Based on Cigna’s 2019 Women in Leadership report, 79% of surveyed female business leaders chose to make a nontraditional career move, and 86% of those women attributed their success to that decision.
As this data implies, more women today are rejecting the conventional norms that once limited both the roles and industries available to them professionally. Instead they are carving out niches for themselves in unique and different spaces, reinforcing that women can thrive in any job or field.
If you want to pursue a nontraditional route in your own career but are not sure where to begin, here are five takeaways from female entrepreneurs, leaders and trailblazers. Their lessons will inspire you, their ambition will motivate you, and their encouragement will push you further toward your goals.
Just Take the Next Step in Your Passion. — Bonita Norris
As the youngest British woman to scale Mount Everest at 22 years old, Bonita Norris knows firsthand the importance of starting from the bottom, then taking just one forward motion at a time. Even when a stumble does occur, she points out that “success and failure aren’t opposites—they are intertwined.” When asked about her experience on this historic climb, Norris tells Culture Trip, “What I can do is block out fear by focusing on something that doesn’t scare me, by focusing on the process and the details of the next small step. You have to remember no one else can make your dreams come true.”
Be as Unconventional as You Want. — Erin Ashley Simon
When it comes to breaking the mold, this esports gamer and commentator does not mess around—in fact, she embraces nonconformity as part of her influencer brand. Erin Ashley Simon is a Black-Latinx woman who turned her passion for video games, internet culture and sports media into a career that has paved the way for other female gamers too. As co-host of a live stream multi-network broadcast, she draws 6.5 million viewers each month. “I’m grateful there’s now a lane for me to share stories about what I love and do it from my unique perspective, Simon adds in a recent Forbes interview.
Invest in Both Diversity and Inclusion. — Arlan Hamilton
In 2015, Arlan Hamilton first entered Silicon Valley with no degree, money or credentials, but those barriers could stop her from launching a venture capitalist firm and empowering other women of color to stake a claim in this industry as well. Now the CEO of an enterprise worth millions, Hamilton is on a crusade to diversity finance. “It was crazy to me that 90% of venture funding [went] to white men when that is not how innovation, intelligence and drive is dispersed in the real world,” she informs Fast Company. Therefore, her investment portfolio is 80% people of color, 65% women and 13% LGBTQ.
Keep Your Focus Where It Matters. — Annette Obrestad
Since her teenage years, Annette Obrestad has been a force of strategic resolve, focus and action where it counts. This poker tournament champion from Norway is the youngest person to win a World Series of Poker bracelet which speaks to both her discipline and decisiveness. Famous poker coach Lee Jones even credits her with teaching him the value of clear decision-making. “If we can say in our hearts that we made the best play we could […] let’s turn our energy to the future, where our brains and energy can go into fresh decisions. Just the way I learned from Annette Obrestad,” he emphasizes.
Have Audacity to Reinvent a Stereotype. — Sarah Nahm
If you are under the impression that a STEM career is male-dominated terrain, Sarah Nahm wants you to think again. The CEO of an employee recruitment software company, she does not hesitate to confront the stereotypes of female coders and developers. Nahm went from being the only woman on her staff to establishing a workforce that represents both genders equally, and its impact on all areas of business is undeniable. As she points out to SHRM, “Companies are realizing that if they can’t retain women in their tech roles, they’ve created a cost problem, an operations problem, a strategy problem.”
Feeling inspired by the lessons and insights of these five unique women? Then what steps could you take to follow their advice and chart your own nontraditional career path? The “glass ceiling” does not stand a chance—you just have to be bold and tenacious enough to poke holes in the façade, and these stories of success prove it can be done!