My Story: Succeeding in a Male-Dominated Environment

Emily Taylor writing for Nina

Emily Taylor

By Emily Taylor

I’m 26 years old and working for Accenture as a Technology Consultant. I joined as a graduate just under 3 years ago, and the journey has definitely has been an interesting one so far. As a Sport & Exercise Science graduate, it was a little by accident that I ended up following this career path! Deciding I’d had enough of studying during my final year, I dug out the Times Top 100 Employers guide. Accenture were right up there in the top 10, and offered an amazing training course before starting work with clients, so it was with glee that I accepted an offer a couple of months later following interview, Boot Camp and an Assessment Centre.

My training was split between London (2 weeks) and Bangalore (4 weeks) and gave me an overview of Accenture and Consulting whilst introducing me to some truly talented and motivated colleagues, both from the UK and the India Delivery Centre, some of whom have also become great friends. My start group was comprised of around 40% females, which made our group of around 30 people a great mix.

Since then, I’ve worked with three great clients across Energy, Supply Chain Logistics, and Financial Services in roles varying from SAP (Systems, Applications and Products) Testing and Design to Process Improvement and Project Management. In all these roles I’ve been part of a minority of women working in a still male-dominated field (< 15% females in all cases). Especially given my educational background away from business, economics or computer science, it has been daunting and sometimes challenging to enter a new client as a credible and knowledgeable resource.

Although I’m still learning, I’d like to share some key ideas that have helped me build relationships and progress my career.

Tip 1: Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help

It may feel like a sign of weakness, but asking questions is how we learn. In fact, it will make you look enthusiastic and attentive to the task at hand. I’ve found that some people are even flattered if you ask for their help.

Tip 2: Take the time to introduce yourself and maintain consistent communication with as many people as possible

Even if it’s just saying ‘hello’, that simple gesture will help your colleagues warm to you. If you then need to ask them to complete a task or answer a question, they’re more likely to go out of their way to help you. I’ve found that a few males in our department are not so confident talking to females. Initiating light conversation has helped to break down perceived barriers, increasing productivity when we need to work together.

Tip 3: Act the part

Professionalism counts for a lot. If you look, speak and act professionally, people will take you seriously even if you’re not an expert in the field. Don’t dwell on being the only female in the team, but focus on being confident and offering a different perspective. People are often surprised when I tell them how old I am, saying that I communicate in a way beyond my years. I put that down to confidence, considered conduct and attention to detail in written communications.

Tip 4: Listen

There is no way that I could do my job without the expertise of my colleagues. There are so many niche skills required to deliver the final product. By listening to my colleagues, taking on board their points of view and using their knowledge, I can produce tailored deliverables that don’t lead to nasty surprises later on. I’m regularly the only female in meetings of 10+ people, and a few dominant individuals will sometimes get their points across  without hearing the thoughts of others . I try to involve the quieter attendees by asking their opinions to make sure that we consider everyone’s points of view.

Tip 5: Accept that things won’t always go to plan

There will always be hiccups, delays and unexpected problems. Accepting that, and learning how to deal with these issues is key to successful delivery. Being a bit of a perfectionist, this was perhaps one of the hardest things for me to learn. Now I’ve accepted that issues are part and parcel of the job, I’m calmer and more laid back. This has a positive impact not only on me, but also on others around me.

Tip 6: Attend socials

I’ve made some great contacts through social events, which have led me to different and interesting opportunities. We’re sometimes too busy at work to really get to know people, and social events are a much needed opportunity to do that. Quite simply, by getting a better understanding of who people really are, I am more able to tune in to colleagues. This added empathy makes me more effective, but also makes for a better working environment.

Tip 7: Extra-curricular activities

Working with my current client I have taken it upon myself to develop the ‘People Advocacy’, a Team of resources  working together to shape and look after all things people-related on the account.A host of areas are covered -from Social and Team Building Events to Corporate Citizenship, Career Development and Performance Management. I developed  this because it is of real benefit to others as well as being great fun. This side project has helped me meet new people and develop useful skills.

 

You’ll notice a theme to my tips: the focus on people. People come up with ideas, drive projects forwards, and make day-to-day work interesting and different.  You will never understand everything alone, but someone will understand each element. Learning how to get the best out of people to bring information together is my strategy for success.

 

Editor’s Comment:

Emily’s energy and ideas are inspirational. Please share your journey with us also. Either comment below or go to My Story Section to share more fully.

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