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Lessons from our Women's Network Breakfasts: Jane Steinmetz, Ernst & Young, on Staying Authentically You

Posted by Melanie Fonville on August 14, 2018

Every month at our Women’s Network Breakfasts, 300 women and men meet over breakfast to hear from a female executive making an impact on Boston’s business community. Time and again our attendees value the opportunity to connect with one another and hear our speakers’ perspectives, shared in an intimate and approachable environment. When EY Boston Office Managing Principal Jane Steinmetz joined us, her advice for attendees to stay authentic to their true selves left the audience inspired. We asked her to share some of the points that resonated strongly with our attendees (below). Join us for our next Women’s Network Breakfast, and stay on our email list to hear first about our upcoming speakers and programs.   

Early on in life, I had the notion that I had to conform to a certain type of personality to be successful. For most of my career I have worked primarily in male-dominated fields, and at times I felt that if I didn’t act like “one of the boys,” I wouldn’t be accepted. As I took on more leadership roles and trusted my instincts more frequently, I began to realize being true to myself not only felt good; it didn’t alter my effectiveness — it actually heightened it.

I attribute much of my success to two critical factors I know are far easier said than done: confronting the reality of failure but trying anyway, and playing to my strengths. 

We all are aware that pushing yourself out of your comfort zone enables growth, but we also know it can be scary to expose yourself to potential failure. This happens especially among female professionals, where there can be a confidence gap, creating hesitation in moving forward. But by believing in your abilities and pursuing opportunities, you will yield a stronger skill set, more confidence and better experiences. My advice: even if you are scared, do it anyway. Swap hesitation for an absolute “will not fail” attitude. Don’t let fear block your advancement. 

One way to help face your fears and discover what a great leader you can be is by highlighting your strengths. When you start to advance, approach your new role with your own style and not that of your predecessors. It’s not mandatory to play by a former leader’s playbook, and it’s not the only way to achieve desired results. Be comfortable in the fact that you can and will do your job differently than anyone else. Discovering this for myself allowed me to become a successful leader and form the roles that fit into my life at a particular time.

I also consider a big strength of mine as being an authentic leader who strongly supports inclusion and diversity. I have witnessed the trust and creativity it fosters and how it enables teams to perform better and produce quality results. Leaders should focus on creating diverse teams and continue to be aware of unconscious bias. Supporting inclusivity is an ongoing journey. 

I know breaking through your comfort zone presents a number of challenges, and at times it seems easier to go with the status quo. I firmly believe that if you trust yourself and believe in the abilities you possess, everything will fall into place.