It’s hard out there for a lady in business (what with the wage gap, persistent gender biases and poor maternity leave options). That’s why it’s so important for women to support other women in their careers and in the workplace. As part of a recent Women Helping Women breakfast, nonprofit group Dress for Success — which provides professional attire and networking services to disadvantaged women — invited three badass females to talk about their own experiences navigating their careers, and offer some advice to the other women in the room.
Moderated by newsanchor Erica Hill, the panel of #girlbosses included designer Norma Kamali, who has maintained her own independent fashion label for 40 years, Sarah Robb O’Hagan, president of Equinox Fitness and Daniella Yacobovsky, co-founder of online jewelry boutique BaubleBar. Here’s what we learned from them.
Don’t try to conform
O’Hagan has worked in lots of male-dominated companies, from Nike and Gatorade to her current role as president of Equinox, and she says that at first she felt incredible pressure to conform. “But fitting in is not what brings innovation,” she says. “You might think, ‘My boss wants me to do this, or think like this,’ but the truth is your boss wants the business to succeed.” And you can only do that by pushing through new ideas and thinking outside the box. “That’s what benefits the economy. Be yourself.”
One thing at a time
Nowadays, there’s so much emphasis put on multitasking, and being super flexible and adroit and moving quickly. “I really have to tell myself to slow down,” says Yacobovsky, who launched BaubleBar with her best friend from Harvard Business School. “Be all in in the one thing you’re doing.” O’Hagan says the same thinking can be applied to switching jobs too. “Millennials often don’t stay long enough in a company,” she says. “Brands are like families — you have to honor heritage and tradition, but also bring in the new and experiment. If you’re constantly going onto the next thing, you can’t really affect change or make your mark at a company — and you can’t learn from the others there.”
Kamali — whose fashion innovations include the “sleeping bag coat” and 3D-film runway shows — says that writing a to-do list with actionable goals isn’t enough for her. “The point is creating dreams that you think you may not accomplish, because the road to trying to accomplish those dreams is the accomplishment. Even if you don’t do what you set out, you’ll be able to accomplish more than you ever thought, and perhaps come up with something entirely new.”
Have a life outside of work
All three women say that they can get a little work-obsessed — and that, while it’s good to be passionate about your job, you need to take a breather. “We create a better work environment when we give ourselves that quiet time away from work,” says Yacobovsky. O’Hagan agrees: “Employees bring much more to their businesses when they’re out doing things they are interested in,” she says.