By: Leticia Foster, MBA '12
(Originally published in the Charlotte Business Journal)
Millennials are a “hot” topic in today’s business world. Though the exact demographics have been debated, some define millennials as those born between 1980 and 2000.
Within this 20-year span, I barely make the cut. Yet there is a part of me that is a part of every millennial. This unique generation has changed how and what we expect our voice to influence, how we interact with consumer brands, and most importantly, how we view the workforce. We have unique behaviors that positively challenge social norms that align with our open and global perspective.
As an “older” millennial, I am influenced by both Generation X (our predecessor) and my fellow millennials. Now let’s add the additional element that defines who I am, a millennial woman.
Women in business face unique challenges and opportunities. As part of the recent #NextGenCLT panel, I shared my insights with fellow millennials about what I have learned as a woman in business.
Here are four actions that every millennial woman in business can take:
Speak up: It is a scientific fact that women speak two times more than men in a day. However, we “silence” ourselves more often than men in the work environments. By silencing ourselves, we are confirming and validating assumptions of women in the workplace. Speak up.
Practice the Shine Theory: As professional women, it is important that we support each other. The shine theory reinforced by President Obama’s staffers is such a simple action that challenged the norms. By supporting each other in meetings, emails, events, even in the hallway at work, we are reinforcing our power and unique perspective in the workplace. We are validating our expertise and building confidence among ourselves. Amplify fellow women in business.
Nurture your network: Our generation is known for the technological advances that have changed our communication patterns, specifically social media. I cannot reinforce enough the power of your social network. Your network can be your sounding board for new ideas, your thoughts, or ways to overcome challenges. It is important to nurture this group as they will be your biggest advocates.
Invest in yourself and your community: One of my panel colleagues reminded me of the importance of “me” time. I live by the phrase: “No one can take care of you better than yourself.” Taking time out for you doesn’t necessarily mean a lavish one-week vacation. It can be taking five extra minutes for yourself, which drastically affects your mood and mental state, and provides additional clarity. It is important for women to know it is ok to say no! Saying no does not equate to you being incompetent in completing tasks or participating on a task force. It shows that you know how to manage your expectations. It also shows that you value balance. You must understand the “ask” and evaluate whether or not it aligns with what you are looking to accomplish in business and personal settings. Remember, burnout is not flattering on anyone!
Remember: You are as strong as your network, confidence and investment in yourself! No one can take these intangible attributes away. Although there is much more to share, these are key points I have learned in my career that I would communicate to all millennial women.
Leticia Foster is a graduate of the Belk College of Business at UNC Charlotte. The Belk College of Business at UNC Charlotte is North Carolina’s urban research business school. Accredited by AACSB International, the Belk College of Business offers business education programs at the undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and executive levels. Find out more at belkcollege.uncc.edu.