Getting ahead in business and life is rarely a lucky accident. Rather, it typically involves hard work, perseverance, tenacity, and the right kind of helpful habits. When it comes to succeeding as a woman, a few more things can help. That's according to Amy Vetter, global vice president of education and head of accounting at online accounting software provider Xero. Here's what she says she has learned about getting to the top.
1. The most successful women carve their own path.
While Vetter began her career in public accounting and auditing, it wasn't a great fit. She started her own business doing client accounting services, bookkeeping, and controllership services, and enjoyed creatively helping turn businesses around. "I had that business for 10 years, while at the same time, I was speaking at conferences and teaching at universities, which led me into what I do now," she says. "I actually learned [to make my own way] from my grandmother, Edith, who owned an antique dealership before many women were small-business owners."
2. The most successful women are not afraid to fail.
Beginning at age 12, Vetter would take the bus across town to work for her mother's maid service company. Watching her mother work hard and sometimes fail--but learn from her mistakes--helped her become comfortable taking risks. "As long as you're learning from those failures and getting better from them over time--and you don't just keep pushing against something that isn't working--you are agile and you can make those adjustments as you need to," she says.
3. The most successful women have friends who are in their corner.
Whether it's leadership mentors at work or females outside of work with whom you can vent, it's important to have a strong support network. "Identify women above and below you that you can help and get help from," she says.
4. The most successful women walk through open doors.
While more than half of accounting graduates are women, they only make up about 20 percent of accounting firm partners. "A lot of times, women are offered opportunities that they don't necessarily think they're ready for and they'll pass it up, rather than taking advantage of those opportunities and growing into them," she says.
5. The most successful women create personal space.
For Vetter, it means taking time to practice yoga or run, which helps her balance the demands of work and family. "When you've got problems happening throughout the day a lot of times you can't solve them because you're going from meeting to meeting," she says. "But I can go running and, without even meaning to, suddenly my brain's gotten a break and I'm solving that problem without intending to. Give yourself space to let your mind relax."