Pressing forward with purpose

Female leaders across Capital One discuss the evolution of women in the workplace, and the inspiring part they've played in it.

There's no doubt about it, unique perspective powers great ideas. That's why it's so important to embrace the mindset that everyone-regardless of gender-has the potential to make a difference. And there's no better time than now, during Women's History Month, to continue the press for progress. We spoke with female business leaders across Capital One as they celebrate each other's contributions, discuss personal challenges and strive to build a community of empowerment for the next generation of women in the workplace.

Your success serves as an inspiration. How is it also an example of the evolving role of women in business?

"As women, our roles are always evolving. Currently, I am the General Manager of a division with roughly 1,000 employees and my boss's boss is founder and CEO of a Fortune 100 company. Today, these opportunities for women to lead in roles like ours are more prevalent than they were 20 years ago, so progress is happening, but we still have room for improvement." - Celia K., SVP, Small Business

"Women, especially black women, are among the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs. In my mind, innovation, inclusion, and complex problem-solving abilities are valuable in the global competitive market. I try to bring a mindset that encompasses these strands in all that I do at work. My career spans multiple sectors, but I've discovered that success in all of them means embracing a mindset that grows and supports an evolution of thinking. As women bring this thinking into business, we can shift the broader conversation around what it means to innovate." - Jamika B., Sr. Manager, Design

Women have made big strides, but what challenges do they still face today?

"I still think there are some unconscious biases at play. For example, I've heard similar behaviors described differently when referring to men vs women. When referring to men I hear things like, 'he's driven, results oriented, nothing gets in his way' and then, when it comes to women, it's more like 'she's aggressive, she doesn't partner well.' What gives a me lot of energy is hearing men caIl these situations out - and yes, I have seen that be the case in more than one occasion." - Emilia L., SVP, Business Analysis

"I'm not sure if this is unique to all women, but for me, being afraid to say 'no.' We say 'yes' to new work, extracurricular activities and leading bigger teams. We do this because we feel capable, and, also because sometimes it's hard to say 'no.' But, it's easy to become overloaded, which can lead to frustration and sometimes burnout." - Lauren L., VP, Business Analysis

Different perspectives power great ideas. What unique perspectives do women bring to your field?

"Diverse perspective is important because we can learn from one another. Our customers are diverse, and we need to understand unique perspective. Many of my colleagues come from an analyst background, which is not the way my career started. I am able to see things differently, and often introduce new ideas." - Lauren L.

"The women I'm fortunate to work with bring a fierce spirit of encouragement and inclusiveness to the workplace. We all regularly witness and benefit from acknowledging the work of others, and coaching and cheering each other on. Women are resourceful and persuasive. Many of us are general managers at home, and we bring that spirit and verve to work. Emotional intelligence plays a big part too-especially in relationship building and using empathy and active listening to appeal to various needs and situations. It enables us to add intangible value both to the day-to-day work, but also when it comes to setting strategy. The end result is that there's collective ability women bring to understanding objections or concerns others have, and then working to formulate a response which will resonate." - Celia K.

"I think women of color bring a deep sense of empathy and understanding of how it feels to be marginalized, yet only see success as an option. That level of grit and inclusive thinking can and has led to some of the greatest innovations." - Jamika B.

Support can come from anywhere. Who gives you strength? And how are you elevating others?

"I've been lucky to have a broad set of mentors and role models to look up to. In my opinion, the communities that are most helpful are people who can be there for you, but they can also challenge you. It's a little bit like tough love - if I know people are invested in my growth and believe in me, I know their feedback and guidance is coming from a good place and a desire to make me better. I think I can be of more help to other women by setting high expectations and offering feedback and coaching rather than offering unconditional support. This is naturally, my very personal take. I am available to anyone for emotional support (even hugs on demand) but that will never be in place of clear and truthful feedback. I believe we can't make each other better just by saying how much we are there for each other." - Emilia L.

"My communities have elevated me in countless ways over the years, whether it's been leaders advocating on my behalf for the next big job or putting me on a special project, or my coaches who have given me hard, honest feedback when I needed to hear it. As a result of that, I see the great importance of elevating others, so I work intentionally to do the same for my colleagues and peers. I purposefully make myself available as a mentor by proactively offering to mentor top talent. I also regularly and openly discuss the behaviors/traits that exhibit gender bias to help other leaders identify when it is happening and empower them to have the courage to acknowledge it with their teams." - Celia K.

"I draw strength from being able to make connections with people around issues that are important to me, including how to embrace and express my authentic self, and how to do the same for others." - Jamika B.

"I've found that it's important to build networks with those you can learn from, those you can inspire and those who can inspire you. A network of diverse colleagues who understand your strengths and help improve your weaknesses. It's also helpful to have people who will champion your work. I think for women, especially, champions are key to ensuring our voices are heard or even amplified if needed. I make an effort to seek out my female co-workers, especially those early on in their careers, to find ways to elevate their presence wherever I can. It's important for me to ensure we're able to support diversity efforts so we move forward together." - Pamela R., MVP Technology

If you could go back in time and talk with a younger version of yourself, what personal advice would you give?

"Figure out what makes you happy. Try out different roles and learn from each one until you find the one that makes you excited to go to work. Become the go-to expert in your space. Also, remember that life is short. We spend a lot of time at work, so work with people you love being around and do something you enjoy." - Lauren L.

"I'd tell myself to keep going. Things don't get easier, but they do get better." - Jamika B.

"First and foremost, I would tell her to believe in herself. We spend a lot of time as human beings doubting ourselves, and as women even more so because the world doesn't always show us a landscape where we fit in. When there are less than 1% female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies that becomes even harder. So, I would tell my younger self to quiet the internal voices and know that she deserves to have a seat at the table, that she deserves the whole table. Don't waste time doubting yourself, use that time to learn your craft and achieve what matters to you." - Pamela R.

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