Young women going into business: You need to hear this advice from EY’s Angela Ciborowski was originally published on College Recruiter.
For women who are interested in going into business, there are many fantastic opportunities out there and many challenges as well. We spoke with Angela Ciborowski to discuss how young women can empower themselves to succeed in starting a business career. Ciborowski is an Associate Director at Ernst & Young, where she leads MBA Strategic Programs and advises MBA recruiting.
She is so passionate about empowering women in business that she created the Empower You Graduate Women’s Leadership Conference. This event is designed to lead, inspire and motivate future women leaders. Ciborowski provided some deep and insightful comments that we think will inspire you to move forward in your early career!
The importance of problem solving
Ciborowski says that problem solving skills are so important in business that the only essay topic to apply to attend the Empower You conference is to describe something or someone who inspired you to take action that resulted in a positive change. The purpose of that question, she explains, is to identify problem solvers.
Specifically in consulting, says Ciborowski, employers want people who see a problem and get excited to do something about it. After all, as a consultant, problem solving is what you’re hired to do.
Family vs. career and other hurdles
There are hurdles that both men and women face, but certainly some hurdles are more unique to women. “Many of the MBA women that we are recruiting are facing a huge hurdle,” Ciborowski explains, “they are at that time in their life when they’re debating having a family and a career. Not all women, but most will get to that point where they decide how they are going to balance that.”
Ciborowski has two daughters and has been with EY for 17 years. When her first daughter was born, she says the firm was doing a good job of supporting mothers who wanted to return to work. She recalls many friends not having those same opportunities. Many made the decision to leave the workforce and stay at home to raise their children.
Ciborowski says she really wanted to continue working. She was the first in her family to get a college degree. Her dad worked hard to put her through school without debt, and it was important to her that she continued that legacy and work to support her kids.
“I still had all that mom guilt,” she admits. “That’s just how we’re wired as women.” She then describes a conversation with a colleague that really stuck with her. “I was talking to a colleague of mine, also a mom. She told me that the guilt I was feeling was thinking about this decision in the wrong way. My colleague made it clear to me that I have an opportunity to be a role model for my daughter.” Ciborowski emphasizes how much that impacted her. She now saw her choice as a great opportunity to show her daughter that it is possible to be a great mom and a professional. It empowered her to say, “Hey, I can do both.”
Many companies, such as EY, offer “transition plans” that allow many women come back into the workforce after becoming a parent. Transition plans can include: receiving local assignments until you’re ready to travel, lactation programs in order to be able to travel and provide for your child, personal and family coaching, as well as networks of working moms.
Take opportunities as they come, don’t wait
It used to be very common for women who, even years before they planned to have a family, hesitated in taking assignments or particular positions where they knew they were going to be stretched professionally, usually for fear of needing to change in order to start a family.
This is changing, says Ciborowski. Young women are more empowered today to take chances and opportunities as they are presented. She tells young women that if something changes and you need to pivot for a personal situation, then pivot.
Ciborowski knows that many women, “in order to accept a role, they feel they need to have all of the qualifications for that job. Whereas men feel they only need to have 60 percent.” Women have to be less risk adverse and take more opportunities, she says, because our male counterparts are and they are just figuring it out as they go. Women have to be comfortable doing the same thing. As the saying goes, fake it till you make it.
The best way for young women to seek career guidance and advice
Ciborowski says that young people who are coming into the workforce are told to build their network, but no one is telling them how. Diversity of thought is extremely important when it comes to building your network. When EY goes to their clients, Ciborowski says they value bringing different perspectives in order to come to the best answer. She recommends young people to take the same approach with their network.
If you only gravitate towards people that are just like you, or only female mentors or only male mentors, you’re missing out on a lot of different perspectives and experiences that can help shape you.
Ciborowski sees young women and men try to build their network by having a meeting with someone in senior leadership. They sit down and don’t know what to ask. They don’t know how to utilize that time. She suggests making a list of three things that you want to work on in the next year or two. “Maybe you want to have a bigger voice in meetings, polish your technical skills, or be more comfortable in client situations,” Ciborowski offers.
Think about what those key areas are for you, and keep it one to two years out, she suggests. Next, look at the people around you, both men and women, and think about who does those specific things really well. Once you’ve identified who those people are, you can schedule a meeting with them. Then you will have one thing to focus on while in the meeting.
Ciborowski suggests you say to the person you’re meeting, “In the next year or two I really want to focus on public speaking [or something else] and I have observed that you are fantastic in this area. What advice can you give me?” This makes the conversation so much more productive; you’ll get a lot more out of it.
How young women should seek and cultivate business relationships
Ciborowski says it’s important to have male males and females in your network. She recommends two books to understand the research and the biology behind why men and women are different. Once you understand why, it makes it much easier to navigate those relationships in the workplace.
“The Confidence Code,” by Claire Shipman, talks about the biological differences between men and women and how that manifests itself in the workplace. “The Company of Women,” by Patricia Haim, is about personal and professional development. Invisible rules, as Haim describes in her book, are the rules that we don’t even know are there.
By understanding the reason behind our differences, Ciborowski believes it will position you much better for workplace relationships.
An example she gives is non verbal cues. “Women tend to be more expressive when we’re interacting with one another, nodding our heads and showing your agreement with the other person. Whereas men tend to think more in their head and show less emotion. Recognizing these things will make you less nervous about having those interactions.”
If you’re going to work well with people who are different from you, you have to understand where they’re coming from. When you find a perspective that is different from yours, that is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a great thing.
Women must trust their abilities, not reshape themselves to fit a persona
The kind of leadership needed in today’s business is no longer a command and control that was typical 50 years ago. In fact, you could argue that in order for businesses to compete in today’s climate, they need leaders who espouse more traditionally “feminine” qualities, such as active listening, collaboration and empathy.
Ciborowski encourages young women to recognize that they don’t have to change themselves to get ahead in their career. They shouldn’t hide their natural qualities, as they are important and necessary in today’s leaders. “Sometimes you do need to flex,” she says, but “the most important thing is to not mask who you are. Because you can’t live with a mask on forever.”
You’re not going to feel fulfilled if you’re not being who you truly are. You’re never going to feel that you’re giving your best self to your work or to your clients. Ciborowski tells young women to embrace their unique qualities and to make sure they don’t change who they are. She reminds them they don’t need a commanding presence in order to be in charge or get what they want.
The most important thing is to not mask who you are. Because you can’t live with a mask on forever.
In addition, women need to support one another, not tear each other down, says Ciborowski. They need to be able to promote one another without feeling threatened by them.
Women are becoming more comfortable with having a strong voice. Ciborowski wants her two girls, when they’re older, to go into the workforce and feel confident voicing their own opinion. No woman or man should hide their qualities.