Being a successful woman in the workplace doesn't just happen. It takes a combination of focus, determination, and timing to find your voice. You have to work hard and far too often, harder than those around you.

In the face of adversity, leading women have consistently demonstrated how to negotiate seemingly insurmountable challenges to claim their seat at the table. Whether you simply stand in awe of their achievements or are making plans for your own professional rise, such extraordinary women have plenty to teach us. Every situation we are in, every negotiating partner we face, and every goal we try to achieve is an opportunity for reflection and advancement.

In honor of Women's History Month, here are five definitive examples of women who've continued to challenge the status quo because they believed in something greater:

When Gloria Steinem Identified Opportunities

Known for co-founding Ms. Magazine among many other achievements, Gloria Steinem took an entrepreneurial turn by negotiating a space for a women's magazine "for women by women" in the male-dominated publishing industry of the 1970s. This new venture allowed the images and roles of women to be reshaped for decades to come. Looking at a situation and seeing what is not there, yet could be, and asking the question "what if?" is a bold move that can have lasting impact.

When Shirley Chrisholm Showed Perseverance

The first African American Congresswoman elected to the House of Representatives in 1968, Shirley Chisholm served seven terms championing women's rights, educational access and a range of social justice causes. Her secret to these accomplishments was perseverance in pursuing her beliefs, collaboration and building coalitions. In any business context you need to identify each person's value added and then negotiate ways in which you can mutually support achieving each of your goals.

When Ruth Bader Ginsberg Built a Vision

Known as "Notorious RBG," Ruth Bader Ginsberg negotiated her way to the Supreme Court in 1993. A strong women's rights advocate, she gained a seat at the table of the nation's highest court by having a vision and being strategic in how she achieved it. The business you create is fueled by passion and a vision of what you want to achieve. Strategically negotiating your path and not being deterred by obstacles will lead you toward realizing your vision.

When Dolores Huerta Gained Support

A Mexican-American teacher turned organizer, Dolores Huerta co-founded the National Farmworkers Association (now the United Farm Workers) to improve the social and economic conditions of farm workers. She is a skilled organizer, known as a tough negotiator on contracts, and is accredited for coining the phrase "si se puede" or "yes we can." When facing difficult negotiations at any stage of your business development, there are times you will need to mobilize others and be empathetic yet firm.

When Indra Nooyi Identified Values

Selected from one of two finalists in 2006 for the CEO position of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi flew to meet with the other finalist and negotiated with him to stay on board to work together as a team. She is reported to have said, "Tell me whatever I need to do to keep you." Identifying what is important in a negotiation and what you are willing to do to obtain it gives you an edge and sets you up for success.

These five women all demonstrate important and learnable approaches to effective negotiation even under the most challenging conditions. They have set examples you can all follow in negotiating what is valuable including:

  • Identifying opportunities
  • Relying on perseverance and collaboration
  • Building a vision and strategy
  • Gaining support and being firm
  • Identifying values and constraints

Published on: Mar 23, 2018
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