5 Tips for Persistence in Environments Lacking Gender Diversity

As a result of recently launching Persist the Game with two of my closest friends, we have had the opportunity to learn and discover a lot about the environment that surrounds us. You are not alone in fighting double-binds, pressures, and prescriptions. We know women in all lines of work have lives where choosing to persist isn’t an option, it is required—especially if women have children, are a minority, or a single parent!

With Persist the Game, we wanted to craft something that would provide an entertaining, meaningful connection where we could bond, laugh, learn and gain insight over shared struggles (both sexes can & should play). It is timely based on the steady stream of female-oriented news headlines about sexual harassment culture, unequal pay, low representation in leadership and unconscious bias and/or google manifestos about predetermined capabilities…

With this constant twitter feed of upsetting news, I have spent time reflecting on these topics in aspiration of identifying further solutions and thought leadership beyond our game. Through this process, I have wondered…

How have I been able to advance and grow my career (thus far) in a predominately male-oriented career choice (finance)? And what would I tell myself starting out, especially with these news headlines?

Well, here's my response. You will experience gender differences and biases, which is why we all need to join together to develop solutions. I have had 1 direct female manager (thankfully very early on) of my 12 managers. My last two direct teams were 100% male upon my arrival. Furthermore, I have been critiqued on my appearance, compared to my male peers’ personalities and mistaken for an admin. So, how do you persist in these environments?

1. Find your Work Bestie(s): I have been lucky enough to befriend and confide in equally strong and motivated female peers early on (Thank you: Jessica Britton, Mandy Craig, Marybeth Pecha and Kathryn Ekloff). These friends are capable of hashing out a stellar financial analysis, developing a new idea (or game) or successfully remedying a bad day with a happy hour. Furthermore, when I am in meetings/levels where females are no longer in the room, I have these fine women to lean on no matter how many miles separate us.  

 2. Choose Next Level Mentors: A highly visible, high title mentor may sound sexy, but there are many pros to having a mentor that is just one-step ahead of you due to their relatability and accessibility. These type of mentors can give you pointers on what it takes to get to the next stage (as they have likely recently accomplished it themselves) and they can give you better visibility to what the next level looks like since they live it every day. Another possible benefit includes a high likelihood of you befriending them too.

3. Identify the True Allies:  The news and statistics can be defeating regarding gender diversity/bias, but it does not mean that male allies do not exist. I have had plenty. The key is to sticking to the allies and running from the bullies. With recent sexual harassment stories where power is leveraged, it would be naïve of me to say that it is easy to run from bullies. However, I think the principal stands; find your true allies who will support you in any situation.

4. Create your Own Diversity: One reason bias exists is because our brains are wired to prefer patterns. Find ways and means to submit yourself to diversity by seeking opportunities that require you to generate new thoughts, relocate you to new locations and surround you with different peers/bosses. Do not always choose the safe choice. The more you push your personal limits and go outside your comfort zone the more malleable you become.

 5. Discuss “IT” Together: It’s a 2-way street. We’re not going to tackle gender diversity by just sitting at a ladies only happy hour discussing the trials and triumphs of the week, setting up a women’s only affinity group or female mentorship circle, or by tweeting all the research that shows there is an issue. In order to truly make change happen, we need to be jointly having these discussions, call out bias when it occurs and develop solutions together.

This is just a thought-starter on ways to successfully persist in environments lacking gender diversity. Persist the Game is an attempt at putting these types of conversations in a box. We are looking for women who know, that while most days choosing to persist is not an option, persisting in good company will always be preferred. You get up day after day to fight, clinging hard to your successes, no matter how small. You believe in empowering and drawing inspiration from other women. And, like us, you value the kind of catharsis that can only be found in some good old fashioned laughter served with fresh cocktails on the side. Come join our journey, we have so many places to go.