AECOM’s Jill Bruning, executive vice president and general manager within AECOM’s intelligence community and services department, was named the as the 2015 Female Executive of the Year in the large business category at the 12th Annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business. Here, Bruning shares nine tips for women hoping to succeed at the executive level in a male-dominated industry.
1. Get qualified
You have infinite opportunity. Establish credibility by attending the best schools and earning your “smart card.” Workplace gender bias is rare today, but some female stereotypes still exist. Overcome them by setting the example, not by following it.
2. Be resilient
Men are taught to rely on their instincts, while women tend to second-guess themselves and seek reaffirmation. Take risks, be a lifelong learner and welcome opportunities that challenge you to learn a new part of your business. In a male-dominated industry, positive feedback may be uncommon, so develop a thick skin. Criticism at work isn’t personal — accept it gracefully and move on.
3. Be your best you
Early in my career, I tried to fit in and be ‘one of the guys.’ My advice? Don’t. Faking it will harm your performance and affect your well-being. Display confidence while speaking and when making decisions and others will follow you.
4. Do the right thing
Ever heard the phrase, “don’t do anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the Washington Post”? Women in male-dominated industries receive increased scrutiny, so be an example of integrity, accountability and respect.
5. Don’t give up
My mom taught me that having a dream isn’t enough — success takes effort. A single parent who read me bedtime stories like The Little Engine That Could, she taught me that challenges are inevitable, but to see them as opportunities and persevere.
6. Leverage your emotional intelligence
Female brains excel at making connections across the hemispheres, naturally integrating intuitive and analytical information. These integrated thinking skills are beneficial to leaders in nuanced industries, with complex responsibilities that require creative solutions. Our value as female leaders is in how we are different, so make an impact by leveraging skills from outside the office — being a working mom of five taught me a lot about conflict resolution and time management!
7. Embrace the unknown
Change is sustained by emotional engagement, so most women operate well in a change environment (I change my clothes a few times before I even walk out the door!). Mix things up by streamlining processes or changing a team’s structure to enhance a service. Business needs change as technology evolves, and many companies now offer telecommuting and flexible schedules — a huge boon for women, especially working moms.
8. Focus on the present
Some seminars and books encourage building a career plan and defining career goals (“be a vice president by age 30!”), but I’ve found that when you do good work, opportunities present themselves. Focus on delivering exceptional performance, not distracting career goals.
9. Build a support team
Don’t do it alone. At AECOM, I’ve been able to network with many successful female leaders. Find a community (or build your own) for engaging those with similar skills or interests (AECOM’s Technical Practice Network is a great place to start!).
Watch Jill’s winner acceptance speech:
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