When Women Lead

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Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient and Creator of The Girls’ Lounge, sat down with Microsoft’s Kya Sainsbury-Carter this morning to talk about working women and the challenges and opportunities they face in the workplace.

Kay Sainsbury-Carter has her fair share of experience in being a woman in a major leadership positions. Sainsbury-Carter is the head of a team at Microsoft that focuses on global partnerships. Because of the immense variety of partners she works with, Sainsbury-Carter appreciates the benefits of diversity in the workplace. Richness is created by the people you spend time with; An organization, a team and an individual thrives when one is surrounded by people with different experiences, according to Sainsbury-Carter.

“If you only have your own perspective, you simply cannot be successful,” said Sainsbury-Carter.

Microsoft’s cultural pillarl, called the “constant-growth mindset,” helps Sainsbury-Carter remain innovative. Sainsbury-Carter described this mindset as, “operating in a learning mode.” Microsoft’s constant-growth mindset encourages employees to take risks, even if they aren’t absolutely sure their plan will work.

“Failing at something isn’t failure as long as you are learning from it and doing better next time,” said Sainsbury-Carter, “when in doubt, do epic shit.”

Microsoft relies on its leaders to implement the constant-growth mindset in its day-to-day activities. The leaders must commit to saying “It’s O.K.,” when things don’t go as planned. By recognizing learning and progress as success, Sainsbury-Carter believes there has been a positive shift in meeting long-term goals. The company’s leaders set an example by taking risks themselves and giving candid feedback to their teams.

On balancing her work and home lives, Sainsbury-Carter said she does so “messily.” Her work comes home with her; her family comes to work with her. Sainsbury-Carter stressed that every person operates differently when it comes to juggling work and home.

“My secret sauce is only my secret sauce because it works for me,” explained Sainsbury-Carter.

Sainsbury-Carter creates a space for herself where work and family operate together. She learned early that allowing herself this flexibility is the method she must use in order to get things done.

Sainsbury Carter’s top piece of advice for thriving, working women is to “ask for what you need.”

Reflecting on the birth of her first son, Sainsbury-Carter said she was stressed out and ready to quit her job. Instead of encouraging her to resign, her boss asked her what she needed from him in order to be able to stay on board. Since that moment, Sainsbury-Carter has approached every position knowing what she needs from the company in order to “crush her responsibilities” and also stay happy at home.

“I am not asking for a lot,” said Sainsbury-Carter, “but, what I’m asking for is fundamental.”

Sainsbury-Carter admitted she doesn’t consider herself a “tech person” and often isn’t the smartest person in the room.

“In these situations, it’s easy to think, ‘Oh, I’ll just sit back and listen,’ noted Sainsbury-Carter.”

Instead of admitting defeat, Sainsbury-Carter encouraged the audience to work hard to learn and unravel complex problems. Doing so will help women take risks and thrive in their workplace.

Zalis said that within minutes of meeting Sainsbury-Carter she could tell she was one of the most fascinating women she had ever met, and by the end of the session, the audience was in agreement. Sainsbury-Carter has confidently and fearlessly stepped into leadership in a predominately male industry, all while finding a way to juggle being a mother and a wife. If there was one thing to learn from this session, it is to take risks and stop viewing failing as a negative. Instead, look at these situations as an opportunity to improve, grow, learn, and move one step closer to the long-term goal.

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