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Vice President, Product Supply
Procter & Gamble
Opportunities for Women in Engineering
“If I were a high school girl, going into engineering would be magnificent,” advises Bonnie. Why?
Bonnie Curtis has been with Procter & Gamble for over 30 years, and what’s enabled her to climb the corporate ladder is “the ability to deliver excellent results and to be able to relocate. You can’t advance to vice president staying in one location,” she says. Among the accomplishments on her impressive resume is managing a plant in China in the ’90s. Bonnie shares her experiences of being a woman in the male-dominated field of engineering, and her strategies for advancing in challenging environments.
Make the Right Impression
Be aware of the first moment of truth—that first time you meet someone. You size them up in 15 seconds and make a decision if they’re worth your time. In any workplace environment, women need to be cognizant of this. What do we look like? Where do we sit? If you’re new to a group or company, be aware of how you’re showing up that first day.
Look Confident, Even if You’re Not
If you’re shaky and nervous, act ‘as if’ you are composed. Stand up straight, look people in the eye. Have the appearance of confidence. Know your stuff going into a meeting — do your homework. Whatever you don’t know — whatever skill you need to master — you can learn.
Never Take the Notes
Don’t fall into the trap of offering to take the notes in a meeting. Years ago, I was at an external conference and did just that. I quickly learned this was to my detriment—I did not see my opinions valued as much. Not every group will be like that, but it’s a good lesson to learn. I have made it a point to avoid that pitfall. Often, once you take the notes, you become the secretary of the group and your comments could get passed over.
Say “Yes” Even Without All the Skills
As women, I think we can sometimes hold ourselves back if we don’t have some of the skills needed for that next promotion, even if we’re capable of doing the job, so people believe we can’t deliver. We’ve got to take opportunities and say yes. What we don’t know, we can delegate if we need to.
Be Accommodating to a Point
For me, it was clear that advancement would be dependent upon my ability to move. It was important for me to align with my management upfront on my commitment to do so, but with exceptions. I had to be clear on what I wasn’t willing to do. I will not live apart from my family — I have four kids and a husband — other than travel I’m coming home to them every night. I will not live in a country that I think is unsafe. And I need a good school for my children. Aside from those criteria, I’d do anything and go anywhere.
Deliver Outstanding Results
You must produce results, but at the same time, try to steer clear of perfectionism. By indulging in perfectionist behavior, you’re stalling progress by putting more work into something that doesn’t need it. I ask myself these questions: What is the value and benefit of putting more effort into this, for me, for the company, and for the business outcome?
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