Jessica Higgins, JD, MBA, is the Chief Operating Officer of Gapingvoid Culture Design Group, and she boasts a client list that includes such heavyweights as Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, AT&T, Zappos, and Roche Pharmaceuticals.
Higgins graduated from the University of Miami School of Law and also earned an MBA from the University of Miami Graduate School of Business. At the age of 27, she was a business executive, and by the age of 29, she became a partner. So, how did Higgins reach the executive ranks so quickly? “Men are taught to be selfish with their time, energy, and focus in order to build their career and wealth,” she tells HER Magazine. “I think that if more women truly applied this approach, the world would be a better place.”
Higgins believes that women should also be cautious with their time and energy until they reach their goals. “Instead of giving of yourself to others, invest in yourself by being selfish,” she says. “You will naturally find yourself in a place where you have achieved, and will achieve, everything you want out of life.”
Higgins is also the former president of the Texas Pay Equity Committee, and has lectured and coached women in the area of women’s equality. Two year ago, she developed 20 tips for women who aspire to be corporate executives. This information is shared with women at her alma mater when they graduate.
Crying isn’t a crime
One of Higgins’ tips is that it is OK for women to cry. Since it’s conventional wisdom that women should always be strong, this sounds like a sure-fire way to be labeled as “emotional.” However, Higgins believes that women should always be themselves.
“I am in a male dominant industry where I consult for literally the world’s foremost corporate executives, and I would make myself appear more manly.” She says that she would even change her walk, literally and figuratively. “However, every step forward would feel like such a struggle that it would create two steps in the opposite direction,” she explains. “And I was so misguided that I blamed being a female as the problem instead of admitting that my real problem was being phony.”
One day she just decided to give up and embrace who she was. “Whether its crying, laughing, or smiling too much, be who you are, embrace it,” Higgins says. “There’s a lot of power in your uniqueness, and people can spot a phony from a mile away.”
Make brave choices daily
On a regular basis, Higgins believes that women need to offer thoughtful perspectives. “First, you need to take the time to consume and learn everything you can, and from here, a thoughtful perspective just flows,” she explains.
“Your perspective is immensely more valuable than just your nodding head; therefore, it is always the better choice.”
She also believes that women should speak their value daily instead of waiting for others to notice them. “The female downfall is to sit around expecting others to notice you,” Higgins explains, “They say you’re only as good as you execute – but that’s really only to the extent that others are aware of what you’re doing.”
While some people don’t like to admit that we’re socially constructed by our environments she believes that we have to acknowledge this to make the necessary adjustments. “Women are heuristically designed to think of the collective – in our actions and in our language,” she says. “So, when we talk about a success we tend to use ‘we,’ which is statistically proven to get us fewer promotions and lower pay.”
Jessica’s 20 tips
Below is the list of the 20 tips from Higgins, which she says are based on her personal, biased, anecdotal evidence:
- You’re going to cry. Don’t pretend like you’re not a woman. Everyone else already knows this. You’ll be fine.
- Make brave choices daily.
- Decide who you are, and what you want to accomplish.
- If anyone tries to influence the above: carry on.
- Begin projects by setting expectations for yourself and others. You can do anything, but you cannot do everything. Take on new tasks with excitement and be honest regarding your skill and time. Say that you cannot do it yet, so it takes time, but only the first time.
- Build your skillset over time through the above. The future is made for generalists.
- Speak your value daily.
- Get comfortable with the fact that you will fail. Expect it.
- When failure happens: learn; forge ahead. And see step 1.
- When you communicate, always speak to the end user. What do they want to know? The rest doesn’t matter. Skip it.
- Make decisions and communications always from logic. If you have good statistics and financials, you’re probably going to win. We all have feelings and emotions, but the best come prepared.
- If you encounter someone who works illogically, convert your logic to the end user’s emotional outcome, and communicate that to gain buy-in.
- Don’t allow the emotional state of others to interfere with your brain space. There is much to be done, and the person who accomplishes the most (over the long term) wins. Don’t mess around with politics.
- If you find yourself in an environment with harassment, or even an undertone: leave. You’re not going anywhere there, anyway.
- Find people who don’t care that you’re a woman.
- Do great things. Solve for big, complex unknowns. You can.
- The rest does not take care of itself. Demand it.
- Keep demanding it.
- Never expect it to get easy. Humans love solving problems, otherwise we get bored and create problems for ourselves that we can then pretend to solve. Congratulations – you aren’t bored. You are interesting. Enjoy that.
- Leverage your intellectual advantages, and especially take advantage of the fact that you do not get distracted by the opposite gender. You would be shocked at how much time men waste on this topic.