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5 Things I Wish I Had Known as a Girl

Want to close the gender gap in entrepreneurship? Make sure the girls you know learn these five things early on.

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After two years of immersion in the start-up world, I've learned a few things about leadership, power, grit, and initiative that I wish I'd learned 25 years ago--as a high school freshman.

Embedding these beliefs earlier would have minimized my learning curve and given me the confidence to do things much earlier than I thought possible.

So here they are: five beliefs girls need to learn early in their lives in order to have the confidence to start a business later.

I won't underestimate my value or my ability.

Others may question my ability, but I will not deprecate myself or deflate my accomplishments in order to appear humble.

When I pitch an idea to launch a business, I will confidently project what success would look like--$125,000 in revenue in the first year, not a sheepish $25,000. It's one thing to be unpretentious, but it's another thing to aim low out of fear of looking like a braggart.

I will speak up and say things that add value.

I won't be satisfied with just a seat at the table, I will say things that drive the discussion to new places and compel people to listen and consider alternate view points.

I have a unique perspective that is a needed part of the discussion, but no one will hear it unless I take a risk and speak up.

I can have it all, but I can't do it all.

Picking between a career and a family is a false choice. Instead, I'll choose to focus on the women (and men) who show me that I can do both.

I know that leaning into both my career and my family will require some adjustments. Some days, certain things will fall to the bottom of the priority list. Other days, those things will take precedence. I will remember that success is achieved through constant adaptation and resilience. So I will be adaptive and resilient.

I know that I cannot do it all, but I can build a professional and domestic team that supports me and picks up my slack. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It's a sign of self-awareness.

I will get comfortable with imperfection.

Starting and running a business is not like school. There is no study guide or test to validate my skills.

Starting a business is inherently risky. There is no perfect road map and it may not work. But I will get comfortable living without structure. I won't be afraid to try things--even if it means appearing imperfect or not knowing the answers.

And when I'm terrified, I will not only rely on my ability to work hard and ask for help, but also on my intellectual chops and ability to create a vision and lead others.

I will embrace, not minimize, my uniquely female attributes.

Thinking collaboratively or having emotional intelligence is not a liability or something I need to change. I don't have to dress in a suit, be a bitch or even "bossy" to get extraordinary results. "Nice girls don't get to the corner office" will not be in my lexicon.

I won't cast off traditionally female attributes--emotional attunement, building consensus, holistic thinking--despite the short-lived advantages that comes with it.

I will do less "leaning in" and more standing up and speaking up.

I will stand up for myself and the way I want to live and work--with balance, meaning, and authenticity. I will speak up for my capabilities and viewpoints--with personal power and doses of kindness.

I will be a living example that you don't have to choose between happiness and success.

IMAGE: tammra/Flickr
Last updated: Apr 19, 2013

Dr. SHELLEY PREVOST is a mentor and early-stage investor at Lamp Post Group, where she hacks into the psychological and emotional side of starting and running a business. She is a co-founding partner of the JumpFund, an angel fund investing in female-led startups with high-growth potential. Prevost also speaks and consults with companies on finding purpose, humanizing work, and growing leaders from the inside out. She blogs about her work at the Glad Lab.
@shelleyprevost




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