Speaker Deborah Perry Piscione - successful business women

10 Habits That All Strong Businesswomen Practice

by Deborah Perry Piscione

Now more than ever, women are poised to rule in the professional world and beyond.

In technology, Moore’s Law is the idea that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every year, while the costs are halved. Similarly, the trajectory of women’s influence in work, politics and culture is moving at an exponential pace, and changes are occuring in a fraction of the time it took to advance previous gender parity initiatives. 

Making the pie

Women have figured out that in order to get a larger piece of the pie, they have to make the pie. In the last few years, women have been increasingly departing the corporate ladder to launch their own businesses, start their own angel funds and venture capital firms and invest in female-led companies.

A 2019 study showed the gender gap in startup success disappears when women fund women. Meanwhile, the Center for Venture Research found that, “Nearly one in four (24 percent) angel-backed companies were women-led in 2017 vs. 19 percent in 2007 … In large part, this increase is due to the percentage of women angels over the past decade, which rose from 12 percent to 20 percent.” 

Nearly one in four angel-backed companies were women-led in 2017, vs. 19 percent in 2007.

And, “Over the course of nearly half a century, women have gone from owning 4.6 percent to 40 percent of all businesses,” according to the 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.

The female golf course

Over the course of my career, I’ve driven in traditionally male spaces. I worked in foreign policy on Capitol Hill and in the White House and served as a television commentator for MSNBC, Fox News and CNN. I then built out four companies in Silicon Valley and became a thought leader and speaker on innovation and the Silicon Valley ecosystem.

Speaker Deborah Perry Piscione helping business womenMy proudest contribution is the creation of Alley to the Valley (A2V)–the proverbial “female golf course.” It’s a national deal-making community of 10,000+ accomplished women: investors, entrepreneurs, corporate executives and service providers.

A2V members come to the table with an ask and an offer–or what they need to get to next level and how they are willing to help others–and they fast-track business for each other.

At Alley to the Valley, businesswomen pitch each other for funding, connections and advice. 

Trouble on the green

A2V members, many of whom belong to other networking communities, say it offers higher ROI than others. Through it, though, I’ve directly witnessed the dangers that prevent women from ruling in the workplace. There is a divide among A2V women: Some seem to “play the game,” and others figured out a new way of getting things done and are quite successful at it. Unfortunately, rather than coming together, resentment between the two camps is growing.

The most common criticisms raised in survey responses subsequent to an A2V summit are: “We aren’t trained to ask—so many of us are ineffective at it;” “We don’t seem to want to invest in ourselves professionally;” and “Women are horrible in the follow-up as to what they say they will do.” Additionally, some women have gripes with one another that they choose not to acknowledge.

Only by addressing these elephants in the room will they be able to work together, coming from positions of mutual support. 

Some women have gripes with one another that they choose not to acknowledge. Only by addressing these elephants in the room will they be able to work together.

The change will be worth it: A 2019 study by Northwestern University and the University of Notre Dame found that women who develop female-dominated networks are 2.5 times more successful than those who have male-dominated networks.

10 habits that play well on the golf course

1.  Think of yourself as an entrepreneur.  

With today’s exponential pace of business, you need to strive for a growth mindset and constantly reinvent yourself, responding to market forces and connecting the dots.

2.  Fake it till you make it.  

Agree to projects, speaking opportunities and other situations outside your comfort zone where you might not have the experience. Then figure it out as you go along.

3.  Adopt the mantra, “Business is just business, not personal.”

Don’t take business personally and let emotional responses and stress get the best of you. Seek a win-win approach, and you will find that obstacles disappear and new doors open. 

4.  Invest in yourself professionally. 

Forgo the designer shoes, and spend your money on enriching your knowledge and skills. (The shoes won’t have bearing on closing the deal.) 

5.  Don’t take “no” for an answer.  

“No” may mean “no” for now and/or from one person, but there is always another door to enter, whether it is approaching another person, repositioning your pitch or seeking a different time to get to a “yes.” Embrace the bold, and be unapologetic about continuing to go after what you want. 

6.  Become an entrepreneur.  

If you are not thriving where you are at professionally, create your own thing. Instead of striving to get a piece of the pie, make the pie. 

7.  Lead with your value, not your skill set.  

The work landscape is no longer solely about data points on your resume. Figure out your competitive advantage, and make sure this value is the lead in your narrative. 

8.  Be an effective communicator.  

Invest in a great communications coach, and become the best communicator you can be. Aim to get a “yes” as the desired response to most any question you raise. 

9.  Learn to ask and offer. 

Develop an ability to ask for the thing that will get you to the next level of your career, do it every day, and offer to help others. Remember that no one is going to advocate for you on a daily basis, except you. 

10.  Expand your female golf course.

Men may have the golf course, but women have multiple other spaces in which to make deals happen, such as the sidelines of a child’s soccer game, lunch with friends or training with a running partner. Women should ensure their personal time is also ripe for business opportunities.

Deborah Perry Piscione is the founder of Alley to the Valley: The Proverbial Female Golf Course, a national network of women who come together for deal-making, and the New York Times bestselling author of “Secrets of Silicon Valley: What Everyone Else Can Learn from the Innovation Capital of the World.”

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