Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), global day of celebration for all of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911. Today, IWD belongs to all people. IWD is not country, group, or organization specific, and Oliver is proud to be a part of the celebration. Please enjoy these perspectives from some of our favorite leaders.
Global Vice President—Quality
I’ve been in this industry for a long time. A lot of the people I worked with when I was first starting out were women. Sure, there was a “boys club” that existed, which makes sense, given that manufacturing was (and still is) male dominated at ~70%. We didn’t let it bother us though. We just came together and made our own way. It was really that easy. I guess that’s why I’ve never really been a fan of labels. I know that they exist because of inequality issues, past or present, but I still try my best to avoid them. For me, it’s always just been about hard work and getting the job done. When people see that you work hard—and have the knowledge and expertise to back it up—it makes you indispensable.
A mantra that has served as my internal compass, and the best advice I can give, is this: Do what you can live with. Every time you make an important decision, think about that. And once your decision is made, stand by it without regret. Every decision you make has to make sense for you. A lot of times, if you’re asking others for advice, you’re probably looking for justification for when it doesn’t go well. At the end of the day, every decision has to be yours, so be sure to make it one you can live with, and then own it.
First of all, thank you for making this an article on leadership, not female leadership. The biggest compliment you can give any person is to recognize them for what they are, without a qualifier. A great leader, not a great female leader. A powerful athlete, regardless of their sex or race. I want to be a leader for our team, period. So I would echo what Georgie said. If we want a level playing field, let’s ditch the labels.
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way. They have helped me, and I hope they help you too. First and foremost, be authentic. This is important for all leaders, but I think it is especially important for women. Be true to who you are and be yourself. Different viewpoints are critical, so be sure to share yours. Second, be confident in the decisions you make. Don’t question yourself. Almost every decision that is made can be changed if needed. And finally, take risks. This is perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned. Women have historically been more cautious in taking career risks, and believe me, I get it. A risky career move might not easily fit into work life balance, and it might be harder for women to be the one taking the risk. But I would encourage you to jump in. If you really want something, make it happen. Understand that it’s OK to fail and that decisions are never final. I can almost guarantee that if you believe in the risk you are taking, you won’t regret the jump.
Mandeep Sidhu, PhD
From my time at university and throughout my career, I have been in what many would call male-dominated fields. My educational background is in Chemistry, a STEM field with 25 to 35% representation by women. I started my career in the steel industry, which has just about 20% of women in the workforce. Despite this, I never felt like “A women in…” any of those. I never felt disadvantaged or less than, and truthfully, much of my career growth has been a result of the women and men I worked alongside. For me, it has always been more about having the right mindset. Like both Georgie and Anne described, I have never approached things as a “woman in business”. We’re all just people. I never let myself be pigeon-holed, which is critical.
Any amount of success I have had is a result of working hard. Putting in the time and making tough decisions. Making choices and pivoting if necessary. I came from a background full of PhDs. It was the normal thing to do in my family, regardless of gender. All it took was a commitment to achieve, not being afraid of hard work or 18 hours in a lab. So my advice is: Have a work ethic like no other. Believe in yourself. That is crucial. Then make sure to surround yourself with a few people you can trust. The rest will fall into place.