Silencing Self-Doubt and Building the Next Generation of Women Leaders
This year’s International Women’s Day got me thinking about the challenges I have faced throughout my finance and logistics career.
While routinely being the only female in meetings has never intimidated me, I have experienced moments when an idea or question I’ve posed was overlooked, only to be raised by a male colleague and then recognized as a valid point worthy of consideration.
These experiences often left me wondering if I was unclear or, as a native-German speaker, if I did not express myself properly in English. With time and as I have advanced in my career, however, this self-doubt or lack of confidence has dwindled.
In any field—but particularly male-dominated industries—it is important for managers and supervisors to challenge and encourage their young female workers. This is certainly the case in the logistics and e-commerce sector of which I am a part, both fast-growing and exciting fields that offer young women many opportunities.
Exploring All Avenues
I would challenge any woman embarking on a logistics career to choose three or four functions they would like to work in within 10 years, be it short-term projects or permanent positions.
In particular, being in tune with and aware of the role of operations is necessary to gain a robust understanding of the logistics business. Having the flexibility and willingness to broaden your skills goes a long way in moving up and is easier in the early stages of a career.
My advice? Look for a mentor. If a company does not have a formal mentorship program, it can be challenging to find the right person to fill these shoes. Nevertheless, capable and knowledgeable female colleagues abound in many companies. Look for a person who has all the qualities of a leader: hardworking, knowledgeable, team player, empathetic, respectful, and results-oriented, and has a high level of integrity. Once you have identified this person, invite them to lunch or buy them a coffee so you can talk about their career journey.
Finding Your Voice
We often hear that communication is key in our personal relationships, but it can be just as important in our professional lives. Speaking up at work can be challenging, but it is an essential skill that needs to be practiced if a young woman wants to move into a leadership position.
Leaders often have to challenge proposed business decisions, advise on the path to be taken, provide support, and at times be the least popular person because they have to say “no” while sharing alternative solutions.
A good communicator needs to be confident, secure, diligent, and have the ability not to shy away from a challenge. Overall, why should a young professional woman share her thoughts? Because she deserves to be heard, she may get recognized for her contributions, and it will help her earn respect from colleagues.
Supervisors Rising to the Challenge
Gallup findings show that only one in three workers in the United States and Germany strongly agree that they received recognition or praise in the past seven days for doing good work. Gallup finds that 74% of those who say their team receives praise also strongly agree that they "have the feeling that what [they are] doing at work is valuable and useful."
The results of positive reinforcement and encouragement in the workplace help increase a sense of purpose. Early in my career, I had a boss—who happened to be male—encourage me in my work and help me strive to advance. His encouragement gave me the confidence I needed to take on a challenge that led me to a leadership position.
All supervisors should play the role of encourager as they lead teams, particularly those made up of young professionals. The right combination of recognition and challenging assignments can help hone an individual’s skills.
Flexibility to Secure Superstar Working Moms
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to widespread school and daycare closures, causing working parents to juggle remote work and homeschooling. This shift has ushered in an era of greater flexibility and understanding for teleworking parents at the corporate level. Once we are on the other side of the pandemic, it will be essential for supervisors to remain flexible in assisting working parents, especially working mothers who often have to choose between their careers and caring for their newborns or small children.
For women in leadership positions, we must take this opportunity to challenge old ways of thinking. This includes supporting young women starting in the logistics industry to overcome self-doubt, empowering them to take control of their career paths, and encouraging them to believe they can be the next woman leader in logistics.
Bettina Staffa is based in Weston, Florida, where she serves as the Chief Financial Officer for DHL eCommerce Solutions, Americas. She began her career with Deutsche Post DHL (DPDHL) Group in 2000 in the Corporate Accounting Department in Bonn, Germany. Before joining DHL eCommerce Solutions, Americas, she held various leadership roles within DPDHL’s different divisions, including Global Mail and Supply Chain. Before joining DHL, Bettina worked in finance for the German Aerospace Center.