What I've Learned Through Experience


After 12 years of executive search experience in Southern & Central Europe, as well as in the Middle East and having interviewed various C-level female executives, I came up with the following suggestions that would enable women to be more successful in business.

  1. Trust Your Instinct
    One of our best assets as women business leaders is our instinct. Listen to your gut. You don’t need to present 100 pages of analysis, charts and graphs to explain why you know it is “the right thing” to do. The masculine way of working often belittles or de-values decisions made based on intuition. But what the business world calls “intuition” or “gut instinct” is really simply a way of describing how a feminine mind works. Whether your conscious mind is aware of it or not, we are constantly seeing things, analyzing and interpreting data. Women, in particular, are adept at integrating all the data perceived by our subconscious mind, processing it quickly and often times non-linearly and spotting the trends, relationships and connections. A woman is good at putting her finger on the pulse in related to a number of surrounding factors. Leverage this ability!
  2. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway!
    "Be willing to jump off the cliff and figure out how to fly on the way down". I was once told by a mentor that if I didn’t feel in over my head when I started a new job, I hadn’t made the right career move.

    Men and women have inherited some evolved traits. In prehistoric days, the men that were risk-takers would have brought home more food and defended their families better. Women were expected to “play it safe” by staying close to home and watching over the children. Over time, we have evolved. The world currently demands that both sexes display "feminine" and "masculine" behaviors.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “Normal fear protects us; abnormal fear paralyses us”. The best advice I can give women in business is to learn how to manage their self-talk so it doesn’t paralyze them and keep them from taking calculated risks. Self-talk is that ongoing, internal dialogue that either supports or sabotages. Leading behavioral researchers have stated that up to 77% of everything we think is negative. Women, in particular, need to reprogram the voice so it realistically supports them and allows them to choose to take action even in the face of fear.
  1. Gain Confidence Through Failure
    Failing and surviving gives you confidence. However, women tend to be a little more emotional about failing. When men fail at something, they tend to attribute it to some external cause, like the challenge was impossible, or they didn’t get enough support from their boss. When women fail, the tendency is to attribute the bad result to some personal inadequacy. Recognize that failures do occur, take responsibility for your part, reflect and identify the factors that contributed, take inventory of any behavioral shortcomings, forgive yourself and move on.

    Winston Churchill once defined success as “going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”. The fear of failure is probably the number one problem holding people back from the success they desire and deserve. So, view failure as an opportunity to learn. With learning comes wisdom. With wisdom comes confidence.
  1. Be Yourself, But Be the Best Self You Can Be
    This advice is given by Jessica Miller, co-author of A Woman's Guide to Successful Negotiating, about flexing your negotiation style: “You must be authentic or you'll lose all credibility”. The same holds true for being a successful businesswoman or leader. Know your unique strengths and leverage these to support your success. I find many women trying to emulate a masculine style—which is not their authentic way of leading. Be courageous enough to be yourself.
  2. Re-frame the Way You View Power
    "Power is the ability to change things.” says Carly Fiorina, ex CEO of HP. Many women have shied away from power because they have viewed power traditionally as “power over” someone or something. Men and women do not view power in the same way. To most men, power tends to be about authority as measured by titles, perks, and pay. To highly successful women, power is about "influence."

    In order to make a difference in business, you must be seen to be influential and part of the inner circle of decision-makers. If you reframe power as the ability to get things done, being powerful becomes palatable.
  1. Leverage Your Feminine Management Style
    We are in the relationship era: It's all about getting close to customers, striking up joint ventures, partnering with suppliers. Theory indicates that best leaders, regardless of gender, have a combination of both masculine and feminine energies. However, it is my experience that many professional women have been taught to downplay the feminine approach. Today's business environment calls specifically for feminine traits, including being great communicators, consensus-builders, community builders, collaborators and connectors.

Athena Tavoulari
Senior Consultant, Stanton Chase Middle East

Athena is a Senior Consultant in the Technology and Life Sciences and Healthcare practice groups of Stanton Chase – Middle East office, based in Dubai. She brings with her a wealth of professional experience within the executive search industry, being exposed in various international and local searches for well-known local or multinational clients. Throughout her extensive career in the executive search industry, Athena has gained experience from a variety of market sectors, such as Technology, Life Sciences and Healthcare, Consumer Products and Services, as well as Financial Services, always with a special focus on the Technology and Life Sciences and Healthcare sectors.

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