Continuing Education For the Modern Woman
We love the popular saying “If you educate a woman, you educate the future.” At WomenWerk, we see education as a dynamic and life-long process. Our goal is to bring together women at different stages
We love the popular saying “If you educate a woman, you educate the future.” At WomenWerk, we see education as a dynamic and life-long process. Our goal is to bring together women at different stages of their personal journey to share invaluable lessons that aren’t typically taught in a classroom. We’ve seen amazing connections come from these interactions and know that the power of women working together can’t be overstated. Thanks to the historic efforts of educated women working in concert, we now enjoy the benefits of the right to vote, to engage equally in all aspects of higher education, legal protection from gender-based violence, the right to fair and equal pay and protection from discrimination over our personal choices to have (or not have) children.
Most people, at some level, know the benefits of a formal education: in terms of income earnings, children of college educated mothers make on average four times as much as children of high school educated mothers (1). In the area of health, every extra year in women’s education leads to a 9.5% decrease in childhood morbidity (2). In family life, college-educated women are less likely to get divorced than women without a college diploma (3). However, even as women are well-educated, they are still susceptible to being miseducated. It’s interesting to observe that even with higher education, women are given a unique set of expectations about success that are different from expectations of men. In subtle ways, women are taught to value being likeable over being respected, being cautious over being entrepreneurial, and being desirable over being ambitious. To be wholly successful, women must overcome and “unlearn” certain societal norms that hinder them from achieving their full potential. Tackling these issues has been a central theme at our hallmark Forum and Gala in celebration of International Women’s Day. Through the conversations at our events and our own lives, we’ve come to realize certain nuances of achieving success with higher education.
Here are our 4 career lessons beyond the classroom.
Your diploma is not a golden ticket
Think of your degree(s) as a key to open doors. There’s still a journey waiting for you beyond those doors. For many of us, most of our primary and secondary education is geared towards making it to college. Once that goal is accomplished, the path can seem less clear. Achieving the future you’ve envisioned, whether as a writer, entrepreneur, diplomat, specialized physician, economist and so on requires a whole lot more than just adding that college degree to your resume. Bridging the gap between dreams and reality requires a lot of hustle, risk-taking and soul-searching and is not a passive sport.
We’ve been inspired by our remarkable speakers and honorees who have achieved great heights in their careers. They know finding your life’s work is hard work and they’ve propelled their paths with ambition, focus and drive.
Werk your network
Career advancement is both what you know and who you know. Time and time again, many women have shared with us that most of the opportunities (formal and informal) they have come across were made available through their personal network. For women, breaking into fields and positions where women are underrepresented can be especially challenging. It’s important to surround yourself with people who can make that process easier. Networking might seem unnatural but can be easier if you keep an open mind and maintain a genuine curiosity about getting to know others and sharing ideas. It also helps to keep in mind the strength of weak ties (4). Realizing that acquaintances often provide our most valuable opportunities should take the pressure off of networking. When you are networking you can leverage your education in another way: your alumni network. It’s always remarkable how eager people are to help fellow alumnus, even strangers.
Raise your Social IQ
Working professionals spend more time with their co-workers than with their family and friends. It’s important to learn how to navigate these professional relationships effectively. Learning colleagues’ work and communication styles, personalities and motivations can make the work environment a lot more pleasant and can also be the key to career promotion. At some point or another in your career you may encounter office politics and it’s crucial to be prepared to know how to handle that, if for no other reason than your emotional health. Learn from the experiences of friends and mentors. Seek out a balanced perspective from trusted confidantes.
Confidence is key
Confidence is a major factor in your quality of life. It will shape your perspective and control the opportunities you allow yourself to say yes to. Women have been shown to apply to a job when they meet 100% of the qualifications, whereas men apply when they only meet 60%. It’s been argued this is less a reflection of confidence and more of a reflection of an understanding of the hiring process. In either case it reflects a fear of breaking the rules that ties back to confidence. High achieving women are especially susceptible to the “Imposter Syndrome,” in which they doubt the merit of their accomplishments. To achieve what we are capable of we need to be risk-takers and confident in ourselves and our actions. Finding a cohort of other women doing amazing things is one way to build this confidence, and the approach we employ through WomenWerk.