace is no secret and nowhere is the gender divide more apparent than in the tech sector.

This has long-term implications for the tech sector as studies show that the more diverse perspectives there are in the room, the better the ideas, outcomes and ultimately the bottom line.

The recent Women in STEM Decadal Plan found only 27 per cent of girls in Australia are likely to undertake science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects in school – the lowest of all Asia-Pacific countries.

“The future of work will be dominated by STEM, but there is a huge shortage of these skills in Australia, with many organisations looking overseas to hire top tech talent,” says Rachel Gately, Co-Founder of Australian advanced machine learning company, Trellis Data. “The IT industry has long been dominated by men, but with digital technologies becoming more prevalent, there’s never been a better time for women to consider a job in the tech sector.”

If you’re thinking about a career in tech, here are six things you need to consider:

Financial stability

The technology sector often tops lists for high salaries and job opportunities – Seek’s latest data found ICT had the jobs with the highest pay in Australia. With COVID-19 forcing organisations to embrace digital, technology jobs are now in a stronger position compared to many other industries. The Federal Government is also investing over one billion dollars in the nation’s technology and innovation capabilities, so not only is there good money but job security is also assured. With strong demand for tech talent, there is more scope for women to build a career and progress quickly.

Work-life balance

There’s been a significant shift in work culture in recent years, with parents sharing responsibilities and employees expecting better work-life balance. Businesses now offer greater support for women, allowing them to work from home, part-time, or even providing on-site childcare.

Workplace flexibility has also accelerated over the last 12 months due to the pandemic. This means there is greater opportunity for women to not just enter the tech industry, but to reach senior positions.

According to Gately, “Providing work-life balance is no longer a perk for employers but a must-have. We encourage staff to work the hours that they’re most productive. Some leave work early to coach their kids in sport or pick-up kids from school. Others start late because they prefer to work later. Having women in leadership ensures this attitude towards flexibility is ingrained in company culture.”

Technology needs women

Despite a growing number of jobs in STEM, only a quarter of graduates in technology in the developed world are female – even though more women have degrees than men. So, there is a huge window for women to bridge the gender divide. Science has also found that women have higher intuitiveness and empathy than men, which are traits often missing when developing tech products – female led innovation creates tech with more people in mind. In fact, women are found to be better at connecting tech with business outcomes – according to Fortune, women-led companies have historically performed three times better than those with male CEOs.

Never get bored

We know that technology moves fast. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report found 65 per cent of children starting primary school now, will have jobs that don’t exist yet. This digital future means there is always something new to learn, and scope to get creative to find new solutions. “A career in tech means you’ll never be bored,” says Gately. “We’re always looking for fresh ideas, so my staff have creative freedom to invent and discover new things in technology and machine learning – we specifically set aside time for this each week. It helps foster an environment where people can constantly learn and where everyone has a voice.”

Change the world

Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the internet of things aren’t just transforming businesses but also being used to improve lives. In Russia, Impulse Neiry is using world-first neural interfaces to detect neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s several years in advance, and NASA technology is being used to conserve endangered whale sharks. Tech companies such as Google are also now leading investments in clean energy. There are so many ways to help people, animals and the planet using tech, and women have the potential to be a part of it.

Empower other women

According to a Microsoft survey, girls in the US consider tech careers at age 11 but lose interest soon after, with many blaming a lack of female mentors and gender diversity. With more women taking on STEM roles, we have the power to challenge the status quo and increase the voices of women in the industry. By considering a career in tech, you can empower more young girls to get involved. As a woman in tech, you have the opportunity to present in public forums, share your story with others and raise your profile in the industry.

Rachel Gately

Rachel Gately is the Co-Founder and Director of Operations at Trellis Data, a leading Australian advanced Machine Learning firm.

Keep up to date with Dynamic Business on LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Source: Six reasons for more Aussie women to join the tech industry – Dynamic Business

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Melanie Perkins’ $3.2 billion design platform, Canva, is one of the world’s most valuable female-led start-ups. CNBC Make It’s Karen Gilchrist met with the 32-year-old Australian entrepreneur in Sydney to find out how she’s taking on tech giants Microsoft and Adobe. —–

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Big Ethical Questions about the Future of AI

Artificial intelligence is already changing the way we live our daily lives and interact with machines. From optimizing supply chains to chatting with Amazon Alexa, artificial intelligence already has a profound impact on our society and economy. Over the coming years, that impact will only grow as the capabilities and applications of AI continue to expand.

AI promises to make our lives easier and more connected than ever. However, there are serious ethical considerations to any technology that affects society so profoundly. This is especially true in the case of designing and creating intelligence that humans will interact with and trust. Experts have warned about the serious ethical dangers involved in developing AI too quickly or without proper forethought. These are the top issues keeping AI researchers up at night.

Bias: Is AI fair

Bias is a well-established facet of AI (or of human intelligence, for that matter). AI takes on the biases of the dataset it learns from. This means that if researchers train an AI on data that are skewed for race, gender, education, wealth, or any other point of bias, the AI will learn that bias. For instance, an artificial intelligence application used to predict future criminals in the United States showed higher risk scores and recommended harsher actions for black people than white based on the racial bias in America’s criminal incarceration data.

Of course, the challenge with AI training is there’s no such thing as a perfect dataset. There will always be under- and overrepresentation in any sample. These are not problems that can be addressed quickly. Mitigating bias in training data and providing equal treatment from AI is a major key to developing ethical artificial intelligence.

Liability: Who is responsible for AI?

Last month when an Uber autonomous vehicle killed a pedestrian, it raised many ethical questions. Chief among them is “Who is responsible, and who’s to blame when something goes wrong?” One could blame the developer who wrote the code, the sensor hardware manufacturer, Uber itself, the Uber supervisor sitting in the car, or the pedestrian for crossing outside a crosswalk.

Developing AI will have errors, long-term changes, and unforeseen consequences of the technology. Since AI is so complex, determining liability isn’t trivial. This is especially true when AI has serious implications on human lives, like piloting vehicles, determining prison sentences, or automating university admissions. These decisions will affect real people for the rest of their lives. On one hand, AI may be able to handle these situations more safely and efficiently than humans. On the other hand, it’s unrealistic to expect AI will never make a mistake. Should we write that off as the cost of switching to AI systems, or should we prosecute AI developers when their models inevitably make mistakes?

Security: How do we protect access to AI from bad actors?

As AI becomes more powerful across our society, it will also become more dangerous as a weapon. It’s possible to imagine a scary scenario where a bad actor takes over the AI model that controls a city’s water supply, power grid, or traffic signals. More scary is the militarization of AI, where robots learn to fight and drones can fly themselves into combat.

Cybersecurity will become more important than ever. Controlling access to the power of AI is a huge challenge and a difficult tightrope to walk. We shouldn’t centralise the benefits of AI, but we also don’t want the dangers of AI to spread. This becomes especially challenging in the coming years as AI becomes more intelligent and faster than our brains by an order of magnitude.

Human Interaction: Will we stop talking to one another?

An interesting ethical dilemma of AI is the decline in human interaction. Now more than any time in history it’s possible to entertain yourself at home, alone. Online shopping means you don’t ever have to go out if you don’t want to.

While most of us still have a social life, the amount of in-person interactions we have has diminished. Now, we’re content to maintain relationships via text messages and Facebook posts. In the future, AI could be a better friend to you than your closest friends. It could learn what you like and tell you what you want to hear. Many have worried that this digitization (and perhaps eventual replacement) of human relationships is sacrificing an essential, social part of our humanity.

Employment: Is AI getting rid of jobs?

This is a concern that repeatedly appears in the press. It’s true that AI will be able to do some of today’s jobs better than humans. Inevitably, those people will lose their jobs, and it will take a major societal initiative to retrain those employees for new work. However, it’s likely that AI will replace jobs that were boring, menial, or unfulfilling. Individuals will be able to spend their time on more creative pursuits, and higher-level tasks. While jobs will go away, AI will also create new markets, industries, and jobs for future generations.

Wealth Inequality: Who benefits from AI?

The companies who are spending the most on AI development today are companies that have a lot of money to spend. A major ethical concern is AI will only serve to centralizecoro wealth further. If an employer can lay off workers and replace them with unpaid AI, then it can generate the same amount of profit without the need to pay for employees.

Machines will create wealth more than ever in the economy of the future. Governments and corporations should start thinking now about how we redistribute that wealth so that everyone can participate in the AI-powered economy.

Power & Control: Who decides how to deploy AI?

Along with the centralization of wealth comes the centralization of power and control. The companies that control AI will have tremendous influence over how our society thinks and acts each day. Regulating the development and operation of AI applications will be critical for governments and consumers. Just as we’ve recently seen Facebook get in trouble for the influence its technology and advertising has had on society, we might also see AI regulations that codify equal opportunity for everyone and consumer data privacy.

Robot Rights: Can AI suffer?

A more conceptual ethical concern is whether AI can or should have rights. As a piece of computer code, it’s tempting to think that artificially intelligent systems can’t have feelings. You can get angry with Siri or Alexa without hurting their feelings. However, it’s clear that consciousness and intelligence operate on a system of reward and aversion. As artificially intelligent machines become smarter than us, we’ll want them to be our partners, not our enemies. Codifying humane treatment of machines could play a big role in that.

Ethics in AI in the coming years

Artificial intelligence is one of the most promising technological innovations in human history. It could help us solve a myriad of technical, economic, and societal problems. However, it will also come with serious drawbacks and ethical challenges. It’s important that experts and consumers alike be mindful of these questions, as they’ll determine the success and fairness of AI over the coming years.

By: By Steve Kilpatrick
Co-Founder & Director
Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning

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How These Women Investors Crushed It In 2020

In an investment industry known for big egos, overconfident analysts and “activists” who routinely tell CEOs how to run their companies, investor Nancy Zevenbergen and her team of four portfolio managers differentiate themselves by simply listening.

Zevenbergen, 61, founder of $5.7 billion (assets) Zevenbergen Capital Investments, believes the crucial job of an investor in today’s economy is to uncover the next great entrepreneur or technological innovation early on. The style is about “optimism and a view toward what the future might be,” she says. According to Zevenbergen, her task is to be curious and “understand the ‘crazy’ visions of new leaders and become investors alongside them.” If she likes a company, her Seattle-based firm will load up and watch from the sidelines, tracking the business patiently and holding their shares so long as growth doesn’t stall. Rarely do they worry too much about valuation.

This humble approach to investing has yielded results that make Zevenbergen among the best investors in the world. She has stuck by mercurial Elon Musk and owned Tesla for about a decade; Tesla’s stock is up 730% this year, and is the top performing stock of the ten years. She discovered Ottawa, Canada-based ecommerce company Shopify and its founder CEO Tobi Lütke in late 2016 when it was trading below $50; it now trades for $1,170.

Last September, Zillow chief executive Rich Barton decided the real estate platform would begin buying homes, leading to complaints from skeptics who sent its shares cratering 20% to below $30. Zevenbergen’s team liked Barton’s experimentation and built a large position. Fifteen months later, Zillow now trades for $140.

Nancy Zeverbergen
Seattle-based Nancy Zevenbergen calls investing with a less than five-year time frame “truly speculative.” Case in point: She’s owned Amazon since it traded in the $60s and still holds shares after a 90-fold rise. Tim Pannell for Forbes

With stock-picks like these, Zevenbergen’s Innovative Growth Fund (SCATX) and Genea Fund (ZVGNX) are up a staggering 126% and 154%, respectively, in 2020. Of over 1,000 peer funds tracked by Morningstar, the two mutual funds rank in the top percentile. 

Zevenbergen created her firm from her living room in the late 1980s with just $500,000 in assets while she nursed a young child. Her flagship strategy has beaten the S&P 500 Index by around four percentage points annually since 1987, but 2020 was a watershed. Assets more than doubled soaring towards $6 billion, based on performance and inflows to her mutual funds.

Zevenbergen is not the only woman fund manager who has crushed competition in 2020. Forbes found at least a half a dozen firms led by women-led funds that have blown away their peers and drawn in tens of billions of dollars in assets collectively since the start of January.

Cathie Wood, founder of Ark Investments, had the best year of anyone. In 2014, Wood, 65, created Ark with the idea of packaging stock-picking into tax-efficient exchange traded funds, and focusing exclusively on breakthrough innovations in genomics, robotics, financial technology, autonomous driving, digital services, and artificial intelligence. 

Six years later, Ark manages nearly $44 billion in assets, up from just $300 million at the end of 2016. This year, Ark funds have pulled in over $10 billion in new assets, led by extraordinary returns. Her flagship Ark Innovation Fund (ARKK) has seen assets soar to $17 billion, fueled by a 154% gain in 2020 and a 46% average annual return over the past five years. Her $6 billion Ark Genomic revolution ETF is up even more this year. “I wanted individual investors to catch the wave,” says Wood of today’s enormous technological change. Her funds were designed for those “willing to step out and away from fixed income and into some of the most exciting stocks in history.”

Ark publishes its financial models, trading logs, and research to the investing public, and the firm’s analysts are happy to engage in discussion on Twitter, opening themselves to criticism and mockery. Wood’s $4,000 a share valuation of Tesla a year ago drew many scoffs on Wall Street. But her heady valuation was spot on. Short sellers have been burned by Tesla’s rise, while female investors like Zevenbergen and Wood have been patient bulls. On Friday, Tesla was added to the S&P 500 Index.

Female investing success in 2020 extends well beyond soaring growth stocks. Women-run funds are leading the way in everything from small cap stocks, to emerging market debt portfolios, dividend paying companies, and sustainable investments.

Amy Zhang, portfolio manager of the Alger Small Cap Focus Fund (AOFIX) and Mid Cap Focus Fund (AFOIX) was hired in 2015 to expand Alger’s presence in niche small and mid-cap stocks. When Zhang arrived at Alger, the Small Cap Focus Fund had just $16 million in assets. Now, after a 54% return in 2020 and a 30% annual average return over the past five years, Zhang’s Small Cap Focus Fund has $7.5 billion in assets.

Top holdings include refrigerated logistics upstart CryoPort and fast casual restaurant Wingstop. Her Mid Cap Focus Fund, launched in mid-2018, has attracted over $500 million in assets as it has soared by 84% in 2020, bolstered by casino operator Penn National Gaming and power equipment manufacturer Generac.

Long before sustainable investments became a prolific buzzword, Karina Funk, an MIT-educated engineer at Baltimore-based mutual fund giant Brown Advisory, was a pioneer in bringing sustainable investments mainstream. Funk, 48, a vegetarian who watches her carbon footprint by biking to work, launched the Brown Advisory Sustainable Growth Fund in June 2012, alongside David Powell, with a goal to back about 35 companies with products improving social and environmental sustainability, or efficient operating footprints.

Its focus on companies like Ball Corp. and American Tower has made it one of the best funds on the planet during down markets. Even in 2020, the fund has gained 38% despite its defensive posture, thanks to savvy picks like life sciences conglomerate Danaher and Etsy, which has empowered many small businesses during the pandemic. Funk can be a tough customer. She exited Facebook in the fall of 2018 due to data privacy concerns.

“Sustainability is a means, not an end in and of itself,” she told Forbes as part of a profile three years ago, when the fund’s assets were just $1.1 billion. “Our end goal is performance. We achieve that by finding fundamentally strong companies using sustainability strategies to get even better.” The fund’s assets have since soared to $4.6 billion.

Other female-led funds that have done well include Capital Group’s $128 billion American Funds New Perspective (ANWPX), led by a team of managers including Joanna Jonsson and Noriko Chen, and the $36 billion in assets JPMorgan Equity Income Fund (HLIEX), led by Clare Hart. The New Perspectives fund has beaten its benchmark by four percentage points annually over the past decade, while Hart’s Equity Income Fund has returned an annualized 11.65%, two percentage points annually above its benchmark, according to data from Morningstar.

Rebecca Irwin, Natasha Kuhikin and Kathleen McCarragher of the $1.3 billion in assets PGIM Jennison Focused Growth Fund (SPFAX) have returned 68% in 2020 and 25% over the past five years, ranking in the top decile of peer funds. At Alger, Ankur Crawford, co-manager of the Alger Spectra Fund (ASPIX) and Alger Capital Appreciation (ACCAX) has seen returns surpass 40% this year.

In fixed income, Tina Vandersteel of the $4.4 billion in assets GMO Emerging Country Debt Fund (GMCDX) has been able to outperform emerging market bond indices despite underweighting China and many Gulf-states due to her skepticism of the veracity of their economic data.

The bull market of 2020 is also creating new opportunities for female fund managers to shine. Two years ago, Julie Biel of Los Angeles-based Kayne Anderson Rudnick, was a rising star at the $30 billion (assets) firm and excited about the looming public offering of software company DocuSign. Known for investing in established businesses, Kayne had never participated in an IPO. Biel was late in her pregnancy as the IPO progressed and trying to win an allocation. She needed a doctor’s note to fly to the Bay Area to meet with DocuSign’s management. Kayne eventually won a large block of shares, quickly becoming one of its largest outside investors.

Biel also began to manage the firm’s KAR Small Mid- Sustainable Growth strategy around that time and made DocuSign the fund’s top holding. Its shares have risen 225% in 2020. This year, Biel’s fund has returned 42% through November. In December, Kayne decided to launch a mutual fund version, launching the strategy, called the Virtus KAR Small-Mid Cap Growth Fund (VIKSK), with Biel in charge.

Like Zevebergen and Wood, Biel is starting small and manages just $60 million. But the investment industry rewards performance above all, hinting at much larger things to come. Entering 2021, Biel’s portfolio is loaded with hidden gems like Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and MarketAxess that could grow for years to come. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

Antoine Gara

 Antoine Gara

I’m a staff writer and associate editor at Forbes, where I cover finance and investing. My beat includes hedge funds, private equity, fintech, mutual funds, mergers, and banks. I’m a graduate of Middlebury College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and I’ve worked at TheStreet and Businessweek. Before becoming a financial scribe, I was a member of the fateful 2008 analyst class at Lehman Brothers. Email thoughts and tips to agara@forbes.com. Follow me on Twitter at @antoinegara

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A Missing Factor In Women’s Leadership: Leave The Mean Girl Behind

I recently launched an intimate dinner series called The Whisper Network covering taboo topics facing women’s advancement in the workforce. Many of these topics aren’t addressed because women don’t feel comfortable raising them or might be nervous about repercussions if they are openly talked about in larger forums. As women we tend to have a stronger reliance on one-on-one bonds and smaller, more intimate networks vs. men in order to discuss more controversial subjects such as how much money we might make or not make, how we were passed over for a promotion by a male peer or worse, “the mean girl.”

As we sat around the table, everyone had a story about a mean girl they dealt with in their careers. Certainly, in more male dominated industries, the mean girl, sometimes referred to as the “queen bee” is not just a theory, but a reality. Further, this isn’t just about the women at the top, but also encompasses female peers. With all the focus and momentum on raising each other up as women and building support networks, it should have surprised me that the mean girl continues to present as such a big issue but it didn’t. I hear quite often that while there are so many women walking the walk, there are still many that just talk the talk.

Jennifer DaSilva, President of Berlin Cameron and Founder of Girl Brands Do It Better, wrote an article earlier this year talking about women and the power of community and stated “Among all the women I talk to, the overall sentiment is that the energy of women helping other women is at an all-time high. We’re in a moment where women are less competitive and more willing to help each other succeed. We’re all starting to understand that lifting each other up doesn’t mean you put yourself down.” While I completely agree and as someone who launched a business focused on developing women, I think we need to add to that sentiment: that lifting each other up doesn’t mean you have to put yourself or others down.

Competition is healthy until it’s not. DaSilva also stated in the article that “while women are still supporting each other, [in a recent study] 55% of respondents still feel there’s work to be done. This can especially be said in the corporate world, where a lack of female representation can lead to competition and a lack of camaraderie.” How do we continue to advance and support each other with a little healthy competition in our networks, if we continue to face or be the mean girl at the table?

As a woman, there is heavy competition with men but there seems to be even more competition with some women, mainly because there are fewer of us. This competition is not just at the senior levels of organizations. We live in a culture that perpetuates women’s feelings of insecurity. It’s one the reasons we are banding together to support one another and creating real change. We are also human and filled with insecurities around career advancement, success, financial wealth and power. Company cultures often mirror grade-school school culture, dividing their employees into different groups: top talent, high performers, needs improvement, etc. This can further fuel unhealthy competition, meanness and exclusive behavior.

How we do leave the mean girl at the door but also work with her? It’s hard to escape the mean girl at the office, out with new clients, at women’s events and in other professional environments. “Mean girls exist in business networking events too,” shared Cindy Ashton, CEO of Minerva Enterprises. “They stand in their circle, staring at the other women, making comments on what they are wearing and criticizing what they do. It lowers our self-esteem and confidence. We need to catch ourselves when we get ‘catty’ and reframe – ‘what would it take for me to truly get to know this other woman and collaborate?’” Roll out the welcome mat instead of pulling it out from underneath their feet.

After much deliberation in our dinner, we unanimously decided to call out the mean girl and make them aware of their behavior. At a time when we are calling out certain men for their lack of support, why don’t we call out the women who don’t have our backs and perpetuate the culture we are fighting so hard against? I’m not advocating for confrontation, but I am talking about communication. If we don’t bring awareness to this challenge, those cracks in our networks get larger and success for all vs. just for one decreases.

Focusing on positive reinforcement and how we can work together is just as important as building community with like-minded women and male allies. Share in our successes and in our struggles. We need to team up to help move forward by sharing what we know, how we can support and empower each other, and how we build real community. As women we need to lend our voice and support at the table for other women, become their true advocates for new opportunities, be open and make connections as well as follow through. Walk the walk.

To circle back to DaSilva’s article, Kristy Wallace, CEO of Ellevate Network states “a community is a group of people who are active participants in your success.” Supportive communities celebrate each other and their wins, large and small. This definition of community leaves no room for the mean girl and it’s time to leave her behind. Leading by example is critical and we need to exemplify the qualities we wish to see in others. When we think of the next generation of female CEOs, politicians, activists, entrepreneurs and more, what do we want those women to see when they look up? We don’t want to embrace a future with negativity and bullying. Creating an even playing field that is collaborative and supportive is something I am striving for.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website.

I am the Founder and CEO of Luminary in NYC, the premier collaboration space for women who are passionate about professional development and expanding their networks. Luminary is the ultimate career advocate providing our membership community with unparalleled programming and access to industry leaders and pioneering entrepreneurs. A long-time advocate for empowering women and girls, I serve on the National Board for Girls Inc. I have over twenty years of leadership experience in financial services. Previously, I was the Executive Vice President and Global Head of Multinational Corporate Banking for HSBC managing roughly $2 billion in revenue and teams in 55 countries. Prior to that, I was a Managing Director and Head of Multinational Corporate Banking at J.P. Morgan in EMEA. I’m committed to leveraging my corporate experience to support and encourage women and push for gender parity in the workplace.

Source: A Missing Factor In Women’s Leadership: Leave The Mean Girl Behind

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