Guest Blog by Katie Frankhart, mConnexions Writer
Throughout my career, I’ve been privileged to have mentorship from brilliant female leaders who show me what I am capable of, and who give me the power to explore and understand myself as a woman and a professional. Working alongside strong women has taught me a lot about the relationship dynamics it takes to be empowered and successful, both in and outside of the workplace.
I’ve had great experiences working with women, and I’ve had experiences so difficult that I started to become jaded about the overall idea of working with a female team. But, I will tell you this: every single experience was dependent on the female leadership, and the overall approach to building a strong team dynamic.
Here’s my sincere belief: behind every woman sitting at a table of men are the other women who helped get her there. In addition to my own hard work, I’m grateful to the women who supported me in finding my seat at the table.
Last week, I gave mConnexions owner & Principal Strategist Julie Holton a call, during her few free moments between a lengthy client meeting and a significant strategy call. As she made lunch and let her dogs out before heading back to work, we discussed the history of mConnexions, and reminisced about the remarkable growth our team has experienced over the last two years as a woman-owned business, with a strong team of women behind it.
Our all-female team grew organically. One by one, Julie added strong women with the highest caliber of talent. She chose not to have a brick and mortar agency because she recognized that the best talent is all over—writers, strategists, thinkers, good people. They aren’t always all in one place, state, or even country.
“This powerful team of women has come together because we attract other strong women to join us,” Julie said. “Each of you was looking to be part of something bigger, and I believe in the law of attraction when it comes to mindset and goals.”
One of Julie’s strongest values as a woman and leader is the desire to support other women and give them a leg-up in the world. In fact, she co-created Think Tank of Three, a trio of women who’ve come together to help empower other women and offer collaboration, encouragement, and conversation. While she loves the fact that she has a team of all women at mConnexions, she never envisioned it that way.
“Did you always plan for this—an all-female team?” I asked her.
“Never, actually!” Julie mused. “I’ve interviewed men—I will never set out to exclude them. We need men who want to be part of changing our culture because they are just as much a part of this conversation.”
Julie knows a thing or two about the power struggle between men and women in the workplace. Just like me, she was 23 years old when she began to get a grasp on the divide.
“I was a young news producer, and some newsrooms were just like a scene out of ‘Mad Men,’” Julie recalled. “It truly was a man’s world from the top down.” Because of that, she remembers women in leadership positions who were aggressive, some who were not supportive of others.
We all know it: the certain type of career woman who’s had to fight to work “in a man’s world”, because yes, let’s face it, it is still very much a man’s world. From that is born this battlefield where women meet head-to-head, forgetting there is room for power and support for more than one person.
Here’s the thing—these women are tough. They will make you build a backbone and earn a good ounce of grit. In all reality, though, these women actually have good intentions beneath their competitive instincts. More often than not, these are the women who are fighting to earn a spot at the table with the men because they’ve been consistently told they don’t belong there—that it’s not their pool to play in.
It’s a common misconception that women are asking for special treatment. We’re not — we just want to share the space. Why can’t we all play in the same pool?
As women start to take agency of their careers, we’re seeing more female collectives founded on the premise that women can raise each other up to reach their full potential, outside the pressures of working in a mixed-gender or specifically male-dominant workplace.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. There is no need for separation or a battle of the sexes.
As our conversation wound down, and before she had to return to running the world, I asked her for the advice she would give, not just to those of us leading or supporting teams of working women, but to professionals everywhere. What does the world need to know?
Here’s what Julie shared as her four keys to success in work and life:
- Know your value and have confidence. “I built our team foundation around value and confidence. My first, and largest piece of advice is to know your value. You have a purpose, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You first must empower yourself and value yourself before you are confident. Confidence doesn’t mean you’re perfect—it just means you’re confident that you can get the job done and done well. Even when you don’t have all the answers, be confident that you can find the answers.”
- Connect with the right people and grow your tribe. “Find your advocates and mentors—it can be someone on your own team or just someone from your personal life. Don’t just find people who are going to tell you what you want to hear. You need people who will help you figure out how to improve, how to grow. You don’t just need women—find men who get it. Several of our strategic partners are men. They get it, they are good people in life and in business, and they want to part of changing the stigma. These men are huge supporters of our team, and by growing our business, we are helping them succeed. It’s a win-win situation.”
- Recognize the importance of transparency, and practice it. “We’re all human—life happens when we least expect it. I’m just as human as everyone on the team, and we all have to learn how to be badass business women while also being human and dealing with life. As the leader, that can be hard because I don’t want to let the team down. There is this mentality that strong business women don’t show emotion, work too much, aren’t human, etc. Luckily, that is changing, and I shifted my mindset. I work really hard to be transparent with my team and tell them when and where I need support. In return, they are just as transparent with me: when they are struggling, or need a break, they have a safe environment to express that and ask for the team support they need.”
- Learn as you go and lean on your team. “When I became a supervisor at the age of 23, I had a boss who recognized the leadership qualities in me, but also recognized that I was still growing when she put me in the position. This gave me the chance to learn as I went, which ended up being some of my best experience. No, I didn’t have all the answers, but it made me a better manager by stepping into my leadership role. I leaned on the strengths of my team, and together, we would figure it out. As I said before—transparency. They knew they could trust me, but they also knew they could offer me help as their manager.”
Powerful and supportive female teams do exist—mConnexions is evidence of that. Julie implements these practices because she knows they’re the most effective way to raise us up and ultimately grow the business. It’s all about taking the approach to creating a healthy environment for every member of the team.
“I’m not going to pretend that we always get it right,” Julie added at the end of our call. “But we sure work really hard every day to do our absolute best — and the door is always open for the team to weigh in on how we move the needle forward.”
We want to share this energy and message because we know that if we can make it work, any team can. We are open about our knowledge and experiences because they can help change the stigmas behind female teams; our story can help build and shape female teams of any size, any place in the world.
As a team of strong women, we want to remind you that you earned yourself a place at the table simply because you are you—a powerful woman, hell-bent on success, and saving seats at that table for generations to come.
About the Author: Katie Frankhart began writing at the age of five when she debuted her crayon-illustrated novel about her dog’s adventure in a snowstorm. At mConnexions, Katie works closely with clients to capture their brand voice, mission, messaging and work, bringing them all to life through words.