Senator Clinton listens as Chief of Naval Operations Navy Admiral Mike Mullen responds to a question during his 2007 confirmation hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee. Photo by Chad J. McNeeley, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Hillary Rodham Clinton is a historic first for the country. She is the only individual to have served as a First Lady and Secretary of State — now she is running for president of the United States.
Consequently, she is one of the most visible and successful women in a male-dominated field. But she didn’t get there by chance. She likely had to fight her way in. As Thomas Crowne says to Katherine in the film, “The Thomas Crowne Affair,” “We don’t let you in the game.”
To succeed in a male-dominated field, women need to play the game their way instead of playing by the men’s rules. Here are nine lessons learned from working and succeeding in male-dominated industries that could help a woman succeed, be it in the workplace or the White House:
1. Embrace gender and remind others of it. Wear dress suits instead of pants suits, and wear jewel colors. Women often confuse being professional with imitating the way men dress and act. Golda Meir, the legendary Prime Minister of Israel, was known for serving cookies she baked herself for her Cabinet and cried after she signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence. These acts did not diminish Meir. Everyone still knew she had a steel-like the resolve.
2. Remember, being tactful is not the same as being politically correct. There are four choices in life — “yes,” “maybe,” “no,” and “Oh, hell no.” If it is indeed “Oh, hell no,” do not be afraid to say it.
3. Do a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis. This should include all competitors as well as a self-comparison. This takes careful and impartial analysis as well as intellectual honesty. Make any needed changes to the game plan. SWOTs are living documents and should be updated regularly.
4. Underestimate no one or their ideas. Even those who are seen as “crazies” can have moments of sheer brilliance.
5. Demonstrate collaboration skills. Take an idea, give those who came up with it credit, and change the plan and make it your own with new details to support it including action items and timelines. Include the budget, how it will be financed and by whom. Can’t stomach an issue? Say “no,” but have solid reasons for being against it.
6. Be accessible. In management, it is called the “walk around style.” Those who are open and really talk to folks from all walks of life learn interesting information. Just as important, individuals will share their thoughts with you on how or why things should be handled a certain way. Down the road, the knowledge gained from a five minute conversation may become pivotal in making a key decision.
7. Pay it forward. Actually helping another woman on her way is just as important as being an advocate for women. Create and support mentor and internship programs for women in traditional and non-traditional career fields.
If all else fails, remember and heed the advice by Albert Einstein: “Never argue with an idiot. They bring you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”