Commentary

A Female-Centric Playbook To Becoming An 'Intrapreneur'

Research shows that diversity is good for business, but how can women rise up the ranks when leaders tend to promote others who think like them?

While entrepreneurs see a need in the market and fill the void by designing and launching a new business, intrapreneurs drive change within an existing organization. These individuals are often the ones who bring companies the most success.

Being able to drive this kind of change in your organization creates opportunities for personal career growth and leadership. Such has been the case for many female CEOs — such as Anjali Sud of Vimeo, Heather Dietrick of the Daily Beast and Tricia Han of the Daily Burn — who have been able to advance their companies with pivotal shifts and rise to the top. 

For women and minorities out there looking to make a difference within their organizations, take a few tips from these successful women on becoming an intrapreneur. 

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Go beyond domain expertise. It’s great to be the best at what you do, but expanding your knowledge to have a strong understanding of the entire organization will undoubtedly help you see the bigger picture and identify ways to drive change. Volunteer for internal projects to work with people outside your day-to-day team, voice an interest in learning about an aspect of the company you’ve never touched, shadow a peer on another team for a day. 

Figure out how you fit into the ecosystem. Carve out time to think about how you fit into the organization and how you can advance it or be a bigger part of the picture. Understanding where you fit in will help you identify problems or gaps to start driving change forward. 

Voice your goals.  Research shows that writing down your goals helps you achieve them. Similarly, it’s important to share your vision for an organization, if you ever want to see it happen. You’ll need to convince others of your plan in order to get buy-in from key stakeholders, so start by sharing your goals early on with your manager or a trusted peer. 

Don’t be afraid of honest conversations. Be open to hearing feedback or even pushback to your ideas. Seeking out multiple perspectives, even if you know the reaction won’t be completely positive, will strengthen your initiatives and boost confidence for subsequent rounds of sharing.

Practice ruthless prioritization. To take on initiatives that impact your organization, you’ll likely need to take on efforts outside of your day-to-day tasks, which means you’ll have to prioritize. Be realistic with yourself in terms of accomplishing tasks and focus on what matters most. For women, in particular, prioritization is key because we tend to take on so many roles, in and out of work. 

Find allies who support you.The path to leadership is about learning and evolving, so align yourself with people in your organization who not only support your ideas but who demonstrate progressive thinking. Being challenged by trusted peers is equally important to your success and can ultimately increase your chances of getting buy-in. 

Show passion and genuine energy. So go after something you’re passionate about! And remember, it is possible to be ambitious and aggressive AND generous and kind (looking at you, my female friends). 

With only 6.4% of Fortune 500 companies run by female CEOs, we need more women in positions of leadership. We need more intrapreneurs. So look within your organization and find ways to prove your worth to the company and its future. It will require courage, but no woman ever got into a leadership position without taking some risks along the way.

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