• Alyssa Poteet

Women in Business: Leigh McMillan on Advancing Your Career and How Male Allies Can Help

“If you’ve done your homework, are well prepared with strong arguments and cogent communication, but still get nowhere — change teams or move to a company that recognizes your value.”

Leigh McMillan, Chief Executive Officer of Whitepages

The number of female-led companies that made the Fortune 500 list has increased almost one percent since last year. That means only 7.4% of the Fortune 500 CEOs are female in 2020.

While this number is slowly growing, more women are gaining confidence and pushing limits. So hopefully, we might see that number begin to gain momentum in the near future.

Recently, we spoke with a woman who now claims the title of Chief Executive Officer of Whitepages, a software company trusted by millions. But she also has plenty of experience in other male-dominated industries, such as video games and professional sports!

Leigh McMillan was previously featured on ExecuTalks’ podcast, but she still has plenty of wisdom to share for women willing to put in the work to advance in their career — and how men can help.

Stay composed and true to yourself

“I’ve certainly had moments where I felt my ideas were not being given the same consideration, leading me to doubt myself and either stop speaking up or get pushier as a result — neither of which were effective.”

No matter how discouraging it can be to feel like you aren’t being heard, Leigh says these moments served as valuable learning experiences that taught her how to effectively deal with these types of situations.

No matter how many times you are talked over, or pushed to the side, keep your head up. Stand your ground and continue to bring your ideas to the table.

If you continue to feel like you are not being heard, use the moment to your advantage — this could be the perfect opportunity to learn what does and doesn’t work to have yourself seen in the workplace.

Don't settle for mistreatment

Although Leigh has found herself in situations where she felt her opinions were overlooked, she has also had many experiences where her male bosses were widely encouraging, supportive, and appropriately challenging.

"Life is short, and there are too many amazing jobs and inclusive, supportive companies to put up with gender-based nonsense."

Leigh says finding a mentor and allies can help you build a coalition of support for your ideas and help to advance them forward.

More times than not, if you have supportive allies behind you, they will point out mistreatment you would have otherwise overlooked.

Say yes to challenges

“Keep saying yes to intimidating, but fun and challenging opportunities — but don’t let stress and self-doubt keep you up at night. It’s almost always overblown, and not sleeping can contribute mightily to doing and saying things you otherwise wouldn’t.”

Sometimes women hold themselves back without even realizing it.

Even if you’re unhappy where you are, sometimes it’s easier to just stay there, rather than facing your fear of the unknown.

But by never taking risks, you don’t know what opportunities you could possibly be missing out on.

Follow Leigh’s advice and say yes to something that scares you. Even if it doesn’t work out, you will never regret pushing yourself to grow and learn new skills!

Men need to stay observant

Leigh says men should be observant of how the women on their team participate and how their participation is accepted by their peers.

Men in leadership have a great opportunity to help end the battle of women’s equality in the workplace.

And Leigh has some great, actionable advice for them:

“Set goals and proactively create opportunities for women to take on new responsibilities and advance. Be creative, and take chances when determining who might take on a new project, responsibility, or new role — invest time to help ensure their success.

Study after study tell us that diverse teams — including teams with women — make better decisions and perform better overall. So it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.”

Check out more blogs like this one here, and don’t forget to listen to ExecuTalks podcast for inspirational stories from today’s top executives!

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