Representation of women in the workforce has come a long way over the past 100 years: In 1920, women made up about 20 percent of the labor force; as of 2021, that number rose to 47 percent. Yet we know there’s still room for improvement. During the pandemic, a disproportionate number of women compared to men left the workforce. There are also still inequities in pay and leadership roles.
One way we can close the gender gap — and find more fulfillment in our work lives — is using our experience and abilities to support others. In honor of Women’s History Month, which is celebrated every March, we asked a few of the women leaders at Life Time Work (a premium coworking concept that combines exceptional workspaces with a world-class health club experience) to share their advice for women in the workforce.
Meet the Leaders:
- Laura McLellan from Life Time Work in Edina, Minn.
- Chelsea Sobstyl from Life Time Work in Sandy Springs, Ga.
- Stephany Ortega from Life Time Work City Centre Five in Houston, Texas
- Alicia Evans from Life Time Work in St. Louis Park, Minn.
- Molly Walsh from Life Time Work in Coral Gables, Fla.
What advice would you give to other women when it comes to advancing their career and gaining confidence?
“The thing I’ve found most helpful over my 25 years in the workforce is staying in touch and supporting coworkers, clients, and others I’ve met and worked with along the way. They will always be your best resource for finding new clients, people to hire, and a new job, and for moving up in your career.” — Laura McLellan
“Find your ‘why,’ or reason and purpose for getting out of bed and going to work every day. Practice self-affirmations: If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will either. Ask for help: This may be intimidating in the workplace, especially as a woman, but I’ve learned it’s something your leaders want you to do. And get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Life is going to put you in uncomfortable situations, both personally and professionally, and learning how to navigate them is key.” — Chelsea Sobstyl
“First, speak up and take initiative. When an opportunity to show your leadership or management abilities presents itself, take it. This can include leading a project, initiating change, or simply offering ideas. Second, work effectively with other women. Despite the gender gap for women in leadership and decision-making roles, we must not view other women as competition. And third, find a mentor — and then be one yourself.” — Stephany Ortega
“Let those around you see who you are by your work ethic. Actions speak louder than words. My personal mantra is one from Beyonce: ‘Don’t say the things that you’re going to do, do them. Be about that change.’ Also, confidence comes with time. Get those years of experience under your belt. Once you start to build your experiences, you’ll be able to draw from them in future situations.” — Alicia Evans
“Speak up, ask to sit at the table you want to be at, raise your hand and use your voice in meetings, and be bold and clear when meeting new people.” — Molly Walsh
What valuable lessons have you learned in the workforce?
“Lead with empathy. I’ve found this strengthens teams, builds trust, and creates an atmosphere of health and happiness.” — Laura McLellan
“It’s OK to say no. You can’t do everything and if you try, it won’t be sustainable and will lead to burnout. I’ve learned how to prioritize my important tasks and have accepted that someone else’s urgent request doesn’t have to be my emergency.” — Chelsea Sobstyl
“Don’t apologize for your presence. Instead of saying ‘sorry’ when you knock on someone’s door, for example, ask them if they have a minute. Advocate for yourself and ask for what you want — no one else is going to speak up for you.” — Stephany Ortega
“Assert yourself as a professional in the rooms you occupy. Whether you’re surrounded by people who are older than you, by men, by those who seem more knowledgeable than you, etc., you’re in that room for a reason and are meant to be there. Also, make yourself an asset: Don’t just point out problems, be a problem-solver.” — Alicia Evans
How can women support themselves in the workplace?
“I think the biggest way women can support themselves is by supporting and uplifting other women. Celebrate each other’s wins. Speak up when someone can’t speak up for themself. Far too often I see women tearing each other down to get to the top. You can’t do it alone. Find your people, the ones who uplift and support you, and hang onto them.” — Chelsea Sobstyl
“Be comfortable with having success. As simple as it may sound, being confident is one of the biggest ways women can position themselves for leadership and decision-making roles within an organization.” — Stephany Ortega
“Seek guidance from those around you. Not only do I have my fantastic manager for guidance and leadership on a consistent basis, but I actively seek out advice from my other female coworkers and the female Life Time Work members — all of whom I deeply admire. You never know what experiences they’ve had that could help you in navigating one yourself.” — Alicia Evans
“Take time for yourself and your mental health, and for your family. Take a sick day, a vacation, a mental health day — it’s important to recharge when you need it.” — Molly Walsh
What advice would you give to women who may be facing burnout?
“Make yourself a priority. I like to use the analogy of a cup. Your cup is your mental health, your ability to hold space for yourself and others — it’s what you have to give. There are people in your life who will poke holes in the bottom of your cup. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it could just be something that takes a little more time, energy, and effort. However, if you keep getting holes poked in your cup and aren’t refilling it with things you love (I refer to those things as rocks), your cup is going to run out. You need to find rocks to put in your cup that will slow down what you’re pouring out.” — Chelsea Sobstyl
“Free yourself from the guilt of not always being ‘on.’ Having work-life balance is not only crucial for your emotional headspace, but also for your ability to perform at work at a high level. It’s important that you give yourself permission to not answer that late-night email or phone call. You only get one life — enjoy it!” — Stephany Ortega
“If you experience seasonality in your line of work, take advantage of slower times to recharge and reset. That way, when the busy times roll around, you’re more ready to face them. In phases of burnout, lean on those closest to you, whether it be a partner, sibling, or friend, to talk through it and brainstorm healthy ways to cope.” — Alicia Evans
“Reevaluate your ‘why.’ How can you enjoy the things you do within your workday? What about it brings you joy? If you find you’re not able to answer those questions or your gut is telling you to leave, move toward something more fulfilling. Use podcasts and books as resources to help give you confidence and assurance that you have the ability to get what you want out of your job.” — Molly Walsh
Is there any other advice you’d like to share?
“Ask for feedback and fail forward. You can’t learn unless you fail, and you can’t grow without real, honest feedback. Show up for yourself, even when it feels like no one else is. Work on your own self-development by reading books and listening to podcasts. Challenge and check-in with yourself. If you’re not invested in yourself, it’s hard to get other people to buy into you.” — Chelsea Sobstyl
“When my well is dry of motivation, I like to watch TED Talks or consume media that highlights women who are dominating in their field. From Brené Brown to Iliza Shlesinger, seeing women who are leading the charge pumps me up to push through.” — Alicia Evans
“Being a woman is a superpower. Get to know your strengths and utilize them. Don’t be afraid to be heard. And always negotiate your salary and benefits. It’s OK to call out behavior that isn’t inclusive. Actively seek ways to support other women who are in leadership positions and look to them for mentorship, education, support, and guidance.” — Molly Walsh