A popular quote at my company is one that comes from Vince Lombardi: “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”
Lombardi was arguably one of the greatest football coaches of all time, winning the first two Super Bowls with his Green Bay Packers in the 1960s. I played several sports myself and learned valuable lessons from them — teamwork, sacrifice, dedication and good old-fashioned grit.
Today, I’m a manager in a company that intersects two male-dominated industries — automotive and technology. So, as a female, that grit still comes in handy today.
In fact, women make up 25 percent of the nation’s automotive workforce, according to the Website Catalyst. Drearier still, women only make up about 17 percent of the management roles in the car industry.
Similarly, the statistics are not favorable for women in the technology industry. According to Forbes, women only hold 25 percent of IT-related jobs in the United States.
It is also reported that women in these industries are unhappy, which is why they choose to leave these careers at twice the rate of their male counterparts. Women primarily leave this industry due to sexual harassment. However, many women never get started in this industry because of an alarming rate of discouragement in the classroom at a college level.
Faced with these underwhelming statistics, I have to say that I feel like a bit of an anomaly. I imagine that Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, may feel the same way. Despite the odds that were stacked against her, she has become a leader in the tech industry.
Not only am I working my way around what Sandberg calls the “corporate jungle gym,” but I am enjoying myself as I do. I am encouraged, inspired and fulfilled in this working environment. I relish the challenges that my job brings me every day.
Surprisingly, being aware of these statistics is a strong motivator for me. In a world that has experienced so much growth for women’s opportunities in the workforce since World War II, and is progressively working toward gender equality, it is encouraging to be a part of something bigger than myself.
I am a part of a movement. Women are changing ideologies, stereotypes and prejudices every time we show up and excel.
What is better than all of this? I am not alone. I work for a company that is leading the industry, but in an area that you might not expect. More than 30 percent of our leadership positions here are filled by women.
This has great ramifications for morale. Every day I am stepping into a working environment that values women for what they are contributing to the team, and it is powerful. A working environment like this encourages women to fulfill a tremendous potential. I am proud to be a part of this momentum in the lives of others — and this isn’t purely sentimental.
According to the company Development Dimensions International (DDI), research shows that companies perform better financially and otherwise with women in leadership positions. Personally, I feel very responsible for the individuals whom I oversee in my department. Part of this is because, as I said earlier, I feel that I am part of something bigger than myself.
As Sandberg has said, “Leadership is not bullying, and leadership is not aggression. Leadership is the expectation that you can use your voice for good. That you can make the world a better place.”
Whether it is something that people are aware of or not, by simply being the best manager — and the best individual — I can be, I am eliciting positive change in my environment. Along with that, I am likely affecting some ideologies about women in the workplace through my performance.
I feel privileged to work with the people around me. One of my favorite things is witnessing their growth in their own careers. It is powerful to help them meet the goals that I have set for them and that they have set for themselves.
More than that, I have a young daughter at home who I know is watching me. She may be too young to comprehend much right now, but the choices I am making in my career and at home will set the expectations for her life.
I want to be sure that I am making decisions that I can be proud of. If I don’t have high expectations for myself, how can I ever have high expectations for my daughter or the people I work with? I want the best for myself, my family and the company that I work for. I won’t ever stop, and I don’t want those who look to me for guidance to stop either.
Together we can make progress with the way the world sees women, the products that we can offer, the work that we give, the expectations that we have and what the automotive and technology industries are missing without us.