According to SVB, Women only hold about 10% of the top executive positions at U.S. companies, with women making up just 5% of chief executives of S&P 1500 companies. (Women in Technology Leadership 2019).
In celebration of International Women’s Day, we wanted to highlight our own COO, Brittany Filori, who spends each day leading the team and who encourages more women to seek leadership roles in business. We asked Brittany to share her own leadership experience and her advice to other young women and working moms who have dreams of finding an executive position.
What advice would you have to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
Define your goals and take actionable steps towards them. It’s important to mentally prepare yourself for the challenges or detours that might come your way and plan to gracefully accept them with a positive attitude. There’s no doubt we can be sensitive to change (queue the T Swift music and a good cry), but you need to learn to embrace it. Remember that the relationships you’ll form in business are the ones that can impact your journey. Your career life shouldn’t be like your favorite reality show, so avoid situations that inhibit a toxic atmosphere and focus on being a light in whatever company you’re in at the moment. This is how you create the right path towards growth and success. I’m a big believer in putting your good energy out in the world so goodness comes right back your way.
What are some things you struggle with as a leader?
I think there are times I’ve struggled with letting the opinion of others take up my mental energy. There’s a fine balance between being nice and being assertive as a female boss. I’ve come across my fair share of men (and women) who have had a problem with taking direction from me. Whether it was my age or gender, it’s not something I let bother for more than a minute though. Not everyone is going to be your biggest fan, but again, it’s about the impression you leave them with. If you lead with fairness and kindness, it becomes their problem and not one you should worry about. You have better things to focus on.
How do you achieve a work-life balance as a working mom?
It’s not easy so high five to all the women crushing both roles in life! Being routine is probably the most important tip I could ever give a working mom or a new mom in the workforce. Once you and your family have a solid routine from breakfast to bedtime, everything falls in place and it’s less stressful (not that your child won’t throw in some kind of curveball unexpectedly so don’t worry, it’s not just you!). Learning to forgive yourself is another aspect of feeling like you’ve achieved some kind of work-life balance. There’s a give and take with your energy, and at times it feels like you’re being pulled in so many directions. I follow the same principle with my home life as I do with my job, keep a positive mindset and everything will be just fine. Let go of trying to be a perfect mom (ugh, Karen we’ve all seen enough of your perfect Pinterest birthday parties). An incredible support system is also key. I have two great guys in my life, my husband and my partner in business. Both have been amazing when it comes to supporting me as a working mom.
What have you learned about leadership and mentoring others?
I’ve learned that great leadership comes with empathy and curiosity. I think a big part in connecting with my team as a boss has been approaching each person with an understanding that I care for them on a basic human level. This takes asking the right questions and spending time with each of them one-on-one building a relationship which allows them to trust my guidance. Once our trust fall-worthy foundation is laid we can keep the communication lines open. Continue to be curious about their hopes and dreams so you can facilitate those as a mentor. To this day I still speak to most of the people I’ve mentored in my career. I think that’s largely in part to this mindset and the genuine relationships I cultivated.
Trust me though, I’ve had plenty of bad bosses who showed me how not to lead. Early on in my management career I came down with mono. You know, the ‘kissing disease’ your mom warned you about in high school (just me?). A sickness that basically kills your immune system for a month and leaves you incredibly weak. Since it’s highly contagious I was ordered to stay home until my blood tests were clear. I had my boss calling me every other day for 4 weeks wondering not about how I was doing, but when I was coming back to work because my department needed my leadership. That was a pivotal moment for me in my career as I promised myself I’d always lead with empathy.
I think it’s also important to remain open to your leadership style changing. One of the best mentors I’ve ever had is our CEO here at 51Blocks, Michael. We couldn’t be more opposite on paper, but our spirits have always been in sync as empaths (all the feels). He cares about our people as much as I do and on a wholehearted level, but he’s taught me how to create systems and processes to lead with fairness which remove the emotion that made decision-making hard for me at times. This was powerful and really a big moment of growth for me in my own position.
What is your outlook on women in business?
I think the world is slowly changing and we’re seeing more women like me in C-suite positions every year. Something young women have to remember is there will be times where you have to work a little hard, speak a little louder, or prove your point but it’s important to keep a level head and be confident. Invest in your skills that fuel your passion. Love what you do and find a good mentor to lean on when you need someone to talk to and learn from. Gender doesn’t determine our ability to lead or be the smartest person in the room, our confidence and societal perception does. Own it and you’ll become it. Whatever that means for your own success.