Young and Motivated: Women Have Unprecedented Opportunity
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Kate Danella

Women are sitting at the proverbial table and driving unique results for organizations.

Kate Randall Danella, Executive Vice President and Head of Regions Private Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama, learned an important lesson on the first day of her career in financial services. “My supervisor asked my opinion on a topic with which he was struggling. Being new in my career, new to the firm, and sitting at a board table with all males twice my age, I felt presumptuous making a recommendation, so I prefaced my response with ‘I know I don’t know anything…,” recalls Danella “I downplayed my opinion so significantly and discredited my own answer to his question that it was hard for my manager and the rest of the meeting attendees to make sense of what I was suggesting or even saying,” recalls Danella. She received an impactful response to her polite reply.

“After the meeting, my supervisor gave me very helpful feedback. He said I was invited to the table because he felt I deserved to be there. At the meeting, he did not expect me to solve the business problem or crack the code. But he did expect me to own my seat at the table. My supervisor told me that age, gender and experience make opinions and people different but not necessarily better. While he appreciated my respect for the opinions and experiences of the other folks at the table, he asked that I give equal respect to my own,” she says. “In fact, it was because of my age, gender, and experience level that the group wanted to hear from me on that specific topic. Unfortunately, I thought it was because of these attributes that I was unqualified to speak. The lesson was kind but firm: There is immense value in different perspectives, but that value can’t be realized unless everyone shares her opinion and owns her seat at the table.”

Focusing on individual ability instead of age, gender or seniority was a reminder of the tremendous worth women hold in the workplace. “The key is that women have proven their value just as men have — women have proven that they can lead, drive change and increase performance for organizations, that they can provide unique soft skills that drive differentiated value,” Danella says. “Trail blazing female leaders over the past several decades have created a promising environment for women to be successful in a multitude of careers and professions.”

In fact, in 2015, women made up 48.6 percent of the total U.S. labor force. The largest percentage of those employed women are in professional and management roles, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

No One Size Fits All

Increased opportunity translates to more choices for women, and women increasingly find economic and social independence by harnessing both career and life opportunities.

“Women can differentiate themselves through management style, presentation, and associate interactions, but hard work and diligence are the true differentiators,” Danella says.

Careers no longer take a single track for most people, which means people have the power to determine their own futures and career paths. Having choices means opportunity doesn’t come in a one-size-fits-all package. It’s about finding the right fit for your life beyond the workplace.

“We live in a day and age when options seem almost limitless. We can evolve our careers as our lives change. We no longer need to choose work or family—we can have both. There are more alternatives and resources to help manage work and life, which make the juggling act of being a female employee, mother, and wife a little easier. “Balance” isn’t easy, but it is possible. You simply have to redefine what “balance” means for you,” says Danella, herself a working wife and mother.

What’s Driving the Opportunity?

Danella attributes the dramatic transition in women’s career and economic opportunities over the past 20 years to several factors.

“First, society has increasingly embraced strong female leaders like Condoleezza Rice, Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg —successful women who have made it work for themselves, their families, and their organizations,” she says.

Second, research has confirmed the impact that women and their unique perspectives bring to the workplace. According to a recent study by The Rockefeller Foundation, “women bring different perspectives and approaches to business, resulting in a more inclusive workplace and often better performance for the company.” Companies increasingly look to channel these viewpoints.

Finally, technological advancements in communication and remote work capabilities have evolved to accommodate different work styles and work-life balances. The physical office is increasingly less important for some jobs as the men and women of today embrace the opportunity to work remotely or while on the road. “Women have never had so much choice and control of their destinies,” Danella says.

The gender gap in pay and leadership roles is still very real, but society shows an increasing concern for advancing and supporting women in the workforce. Eighty-two percent of Americans feel it is important for women and men to have the same opportunities for career advancement, and a majority feel women in leadership roles would help narrow the pay gap, drive positive change in workplace policies and attract a more diverse workforce, reports The Rockefeller Foundation.

Women increasingly have more choice in the workplace and at home — choice in regard to where they work, how much they work and how family fits into their work-life balance.

“I feel confident that the trend of seeing more women in leadership positions will continue,” says Danella. “However, I believe that the success benchmark should be women who are satisfied and challenged with their careers while achieving their personal goals. The more women we have hitting that success benchmark, the more women we will see organically rising in the leadership ranks.”

Women today can find success in each unique role they fill, and no two paths will look the same. “I truly feel the sky is the limit for women today. It’s all about choice, priorities, and not being afraid to own your seat at the table,” Danella says. “I already know that the meeting table at which my daughter will sit on her first day of work will look very different than the one at which I sat on my first day of work. I have no doubt that my daughter and her peers will come to that table prepared, proud and poised to move mountains.”

Women today can find success in each unique role they fill, and no two paths will look the same. “I truly feel the sky is the limit for women today. It’s all about choice, priorities, and not being afraid to own your seat at the table,” Danella says. “I already know that the meeting table at which my daughter will sit on her first day of work will look very different than the one at which I sat on my first day of work. I have no doubt that my daughter and her peers will come to that table prepared, proud and poised to move mountains.”

Learn more about how women are taking control of their financial futures.

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This information is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. Regions makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented. Information provided and statements made by employees of Regions should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Regions encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.