In March, we are celebrating Women’s history month and want to take this time to reflect on how we can continue to increase gender equality in leadership. For this purpose, we sat down with FullStack’s COO and Co-Founder, Dawn Lively, to hear about her experience as a female leader in business throughout her career.
Dawn recently attended the Indy Chamber’s Women In Business retreat and said that it was wonderful to talk to other female leaders who are making strides in the business world. Doing this interview following this retreat has Dawn in the right mindset and a fresh perspective on what diversity and inclusion means to her.
Here are a few questions we asked Dawn about her experiences:
Q: What are some challenges you have faced as a female leader throughout your career?
A: When I was in my mid-twenties, I was working as an HR professional in an advisory capacity and when I would go into meet with clients, I was constantly judged for how young I was. Many managers believed that I had no experience and learned everything from the books because of my age. It felt like there was a constant microscope on my professionalism and I had to be very mindful about that professionalism. Another example is when I was working for a company and they would hire people from the outside and hire them without knowing how they perform, but if I was up for a position they would ‘try me out’ in that role before giving me that position. It felt like a safety for my own development, but I also wish that I had been given the chance to succeed from the beginning of each new role. As an owner now, my biggest challenge is doubting myself and my own capabilities and accepting that errors will occur.
Q: Why is diversity and inclusion personally important to you?
A: Studies have clearly shown that diverse organizations perform better so even if I did not have an emotional tie, it just makes business sense. For me, I learn so much from other people so it is really important for me to surround myself with diverse opinions and backgrounds because I don’t believe that I know everything. My newest passion as it relates to diversity and inclusion is people with disabilities. I just want to be aware of diversity and inclusion in all senses of the words and create a better working environment for loved ones and colleagues.
Q: What advice do you have for young women going into industries where leadership is male-dominated?
A: Try not to be intimidated in any way, shape or form, and that is really true of any male or female leader. Studies show that if women look at a job description and feel as if they do not meet all the criteria, they won’t apply for the job, while men are more likely to apply for something they are not 100% qualified for. So it’s important to not underestimate yourself and your abilities. It is also important to learn the difference between being assertive and aggressive. Traditionally women have been put into the category of aggression so there is a fine art of learning about yourself and your communication style.
We are grateful for Dawn’s leadership at FullStack and her passion for diversity and inclusion, which shapes the ethos of our company and our decisions on a daily basis.