Despite status quo statistics—women earn 75 percent of what men earn; women hold only 15 percent of C-level positions in the U.S.—and a challenging economy, the almost-constant changes to the way we communicate, interact, innovate, and do business today are setting up an opportunity-filled future for women. Why? Because the qualities that are valued in today’s socially driven culture—participation, engagement, collaboration, relationship-building, an appreciation for the greater good—come naturally to most women, points out Vickie Milazzo. She says women simply have to be willing to reach out and grab the coming opportunities.
“Inside every woman are the skills and forces necessary for being successful today,” says Milazzo, author of the new book Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman (Wiley, 2011, ISBN: 978-1-1181-0052-3, $21.95, WickedSuccess.com). “Ninety percent of success is showing up. Whether you’re selling an idea, trying to land a new job, or learning to paint, the bottom line is that you have to show up. Women today have to be up to the task of inserting themselves into the big picture.”
Unfortunately, many of the same societal barriers that have blocked women for years continue to be in place. A recent report from McKinsey Quarterly listed four main barriers cited by those surveyed: structural obstacles—a lack of networks and role models for women; lifestyle issues—an aversion to the 24/7 nature of corporate leadership; imbedded institutional mindsets; and imbedded individual mindsets. In response to these challenges, the report notes, many women simply temper their expectations. Instead of going after a promotion, they stay in their current position or make a lateral move to a different company.
Naturally, Milazzo wants to end this tendency. She encourages women to look within and use their innate qualities to be successful, qualities that have never been more relevant than now with the rise in social networking and the changes it’s bringing to the way we do business.
“No wickedly successful woman ever got anywhere waiting for the economy to get better or for women to suddenly become as valued as men in the workplace,” says Milazzo. “The rise in social media and most importantly a growing appreciation for collaboration, participation, and relationship-building have created a perfect storm for entrepreneurial and enterprising women. These qualities are at the very heart of what women do best.
“Men certainly exhibit many of these qualities. But women synthesize these strengths into a potent energy that is distinctively female, and we should not be afraid to express them. Women have every advantage right now. It’s time for more women to harness their strengths. We’ve never been better positioned to make our mark.”
Read on for a few feminine factors that make women primed to succeed in the social revolution and how you can take advantage of them:
Women aren’t afraid to take action. Whether it’s getting worldwide attention for a new product through a viral video, building support for an important cause through Twitter, or using Facebook to report a nation’s revolution, there’s no denying that social media has made taking action easier than ever before. “Successful women know how and when to take action,” says Milazzo. “They know that success is not about what you do when the road ahead is golden and every dip and turn smoothes your way. It’s about how you respond when you hit the biggest, nastiest roadblock of all time. By taking action every day, you develop the habits and discipline to make your vision a reality. When you focus not just on the idea but on making it happen, you stay in motion, not merely dreaming your passions but living them.”
Women aren’t afraid to ask for help. Be it through message boards, questions posted on Facebook, or informative YouTube videos, much of what makes social media so appealing is its capacity to help us help each other. And because women have often had to fight for everything they’ve achieved in the business world, helping each other has become a common practice.
“I pioneered the industry of legal nurse consulting, so there was no one to teach me how to do what I set out to do,” says Milazzo. “Yet I didn’t feel alone. I gathered the biggest CEOs and successful business owners in the country—at least those who’d written a book—and devoured everything I could find about launching a business. I became a successful student of business strategy for life. Some of the best advice I received when I started my business was ‘Vickie, you will encounter many challenges you will not know how to handle. But there’s always someone out there who has already successfully handled that very challenge.’ Intelligent women know what they don’t know and when to seek answers. Smart women appreciate that what works today won’t necessarily work tomorrow, and aggressive learning is a competitive advantage to achieving any desired goal.”
Women know how to trust their intuition. The concept that women are more in touch with instinctive inner guidance is so intrinsic to our culture that most people (even men) accept it without expecting any scientific explanation. On the side of science, the larger splenium of the corpus callosum accounts for greater interconnectivity between the left and right hemispheres of women’s cognitive brains. Some scientists believe this broader connection enables women to access both sides faster and easier than men. Women are not more “right-brained,” as is the myth; their brain functions are actually more holistic and generalized. Women fluently engage the limbic brain, where higher emotions are stored, and the instinctive brain, which is responsible for self-preservation. This holistic combination of emotion, instinct, and cognition equates to women’s intuition.
“Many of our social interactions are driven by intuition,” notes Milazzo. “We can instinctively sense if we should or shouldn’t ask a friend why she’s upset or whether to continue a conversation that is heading down the wrong path. Does it make sense to have such an extraordinary tool and not use it? Not in my book. By trusting my intuition, I created a new industry where a void formerly existed. My intuition told me lawyers needed nurses, even if they didn’t know it yet themselves. If anyone ever tells you one person can’t accomplish anything big, or you shouldn’t go against the odds, don’t believe it. Intuition worked for me. And it will work for you. It all starts with your intuitive vision.”
Women are great relationship-builders. Most women want to give their all to every relationship they have, be it with a coworker, significant other, child, family member, friend, client, etc.—and when they can’t, they often feel guilty. Our complex society of family, friends, career, and spiritual and social obligations constantly pulls us in different directions. Social media adds yet another layer of complexity, and our always-on devices give us instant access to the world via email, texting, and Skype, but they also give the world instant access to us. Opportunities to commit bombard us at every turn. For many women, it leads them to over-commit in relationships, but when tempered to a manageable scale, this willingness to build relationships sets women up for great success today.
“When you’re in pursuit of a great opportunity, one source you can count on for harvesting more energy is positive relationships,” says Milazzo. “We all know at least one person who lifts our spirits and makes us feel more alive. It might be your mother, your spouse, a good friend, your children, or, if you’re truly fortunate, all of them. Surround yourself with positive relationships, especially with those who support your passions, and you will be eternally rechargeable.”
Women are natural multi-taskers. How many things can you do at once? How many things can your spouse or significant other do at once? Chat up any group of women with a variety of talents, emotions, and intelligence and you’ll find most of them are juggling a dozen different projects, a handful of important relationships, and at least one pressing dilemma. Women excel at multi-tasking—a true leg up in a world that is constantly asking us to do more, more, more.
“Flexible and adaptable, women handle unexpected change gracefully,” says Milazzo. “We’re not thrown by 10 things hitting us at once—that won’t wreck our day. We’re wired for agility. Hand a woman an iPhone and you turn her into a captain of high-tech industry. She’ll set appointments, answer email, snap and send photos to friends and family, update Facebook, arrange a party, make dinner reservations, and text her husband to pick up the dry cleaning. We’ve learned to bend technology to fit our needs and increase our agility for handling more complex situations at increasingly higher and faster levels.”
Women know how to collaborate. The rising use of Wikis and other collaborative software indicates the rapid acceptance of a growing need to share knowledge, ideas, and energies. Office technology has advanced to provide a platform for sharing, reviewing, editing, and completely rethinking documents or graphics. Documents that were passed around in brown office envelopes from desk to desk for sign-off can be accessed by workers anywhere there’s a computer. As our workforce has gone global, software has permeated the vacuum created when we are unable to meet simultaneously.
“It’s only when we come together and engage in conversation that we raise new questions and think of possibilities at a collective level we would not have considered on our own,” notes Milazzo. “Collaboration is not just connecting with people. It’s also an attitude of helpfulness. Wickedly successful women know that playing nice is a sign of strength. Inside every woman is a natural collaborator. That’s a wicked advantage we have as women, an intellectual edge we can leverage for using our genius at the highest possible level.”
Women know the importance of mutual support. Fusion occurs when you merge diverse, distinct, or separate elements into a unified whole. More and more that is exactly what is happening in our highly connected global society. Women, it seems, benefit from this connectedness more than men. According to a landmark UCLA study on managing stress, the bonds women form with each other also benefit their health and longevity. The hormone oxytocin, enhanced by estrogen and released as part of their stress response, encourages them to gather with other women. The bond that forms helps to fill emotional gaps and lowers the risk of early death. Men experiencing stress go into a fight-or-flight response. Women’s broader response system may explain why they consistently outlive men.
“When women come together and share their passions, visions, experiences, fears, and promises, an amazing bond occurs,” says Milazzo. “From that bond emerge sparks of brilliance and insight that none of these women alone, or in any other combination, could have inspired. Female fusion is a truly powerful force.”
Women understand the power of giving. Milazzo writes that one of her favorite things about social media is that within seconds you can lift up a person’s day, and in doing so lift yours up too.
“One of my best friends will often Facebook, text, or leave me quick voicemail messages reminding me she’s thinking about me,” says Milazzo. “She always ends them with ‘Love you.’ I get a big smile from each one. She makes my day.
“Giving does not always mean pulling out your wallet. Time is a valuable gift. Mentoring is a valuable gift. Spiritual or emotional support is a valuable gift. Sending a person positive thoughts costs nothing and benefits you as much as the people you’re thinking about. If there’s something you want more of, give it away. If you want more money, encouragement, or love, give it today and you will receive it tomorrow, but not necessarily from the people you give it to. It comes through other manifestations. By giving back, I have received more abundance in every aspect of my life than I ever dreamed possible.”
In her book, Milazzo writes about an East African tribe that became famous for its rain dances because they were 100 percent successful. Members of rival tribes with low to mediocre success rates jealously theorized that the tribe had better dancers, special steps, more powerful chants, or more sincere prayers, or that their costumes, feathered accoutrements, and masks made the difference. Finally, they claimed it was simply luck that made the gods smile on that one fortunate tribe but not on their own.
After observing the “lucky” tribe’s practices, an anthropologist uncovered the secret to their success rate. He was surprised that it was so simple. They had no special powers, no magical interventions. They simply danced their rain dance until it rained.
“They never quit, never gave in to their exhaustion, and never grew despondent over how long it took for the rain to come,” notes Milazzo. “They expected it would always rain when they danced, and their experience supported their belief. They just kept dancing, knowing that sooner or later the gods would be satisfied and reward their persistence with rain. Rewarded they were—every single time.
“This is one of the most basic and simple secrets to wicked success,” she concludes. “It’s always easier to quit the dance but much more rewarding to dance on. And that’s what most of us women have been doing for centuries. We’ve fought for everything we’ve achieved. Now, as the world becomes more and more flat, as consumers become more engaged in the way companies do business, as diversity programs open doors for more women and minorities, it’s about to start raining. To take advantage, you simply need to have the wherewithal to keep dancing and go for your wicked success.”