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How the pandemic can help ‘level the playing field’ for women at work

Although the pandemic has had a devastating toll on women’s careers, one female CEO believes the emergence of remote work has also created new, unique opportunities for women to climb the corporate ladder.

Diane Bryant is the chairman and CEO of NovaSignal, a medical device start-up headquartered in Los Angeles. But she’s spent most of career working for some of the best companies in the world – including 32 years at Intel and a year as Google Cloud’s chief operations officer – often as one of few women in the room.

“For decades we’ve debated – as women – how to get a seat at the table, but now, there is no table,” Bryant, 60, tells CNBC Make It. “Covid-19, in some regards, has leveled the playing field as the move to online communication channels lowers barriers to inclusion.” 

She encourages women to use this unusual time in their careers to “leverage those very channels and connect with leaders that can support you and help revitalize your career,” since everyone’s online. Ask for a virtual coffee chat or 15-minute phone call with your manager’s manager, or someone at that same level, Bryant says, to learn more about their career path and how you can better position yourself for success. 

“With all of us on Zoom, meetings are highly efficient,” she adds. “There’s no travel time, or even time spent running between buildings and conference rooms.” 

To maximize the conversation, Bryant recommends following these four steps, summed in an acronym she refers to as “PEAP”:

1. Preparation

Bryant explains: “Treat this like an interview – think about the current issues the leader is facing and how your skills can help. You are meeting to create exposure into your current work and to learn how you can increase your contribution and impact to the company.”

2. Efficiency

Bryant explains: “Send a request to meet by Zoom, and keep the meeting request time short – 15 minutes. It’s impossible to deny someone 15 minutes and if the discussion is going well, it will likely end up being a 30-minute meeting,” 

3. Advice

Bryant explains: “Every leader wants to feel their opinion is valued. You are there to learn and benefit from the leader’s experience and purview, so listen! And be sure to follow-through on the advice – no one wants their time wasted.” 

4. Positivity

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