Navigating Male-Dominated Industries with Jamie Levin
In our 33rd episode, Sofie is joined by Jamie Levin, a strategic communications consultant, to discuss navigating male-dominated industries. Having spent 15+ years in internal and external communications, Jamie brings a wealth of knowledge to this week’s virtual table. From working in sports broadcasting to construction to automation, Jamie has propelled her career. Throughout the episode, she emphasizes the significance of speaking up in the workplace as nobody can advocate for you better than yourself. Additionally, she points out that communication is not limited to verbal exchange and stresses the importance of listening and maintaining a professional demeanor as nonverbal communication strategies that can assist women in navigating male-dominated industries.
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About the Guest
Jamie Levin is a strategic communications consultant with 15+ years of experience spanning internal and external communications, events, community initiatives and engagement. As a versatile executive with an excellent record of achievement as a collaborative partner supporting business objectives and bringing vision to life, she has demonstrated her commitment to being a proactive leader and innovative problem solver who is recognized for implementing effective team-building skills, successfully identifying engagement opportunities and employing cross-functional initiatives to support company culture, and utilizing creative business building analytical and problem-solving skills. Jamie prides herself in being an excellent communicator who is strategically adept at translating strategy into a sound agenda that directly connects to overall business goals while reinforcing a people-first mentality.
Sofie: Hello everyone and welcome back to Claim Your Potential, the empowerment podcast. I’m your host, Sofie, and in this episode we are joined by Jamie Levin to discuss navigating male-dominated industries. With over fifteen years of experience, Jamie is a strategic communications consultant whose journey spans a diverse spectrum of experiences. From internal and external communications, to events, community initiatives, and engagement strategies, she embodies the spirit of a versatile executive armed with a remarkable track record of achievement. Her collaborative approach shines as she partners with businesses to achieve their objectives and transform visions into reality. Please welcome, Jamie Levin. Thank you so much for being with us today, Jamie. Jamie Levin: Thanks so much, Sofie. I’m happy to be here. Sofie: We are excited to have you.And I love starting off episodes just hearing a little bit about your journey and you have fifteen plus years of experience in communications and I’m so curious, you know, you also started your own communications company J Levin Communications, can you share your journey on how you got to where you are today? Jamie Levin: Sure. It’s an interesting one for sure. So I was an athlete growing up and always wanted sports to be a part of my life and so I figured in high school, you know, I should do some internships. I always thought it was more important to figure – cross off my list, what wasn’t of interest to me, but I couldn’t do that until I experienced it. And so what I did was, I worked at the Baltimore Sun in High School. I also interned at WBAL TV in Baltimore with a sports broadcaster and he was an anchor and he was amazing. And the life of an anchor is very different than the life of a startup reporter and so – it crossed that one off my list. They also crossed the newspaper off my list. Both very valuable experiences. And I – and I respect the professions immensely and then I went off to Maryland, to the University of Maryland, got an undergraduate degree in communications, still didn’t know what to do with my life. So I said, “well, I can do one year of grad school.” I went to American University and there, I also focused on communications and got an amazing experience there, the professors were professionals and so I learned a lot from there. I moved to New York City where I got a taste of agency life and really went all in um – had great clients, focused mostly on media. Great experiences before moving down to Florida, continued agency life here and then worked for the Latin Builders Association which is the largest Hispanic construction association in the United States. There, I was their PR manager as well as the editor of their magazine and I oversaw all facets of the magazine, everything from writing editorial, to photo shoot circulation and sales. Great experience. Also, continued my PR initiatives because we had the first female president in the association’s history so that was a really unique opportunity. Then, I transitioned a bit and went completely internal and had the opportunity to work at Autonation, was very involved in the rebranding of the stores, and then automotive is – you can’t get out of it once you’re in it. So from there I went to TBC Corporation where I oversaw internal communications, external communications, corporate giving, as well as travel and events and, you know, had a great team there, had great leadership there for about six years. And then um, I have two sons and life just got a little crazy and I needed to focus on them and I needed some more flexibility. I love what I do but I figured out I could do it on my own and so I opened J Levin Communications and still today have the opportunity to work with a lot of people that I’ve crossed paths with and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sofie: Wow, I am just – just wow in terms of how many different spaces that you’ve been involved in and I’m super excited to dive into that today because it sounds like you’ve had such a well-rounded experience in terms of, you know, the different industries that you’ve been a part of while, you know, still part of that communications lens, still getting to see the inside of, especially, such turbulent industries as the automotive industry. And I was kind of chuckling to the side a little bit there when you said that once you’re in the automotive industry, you kind of don’t get out of it. My – my mom actually does search engine optimization and she was ah – she’s been doing that in the automotive industry and it was very similar with her as well where she got one job working on SEO for a car website and then it just kind of snowballed and then the next like so many experiences that she’s had in the working world have all been automotive industry. So was kind of having a bit of a chuckle to the side on that one there, but speaking of all these different industries that you’ve been involved in, I’m so curious when we think about navigating some of those male-dominated industries or those male-dominated spaces that you’ve been in, you know, what challenges have you encountered when it comes to – to navigating these spaces? Jamie Levin: Yeah, you know, construction and automotive like you mentioned is – they are male-dominated industries and I think it’s important whether you’re in a male-dominated industry or not, to make sure you find your voice and use it. Listening is a very important skill, again, regardless of whether you’re surrounded by females, males, whoever, it’s important to just listen before you speak up. It’s a very underrated skill, you learn more by listening than you do by speaking. So, you know, I found my place, I found my voice, I made sure that I was well respected in a room full of men and that it wasn’t um – people didn’t look at it as a male, female thing, people looked at it as okay, these people are in their room because they’re the leaders of their organization within our larger company. Ironically, I don’t know maybe I’m just meant to be surrounded by men, I also have two boys. The only other female in my house is my dog. But I’ve really enjoyed my career experiences and the challenges that I’ve been presented with along the way. Sofie: And I know that you’ve mentioned how you’ve really been able to thrive in these environments and so I’m curious if you have any strategies or tactics that you’ve employed to really help you thrive in spaces where you might be the minority? Jamie Levin: Yeah, again I think listening is – is a very underrated skill. I think you learn so much by listening and then when it’s time to speak up you sound so much more knowledgeable and your points are so much more concrete because you’ve truly taken the time to listen to this perspective of others and incorporate some of that perspective in how you approach your response. I would say just overall other characteristics that are beneficial whether you’re, you know, especially in the fast-paced world of construction, automotive, retail, are just organizational skills, communication skills. Again, the willingness to speak up when you really believe in something, attention to detail, making sure all your t’s are crossed and all your I’s are dotted. Also being able, willing, and readily willing, if you will, to delegate. I mean we all of the we all have the same twenty-four hours a day and there’s only so much that we can do. So if you surround yourself with a really strong team, you can get a lot done and it’s really important and also really underrated. Sofie: Yeah, and I feel like so much of that also really ties into that that confidence there. Right? The confidence to speak up, the confidence to, you know, to go after what you want, the confidence to build that team, and so I feel like so much of this really is tied to confidence and so when we think about navigating these male-dominated industries or even just those spaces, those rooms that you walk into, do you have any ways that you’ve, you know, boosted your confidence and worked to maintain that strong presence so that even in those spaces you feel like you can take on the world so to speak? Jamie Levin: Yeah. I mean relationship building is huge. Right? So you have your rapport with certain people and, you know, there are some people you can push a little bit further, there are some people that you can joke around with and there and there are some people who aren’t interested in joking around at all. So I think part of that confidence building is really knowing your audience so that when you go up in front of the room, you’re ready to present and also knowing what you’re presenting and being prepared. There is nothing more frustrating than going to a meeting and attending a meeting with someone who’s unprepared. It’s a waste of everybody’s time. It’s disrespectful and again we all only have the same twenty-four hours in a day and everybody is, you know, on the hamster we also to speak. But I really do think relationship building is so important and then again, just remind yourself, if you’re in a room with fellow leaders, there’s a reason that you’re there, you know. And you all may work for the same company but you all have your own specialties. Right? And so again, if mine’s communications, there is a reason I’m put in the seat to be the communications leader for the organization. That doesn’t mean I can’t take feedback from the operations manager, or the VP of operations, of course I’m going to take his or her feedback. But again, it’s my job to guide them from a communications perspective as to what’s a best practice, what do I think will align with their strategy, and then see how we can work together to make it work. Sofie: Yeah. I love that you mentioned almost that sense of imposter syndrome there and I think that’s something that a lot of women have and – and especially in those spaces where they might be the minority, is that imposter syndrome of why am I in this room? Why am I with all of these powerful people? I don’t deserve to be here, you know, I – I just can’t do this. And so I feel like that’s something a lot of us go through. I know that I’ve definitely had those moments as well where I’ve – I’ve truly just questioned my – my presence in a space, in a room and so in terms of you know, really addressing that imposter syndrome and learning and – and appreciating yourself and saying, you know what, I deserve to be here. You know? Have you had any experience with feeling that way and what have you done to – to pull yourself out of that, you know, that hole so to speak. Jamie Levin: Yeah. I mean, I think throughout everyone’s career, we’ve all felt it at some point, whether it was because we were just starting out or because we were new at a company and you know we’re called upon in a meeting on our second day to give guidance and that’s a bit of a challenge and an uphill battle as it is because you’re still getting to know everybody and everything and it takes a while to get there. But again, I think it’s all about preparation and just reminding yourself, there’s a reason that you are put in the position. Whether you’re the VP of the communications and you lead the team, or you’re the communications manager or you’re the communications assistant, there is a reason that you’re in that role. So if you can just be the best possible person in that role, there’s no reason for you to feel like you don’t belong and just be mindful about your contributions, be mindful about listening, and see how you can contribute to the overall goals of the organization and then you’ll naturally pave your way. Sofie:Yeah I – I love that piece there where it’s really, you know, taking the time to focus on that why am I here element. So definitely agree with that there and in something that I try to remind people all the time of when I hear someone going through that thought process of why am I here, you know, it’s – it’s breaking down well look at what you’ve accomplished. Right? Think about those accomplishments, think about, you know, they would not have hired you if they didn’t think that you were qualified for this position. Jamie Levin: Right. Sofie: So I feel like a lot of it, you know, is reallybreaking through that that self-doubt and being able to say “you know what, I’m going to break through that.” And that confidence that I develop through breaking through that self-doubt, I’m going to not just apply but use that to flourish in these spaces and another piece that I am always super curious about when it comes to those that have been in those male-dominated spaces is this concept of negotiation. And I say that because I feel like when I’m in spaces where it’s predominantly men, there’s a lot of negotiation going on whether it’s, you know, salary or it’s, you know, negotiating ideas and who gets to take the lead on an idea or who gets to take, you know, the – the creative control on something or, you know, who is leading this or who gets to give the PowerPoint or – or things like that where there’s this element of negotiation there. And so I’m curious if you have any advice for young women that are entering the workforce who are unsure of how to ask for what they want in these spaces? Jamie Levin: That’s a big question. It’s important to do whatever you can to control your own destiny. I think that regardless of whether words are coming out of your mouth or not, you’re communicating and so be mindful of how you present yourself, be mindful about how you walk into a room. Confidence plays a lot into the factor of negotiating and being aware of your surroundings and also being prepared. Do your research, do your homework. I don’t know that there’s really like one way to prepare yourself for the idea of negotiation. I just think the most important thing to recognize and realize is nobody’s going to look out for number one but you and so you have to be willing to sometimes have those uncomfortable conversations because they’re going to make you more comfortable in the long run. And so while they may not feel so great while you’re them, again, you have to look out for yourself and so be willing to go into that uncomfortable place sometimes. Whether it’s asking for money – more money, if that’s an uncomfortable conversation or seeing if there’s an opportunity for your job to be partially remote if that’s important to you. Or just asking those questions because at the end of the day, it’s most important that you know the full picture of what you’re getting yourself into because if you’re able to avoid a situation where you may not be happy, it helps you to focus on those other opportunities that may present themselves as brighter to you. Sofie: Right. I feel like so much of it is asking those right questions. Right? When you think about negotiation and you think about being in those spaces, especially for our young women out there that are, you know, maybe entering the workforce for the very first time and are unsure of how to figure out if, perhaps, a position is right for them. Or if a career or if an industry is right for them. I feel like so much of it is around asking the right questions, getting an understanding of what is the organizational culture, getting an understanding of, is this type of organizational culture present throughout the entire industry or throughout most of the industry. And if I don’t agree with the culture, then, you know, maybe I need to take a step back and go perhaps this industry isn’t for me. Or it’s asking questions on, you know, do I like my job description? Do I feel motivated to come to work? Is there, you know, something else that’s pulling me in a different direction? And it’s really, you know, having that time to self-reflect, to think, and to ask. So absolutely, I could not agree more there with just, you know, taking that time to ask questions and also as you said, looking out for you. I think that that’s a big misconception that a lot of the younger generation has is the difference between selfish and looking out for yourself. I think that selfish is making decisions for you where you knowingly hurt another person whereas, looking out for you is making decisions for you that are right for you that reflect you and your values and where you want to go in life. It might not sound glamorous to have these conversations and to sit down with yourself, but ultimately as you said it’s what’s necessary. Jamie Levin: Right? And do your homework, use your resources. Right? Like when you mentioned trying to find an industry or a career, that’s right for you, talk to people who’ve been in the industry for a while, see if maybe through, you know, LinkedIn or six degrees of separation you’re connected to someone who might be working at the organization that’s of interest to you. You know, it’s up to you to do your homework. Also, and have thought provoking conversations with people, again, who could give you perspective based off of their experience, not just off of hearsay. Sofie:Exactly. And I had one more question for you and this is more of a big question, so it’s okay if it’s, you know, if you don’t have an answer right now or if it’s, you know, it still needs to get thought through but I know that you’ve been in so many different spaces and I know that DEIB, diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is showing up in so many different ways in those different spaces and so I am very curious with what you’ve seen in the diverse set of industries you’ve been involved with. How DEIB is really impacting those male-dominated spaces and how it’s really helping shift towards more equitable representation especially of getting women in perhaps spaces that women typically aren’t in? Jamie Levin: Yeah, so I think within even those male-dominated industries, right, you have what are typically, again, I hate to stereotype, but what are oftentimes are stereotypically more female-dominated roles. Right? So for purposes of this conversation communications, there are many females and males in communications and I would say that, you know, when I at my most recent company, my entire team was female. We supported a male-dominated industry but within our group we are very well represented. And I think just having different perspectives, especially on the leadership team and being mindful of focus groups and, you know, whether it’s gender, whether it’s race, whether it’s age, whether it’s education, whether it’s geographic location or position, it’s important, especially from a communications perspective, to make sure that everyone is represented because at the end of the day you’re communicating to everybody. So I just think it’s really important to continue being mindful of getting the perspectives of everybody. Not just people you may be in the same room with and just opening up the conversation to a broader audience. Sofie: Right. It’s about bringing think or thinking about how can I bring as many voices to the table that we possibly can and that’s something that I am hoping a lot of sectors shift towards is less of that, all right well, we’re going to consult with those voices. Sometimes if it – depending on the project and that seems to be what it’s been for the longest time versus now there’s a couple of sectors. For example, I’m thinking about the nonprofit sector just because that’s the space that I’m in but the nonprofit sector is really shifting towards all right, we don’t want to just consult with those voices. We want them in the big decisions. We want them at the table. We want them to be part of, you know, these projects, to be part of strategic planning, to be part of – of the whole process so that they can inform the process with their diverse set of expertise and their experiences. And whether it’s life experience or educational experience or work experience, having as many different voices at the table that you possibly can have, I feel like really does shape industries into, you know, growing and growing with the time so to speak. Right? We have such a diverse world and for the longest time that wasn’t shown in – in industries, in companies specifically where the diversity of the world wasn’t showing up in those spaces and so I’m am very happy that we are starting to shift towards that. But I definitely agree with you there where it’s – it’s bringing people in that have different opinions, that have different lived experience that can really inform those changes. And to connect everything together for our listeners, what is one thing that they should take away from this episode?
Jamie Levin: Always remember to listen before you speak and be mindful of your audience and so I guess that’s two, but I think they’re connected. Sofie: Yes, oh my goodness. Yes, I think some of the best advice I’ve ever received is that it’s great to be an advocate. It’s great to say what you think but think about the audience and there are moments where it’s okay to listen versus saying something. It’s okay to –to be in a space and really, really want to – to stand up for something and yes, do that. But there’s other spaces where you might really want to stand up and say something but perhaps you get more out of listening to the conversation than saying something so definitely agree there, speaking from personal experience as well. Could not agree more with that point there. And for all of our listeners that would love to stay in touch with you and hear more of your wisdom and more of your journey, how can our listeners connect with you? Jamie Levin: Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn, Jamie Levin or take a peek at my website which is J Levin Communications dot com and there’s a way to reach me through there if that’s easier but I’m looking forward to hearing from people and keeping in touch with you as well, Sofie. Sofie: Aw, thank you so much. And to all of our listeners out there, definitely go check out that episode description box as all of Jamie’s links and ways that contact her will be linked down there. So definitely get in touch. And I want to say thank you again so much for coming on to the podcast Jamie, it was an absolute pleasure speaking with you today. Jamie Levin: Thanks for having me.
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