Helping Women and Girls Be Bolder
The year 2085: That’s when analysts estimate U.S. women will finally reach parity with men.1 The benefits are many. Indeed, research conducted globally has shown that firms with a higher gender balance of men and women in corporate leadership roles report greater profitability.2
Any size company can benefit from gender diversity. The secret to great leadership? It all comes down to building self-assurance, support and trust.
Leslie James, a marketing specialist advisor with FedEx and an advocate for empowering women and girls, encourages companies to support women by providing networking opportunities that promote personal and professional growth.
James is an active participant in the Women in Leadership group at FedEx and serves as an assistant troop leader in the Girl Scouts Heart of the South program.
“We need to start young for girls to know that they can do whatever they set their mind to,” James says. “‘Don’t limit yourself,’ we tell them. ‘You just need to set your goals and go for it.’”
How to be a strong leader
Through her years of involvement with Women in Leadership and Girl Scouts, James has developed a few tips on how women can build their confidence and, in turn, help narrow the gender gap:
Try new things — even when it means leaving your comfort zone. “To stretch yourself, you have to get uncomfortable,” she explains. “That’s not always fun, but it’s very important so you continue to grow.”
Ask for help.
Women shouldn’t be afraid to reach out when they need it. “FedEx has a wonderful environment where if you just ask for help, there will be people there to support you and help you be successful. I learned that through Women in Leadership,” she says. “And I think that’s true even outside of FedEx.”
Don’t wait, act.
Self-doubt is a powerful obstacle for many women. Research shows that a girl’s self-esteem peaks at age 9. For James, that means teaching women to let go of second-guessing and focus on doing instead. “You might surprise yourself,” she says.
Strength in numbers
The Women in Leadership group started at FedEx in 2013. Its focus is to encourage women within the company to:
- Think strategically about their careers
- Apply for more senior positions
- Advocate for each other
As an early member, James helped organize the group’s largest event, the yearly Leadership 360° Summit. What originally comprised a few hours of panels geared toward women’s professional development has since grown into an all-day event.
More than 1,400 people attend inspiring talks from keynote speakers and local leaders, both women and men, to help show the women the possibilities of how they can reach their goals.
“The speakers we’ve brought in motivate the ladies to get out of their comfort zone and go for what they want to achieve,” James says.
Building leadership skills
James learned what it takes to be a leader, set goals and achieve results from her mother, a small-business owner who was very involved in her community.
“There are always opportunities to learn leadership by volunteering. That’s how we envisioned Women in Leadership. It’s a safe place for women to gain leadership skills. There’s a group there to support you, to help you through the process,” James says.
And she’s passing the message on to her 10-year-old daughter — the two have delivered food baskets to residents in a less-fortunate area, sponsored a family at Christmas and participated in FedEx Cares events. “I think children can learn leadership skills in a safe environment by volunteering, too,” James says.
If you’re a female entrepreneur looking to empower yourself, James recommends checking out U.S.-based events organized by the International Women’s Forum — they’re inspirational and great networking opportunities.
Consider organizing a leadership mentoring program for both women and men in your company or community. Read more about being a leader on the Small Business Administration site.
More from FedEx Updates
Find additional tips and tricks to improve your FedEx experience on FedEx Updates.
1Warner, Judith. “Fact Sheet: The Women’s Leadership Gap,” Center for American Progress, 7 Mar. 2014.
2Nowland, Marcus; Moran, Tyler; Kotschwar, Barbara. “Is Gender Diversity Profitable? Evidence from a Global Survey,” Working Paper Series, February 2016.