7 steps for female leaders aiming to empower the next generation

Sandy Carter, Vice President of Public Sector Partners and Programs at Amazon Web Services, shared her experience as a pioneering woman in tech. She discussed how embracing diversity drives innovation as well as the importance of empowering the next generation of female leaders.

Sandy highlighted 7 hacks that female leaders should follow to empower and promote diversity amongst their team:

1. Be ready for the pivot

Your career could take many paths, and you cannot plan for everything. Instead, what you need to be able to do is pivot. In life you’ve got to be able to move and change rapidly as things happen. Its important to allow yourself to take risks, and not be afraid of doing so.

2. Share knowledge

You need to be able to freely share your knowledge and capabilities with others. Sharing your information is more impactful than sitting back and refusing to share or believing that information is your power.

3. Ask questions

Children ask a lot of questions, in fact they can ask as many as 300 questions in 24 hours. The more questions you ask, the more you can discover, therefore broadening your knowledge. Asking more questions and gaining more knowledge will allow you to create innovative and disruptive solutions.

Asking questions within diversity matters. Its important to ask why as a business you don’t have more diverse partners. I asked myself this question and found out the reason was that partners are smaller, and therefore need more advice on the technology side of business to go to market. I came up with the Think Big for Small Businesses program to combat the issue. This would never have happened if I didn’t start asking more questions about diversity.

4. Embrace failure

Its important to embrace your own failures, not only so you can accept them yourself, but to help other people learn from the mistakes so the same one isn’t made twice. Sharing with my team one of the failures I had made at Amazon was one of the most impactful things in my career. Other people learned from my mistake and were able to learn fast and not make the same mistake as I did.

If you cannot embrace failures, you cannot move forward and drive within the workplace.

5. Be an authentic leader

A lot of women will try to dress or peak differently, or learn a certain sport to fit into a workplace. What I urge you to do is remember you are a better you than anyone else could be.

You need to understand who you are and remember that your diverse ideas really impact your innovation.

I was leading my team, but they weren’t recognising their superpowers. I decided to write personalised quotes once a week and leave them on everyone’s desk, showing how they can focus on their superpower and work with the team to embrace it. I received feedback from some of the men on the team saying they didn’t like the quotes I was leaving. I had to decide whether to listen to my team or stick to my own leadership style.

I decided to carry on with leading in the way I was, and left quotes on everyone’s desk weekly for another year. 12 months later, my team won Turnaround Team of the Year, meaning lots of the team got promotions and we received lots of positive feedback.

Fast forward five years, one of the team members invited me to their retirement party where I found out he had kept all of the quotes I had written for him in a special box and had actually loved the idea.

This experience enabled me to realise the importance of managing my team in my own style and remaining true to myself.

People need to realise that a difference in ideas, and having diversity amongst a team, is what really helps to drive innovation.

6. Be prepared to look around the corner

Its important to understand what’s coming next, as this helps to understand challenges, learn about new technologies and track trends, allowing you to stay ahead in terms of innovation.

7. Surround yourself with the right tribe, and invest in it

You need to realise who you want to invest your time in and have invest their time in you. Its important to listen to members of your team and ensure they feel valued. You also need to think about what types of people will strengthen your outlook and input. Again, ensuring diversity will help to make sure you have the right tribe surrounding you.