In my almost three years on the Eyedea committee, I have had the privilege to meet incredible women who have achieved amazing things in their lives. They have come from a multitude of industries, with different backgrounds and motivations, but what they all have shared was humbleness. Niki Dembitz is not an exception: modest, eager to help and happy to chat about pretty much anything you have the guts to bring up.
Niki starts by telling us that the world is changing very fast. Many people in senior positions now, including herself, have had the same jobs for the past 15-20 years, but this is not going to be the case for the younger generations, including us, the millennials. The world is exponential today and today’s requirement is about how you deal with change and how you adapt. “It used to be that IQ was important, for the past ten years or so everyone has been talking about EQ too, but really now it’s about adaptability”, Niki insists. The good news is: this is great for women. Women change all the time, we play a variety of roles: professional, mother, nurse, household accountant, holiday planner – we are everything at once. This is a great natural skill, which needs to be honed to succeed in today’s and tomorrow’s world.
“What do you think is your biggest constraint?” asks Niki. “No, it’s not time. It’s YOURSELF! You need to silence the nagging voice – there are plenty of people around you who can do this for you!” she advises us. Earlier in her career, Niki had a boss who did exactly that for her: undermining her work to make himself feel better. However, soon she met other people at the firm who she looked up to and they recognised her performance and contribution, as she deserved. “It’s not only you, it can be the other person! Feedback is a gift, but you don’t always have to unwrap it.” she insists.
Sometimes the nagging voices can also come from other women and when two girls disagree, it can be a real ‘catfight’. Instead, we should be nicer to each other and help those who need our help. Of course, sometimes, personalities and working styles can clash but you don’t have to make it personal. “I hear a ton of judgement every day about other women: ‘poor her, she works so much, she doesn’t have any kids’, or the other way round – ‘she is a homestay mum, it must be because she is not smart enough to have a career’. This is wrong, we need to stop this judging and gossiping.” Instead, we should concentrate on positive messages about others: live and let live. Do not engage in gossip about this girl’s dress and that woman’s choices, instead, when talking to others, stress that everyone makes their own choices and different things make people happy. And that’s okay! Learn from other’s mistakes and don’t turn into a horrible boss yourself one day. We as women should not be judgemental against each other, but help each other. We all have a responsibility to help each other or the next generation directly, but also indirectly by communicating with our brothers, boyfriends, husbands, fathers to ensure that they start promoting women openly. The fight for equality can only be won by having male champions. It will then turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A lot of times bosses are horrible because they don’t know how to communicate. Often, these are not conscious mistakes, but you can train to spot them! As a rule, only 7% of communication between two people is about actual content, the rest is about the tone of voice, volume, body language, etc. In order to communicate effectively, you need to be aware of how you come across and how others perceive you. You can actively work on the ‘whole packaging’ of the actual content you are trying to communicate. Niki recommends everyone should take a communications class, which she herself has recently done and found extremely helpful.
And the last advice Niki shares with us on the evening: BE HAPPY. “You may not know what makes you happy today and that’s okay. But you have to keep on working on figuring it out, continue to learn all the time, explore different things, move around – especially if you don’t think you want your boss’ job. Take what you can from where you are now and move on, stretch yourself and adapt to a new environment.”
A special thank you to our venue, Timber Yard in Seven Dials, who always exceed our expectations.
Linda is a Strategy consultant by day and Eyedea committee member by night. She loves running, travelling and exploring different cultures through food.View all Linda Blank posts.