1 year ago
Having spent most of my career in [predominantly] male-driven industries - architecture and advertising - I dedicated a lot of time defying what it meant to not only be a woman, but a foreigner as well. If you come from an Eastern European country like I do, then perhaps you know first-hand the springboard of heavy assumptions connected to this region. All too often, I’d apologise for my accent and 'poor' grammar. Sometimes clients would mock the way I sounded during meetings or outright insult me. The worst were the smirks I received - as if to say, 'nice try sweetheart, but we’re in the business of making big boy deals'. People assumed I knew nothing about the industry I was in because I was a woman. So much so that I requested my accreditation be put on my business card, so people believed me when I told them I had MSC in architecture and engineering. Was I fed up? Of course. Did I give up? Not once. For me, success has been a journey of highs and lows and lessons learnt. Here’s my advice for other women who’ve experienced even a snippet of what I went through.
Stay true to yourself
In order to find your voice, you must know what it is that you want. Problem is, the world is noisy. Booming with opinion, roaring with judgement and blasting with impressions. Choosing not to distract yourself from the chaos is a process, but it’s possible and totally worth it. There’s nothing more empowering than knowing who you are and what you want. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If you disagree, speak up. If you want to be heard, get closer. Coming from a non-English speaking background, it was difficult at first to find the right words to use, and between me and you, it’s still hard to this day. But that does not deter me away from getting my point across. Speaking with confidence helped me get taken seriously, but time to time we share a good laugh when I mispronounce a word.
Be passionate about your job
Let’s face it, good work never came out of not giving a damn. Instead of being a benchwarmer, try to start small with a positive thought and nurture it to become a passion. You’ll find it will strengthen your focus and enhance your desire to pursue excellence. My love for design and creativity fuels my desire to go to work every day. As head of production for Taylor James, I find joy in seeing an interesting project come to life and helping my team reach their fullest potential.
Find your support network
Believe it or not, asking for help makes you stronger. It’s unfortunate when a person is dropped in the deep end and expected to sink or swim in their workplace. All this does is cause a great deal of stress and depression. Having a close network of friends and family to support you emotionally can be a great benefit. I was lucky to have my father who I could turn to for advice, his words and morals guided me out of tough situations. His best advice was to be patient and wait for my moment, rather than bursting into a room with flaming fires. After some time, I’ve found colleagues that I felt comfortable to be open and honest with my concerns and realised that cultivating a social support system in the workplace does more than offer a sense of community, it can help you achieve success.
Looking back, maybe I should be thanking those who doubted my capabilities when I first moved to London. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have the support network that I have now and the courage to speak my mind. I’m now married, have a wonderful baby boy and received my British citizenship. It’s been one crazy ride, but it sure feels great to prove that even women can be in the business of making big boy deals.
Zsuzsanna Vörös-Haynes is head of production at Taylor James