with Marine Aubin & Georgina Hill
Shemin Nurmohamed and her co-authors, Marine Aubin and Georgina Hill, have given us an exclusive extract of their brand new book, Outshine. Outshine tells you everything you need to know about becoming an effective female leader based on the authors own leadership methodology. This book comes from the women behind Carbon Leadership, a networking and support organisation that works with current and future female leaders in the technology sector. Check out the extract and be sure to get yourself a copy this Christmas.
This extract is about Shemin’s effort to understand the problems facing women in the workplace, specifically looking at why women are less prominent in senior roles and how the ‘8 Cs’ can help women to further their careers and reach their full potential.
Over several years, I’ve devoted myself to understanding this problem in depth. I’ve also committed to learning everything I can about what helps women fulfil their potential, and I’ve thought a lot about how to modify the culture of the businesses I’ve worked in to enable them to attract more female applicants.
BUILDING A NETWORK
My quest turned me into a magpie for advice cherry-picked from a range of sources. I immersed myself in countless self-help books on every aspect of work. I studied what psychologists and social scientists have to say about gender in the workplace, and thought a lot about management style, culture and time management. Although all this advice was valuable, I found that it lacked the first step. Before getting started on a process of change, it’s essential first to create the right mental environment to underpin lasting change in our lives. We must demonstrate leadership over ourselves. It was with this in mind that, along with two colleagues, Marine Aubin and Georgina Hill, I began to develop Carbon Leadership. Carbon is a supportive network of like-minded women interested in helping to shape and support female leaders of all ages and at all stages of their careers – aspirant leaders included! Through our events, mentoring programmes and with this book, we aim to inspire women to develop more fulfilling, successful futures. Between the three of us, we have a range of experience. I’ve worked in large technology organizations for the bulk of my career. Before joining IBM, I had brief stints in education and on Wall St. At IBM, I changed jobs every 18 months or so, for 16 years. I moved to Pitney Bowes, where I have worked as a VP DMT Europe Sales since 2016. Additionally, I love working with startups – hence I’m on the board of several. Carbon’s Marine Aubin is a trailblazer for women in tech. The co-president of Girlz In Web, she is also a board member at the UN Women French Committee. Georgina Hill is a Junior Marketing Manager for a tech start-up. Bright and in tune with the upcoming generation of female leaders, she is keen to know what she and her contemporaries can do now to ensure a greater proportion make it to the top of the corporate ladder. Why Carbon? It has always amazed me that the same element, carbon, can be found in two different forms today – either as the common graphite – or as a diamond. Although alchemists have had trouble changing lead into gold, mother nature has shown that with the right environment of pressure, heat and time, she can turn graphite into diamonds. We too are diamonds in the making – all we need is the right environment in which to transform. We simply need to step out and shine! Based on all the research I’d done, together with Marine and Georgina, we have created a programme designed to build women’s self-belief, helping them to forge a personal brand that will support them to succeed. We call our method the ‘8 Cs’, and I’ll take a moment to introduce them to you.
Each of the following chapters in this book takes one of our Cs as its subject and tells you exactly how to make it work for you.
The power of proactive choice is huge, but women often limit their choices unconsciously. Embracing positive choices and opening yourself to the huge potential your future holds is the first step.
Confidence is something that’s made, not born. We reframe the whole idea of confidence as something that emerges through practice. Developing rock-solid confidence is within your control – we show you how.
Strong self-awareness, informed by an honest and positive appraisal of your best qualities, and an in-depth understanding of all aspects of your personality is an important precursor to confidence and clarity. In this chapter, we help you identify the core values that matter most to you.
Developing clarity of vision is the key to creating life goals that will help shape a path to a more fulfilling future. Our framework will help you execute those goals.
Creating a personal brand that is consistent will build your colleagues’ and employer’s confidence in you. Consistent, conscientious delivery, based on clarity is a key leadership trait.
The way you pursue, react to and adapt to change dictates so many aspects of your life. Seizing positive change with both hands puts you firmly in the driving seat.
Keeping a cool head is something that is an asset in any workplace situation. Start small by introducing a mindfulness practice for a few minutes a day. We share a calm for beginners practice to get you started.
Tapping into a supportive community of women who share some of your core values and can empathize with the challenges you face is a great way to bolster confidence. It also opens your eyes to the choices available to you and enables you to share in the wisdom of women who have similar experiences.
Women have often asked me how I had the confidence to change career multiple times: from chemistry, to investment banking, to finance, to sales, to coaching and leadership. When I reflect on where this courage and confidence came from, the answer often surprises people. I know I was not born with it as I was always shy and timid as a child, and I know it was not a natural gift as it still terrifies me when I move. Rather, it has more in common with Malcolm Gladwell’s theory: that 10,000 hours’ practice at pretty much anything can turn you into an expert. For me, it was through failure that I discovered a powerful secret: confidence is not innate – it is built through repeated practice, fed by a positive environment. This confidence practice is something we must all do with ourselves, by volunteering to take on challenging projects, putting our hands up, by committing to keep going with aspects of our careers we find challenging until we get good at them. But when it comes to creating workplace environments that nurture female talent, we can all help each other. Community networks of women encourage discussion across ranks, and a sense of shared interest; of looking out for one another.
Men have had these structures, of course, for years. They play golf, bond on corporate jollies to football or rugby matches, they belong to the same social clubs (although, thankfully, the old-fashioned gentlemen’s clubs are increasingly a thing of the past). Men are more likely to be able to make evening dinners and events that female workers with families find more difficult to attend. It’s at these informal semi-social meetings that men hear about opportunities, or glean useful insider information that will give them an advantage in their current job. These networks support the inadvertent gender bias that privileges men in the workplace. We women need to counter this by creating similar networks of our own. I think of it in terms of karma too: what goes around comes around. As women, in what is, particularly in senior corporate ranks, still a man’s world, we need to say good things about one another behind each other’s backs. Women are more naturally inclined to collaborate than men. That’s a fact borne out by countless research papers. In recent Canadian research by a co-working company, 76% of women said they would turn to co-working colleagues to help solve a work challenge, compared with only 54% of men. Female leaders are more likely to canvas opinion before they make a big decision, too. Let’s turn this ‘soft advantage’ to serve ourselves and my passionate hope that Carbon Leadership will become one such network and that our 8 Cs method for building confidence, increasing clarity and improving the perception of choice for women in their careers, will catch on. We’re excited to hear what you make of it, too.
Join the conversation.
Outshine is available to buy on Amazon now.