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Top 10 Communication Tips for Women

By Kelly Decker, Decker Communications

July 14, 2017

What’s the best way to get noticed, get into the up-and-comer pipeline and start to win more leadership roles earlier? Start by fast tracking your communication skills now—don’t wait for that big opportunity to project confidence and polish up your presence.

Before we dive in, an important disclaimer… men will benefit just as much from the advice below. We direct this to women to combat the stereotypes that can plague their progress.

1.  Speak with Purpose and Vocal Conviction

Women can boost their authority with their voices. The three key areas to consider are pitch, projection and pace. In a business environment where the male vocal range is dominant, sing-songy voices can get steamrolled in important meetings. With naturally higher voices than men, it’s helpful for women to push into a deeper register (read: lower their pitch.)

How do you do that?

  • Push your voice out. Think about activating your core—just like in Pilates. Be careful not to push it up, where it sounds like you might be screaming at your parents or sibling. It’s hard to slip into upspeak (ending sentences on a higher pitch as if there are question marks at the end of each declarative sentence - sounds unsure and tentative) or vocal fry (the low, creaky voice that sounds hesitant and faux-raspy) when you are projecting your voice.
  • End sentences at the same or lower tone than they begin.
  • When it comes to pace, pause to add emphasis. Don’t rush through your content quickly moving from one idea to the next. Instead, pause to let each idea sink in. Remember, it’s “Bond. James Bond.”

Who does this well:  Ginni Rometty, Kat Cole, Oprah

Who not to mimic:  Gigi Hadid, Kim Kardashian, Rachel Zoe

2. Skip the Filler Words!

Like, um, uh, ya know, actually, just, so, honestly, truly, literally… the list goes on and on. These pesky little words get slipped into our narratives, descriptions, presentations and daily conversations. All of us have at least one filler word, even if we don’t notice it, ourselves. It won’t take extra time to cut them out – it will just take extra effort.

Here are two easy steps to cut out your filler words:

  • First, find out what your fillers are. You can’t change a habit until you realize it’s there. Record a voicemail to yourself and then play it back. Take notes on what fillers you hear. Common fillers to watch for: “like,” “just,” “um,” “uh,” “actually,” “you know,” “honestly,” “literally,” and – of course – “so.” Chances are, you use some of the same filler words as people around you.
  • Then, practice pausing. When you pause, you’ll naturally drop the filler words. Record another voicemail, and be intentional about pausing. Challenge yourself to pause for longer than it feels comfortable. The average pause is only about half a second. Try and stretch that out to 2 – 3 seconds.

3. Own Your Space

Show that you own the room by taking up more physical space. Women have the tendency to want to look smaller and take up less space by crossing their arms and legs, hiding their midsections, and keeping everything close together. Instead, use purposeful gestures that take up space and draw attention to key content points.

How do you do that?

  • When you’re standing, drive home a point using big gestures, where your elbows are fully extended. It might feel outrageously big, but these large gestures will add authority if you use them with purpose, for example, when comparing and contrasting.
  • If you are seated at a table, move your weight forward, and keep your arms resting on top of the table.

Who does this well: Wendy Clarke, Sheryl Sandberg, Glennon Doyle Melton

4. Be Direct

We work with many women who have so many ideas that they come across as scattered. But what’s behind the scatter? They’re just trying to prove their credibility. By including their analysis, their research, their findings, rehashing and recounting their play-by-play… it quickly ends up being a message about them. It doesn’t have anything to do with the person to whom they are speaking. Instead, be declarative and direct.

How do you do that?

  • Get straight to the main point. Then, be brief, be bright, and be gone.

Who does this well: The writers of The Skimm.

You can do this with help from #5, below…

5. Bottom Line Up Front

What is the one thing you want your audience members to take away? What’s the big idea, the main point you want everyone in the room to walk away knowing, the goal of your entire presentation? This is your point of view. It’s the biggest change in how you want your listeners to think about or act on an idea. It’s the “ask” without showing your selfish ambition.

How do you choose your Point of View?

  • Find the lead of your story. Boil everything down to just one thing. Often, it’s a challenge, but you have to choose just one main idea and ruthlessly edit the rest.
  • That way, you can be declarative and direct. Your audience will walk away knowing your main point. 

Who does this well: Elizabeth Gilbert, Meryl Streep, Misty Copeland

6. Lead with Warmth

Women excel at connecting one on one. According to social psychologist and Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy, “Warmth is the conduit of influence: It facilitates trust and communication and absorption of ideas.” Women have an opportunity to leverage warmth and trust to connect with individuals. Leading with warmth and connection is a different brand of leadership than men traditionally use.

How can you add instant lightness?

  • Smile. It’s the gatekeeper to likability.
  • It doesn’t need to be a plastic ear-to-ear grin, but do turn up the edges of your mouth.

Who does this well: Gwen Stefani, Michelle Obama, Alicia Keyes

7. Open Conversations for Discovery

Including all viewpoints and perspectives is a core strength that women can leverage in times of discovery. Economists have found that women are more collaborative than men.

Gathering information is an important part of the persuasion and planning process. When collaborating on a project or developing a solution for a product, conversations for discovery can be especially helpful. They also allow for increased connection, which allows for more trust. It’s also a great way to share empathy. Empathy is the ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s position and to intuit what that person is feeling. Research shows that empathy comes naturally to women. Conversations for discovery and empathy are great tools for building connection.

How do you do this?

  • Ask each person in the group for her/his perspective on the problem or issue.
  • Try not to solve right away. Listen – and discover – more.
  • Determine how this impacts each person personally, and try to put yourself in their shoes.

8. Be unapologetic.

“I’m sorry.” “Oh, sorry about that.” “Are you okay?” Does this clip seem familiar? Women have a tendency to over apologize.

Saying “I’m sorry” too frequently doesn’t come across as overly polite. Instead, it weakens your overall message and presence. And at times, it can have an even bigger cost. If you’re asking for deadline extension, additional resources or even a raise, the last thing you want to do is start your pitch with an “I’m sorry.” While sometimes an apology is necessary (like if you spill coffee on someone during a meeting), most decisions and actions in business don’t need an apology. Instead, move on.

Here’s what to do:

  • Instead of relying on “I’m sorry,” say what you really mean. Try it out in a low-risk situation – like the next time your order comes out wrong at Chipotle. Instead of, “I’m sorry, but I ordered the chicken burrito, and I got the steak,” drop the “I’m sorry.” Try, “Can you fix my order? I ordered the chicken burrito, and I got the steak.”

9. Separate your reaction from the response.

Women often get cast as “too emotional” when they don’t separate their reaction from their response. Too often, our reactions are not influential in the way we want them to be. When we react, we jump to an emotional conclusion, triggering anger, disappointment, resentment, frustration or something else.

Here’s what to do:

  • When it’s time to respond— which might be right away—stick to the concrete details and action steps. What happened? What do we do now? (Save the “how do I feel about this” for another time.)
  • Don’t get defensive, and don’t blame someone else.

Who not to mimic:  Hope Solo, Paula Deen

10. Step up.

Don’t defer to someone else! Giving away the opportunity to speak, lead a meeting or present your work only gives away your power. Seize the opportunity to let your behaviors and content shine. Visibility leads to more opportunities.

Start Now.

Communication can win leadership roles, so make it a focus and a priority. Don’t wait for the opportunity to find you—get discovered!

A leading expert in the field of business communication, Kelly Decker is president of Decker Communications, a global firm that trains and coaches tens of thousands of executives a year. She coauthored Communicate to Influence: How to Inspire Your Audience to Action, which shares real-world stories and tips from the C-Suite that apply to us all. Kelly holds an MBA from the Haas School of Business and a BS in psychology from California Polytechnic State University.


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Three Classes You Should Take Next Semester

By Danni Ondraskova

June 1, 2017

If you’re reading this website, it’s highly likely that you are an economics, business, management, or related major who often spends a lot of her time tackling her internship requirements, especially if you are at a major research university. Maybe you want to take a break from economics problem sets or exams. Maybe you avoid essays like the plague and find solace in the clear math you do.

Either way, you should consider taking classes in very different fields than the ones you are currently in, particularly given the large scale economic, political, and social shifts that are occurring in many Western countries today. Here’s a list of three courses you should consider taking next semester to enhance your understanding of the world.


The recent elections of populist candidates in the United States and Europe shows that many people are having second thoughts about some of the darker undertones of globalization. This is a megatrend that is worthwhile for every citizen to understand and respond to in whichever manner he or she sees fit.

In many of these countries, nationalism has emerged as a response to the increasing economic interconnectedness of the world, which began in the 1980s. Your college may have a class on free trade, the history of particular nations, or, as mine does, an advanced anthropological course on the history of nationalism in the world.

If those classes aren’t an option, nearly every institution of higher education has a course on political or economic theory. Even a class in sociology can teach many things about how individuals behave very differently in groups than individually—and one of the skills you need in any management or business-related field is to understand how people behave in different situations.

The Media

The media has gained an unprecedented role throughout the world as the great equalizer for nations, individuals, community organizations, companies, and tragically even terrorist actors. The emergence of the Internet has enabled a larger portion of the human community to share their ideas with each other than at any period of human history.

Through online or cable advertisements, small businesses and companies also can reach millions of people through their advertisements and gain funding they could have never possibly dreamed of a century ago. YouTube, Kickstarter and other ventures are also helping any “little guy” with a compelling story and the ability to write gain financial or other support from friends, family, and kind strangers.

Whether you take a hands-on coding or multimedia course or just a class on the history of the Internet, you can learn to harness this technology in many personal and professional situations.

An Uncommon Language

The Department of State, U.S. intelligence community, and of course many businesses are constantly searching for candidates who are fluent in crucial languages with few American speakers like Urdu, Russian, Arabic, or Mandarin Chinese. These language also come with vibrant cultures that can in turn teach you more about American culture.

While many of you are likely taking languages to satisfy a distribution requirement, consider taking an uncommon language to be able to serve people who need a voice for them when interacting with Americans. Plus, having an uncommon language looks great on your resume and is always an excellent conversation starter for candidates talking to recruiters. 

Danni Ondraskova will graduate in 2018 from Wellesley College. Danni plans on earning a dual degree in law and business and dreams of working for JP Morgan’s Global Investment Management division.

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You Didn’t Get That Summer Internship. Now What?

By Danni Ondraskova

May 30, 2017

It’s been a long semester. The flowers are finally beginning to come out, and the year is winding down to an end. But everything isn’t necessarily perfect—you haven’t received that internship offer yet. Maybe you’re waiting on a handful of places. Or maybe things just didn’t work out this year and you haven’t been accepted anywhere. Maybe you didn’t have time to apply because you’ve been so swamped by schoolwork, friends, jobs, and of course sleep.

Whatever situation you find yourself in, there is always something you can do to make the best of it. Read on for some advice for making the best of your summer, curated by whatever year you are in in college.

Current freshman

You’ve just gotten the ropes of college last semester and are steering your ship to the first phase of your career. You may be stressed out about not having an internship offer yet because some of your friends are working for small businesses, boutique firms, or other companies. Never fear!

In many years, freshmen are not expected to have internships, although some study abroad experience, internship, job, or other immersive summer will give you a leg up over people who don’t do anything in that time.

Feel free to look for seasonal jobs in your city or town and make some money (in many full-time jobs paid at minimum wage, you can make several thousand dollars over the summer). Many places have a quick hiring process, and it can’t help that the economy is recovering in many sectors.

You’ll have something to do over the summer, plus any money you make will be very useful if you work in high-cost areas in your later college years, have medical expenses, or want to pay some debts.

Current sophomore

Sophomore year is an odd time that can be described as twilight—many a fierce debate have been held on whether sophomores have to do an internship or job. In business or research related fields, many college students get their first professional experience as sophomores so they can get a leg up in the often more competitive internships for college juniors.

If you haven’t received an internship yet, email your professors and other social connections and ask if there are any openings.

Although there may be fewer business opportunities around this time, consider working for the government in a business related area (Capitol Hill has Legislative Aides that specialize in business in every Senator and Congressperson’s office who can mentor you and provide research opportunities) or a small business or local bank.

Current junior or senior

I put these categories together because in many cases in elite schools, graduating seniors pursue national fellowships or a full-time job rather than an internship. Both groups of college students have plenty of considerations of their post-graduate future to ponder.

If you haven’t gotten an internship yet, follow the advice for sophomores and note that your upperclassmen status will often give you priority for program or one-on-one college summer research. There are also many research opportunities at neighboring universities you can consider, especially if you are in an urban area.

Finally, if you’re applying to graduate school, you may want to take the summer off and study for your standardized tests full time in addition to starting your graduate school applications.

Danni Ondraskova will graduate in 2018 from Wellesley College. Danni plans on earning a dual degree in law and business and dreams of working for JP Morgan’s Global Investment Management division.

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Making Friends With Other Women During The Summer

By Danni Ondraskova

May 23, 2017

Your internship or job is coming up quickly. Maybe you’re throbbing with excitement or nervousness just thinking about it. In a month or two, you’ll say goodbye to campus as you lug your suitcase to the airport or your dad’s car (unless, of course, you’re researching on campus over the summer. Lucky you!).

If you’re headed to Silicon Valley, the Big Apple, or some other city that may be far from home, you may be apprehensive about your social life. After all, it’s a new terrain, and you’ll only be there for the short-term. Here’s a few tips about ways you can make some close bonds with new female friends over the summer.

Look for kindred spirits at work

The best place to find a new female friend is in your cubicle. After all, you’re in the same environment for dozens of hours a week…it’s not exactly difficult for you to physically meet whenever you need to! Even if you work for a tech company, Wall Street, or fields with fewer women historically, chances are you’ll have a girlfriend or two working nearby.

Utilize shared experiences or perspectives to lay the groundwork for a truly satisfying relationship. If you’re used to having mostly men in your economics or business classes at school, this could be a great time for you to meet amazing women.

If you’re spiritual, find friends at places of worship

No matter where you go, chances are that you will find some place of worship, some of which are more tolerant of visitors of different denominations or faiths than others. If you have the slightest inkling of interest in going to a church, mosque, synagogue, or other place of worship this summer, give it a try!

In addition to being places of connection with the divine, religious institutions are well known for their ability to create strong social bonds between people. If you are a person of faith, finding a woman who is on your spiritual path can add a wonderful dimension to your friendship.

Go outside

Whether you are in a town of 549 people or Tokyo, there are always places to go that provide opportunities for human interaction. If you’re in a rural environment, take advantage of the bucolic scenery—it’s likely that other potential friends are, too. If you’re in a suburb, you’re in luck. Small niche businesses and food establishments are galore and are easy to take advantage of.

Finally, if you’re hitting your summer stride in the big city, head down to a museum after work. You might lock eyes with your future best friend over a Van Gogh painting. Even better, go to a sports game or a concert—they house people of many personalities, increasing your chances of finding someone who clicks with you.

Or, if you’re like many college students, go get that well-deserved tan at the beach. You’ll gain a reprieve from the hot weather and a friendship or two after sharing a joke or two with a new friend about the crowd of seagulls stalking you.

Danni Ondraskova will graduate in 2018 from Wellesley College. Danni plans on earning a dual degree in law and business and dreams of working for JP Morgan’s Global Investment Management division.


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Rock Your Summer Work Wardrobe

By Siyu Wu

May 18, 2017

Upon first glance, the most noticeable difference between college campuses and finance firms is what people wear – gone are the sweatshirts and jeans, replaced with full suits, blazers, heels, and more. A daunting, but often overlooked, aspect of starting a summer internship in the corporate world is making sure you have the right clothes for the job. Here are some things to keep in mind as you begin preparing your summer work wardrobe!

Figuring out workplace expectations

Before you go out and buy several full suits, first reach out to HR or a mentor to learn about their expectations for how you dress. Some firms will require business formal every day, other firms allow business causal between Memorial Day and Labor Day. You want to make sure you don’t underdress or overdress, so knowing what other people at the firm will be wearing will help make sure you start your first day strong.

What is or isn’t appropriate? There are no hard lines, but do remember that the corporate world is a bit more conservative than what many college students are used to. Err on the side of caution in terms of skirt/dress length, how tight/lowcut your clothing is, and the degree of casualness of what you wear. Some clear no-no’s for most firms include spaghetti strap tanks, jeans (unless otherwise stated), clothing with rips, sneakers, and short shorts.

Getting the basics

It may be tempting to buy statement pieces when heading into the store, but first focus on getting some of the fundamental pieces for a business wardrobe. To start off, one of the most important items is to get a fitted black blazer – this is something you can put over anything and everything to make your outfit look a bit more formal. Beyond the black blazer, some other key items include a professional black dress/skirt/pants, work-appropriate shoes, and white blouse. These are essential for days when you might have a particularly important meeting or presentation.

Aside from these business formal pieces, it might be helpful to do some outfit planning to figure out how to coordinate a few basic pieces to create several different outfits. It is challenging to wear business dress everyday while having some variance. Keep it exciting by adding a splash of color or unique accessory to every outfit – but make sure not to go overboard!

Business dress on a budget

While there are some pieces that are worth spending money on (for example, a high-quality blazer can last you a long time), it may seem preposterous to spend a hundred or more on a single pair of pants or dress. For simple blouses and other items, there may be no need to spend a lot of money, especially at the start of your career. There are some stores that offer relatively inexpensive options – TJMaxx, Marshalls, Banana Republic, Express are all great places to look. Even Forever 21 and H&M have some budget-friendly selections!

In addition, during end-of-season sales at Ann Taylor, Ralph Lauren, Loft, and other similar stores, you’re often able to find some great deals for high quality pieces.

Ultimately, it’s not necessary to spend a lot of money on creating your summer internship outfits. After getting the basics at the beginning of the summer, set aside some money from each paycheck for buying new outfits to refresh your wardrobe. And remember, it’s always worth it to spend a bit more on buying high-quality timeless pieces that can last you several years!

Siyu Wu is from Colorado and attends Princeton University, pursuing a degree in Economics and certificates in Finance and East Asian Studies. Siyu will graduate in 2018. She hopes to synthesize her interest in China and East Asia with her passion for finance to eventually work in a career related to international finance and Asian capital markets.


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I Am A CFP® Pro: Brittney Castro

Meet Brittney Castro, CFP®, and hear why she loves her career as a CFP® professional.

Learn more about becoming a CFP professional.

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Get Ready For Your Summer Internship

By Danni Ondraskova

May 1, 2017

As April turns into May, it’s likely that internship decisions are coming at you faster than you can process them. Hopefully, all of your hard work has paid off and you’ve found yourself accepted to the internship of your dreams. Maybe you’ve been accepted somewhere else but are still awaiting your top choice with bated breath. Or maybe you’ve hit a rough patch this year and have only received offers from places you aren’t overly enthusiastic about.

In any case, you need to prepare wisely in order to make the best of your situation. Here is some advice that applies well to any situation in which you find yourself.

Be humble.

Chances are you’ll be interning at a place that coincides with your academic and/or personal interests. Because of that, you’ve probably gained indirect exposure to the skills and concepts you’ll be using for our internship through the classroom, your on-campus job, or a hobby. Maybe you’re even interning for the same institution for the second or third year in a row!

Whatever situation you find yourself in, keep in mind that even the most menial or administrative of internships offer an abundance of learning opportunities. At the very least, you may be working under a new supervisor who has different expectations of you; adjusting to those expectations is a learning process in itself and a very useful skills for “real life.”

Be curious.

If you’re interning in a field that is your sole passion, curiosity about the internship will likely come easily to you. If you aren’t excited about your future workplace, keep in mind that even the most seemingly boring places have interesting people and stories.

Maybe you’re having a hard time learning a skill but become close friends with someone in an adjacent cubicle. That person may teach you to consider the skills through a different lens or teach it through a more engaging process.

Either way, there are always sources of wisdom you can mine to meet your potential and become more interested in your work in the process.

Learn about your field.

Chances are you’ve parsed your job description while preparing for the interview and did additional research on your firm and field. Or you’ve been combing through your internship packet. If so, you are well on your way to being intellectually prepared for the internship.

If not, use the tools of the Internet, your professors and friends, and your career services office to do more research. If you really are unable to find anything, contact your intern coordinator for details. They’re usually pretty friendly and promptly respond.

Danni Ondraskova will graduate in 2018 from Wellesley College. Danni plans on earning a dual degree in law and business and dreams of working for JP Morgan’s Global Investment Management division.

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Start the Semester Off Right

By Sameera Polavarapu

April 17, 2017

The start of a semester is a time that many students take for granted. People often brush off responsibilities at the beginning of the semester because there are fewer assignments and grades hanging over their heads. However, the avalanche of work that may fill their schedules in the months following can be prevented if students are careful from the get-go. Here are my three tips to start the semester off right:

Understand Your Schedule Has Changed

A huge part of each semester is readjusting to a new set of classes, a new daily routine, and a new set of people that fill your days. The unfamiliarity of a new schedule can be overwhelming, but taking the time to patiently adjust to a new set of priorities goes a long way—simple as that! 

Plan Your Days Accordingly

A new schedule means a new time table! Take a look at the various syllabi for your classes and get a stronger feel for the amount of work each class may require. Based on each schedule, carve out times in your week that you can study or do reoccurring assignments for specific classes. Finally, to prevent tasks from piling up at the last minute, make checklists of assignments to complete each day. 

Know That Your Time is Valuable

Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you’re going to do something, do it well. College is a time of finding your passions and bringing them to life. Do not join clubs because you feel like you have to, and leave activities that don’t fulfill you behind. It’s definitely easier said than done, but spending all of your time doing things that gratify you rather than merely wear you down will have endless payoff.

As you get further and further into the semester, it can be hard to keep up with the running cycle of homework and exams. However, by setting yourself up for success, you can take just a little more weight off your shoulders this year. 

Sameera Polavarapu will graduate in 2019 from the University of Maryland at College Park with a major in international business and marketing. Her dream job is to do marketing for a global organization such as the United Nations.

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