As a female top dog, how do you prove to your team you’re a confident leader? One of our June Chicago City Meetup speakers offers her advice.
By Kristi Ross (Co-CEO & President, Dough, Inc.)
As a female CEO in the finance and technology industry, I’m often asked to share my secrets for successfully maneuvering a highly male-dominated industry. Throughout my career, I’ve challenged norms and worked to make my voice heard among the many men in the room.
These are the four pieces of advice I offer to help other women gain confidence and recognition in male-dominated industries:
1. Confidence: Ask Questions
I learned early on in my career to ask questions, to stand by opinion and to voice it.
During my 20 years in finance, I’ve worked in predominantly male environments and am often surrounded by many strong male voices — from the trading floor early in my career to management meetings and boardrooms now. To earn a seat at the guys’ table, I had to speak up, earn respect and prove I deserved to be there.
Now I encourage other women to let their voice be heard — even if it’s only asking a question. You may find you know more than the person you’re asking. Speaking up and sharing your opinion matters.
Before you know it, you’ll be leading the meeting, project or company!
2. Empowerment: Find Your Passion
I love the word “empowerment.” It’s about confidence, strength and application of knowledge!
I started my career by following my interest in finance and becoming a CPA. (I know… most people ask, “How can you be interested in, let alone passionate about accounting?”) As my career progressed, I followed my passion, but realized it wasn’t debits and credits that were exciting, but rather the trading and technology clients I worked on.
After I discovered my passion, I quickly moved into a CFO role of a stock specialist firm, and later became CFO of an online brokerage company. My passion for finance technology has led me to my current role, Co-CEO and president of a financial media and technology company called dough.
Dough is a financial app for do-it-yourself investors. It’s designed to make complex investment strategies simple. Dough is the first groundbreaking investing app that’s highly visual, intuitive and fun. It clears the noise and highlights what’s important.
I’m passionate about dough because I truly believe this technology is introducing a whole new way to think about investing and will empower younger generations to take investing into their own hands, explore trade options and increase their probability of success in investing.
To become empowered in your job or career, evaluate your passions and find what makes you feel happy and successful. Explore your options and keep an open mind. Opportunity is everywhere — it might be a career you never even knew existed when you first began working.
3. Strength: Share Your Insights
All entrepreneurs should create a culture of sharing ideas and opinions. You never know where your next big idea will come from.
In my work life, I need to feel like I’m making a difference every day in some form. If your company culture encourages the sharing of ideas and opinions, the result is incredibly powerful and rewarding for employees and executives alike.
Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, too many people try to garner sole credit, rather than sharing their ideas collaboratively to build even stronger ideas. In a collaborative culture, everyone can have an impact, which creates a positive environment… and positive energy breeds innovation.
I feed off of that energy — whether it’s an accomplishment the team made, feedback from a customer or daily sharing of ideas. My motivation comes from finding new challenges to overcome, and continuous positive forward movement. There is incredible strength in a collaborative culture!
4. Knowledge: Encourage Innovation
Have the strength and tenacity to challenge tradition with the knowledge you’ve built.
It’s important to understand why an industry is the way it is or why it runs the way it runs. Ask questions, build knowledge and challenge traditional means.
I’m not saying tradition is bad, but accepting tradition can cause complacency. If you challenge the norms and break the barriers of tradition within an industry, innovation is born. As women, we are often nervous to express our opinion or ask questions. As a female CEO or aspiring entrepreneur, be empowered to ask the next question, share your opinion and challenge the norm!
Catch Kristi Ross at the Chicago City Meetup on June 5 where she will be speaking. Grab your tickets now.