Many career women fail to advance themselves because they fear taking risks, according to speakers presenting during a panel discussion at a conference for professional women in New York City on Friday.
Organized by the National Association of Professional Women at the Sheraton New Times Square Hotel, the speakers – nearly all chief executives at their respective companies – were among a host of luminaries who have achieved business success. The keynote speakers included Huffington Post Media Group President and Chief Executive Ariana Huffington; Martha Stewart, founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia; and Star Jones, an attorney and NAPW’s national spokeswoman.
“Fear prevents us from doing so many things in life,” said Johnson Publishing CEO Desiree Rogers, a speaker on the panel. “We all have to dig deep to understand who we are. You can’t be afraid to pursue what you really want. You can’t fear rejection.”
Boom! Social CEO Kim Garst agreed. “Too often we let fear hold us back,” she said. “You only fail when you quit – when you give up on yourself.”
A common impediment for women seeking to advance themselves professionally in the workplace is a fear or unwillingness to “toot their horn” to their superiors. MORE Magazine Editor in Chief Lesley Jane Seymour said that she was naive in believing that she could get ahead at Vogue magazine, her former employer, by simply doing a good job. To get noticed, she said, you have to take risks and “put yourself out there.”
Another focus during the one-hour panel discussion was a recently published book that is getting much media buzz: “Lean In,” authored by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. Turning to the panelists, NAPW National Spokeswoman Star Jones asked how they “lean in” or endeavor to “empower themselves” in the workplace.
Uniworld Group Chairman and CEO Monique Nelson said she sought a job as as an executive assistant to a CEO, a position that gave her a bird’s-eye view of the skills required to exercise leadership at the top of the corporate hierarchy.
Johnson Publishing’s Rogers added that, four decades after women began entering the workforce in large numbers, they’ve earned the “divine right” to reshape the corporate culture to one that allows women to pursue more varied ways to succeed in the workplace. A single “cookie-cutter” approach – for example, one that insists that women forgo raising children or spending quality time with their families to advance professionally – is no longer acceptable.
Boom! Social’s Garst added that women should believe in the “power of the possible” and therefore not limit their career ambitions to preconceived notions about their skills and abilities.