Boss Lady

Women’s leadership insights from a Silicon Valley leader

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Women in leadership positions are a crucial part of the current business, technology, private and public sector landscape, and will only become more important as we look toward the future. So, how did we get to where we are today and where do we go from here?

Reflecting on the past to look toward the future

When contemplating the future, it’s important to take a step back and reflect on the past. I grew up in inner city Portland and became interested in computers and technology at a young age. My neighbor worked as a computer engineer, and when my second-grade self saw that he drove a Jaguar, I knew I wanted that level of success and decided to pursue the same career. While as an eight-year-old child I didn’t know what computer engineering truly entailed, my desire for a career in technology never changed – in fact, I went on to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in computer engineering. In college I had the opportunity to join a women’s and diversity club after developing an interest in programming and code, which helped shape the first stage of my career.

Following your passion, even when that means leaving what you know behind

I worked in programming for six years after college but came to a crossroads in my career after becoming a mother. While I loved programming, I felt called to marry my skills in communications with my technical background in a more comms-focused job. I went on to work at the lottery as an analyst, and eventually accepted a position at Yahoo Small Business. A few years later, with the help of a trusted mentor, I became the Yahoo Small Business Chief of Staff. Throughout my career in technology I’d noticed a lack of individuals with strong communication skills and technical backgrounds, and taking this huge leap in my career enabled me to fill that gap in the workplace.

The drive and motivation to follow your calling – even though it may mean leaving behind what you know – is key to driving the future of female leadership. Today, female leaders must capitalize on their skillsets, follow their passions, and not succumb to pressure – whether that’s pressure to stay in their current role, switch careers, or pressure to fit a certain mold. As businesswomen, it’s up to us to continue driving that future forward by doing what we want to do instead of what the world tells us to do. 

Transforming challenges into opportunities

At its core, being a female business leader – especially if you work in a predominantly male-lead industry – comes with a host of challenges. You’re often in an environment where you’re the standout and must constantly prove that you’re smart, that your ideas are backed by experiences and expertise, and that you’re just as capable as the men in the room (and even more capable in many situations).

While this environment becomes wearying, it can also provide unique opportunities. Through my experiences in business and tech, I had the opportunity to join the Women of the World program, which prepared me for an executive role – an opportunity I never would have received without pursuing a career in tech and developing the resiliency necessary to thrive in my role. Rather than viewing the challenges that come with your career as setbacks, transform them into opportunities to learn new things, develop skills, and ultimately grow in your career.

I know that this is easier said than done, and that’s where having a “tribe” becomes key. Every businesswoman needs a tribe. Your tribe is a group of individuals – whether that’s family, friends, or coworkers – that act as your support system and “cheerleading squad.” Find a group of people who can lift your spirits when it’s hard to feel positive, empower you to succeed, and help you develop the strength required to never give up, even when things get tough.

Empowering others to reach their fullest potential

The idea of empowerment is foundational to the future of female leadership: empowering other women to reach their fullest potential, overcome challenges and work together to solve problems. Be the leader of someone else’s tribe. Be the voice of reason when they feel like giving up or giving in. Remind them why they chose their career in the first place. And don’t just leave it at female business leaders: reflect this in your personal life, too. Through the experiences I learned throughout my business journey (coupled with my background in math and science) I helped my aunt succeed in her career, and I helped my mom earn her bachelor’s degree. The future of women in leadership positions will be fueled by these mutually beneficial relationships and the empowerment that comes through lifting each other up and working together. 

Solving bigger problems through diversity of thought and experience

Diversity and inclusion are also key to the future of female leadership. Going beyond gender, diversity of thought also comes through differences in culture, religion, experiences and more. When women from different backgrounds come together, incredible things can happen. Bringing unique perspectives together can create new solutions, drive better results, and facilitate growth – both in businesses and society at large. With that in mind, we must nurture and cultivate differences of opinion and perspective, empowering one another to use our differences to be better together than we are individually. 

Opening up the conversation

Starting the conversation about women in leadership roles and exploring where we’re headed next is key to actually moving the future of women’s leadership forward. You never know what girl or woman may hear these conversations and be empowered or exposed to new ideas and opportunities. These conversations have the potential to create an entirely new generation of female leaders. For example, through open conversations girls could learn how their passions map back to careers in ways they never imagined. A love for art and fashion could translate into a technology career through design roles in a gaming profession. A passion for studying languages could evolve into a business role, travelling the world as a professional translator. Sparking these important conversations can create endless possibilities and opportunities. 

Where do we go from here?

Women’s History Month provides the opportunity to open these conversations about women in leadership roles and think about how women’s leadership will evolve in the coming years. To drive the future of female leadership forward, we must empower one another and equip the next generation of female leaders to succeed. By embracing challenges as opportunities, leveraging our differences to be better together than we are individually, and always remembering that we excel at being ourselves, we can drive the future of female leadership forward.

About Amonique Brown

Amonique Brown is the Chief of Staff at Yahoo Small Business. Prior to accepting the chief of staff position, Amonique worked as a senior business systems analyst. In her role, she marries her passion for communication with her skills in technology, and extensive knowledge of IT procedures and solutions. Amonique is a Portland, OR native and an avid Trail Blazers fan. She works hard to set an example of women’s leadership for her teenage daughter, as well as for her broader "family" at work and at home.

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