6 Tips On How Women Can Grow Their Channel Leadership Roles

Let The Light Shine Down

A big part of the challenge for women in the channel today is that they aren't allowed to, or aren't allowing themselves to, "shine their light," said Margaret Dawson, vice president of product marketing and evangelism for HP Cloud, in a keynote address at the Women of the Channel (WOTC) event hosted by CRN publisher The Channel Company in New York City. However, it isn't just a problem for women in the channel -- it's a problem for everybody, Dawson said.

"It would be one thing if it was just impacting us, but it's affecting society as a whole, especially technology and business," Dawson said in her address.

Here's a breakdown of the tips Dawson offered to help women, as well as men, find and leverage their strengths to maximize their leadership success.

Find What You're Good At

Everyone's strength, or "light," is different, Dawson said. The key is to find out what your own strength is and how you personally can best leverage it to your success. Some people are good listeners, while others are better at theater, and others are better communicators. But, everyone is capable of being strong and effective leaders in their own way, Dawson said.

"It is that thing that is inherently within us," Dawson said about each person's strength. "It is uniquely yours."

When asked if they know what their best strength, or "light," is and whether they use it regularly, 38 percent of Women of the Channel attendees said "yes," while 62 percent said "no."

Stay True To Yourself

It's not just women that need to figure out how to be themselves; it is everyone, Dawson said. And once you find that strength -- stick with it, she said. "That means in whatever form that 'you' comes in. It's funny because it's not just women who need to figure out how to be them," Dawson said. "It's figuring out what is that 'you.'"

It's especially tough in a world where society tries to streamline how women put themselves forward and what skills they look to utilize, Dawson said. She said that society has an idea of what a woman, or man, should be like, and it pushes that person to conform. "I don’t think people start doing it with evil intent, but it becomes society's way of trying to normalize everyone around you," Dawson said.

About 50 percent of college graduates are women, but only 10 percent of CEOs worldwide are women, she said. Giving examples of how she was asked to "tone down" in her own career, she turned the question to WOTC attendees, with 86 percent saying they had witnessed a woman colleague being asked to tone down their "light" in the workplace.

But Sometimes Finding Your Strength Isn't That Easy

While it is a huge asset to know your biggest strength, it isn't always easy to figure out exactly what it is, Dawson said. In the search, she suggested stepping back in time to when you were a child. Ask yourself what you loved and were good at back then and ask people who knew you at the time, she said. Children don't know any better than to be their true selves, she said.

Then, be ready and open for the change when new situations and opportunities arise, she said.

"You'd be amazed if you truly open yourself up to ... the things that happen," Dawson said.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Once you've discovered this "light" within yourself, the work isn't done yet, Dawson said. She said to surround yourself with positive people and place yourself in good situations.

"As you're surrounding yourself with positive people, you also have to filter out the [nonsense]. This is the hard one. This is the one I still struggle with," Dawson admitted.

In the end, it's not about finding the "light" for yourself, Dawson said. If you aren't putting it out there for the world to see -- you clearly aren't feeling it for yourself yet, she said.

Be Good, Not Evil

Dawson said that some people make the mistake that growing their own strength means pushing others down in the process. While some people may do that, Dawson said that it is not necessary to stomp on others to succeed.

"Shining your light does not mean being boastful about it or using it to overpower other people," Dawson said in her keynote.

It doesn't necessarily mean cutting a check to charity or volunteering your time, though that can be part of it, Dawson said. It can be as simple as being nice to those around you, she said.

Return On Investment

If you embrace your strengths and turn your strengths toward the world, the effects will be returned tenfold, Dawson said.

"It doesn't have to be physical. It doesn't have to be literal," she said.

The importance is finding those connections and that strength and leveraging it in a way that is best suited for you, your career and the world.

"The reality is no matter how old you are, or if you know your light now or you don't, we all need to continue to shine and continue to grow and continue to figure out how to leave this world a better place," Dawson said.