Your Brilliant Career Podcast
The go-to resource for getting the most out of your career
This podcast provides an injection of energy and practical insights to women who are committed to their career. I share tactics, tools and stories that inspire capable women to think bigger and unapologetically achieve the success they deserve.
One of my early realisations was that there are many unwritten rules about career success that no one tells you. Smart women are tired of generic career tips. They want accessible, relevant and practical tips. Each episode includes content that inspires women to step up in their career and experience the energy and reward of being more.
Your Brilliant Career is a podcast that aims to help more women rise and reach new heights in their career.
It’s true! Women feel “less entitled” than their male colleagues to job opportunities, and the research tells us that they are less likely to ask for a pay rise or a promotion.
One of the reasons is that we have been socially conditioned over time to feel less entitled to work opportunities than men. I know some of you might scoff at that and say – well, not me – and I hope that’s the case – but a recent LinkedIn survey with 2000 Australian women affirmed that seven in 10 women do feel less entitled than men. And at the more senior ranks, the stats are even higher.
What does this tell us? We need to look inward, learn more and be curious. I wonder if you are avoiding disruption at work or if your social conditioning is limiting your performance.
Links we talked about on the podcast include:
RISE Accelerate program: https://www.yourbrilliantcareer.com.au/rise-accelerate
Alicia Jabbar Women's Leadership: https://www.aliciajabbar.com/womens-leadership
Free guide - How to make your value more visible at work: https://www.yourbrilliantcareer.com.au/make-your-value-visible
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Today I’m delighted to be joined by Alicia Jabbar, who is an executive leadership coach and facilitator based in Oregon, United States. That’s right, we have gone international today.
Alicia approached me to join the podcast. I get a lot of invitations, which is lovely. I don’t take them all up of course, but there is something special about Alicia, and I know you will love this conversation.
Alicia works with a lot of senior executive women, running leadership programs, and she describes her approach as unconventional.
Alicia is passionate about helping women and in her words - unravelling the impacts of systemic oppression on women. So, you have probably heard a lot about how social conditioning plays a role from a very early age for many of us, and the long-term impact is that it can cause women not to speak up at work or not to cause any disruption. Keep the peace! After all, we are told to be polite, humble, and gracious.
I know that’s the experience for myself and many, many other women. You will have had your own experiences and you will have your own beliefs around this because we all have a background. But the point of this discussion with Alicia today is to understand what is happening for a lot of women and how are they holding themselves back.
I’d like to think that this episode of Your Brilliant Career will help you to recognise, overcome, and maybe even reframe some of those internal beliefs and open your eyes to what else is possible for you. It starts with self-awareness - so let’s meet Alicia and dive straight in.
Gillian: Alicia, welcome to the podcast. It is such a pleasure to have you here with us today.
Alicia: I'm thrilled to be here. Thanks for having me.
Gillian Fox: You have spent a lot of your career in male dominated areas. And let me tell you, in corporate Australia, we have a lot of male dominated work areas as well. It's a real challenge for a lot of the women that we both work with. How do you retain your femininity and hold your own in a boy's club?
Alicia: Yeah, I think it comes down to honouring and giving room for my style to look a little different. I will say that me personally, I do tend to lead with more masculine energy, which is not true of every woman that I work with in my world today. But it comes with really having acceptance that my style is going to look a little different and that I'm going to need to navigate things and find pathways to get things done in a way that others around me might not understand. And it'll come up against the face value of somebody might tell me is the best or most appropriate approach because I know for me it's not.
Gillian Fox: How have you really backed yourself on that? Because there must be moments where you have felt uncomfortable, I mean, perhaps not aligned with other people. And just from a style perspective, how have you navigated that? Because I think a lot of women would have a very similar challenge and you... It's very easy to go into that place of self-doubt and then revert in to something that doesn't really align with yourself.
Alicia: Right. I can think back to my career. I ran strategic partnerships for a data technology company, and my role was to set up our technology within these large tech giants in Silicon Valley. And after the first success, a lot of the executives at my company were saying, "This is plug and play. Just go set up what we set up here over there". And I knew in my gut that that was not going to work. And so one of the approaches that I took was I had to do a lot more listening and relationship building with people at each individual client than my executive team ultimately felt the patience for me to do. And that was my way of getting enough information so I could make these partnerships successful. And so there is a little bit of acknowledging, "Yep, I know that you're impatient. Yep, I know that's how you think the technology works. I hear you. I understand what you're saying, and I'm doing this". It takes a little bit of over-communication and validating of what I'm hearing.
Gillian Fox: Yeah. That makes good sense. And it sounds more high maintenance at the front end than perhaps some of your peers, but longer term you get that alignment and so you can work more cohesively together.
Alicia: Right. And I think there's that fantasy in my mind at the time anyway, and the fantasy in a lot of women that I work with that, "Oh, by the time I'm on the fourth partnership, they're going to get it, and we're not going to be in the same conversation". And yes we are because we've all forgotten how the first three partnerships went from a relationship-building standpoint. And I'm under pressure from people who think it should still look a very specific way. And maybe if somebody else was in the role, it would look that way.
Alicia: But for me, to be my best. I actually know what I need to do to be successful and to deliver on the business objectives.
Gillian Fox: Yeah. We know that many women have been conditioned not to disrupt, maybe not to speak up, maybe even not to be visible at some moments in their career. Tell us about the importance of unlearning because this is a fascinating subject, and I know it's something that you are very passionate about.
Alicia: Yeah. Unlearning is a core piece of the work that I do with all women. And essentially what I came across is that when women are working in male dominated industries, much of what they are expected to do to be successful comes up against our social conditioning. So what you're mentioning, don't be disruptive. And I remember at points in my career, and I coach a lot of women who are doing change management, for instance, where they're moving an organisation from one way of doing or being to another way of doing or being. And by inherent nature of those types of initiatives, people are going to feel disrupted, dysregulated, etcetera. And when a woman is conditioned to take care of others and not ruffle things, it's almost like an extra mountain to climb to just realise naturally entering that territory as part of certain positions is going to make you uncomfortable because it goes against everything you've been told. You should track, show up as, achieve.
Gillian Fox: Intellectually, that makes a lot of sense. How do you encourage women to enter that space though?
Alicia: Yeah, so I have women reflect on the way that they've been socially conditioned, and then like anything, that serves its purpose. It has served me to be conscientious of the people around me. And so I can look at all of those conditionings and ask myself, "How has this really served me? And where may it be getting in my way? Where may it be causing extra strain or tension?" And then you're kind of painting a wider picture than your social conditioning would tell you the picture should look like. And then you can really be a leader and make a decision around in what ways you want to flex and in what contexts. But it's not black and white. It's not like always do this now or never do that now. It's like, assess the picture more holistically and understand, okay, if this is where I'm going to go, I know I'm going to be coming up against some of this conditioning. In what ways may I want to be better, more okay with that in order to achieve what I want to achieve?
Gillian Fox: Is there an example that you could share with us perhaps of a woman that you've worked with that has really found that transformation through using the self-awareness and then adapting her style as you're talking about it?
Alicia: A big one. I am coaching woman right now who is the first in her function within a company. So she is an executive in this function, and the function is new to the organisation. And it has to fundamentally change. It has to change the way engineering works, product works, and the way expectations are set with sales. And like many things, when she took this job, she thought the organisation was more bought in to this function than the reality of when she went to try to implement and change some of the structures. So she's up against a lot of her social conditioning.
But one of the things that's really present for her, or has been present for her in her work, is that women are taught to be sought rather than seeking. So attention will come to you, don't go get attention. This happens a lot in dating and safety, but this notion of don't draw attention to yourself, but she basically has to draw a ton of attention to her work and her function in order to get the organisation over the buy-in hurdle for them to execute why they created this function in the first place. So she's coming up against a lot of just the tension of how uncomfortable that feels to be on this road show internally.
Alicia: So when you start to look at it through that perspective, there's compassion for why she's so uncomfortable and how this really is coming up against a lot of that conditioning, and this is the fundamental part of her role based on where the organisation is. And I think even if she was the most masculine leader in the world, that's still a challenging position to be in.
Gillian Fox: What do you think holds women back from owning their value and progressing to senior roles?
Alicia: A lot of noise that's telling them that their value is not as relevant or prevalent as they initially... I think women know their value, and the world wants them to forget it.
Gillian Fox: And why do you say that?
Alicia: I think if we work in places that are designed by and for men, if that fundamentally shifts, that is a threat to dominant culture. So there becomes this natural tension of like, "Well, if women's value becomes more pronounced within an organisation, then as people who don't identify as women, my value is inherently going to go down", which is not true at all. But there is that fear-based sense of if a woman's value increases, then my value as a male or as an ally is going to decrease.
Gillian Fox: So what do you think companies should be doing more of to support and overcome those experiences for women so they do feel more valued?
Alicia: Yeah. I think one really easy way is building in best practices in collaborative environments that encompass more styles.
Gillian Fox: Yeah. Diversity.
Alicia: Yeah. A simple one is especially in this Zoom virtual world, creating a world where an idea is introduced and you're in breakouts in smaller groups where the threshold for a less dominant voice getting in the space is lowered. And then it's like, okay, then we're coming back and we're talking about what do these different groups or small cohorts discover? Okay, how do we want to move that forward?
Gillian Fox: What else do you think helps women today in the workforce to speak up and have an impact? Thinking about those situations where you're in a meeting, do you know what I mean? And there is resistance. What are some of the things that you would coach them on to encourage them to speak up and back themselves in that moment?
Alicia: Yeah, it's interesting. It's so personal depending on the woman, but I think broadly, broadly speaking, there are two ways that people get motivated. Like the carrot or the stick. The stick is kind of like what's the consequence of you continuing to get on this path of staying as quiet as you're staying and kind of painting this doomsday photo and it's like, okay, this is an action so that I don't end up in doomsday. And then carrot people are more reward oriented. What's possible if you do this? If you bring these ideas to the table, where might this bring the team or the organisation or globally the experience for women in corporate worlds holistically?
So there's some aspect of building enough resonance around either of those that they're starting to see what's important in a felt sense way of speaking up. And then the more tactical how is an experiment. You are stepping into territory in ways of being that you haven't done. What's an experiment you want to run and what do you want to track and how can we learn and then help you modulate so that you're not way out of your zone of comfort, but 15, 20% outside of your zone of comfort and still making progress along what you're wanting?
Gillian Fox: Which makes it a little playful as well.
Gillian Fox: I think there's a lot of delight, isn't there, for people thinking about what is possible, what does that future self as a leader potentially look like, if I could master some of these skills and really connect with who I want to be as a leader?
Alicia: I will say there's two exercises in the group programs that I run that I think do end up being a spurt of inspiration for women. One is right at the beginning we brainstorm what makes a good leader, and it's just on a Jamboard online, and people are putting a bunch of words. And immediately women see, "Wait, that's me."
Gillian Fox: Oh, how fascinating. Yeah.
Alicia: It's not so out there anymore. It's like the set of characteristics that's often inherent for women leaders and data backs this. So there's this like, "Oh wait, I'm that model that people think of, and I just need to show that I'm that model more".
The second exercise is we have women look at their history around what have been the big pivots in their career so far. And when they're comparing that to their social conditioning, at any poignant moment in their career, most of the time they're going against that social conditioning.
Gillian Fox: When they hit that successful moment of achieving something, it defies their social conditioning.
Alicia: Correct. So we have them kind of look at all their social conditioning in those pivots or those points in their career that stand out as remarkable to them. And nine times out of 10, they're breaking some of that down. So they're seeing kind of the personal benefit of the disruptor lens through the experience they've already had.
Gillian Fox: Yeah. Well, I mean, it's a track record that says, "If I do this," do you know what I mean? "And have the courage to do this, I can do it again".
Alicia: And I'm going to get more moments like these that I already think are remarkable.
Gillian Fox: Is there any aspect of your own career you wish you could go back and change?
Alicia: Yes, definitely. I had a moment. I had moved back with my organisation to the Bay Area. I was part of the initial setup of our Bay Area presence in San Francisco, and I was new in a sales role. The person who hired me quit. My business development lead went out on maternity, and suddenly I was reporting up to a general manager who I had no relationship with. So everything was new, new, new, new context, and there was a lot of work. It was suddenly I'm doing the job of multiple people.
And one of the big mistakes that I made at that point is that senior person that I worked for had suggested, "You deal with the work heads down, and I'll focus on the relationships internally". And I was so underwater, I took that advice and that caused a lot of issues later down the line in terms of people not having exposure to me, not trusting my work, not being allies to get the work done that I needed them to do because our organisation was very matrixed. But at the time it felt like relief, like somebody's going to handle the part that's intimidating, which is building relationships with all these senior leaders, and I would absolutely do that differently now.
Gillian Fox: Well, retrospect is a beautiful thing, right? And it is hard work cultivating all those relationships with different people. It's a huge amount of time and effort, but I think you only need one little leadership experience under your belt that gives you that realisation that, "Wow, this is really important. I need to see how these people think about the business, what's important, how I can contribute in a meaningful way is where I'm putting my time and energy, the right place right now based on what I'm learning". But there's a lot of insights to be had, isn't there, from building the right relationships.
Alicia: And the person who I was working for who was part of our executive team, his way of dealing with the relationships was, "Don't worry, I've got it. I'm tracking this person". Not, "Alicia's doing brilliant, and here's what she's doing". He put them off, but he didn't build their confidence in me. And that's a really different approach that has different impacts on the people who are working for you.
Gillian Fox: Yeah. It's like you're a little service provider on the sidelines. Yeah. Oh no, I love that. So here's a bit of a quirky question for you. Who would you invite to a dinner party? Can be past, can be present, and why? Why would you like them sitting at that table with you?
Alicia: This is a more personal response, but I would actually want to sit down with my grandma and my great-grandma on my mom's side. They're both not alive, but they were women very different of their time. My great grandpapa had polio, and so my great grandma had more of the career. She worked 35 years on an assembly line.
Gillian Fox: Really? A pioneer.
Alicia: Yeah. This is post-depression at Honeywell. And then her daughter, my grandma also worked full-time as a CPA. She'd got divorced really, really early. And so I would just be thrilled to understand what their experience was of working women three, four generations back.
Gillian Fox: Where can people find you, Alicia?
Alicia: You can find me at aliciajabbar.com/womens-leadership.
Gillian Fox: And tell them about your fabulous newsletter.
Alicia: I send a weekly newsletter, which is a bit of a thought piece. People describe it as feeling like you have a best friend in your pocket who knows just a little bit more than you about women's leadership.
Gillian Fox: Well, Alicia, thank you so much for joining us today. It has been such a delight and clearly you're such an expert at what you do and I know you would add tremendous value to the women that you help develop. And thank you for all the insights that you've provided us today. It's been great.
Alicia: Thank you so much, Gillian. I really appreciate it.