In a pivotal scene of the movie Wonder Woman, where the titular character faces an army for the first time, spy-for-the-good-guys Trevor says he would not let her risk her life.
“I will fight for those who can not fight for themselves,” she replied without an ounce of hesitation. Women entrepreneurs aren’t afraid to direct change, either, which often means being the first to face a battle at every turn.
More than 224 million female entrepreneurs contributed to the global economy last year. My research of entrepreneurial women found a common characteristic: They forged new paths even though they were largely under-qualified to do so. What carried them through superseded the lack of experience. While wonder women may be the first to do something, their call to ensures they will not be the last. Here are three ways everyday wonder women like you are leading the way.
1. Don’t let fear stop you.
Being first appears to come naturally to Jen Maseda, founder and president of Metrowest Conference for Women and executive producer and host of Woman2Woman Today. Rejecting the traditional female role, Maseda was the first in her family to attend an Ivy League school and start a business. When she saw her adopted home in the metro-west region of Massachusetts had no platform for professional women to network and collaborate, the Miami native created a groundswell for a local feminist movement with a culture of women helping women.
As an entrepreneur, almost everything you do is new. There is no opportunity to build confidence based on previous experience. Fear can be a motivator or an inhibitor. Maseda has developed a mix of tools to combat the power of fear so it does not stand in the way of her call to lead.
“I don’t hold on to fear; I work through it,” says Maseda.
Maseda’s advice: Ask for help, gather data, understand the direction of converging trends, accept failure and practice, practice, practice. She says, “I let fear run its course by working harder, inserting humor, remembering that I have to role model the new behaviors needed for change, and repeating my actions until the fear dissolves.”
2. Catalyze change that serves others.
Entrepreneurship is in Julie Lenzer’s blood.
“My father was an entrepreneur,” says Lenzer, who has turned her career as a successful technology entrepreneur into a career defined by catalyzing innovation and economic growth through entrepreneurship. “If you don’t help others, or show them how they can accomplish things bigger than themselves, you severely limit your impact.”
Lenzer was the director of Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Senior Advisor to former Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker in the Obama Administration. As the first in her circle to take on an appointed government position, every day Lenzer was presented with new experiences in policy, navigating the political landscape of national and global politics and leading change in very large and antiquated bureaucracy.
Lenzer’s advice: Be relatable and accessible to others, always find common ground in the why, forge a path for others to disrupt, and create a plan for the worst-case scenarios. She says, “The most rewarding things in my life scared the crap out of me when I started. Once I’ve figured out to do if the worst came to pass, and that I would be ok, everything else is an upside.”
3. Ensure there is always room for others.
Sometimes, the most impactful form of leadership is being the first to follow, showing others how to do the same.
Being a female disrupter can be lonely. Leading the way often means being the only woman in the room. Here’s the thing, when it comes to being an entrepreneur, a real disrupter, you might be the first in your family or in your industry or of your gender, but your job is to make sure you are not the last. And, you may be the only woman or millennial or whatever the data point demographic descriptor is; your job is to make sure others join you.
My advice: Practice asking yourself a few simple questions every day that will keep you focused on progress and engagement as you navigate the rocky road ahead. Start your day by answering how you are going to lead and ending every day contemplating what you did today to enable and empower the people around you.