And the winner of the Digital Female Leader Audience Award of 2019 is… I was there and want to share with you what the audience award and this year’s motto “bigger, stronger, more diverse” was all about. Being visible and connected in the digital landscape and beyond can drive professional advancement and innovation. But sometimes it’s not easy to make yourself visible. Based on my personal experience, knowing and overcoming three traps can help to step out of invisibility.
On November 30, 2019, the Digital Female Leader Awards (DFLA) took place. We, as DHL Consulting, sponsored the audience award and I was thrilled to be a part of this inspiring evening! With the motto being “bigger, stronger, more diverse”, women who are shaping digitalization on all fronts of society came together.
The DFLA, and particularly the audience award, has a special meaning to me. The audience award allows us, as an audience, to vote for the woman that inspires us most. This award and its winner, Lena Immel of Deutsche Telekom, calls upon all of us to step out of our comfort zone, make ourselves heard and get recognition. It is an award that encourages women to talk about their ideas, projects and achievements, which I believe is essential for personal and professional growth. Here’s why:
The Importance of a (Digital) Voice
To this date, we are still facing gender inequality in the workplace, especially in management. At DHL Group, the male-female ratio is unacceptable: only 35 percent of our employees are women, and for executive positions this percentage drops to 22.1. And the logistics industry is no exception; the same holds true for virtually all industries. This shows us that, despite pushing for gender inclusion for many years and making great strides, our work is not done yet.
As business leaders, we are responsible for enabling women to climb the career ladder. However, the dynamics underlying diversity – or a lack thereof – are complex. Because of this, we cannot reduce our efforts to just one or the other initiative. To truly make career opportunities just as accessible to women as they are to men, a comprehensive approach is needed.
Digital platforms and social media have provided us, as women, with new avenues to make ourselves heard as well as grow and strengthen our network. Being visible and finding your (digital) voice, is a key lever you control in order to own your career path. And this is not only true outside of your company’s walls. When I started my digital journey, I first gained more visibility within my organization rather than outside, as most of my connections were internal.
But, why is it hard to be loud sometimes? Based to the observations I made throughout my own career, I could identify three common behavioural traps which can stand in the way.
Getting Visible: Easier Said Than Done?
If you want to move ahead, you need to get noticed in your organization for who you are, what you are capable of, and where you want to go. Unfortunately, being visible seems to not come so easy to many of us.
For me, venturing out into the space of social media was definitely a huge step out of my comfort zone. It was hard in the beginning, and I started small by sharing posts from others. Over time, I grew more confident and was able to establish my own digital voice.
Looking back, there were three traps I fell into and had to overcome:
1. The Modesty Trap
Too much modesty can keep you from being successful. As a kid, I was taught not to show off; to be modest. It is true that modesty can be a virtue, but it hindered me from showing what I was capable of – something that is necessary in life.
One of the first sentences Lena said when receiving her award was: I did not prepare a speech, because I did not expect to win. When I started my digital visibility journey, the modesty trap was one of my biggest challenges to overcome. Not underestimating and underselling myself is something I had to learn. Digital platforms can help you to share your successes and receive recognition.
2. The Perfectionist Trap
Women have a tendency to only feel confident when they feel perfect; also, when it comes to digital visibility and networking. Often, I hear people say that they are not active online because they think they do not have enough time to update their profiles, read all the content, and come up with meaningful content themselves. As a result, we hold ourselves back, even if we have many things to say.
Because of thoughts like “What will people think of me, when I post something that they do not agree with or believe is not completely correct?” we do not take the first step. We need to let go of the idea that we need to be perfect. Just grasp the opportunities the digital world offers with confidence, and do not disqualify yourself from the get-go. Feeling intimidated when starting something new is a good thing; this means that you get a chance to grow.
3. The Likability Trap
I used to be too concerned about being liked. Now, I know that it is more important to earn respect than being liked by everyone. When you speak your mind and express yourself digitally, you will run the risk of being faced with doubt or skepticism at times. When I started my digital journey, I had to cope with many comments of my senior colleagues about whether I would even have time for my job besides all the self-marketing I was doing. You can expect the same. Do not take it personal and use this as an opportunity to grow. In the end, keeping quiet for the sake of staying on people’s good side all the time, can have greater negative consequences for your career than just being vocal.
My summary: going digital paid off! I am recognized as an expert, invited to speak at conferences, and I receive interesting content from my online community. My voice counts. And, all this helps to do my job even better.
Let’s Make Some Noise Together: Gender Parity as a Joint Effort
Many organizations have committed to equal opportunities and diversity in the workplace. But the numbers reveal that we are still far from this becoming a reality. In our heads, we still associate leadership with men. As female leaders, we need to challenge this outdated mindset and show that leadership is not male. Making ourselves visible, particularly as female role models, can act as an important driver of change. And, digital tools and social media offer us additional channels to do so.
Every woman has a unique voice. And each of us needs to find our own way of cutting through the corporate noise to be heard. Being loud and visible is not about shouting the hardest, it is about believing in your ability to do the right thing at the right time and supporting each other as women – something that the DFLA audience award represents. The DFLA put the spotlight on many great women that inspire us to push forward and lead digitalization in a sustainable way. Let’s continue to be bigger, stronger, more diverse together!
How do you make yourself heard in the workplace and beyond? Have digital tools and social media played a positive role in this for you? I look forward to exchanging experiences with you in the comments below, or on my LinkedIn channel.