Contributed by Tina Savas, author of Women of True Grit
What does it take to be the first woman in your field? Do you have it in you? Are you born with a certain gene that enables you to withstand the pressure of taking risks? Perhaps your outstanding ability to successfully face obstacles began at an early age…at home… with nurturing parents or pushy parents who enabled you to reach a level not ever achieved by another woman. Or maybe the very nature of time allowed you to achieve greatness. After all, many people believe women have arrived, and attribute this notion of time as the sole reason for bringing about change in women’s achievements. We’ve all heard it said, “It’s about time!”
But for many women who set firsts in their fields, what they heard was that the time wasn’t right for a fight or a fuss over what they wanted to do, and they challenged the naysayers to make it the right time and to make it NOW.
Yes, it takes courage, vision and integrity to reach for your dreams, but, as I see it, there are very definable traits that set you apart.
Ask yourself, do you have…
- Commitment? You are highly involved in whatever you do and you never give up under any kind of pressure. You weigh the importance of every negative event against the bigger picture. And then move on, instead of dwelling on the pain of the moment. It is simply a part of your day and nothing will derail you from your passion. Soon to be replaced U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, no matter how you feel about her, fits this bill. Instead of slinking away, she is determined to continue as Minority Leader of the House, even though many people, including her own Democratic party leaders, feel she should step aside. According to Pelosi, she is committed to protecting her party’s hard won agenda.
- Control? You are always in control. Helpless is not even in your vocabulary, as you are too accustomed to challenge and change. You cope extremely well and thrive on working yourself through impossible situations when others would just as soon walk away.
- Faith? Challenge breeds increased motivation and effort for you because you know you can and will perform. Simply put, you believe in yourself. If you hear, “You won’t find the funding for that,” what you really hear is, “Watch me get that money!” You also have self-awareness and this builds confidence. To know what you can and cannot do enables you to clearly set your path. When television host Meredith Vieira’s first boss told her she would never make it in television, she proved him wrong, right? She has appeared on The View, The Today Show and as host of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
- Resistance? Call it survival against the odds. In spite of dire circumstances, you always get good things going. This is the risk factor at full speed. You are good at resisting negative effects, and research has shown that women may outperform men on this trait. Many examples of women come to mind here…Hillary Clinton’s ordeal with her husband, then-President Bill Clinton’s sexual escapades…Phyllis Diller, who overcame her husband’s health issues to become one of America’s most beloved comedians…Diane Crump, the first woman to ride a race in the Kentucky Derby, after having fans boycott her at every turn…Delores Kesler, the first woman to take a company public on Wall Street, navigating around a very chauvinistic culture…June Morris, the first woman to own an airline in the U.S. and specifically, the state of Utah…well-known for its protective business environment against women, then selling it to Southwest Airlines and joining their board of directors. Seems as though these women deliberately chose the most difficult paths to follow!
- Perseverance? In the end, it is your ability to persevere against adverse conditions that determines your success. Perhaps this is indicative of your strength of character. When others give up at a certain stage in their careers or endeavors, you hang on, and on and on.
Some wonder why we still make a big deal out of women setting firsts.
I heard someone say recently that until we have multitudes of women in positions of power and leadership in every business and industry, we need to recognize the important strides and firsts other women have reached, so we can find inspiration and guidance. We need these women’s voices and mentorship so other women can assume their roles in this changing culture.
Understanding their paths gives us a platform to understand the present and plan the future. There are hundreds of women who have already set firsts; they are trailblazers for the rest of us to follow. Because of their hard work and dedication, countless numbers of women have had an easier path to the top.