What I wish I had known as a young woman at a Big Four firm
Rather than just putting your head down, working hard and letting the results speak for themselves, often you can't get ahead in your career unless you assert yourself in the workplace. It's an insight that some young professional women learn the hard way, if at all.
The pool of senior employees is still more than at Big Four firms are largely 80% male, so my selection as a young minority female was immensely gratifying. The professions of management consulting, accounting, auditing and finance continue to be exceptionally male-dominated, but women are making steady inroads.
My experience at Big Four firms taught me these lessons, which have continued to do so in subsequent stages of my career path.
Speak up as much as you can
The reason we were selected at such a reputable firm was not to be glorified note-takers in meetings, but rather to showcase our unique perspectives to contribute to the strategic discussions about technology implementations, or tactics for balancing the books at a high-profile client.
For women who aspire to a career in professional services, please do not make the mistake of scaling back your ambitions in the workplace and downplaying your strategic vision and intelligence. Instead, ensure that you let out your inner go-getter, because you absolutely must step into your power as an intellectual strategic leader to succeed in a Big Four internship or as a full-time professional working at one of these firms. There are no points awarded for taking notes and never contributing any fresh or innovative perspectives among senior consultants, senior managers and senior partners, so make sure that they hear your voice.
Embracing your innate femininity – don't feel like you have to behave like a man to succeed
As women, we are uniquely gifted with quintessential female intuition, a keen sense of emotional intelligence and the ability to build consensus among a seemingly disparate group of voices in a meeting. This combination of traits enables us to achieve extraordinary success in business, and contrary to popular opinion, no, we do not have to behave like men to succeed in business. In fact, the amount of success I have achieved in my career so far has been a direct result of fully embracing my femininity in the workplace, as well as in my personal life.
I would highly recommend that you do the same, by loving your uniquely female personality and tapping into your innate femininity in the workplace.
I am a big believer in projecting a great deal of uplifting, empowering energy in my vocal tone when I chat on calls with my male clients, which they cherish because most men cannot bring that same vibrant tenor to the workplace. That vibrancy is uniquely feminine. Expressing my unique personality in a professional setting has also transformed my business relationships and established even greater credibility for myself as a business leader by showing clients that I am devoted to making a positive impact on their behalf.
Be confident in your abilities, talents and skills
You absolutely cannot wait for another individual in the workplace to give you permission to embrace your power and project your leadership qualities because, let’s be honest, if you don’t take the initiative, then your time may never come. Instead, advocate for yourself at every opportunity, walk with self-assured poise and radiate confidence in your interactions with peers and managers in the workplace.
You deserve the greatest career possible. It is your duty to obtain the greatest career for yourself. Putting yourself on a great career path helps you to build confidence in yourself and your abilities. Never be a woman who is too shy to come into her own in the workplace. Rather, you must embody the fully poised, fully confident woman who will win the game of business with her sheer intellect, willpower, resilience and femininity.
Now that you know what I wish I had known as a female intern at a Big Four firm, I hope you are as excited to build your career with grit, femininity, confidence, chutzpah, passion, intellect, resilience and, above all, a serious go-getter attitude.
Shinjini Das is the founder and CEO of The Das Media Group and a former business technology analyst at Deloitte and a technology advisory associate at PwC.