Over the course of five years, Rania Habiby Anderson spoke to more than 250 successful women in emerging economies to find out what they had in common.
“There’s nothing special about the most successful people”, Ms Anderson says. “They don’t come from special backgrounds and they’re not smarter or luckier than anybody else. But they do share six alignments. These habits might seem simple, but it’s the unique combination of consistently doing all six of these habits every day that builds success.”
The habits are conveyed in her book Undeterred: The Six Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies the Lebanese-Palestinian writer, who lives in the United States, hopes that if more women employ these habits, gender equality will arrive sooner rather than later in emerging countries.
Here she speaks about the six habits:
The World Bank says that women who work in male-dominated fields make three times as much money and become three times as successful. So if you’re trying to make more money, consider a career in a male-dominated field. I met a woman called Tomago in South Africa with her own company specialising in a male-dominated field, producing steel fences. Tomago found that government contracts were constantly given to men, so she began to pursue residential work. Her neighbours started complaining to police that her factory made noise, so she moved to a different location. Her husband started taking money out of her company, so she changed bank accounts. She wasn’t going to let anything stop her. If you’re having challenges at work, find people who have solved those challenges and start to work with them. Don’t keep burdens to yourself.
Women who get ahead know what the skills of the 21st century are, so they can do what it takes to get ahead. Confidence is just a feeling, it’s not something you are or are not. You build confidence by taking action. Wei Lin, from Malaysia, decided to start a fashion swap business in Mexico. She was listening to recordings trying to learn Spanish on the plane there. When she arrived, Wei found women in Mexico weren’t interested in fashion swap businesses. Instead of giving up, she began to learn more about the industry and about doing business in Mexico. She found a partner, pivoted her business into a designer rental venture and proceeded to move on. So if you’re not feeling confident, what are the steps you need to take to prepare yourself? What are the strengths you have that you can leverage?
Women who succeed don’t let other people, even those who care about them the most, define them. They define themselves, by what it is they want to do in their careers. Like Crystal, from China. Her parents thought she should learn the piano, but she was terrible at music. They thought she should speak English, so they got her a tutor, but she couldn’t learn the language. Finally, when she graduated from college, she couldn’t even get a job interview so she went to work for the best job she could get, starting at the bottom, at Walmart. But she found out she was great at working for a corporation, and continued to develop herself. Now she’s an associate director at Deloitte.
Successful women aren’t trying to balance their life and their livelihood, they’re trying to combine the two together, and they don’t ask for help. They don’t say to their children: “Could you help mommy and load the dishes” or their husbands “Would you do me a favour and fold the laundry?” They don’t tell people at work; “Can you help me out?” Because the work needs to be done, it’s not a favour to you. They just say: “Please do the laundry”, “Please pick up the children”, “Please run the report”. And they don’t apologise at work when they need to take care of something at home, they just tell their office they’re leaving and that they’ve taken care of their work. And they don’t apologise at home when they need to be at work. I hear women say all the time “Mommy’s so sorry she can’t be at your recital tomorrow”. Why? Working women spend more time with their children than stay-at-home mothers used to 50 years ago. There’s nothing to feel guilty about. Women who are successful say “Honey you’ve got this great recital this afternoon. Mommy’s got a fantastic meeting she’s going to, with some really interesting people. When you and I get home tonight, let’s talk about our day.” What you do is important, just as what your children do is important.
Accelerate your success
Women know the actions to take that let them get into senior management. What makes the biggest difference is to stop waiting to be recognised. No one comes and taps you on the shoulder. You have to find the way to promote your own success and achievements.
Find a way to lead
No matter what role they’re in, women can find a way to lead. Like Denise in Argentina, who decided that the education model in her country was so broken that she developed a whole new system of videos to teach students, using the smartest and best teachers and online tutoring. She was just a professor, but she could see there was an opportunity. You are confident, you are educated, and you notice something because you see the world from a different perspective than men. You know what the opportunities are in your company, city and home. Take advantage of them and think of ways you can lead in your own way.
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