The Unrecognized Value of Sisterhood in the Workplace

By Roxana Lissa

For my last series of articles, I decided to focus on us, women, and how we interact in the workplace. 

My intention with this series is to dive deep into the dynamics that have made women successful – and not successful— in working together with different types of women.

You will have an opportunity to hear from incredible ladies I admire – from sociologists to various types of women executives – on their personal views and what it has taken for them to build successful working relationships and generate impact in competitive work environments. We will also touch on the difficulties and satisfactions, the lessons learned along the way and what we can do better as a genre to benefit all of us and the next generation of women leaders. 

Giving women a voice has always been important to me. One of the first projects I was involved with was a short-lived cable TV show called Solo Para Mujeres.  I have created and hosted this show with my Argentine friend Patricia Cabanillas to empower Spanish-speaking Latinas about several topics, from domestic violence to fitness.

While probably not many women tuned in to see the show, it didn’t matter to me. I have always thought that if I could help one person, I would feel satisfied. It was my first project-oriented towards women. Little did I know at that time that my inner desire to build sisterhood would later become the backbone of the various companies I founded.

Throughout my PR career, I have had the opportunity to work with and meet amazing women who inspired me, such as Maria Contreras-Sweet.

Maria became one of my role models. Seeing her leadership from afar and passion in pursuing ambitious projects in both the public and private sector, while being a mom and wife, was incredibly inspiring to me. She not only achieved amazing things but did so with intelligence and class. She has also been capable of enrolling both men and women into ambitious projects, such as her recent attempt to acquire Weinstein Co. just two years ago to build a female-led studio.

Women like Maria and others have motivated me to think big and venture outside of my comfort zone as an entrepreneur and explore unchartered territories – like opening IOBELLA, a first-of-its kind body-shaping spa for women with no prior fitness experience, or partnering with my friend Mario Flores to create SPORTIVO, one of the few sports PR agencies in the country. 

But it is creating a sisterhood in the workplace that has brought me the most happiness and fulfillment. 

Through the years, I was able to learn valuable lessons in working with my female counterparts.

Here are some of them:

  • Never be afraid of hiring women that know more than you.
    Hiring a more senior executive doesn’t make you less of a boss, quite the contrary. Both can learn from each other while complementing each other’s abilities.  A former supervisor of mine Molly Ireland became my first employee and we worked together for 10 years.
  • Being a micro-manager will limit your growth and scalability potential.

I knew early on that building a structure formed by confident women who were team players and independent thinkers was vital for my growth. While I would always be available to check-in, trouble-shoot, or to assess the work being done, trusting my senior executives while giving them ownership of their projects was a key factor for success.

  • Always have a #2.

Over the years, I’ve had several business coaches who shared suggestions that I have implemented, such as always having a #2 executive or employee that you trust the most and who complement your abilities. For example, Paola Risso, one of my VP’s played the role of “inside person,” and I was the “outside person.” She would manage the office day-to-day, including key clients, while I would pursue new business and network more often.  

  • Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your team members

Asking a creative person to focus on process-oriented activities is like killing their soul little by little. The same thing goes for a more organized, process-oriented team member.  The fantastic thing about working with teams is that both types of individuals are necessary to achieve successful results. Engage executives that complement your strengths and ensure you set them up for success. 

  • Women will give you all they have. Take care of them.

Sometimes I have pushed too hard and asked too much. In some instances, staff members had a hard time saying no to me. In one instance, when I decided to let go of one of my key executives, another senior leader stepped in to cover her work. It was a difficult situation as I was sick at the time and couldn’t do much to help her.  She was overwhelmed, burned out, and eventually left the company. Always check-in with your team members to see how they are doing and, more importantly, if they can handle multiple projects under pressure.  And remember, it’s your responsibility to ensure you can provide ongoing support through frequent dialogue.

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