What It Takes to Thrive in Male-Dom­i­nated Pro­fes­sions

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Ninety­four years after women’s suf­frage in the United States, in­tel­li­gent and well­ed­u­cated fe­males still bat­tle stereo­types, dis­crim­i­na­tion and, some­times, their own fears, when work­ing in male­dom­i­nated pro­fes­sions. And there are still many of those! From the fa­mously boys­club cul­tures of Sil­i­con Val­ley to con­struc­tion and the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try, guys re­main the stan­dard in many in­dus­tries – that also tend to pay bet­ter than fe­male­dom­i­nated fields. “Sure, women face chal­lenges, some of them pretty un­pleas­ant, when they’re the mi­nor­ity in their cho­sen pro­fes­sion,” says Jen­nifer Car­roll, the first fe­male – and first black – elected lieu­tenant gov­er­nor of Florida un­der Gov. Rick Scott, and a re­tired U.S. Navy lieu­tenant com­man­der. Car­roll, who shares her ex­pe­ri­ences in her new au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, “When You Get There,” says what she learned in child­hood and in the mil­i­tary helped her to not only suc­ceed, but to be strong and con­fi­dent through even the most dif­fi­cult times. “When you’re strug­gling, you never think you’ll be bet­ter off be­cause of it, par­tic­u­larly if you’re a good per­son who’s try­ing to do well,” she says. “You learn to ad­just and come out of th­ese try­ing times stronger and more pre­pared for what’s truly in­tended for you.” Here are some of her sug­ges­tions for women work­ing in male­dom­i­nated com­pa­nies and in­dus­tries.

Don't ne­glect or fail to nur­ture fam­ily bonds – they will sus­tain you through any­thing.

Car­roll mar­ried Nolan Car­roll while she was in the Navy, and raised three chil­dren and cared for her ag­ing par­ents even as she rose through the ranks and then en­tered pol­i­tics. Through­out, she made sure fam­ily was her pri­or­ity. “My hus­band has stayed true to the core through all the ups and downs we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced,” she says. “He’s se­cure in who he is, which has brought me a sense of strength and helped me as­cend to what­ever lev­els I chose.” Like­wise, her chil­dren – Nolan, Ny­ckie and Ne­cho – are staunch sup­port­ers no mat­ter what hap­pens. Through the most dif­fi­cult times, their main con­cern has al­ways been, “How is mommy feel­ing? Is she okay?”

Have a deep and trust­ing faith in God.

“I be­lieve God will al­ways make a path through the storm. I be­lieve you have to go through the storm to get to what’s wait­ing on the other side and af­ter­ward, you’ll be stronger and more ca­pa­ble of han­dling what­ever comes,” she says. That faith, that God had a pur­pose for even the most seem­ingly un­just and un­kind ac­tions of oth­ers, helped Car­roll when emo­tions in­clud­ing de­pres­sion, anger and be­trayal threat­ened to over­whelm. “You have to trust that and when you do, you don’t al­low your­self to en­gage in be­hav­iors that con­flict with your val­ues,” she says. “You main­tain your self­es­teem, your self­re­spect, and the re­spect of those who know and love you.”

Be a team player.

Her 20 years in the mil­i­tary taught Car­roll, who’d been a loner as a child, the value of be­ing a good team player. De­spite her dif­fi­cult two years work­ing as the sec­ond in com­mand to a gov­er­nor who se­verely limited her role, Car­roll per­se­vered in work­ing to support him, in­clud­ing pur­su­ing votes and leg­is­la­tion us­ing her tal­ents and the strong re­la­tion­ships she had built as a leg­is­la­tor. “Some peo­ple might ask, ‘Why did you keep try­ing to help him when it was clear he didn’t want your help?’ It may ap­pear fu­tile, if you fo­cus only how things ended,” she says.

But that’s not her fo­cus. “I can look back and be proud of what I was able to ac­com­plish dur­ing my time in of­fice,” she says. “Just one ex­am­ple: As Chair­woman of Space Florida, I was in­stru­men­tal in cre­at­ing thou­sands of new pri­vate sec­tor, space and aero­space­re­lated jobs. I helped tran­si­tion Florida into a post­space shut­tle era, so we could re­main the space ac­tiv­ity cap­i­tal of the world. I man­aged a pro­gram that en­abled 15 new or grow­ing aero­space­re­lated pro­grams to thrive. They’ll bring us nearly 2,000 jobs over the next five years. “I’m very happy about what those ac­com­plish­ments, and oth­ers, mean for my state.”

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