Becoming A Game Changer

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Written by Dasha Anderson 

This Article is Sponsored by our Partner KATLA

There is little doubt that mavericks, specifically maverick females, have existed for centuries. It is in our blood to evolve as humans and women arguably do that better than anyone else. Today women are making changes by lending their efforts and their minds to virtually every industry in the world. However, obstacles still exist, and social bias as well as old culture are still making it difficult for women to break in and find success (and a voice) in a male dominant profession or pursuit.

For me, a lifelong martial artist who has trained with some of the greatest fighters and masters of our generation, it is still common to have men slowly disperse, turn away or ‘tune out’ when I chime in on a conversation about a boxing match or an MMA fight. Forget that I hold black and brown belts and instructor levels in most of the arts featured in the sport.  

This is not uncommon, Dana White, the mastermind and president of the UFC, famously said women would never fight in the UFC. Then in November 2012, the fight promotion announced the signing of Strikeforce champion Rhonda Rousey and today, there are many women in all weight classes signed and fighting to sold-out arenas in the organization. 

After spending fourteen years playing professional football, two time USA gold medalist Jen Welter went on to become the first female coach in men’s professional football. So, things are changing. 

As a female that has worked in a male dominant environment for the past eighteen years, I have found that gender-based pushback helps women like myself focus and work even smarter. In many ways, resistance and our perseverance over it are what makes us so resilient. Over the years, when guiding other women in my same profession I have come up with a list of ‘game-changing’ factors that have helped me thrive in a dominantly male profession. 

Find A Mentor

Instead of listening to the masses, find one or two key people (man or women) who you respect and whose opinions you truly value. Ask that person to mentor you. 

Mentors are crucial to success and have been used by successful people for decades. There are different types of mentors, and you should explore all kinds and see which type of guidance, if not several, is right for you.

The traditional mentor is the person you most want to embody; their drive, accomplishments, knowledge, and only their way of getting to the top of their game. This person has a track record of doing things that is the same way you would envision yourself managing your own goals and dreams. They are your Yoda. Even though you may be a female wanting to break through your glass ceiling, don’t count out a male in this mentor role. Moving gender aside, perhaps that person broke through their barriers with race, creed, social status or any other form of adversity. Don’t narrow your search, but do be extremely cautious about who you place into the role, mentors will help mold you, but remember, you also start to mold into the people you are around most. 

Another form of a mentor is your ally. This person would be more cause-driven, taking to your goals and ideas and spreading the word about your hard work and dedication. This type of mentor is your advocate and, ideally, an advocate for women breaking barriers. When finding this type of mentor, be aware of their own impacts in their world, the causes they have championed before yours, and the type of people they reach and inspire.

Your closest friend, sister, brother, husband, or business partner can also serve as a mentor. This person is a different type of mentor, more of a colleague or equal than an icon. This person should have the unique ability to talk you through your dilemmas, projects, hopes, and goals. This person should also be your moral compass, knowing who you are and letting you know if you are staying true to that authentic self.

Finally, there is the monumental mentor, someone you don’t even have to know personally. This person can be a Rhonda Rousey or an Amelia Earhart type of figure. Serving as a reference point for how far you can go if you stay on track and push forward with pure intentions. 

In the end, no matter the figure or figures you choose, make sure your spirits (more than your professions) align. 

Lead with Science

When everyone else is doubting your abilities, you need to lean on nothing but facts. In my profession which is sports science, that means using science, which is indisputable. When being unfairly challenged or ignored instead of explaining yourself or shutting down, go to the simple hard facts of your industry. Get yourself so educated on the facts, so versed in the area of your craft that no one can dispute your ability or competence. 

This tactic can be used in any field, even if it’s not scientific. In martial arts, when I can’t outwrestle or outbox a much larger, highly trained guy, I lean on my vast knowledge of the arts. I use my knowledge of the history of boxing, the terminology of Judo or Brazilian JiuJitsu, the entire original curriculum of Bruce Lees Jeet Kune Do. Knowing, understanding, and referencing your craft is a sure-fire way to display competence and convey authority. 

Outsmart Emotion

Emotions are beautiful things; they remind us that we are alive. However, sentiment in an area where you need to focus on the job at task is not always the most significant asset. Women, sadly, are expected (stereotypes) to break down and get ‘emotional’, to have cloudy judgment because of emotion, and therefore be less competent at specific skillsets or tasks. 

The most ironic fact is that on many occasions, emotion can help us be more creative, more in tune with our goals, and far more productive. I have also seen grown men, fighters cry, or lose their composer mush faster than women, and yet, we are stereotyped as emotional wrecks. 

Practice keeping your emotions in check, or, in your back pocket for when they are needed by practicing the mantra of confidence and authority. Along with those key assets, practice separating yourself from the problem or obstacle. Facing a road block at work, in training or in life has little to do with the person you are, and the only judgement on your character will come from how you handle the problem, not the problem itself. 

Results Rather then Words

While everyone else is out there talking, you should be planning and executing. The best way to get respect and wipe the gender slate clean is with performance. 

I prefer to put in hours of drilling, project execution, or planning and show off my competence with results. Whether it’s mastering a technique, getting a professional athlete in top shape for their event, or finishing a project before schedule, I like to show my value through results. 

At this point in our lives we all understand that the key is not to get detoured by the thoughts and opinions of others, this however may be more difficult when it seems like the people you work with are expecting you to fail. As I have learned from a decade and a half in a male dominant field of sports science and martial arts; most people want to see you succeed.  If it doesn’t feel that way, it’s simply because they are stuck in their own mental loop, and that loop has nothing to do with you. Your success is only dependent on your actions and hard work, no one else’s. Plus, isn’t it nice to prove people wrong and help shape the next generation in your profession.