Nina Richardson knows a thing or two about being a woman in a strong position. She’s helped scale incredible companies like GoPro, and is now on the board of directors for Tonal. For Women’s History Month, we sat down to chat with her about leading from the front. Nina shares why we all need to recognise the strength of our different perspectives and the importance of bringing our authentic self to the table.
You’ve often been the first or the only woman in the room but seemingly have taken it all in your stride. What advice would you give women in a similar position?
One of my oldest mentors — who wasn’t a very tall guy — once said to me, “when I walk in the room, people have the assumption that because I’m not this big, huge guy, I’m not very good, and all I have to be is good, and then they think I’m great.”
I took that to heart. I always come into a room with the viewpoint that I’m exceptional because I’m different from everybody else.
There are times when people will treat you like you’re less than, but I’ve learned various ways to get around that, usually with humor. When somebody is making a comment that’s meant to belittle you or take you down a peg, you’ll know. Then there are goodhearted people who say something stupid, so I let them know but cut them slack too.
What other takeaways can you share that really helped you?
Women have different challenges in the workforce, they have different social upbringings, and there are different expectations of them, career and life-wise. There aren’t many women in executive positions, so a lot of times, you can’t always look at someone and think, well, that could be me. Sometimes it feels like we don’t fit into the mold of what a successful business person or executive feels like.
At times, even just hearing stories of people going through the same thing-provides a certain level of reassurance. It helps when you can see a successful person that looks, feels, and acts just like you.
It encourages you to bring your authentic self to the business and that adds so much value. You’ve seen the world through your experience, you’ve asked different questions, and have different things that you’re concerned about, all of which are blind spots for other people.
Given what you know about leading from the front, alongside mentorship and being our authentic selves, what else should women hoping to strengthen their positions be thinking about?
I was on a mentee call just yesterday with a woman in a vice president-level position. One of the aha moments she had when we were talking was that, in organizations, when you’re starting your career, your manager or whomever you work for tends to recognize your great performance, and then they promote you. There comes a time in your career where that switches, and suddenly, it’s about promoting what you do yourself and asking for what you want.
It’s a subtle thing, but enough to trip people up and stop them from moving to the next level, and men seem to know and understand this shift better.
What happens all too often is we don’t feel confident at promoting ourselves, raising a hand, being in the spotlight, or calling attention. While some of it may be personality, some can also be gender-based and the way we’re socialized over time, but either way, it can become an impediment to success.
Did you ever struggle with being your authentic self, and how did you overcome that?
I grew up in the Midwest. There were all these things that I was supposed to do and want. It probably took until my forties for me to start paying more attention to what I wanted. I wish I had come upon that earlier, but to be your authentic self, you have to really figure out who you are, what’s important to you, what you care about, and then let that show up.
Coming into a space of knowing who you are and what’s important to you gets easier to do with time. There will always be scrutiny, but that scrutiny matters less when you step into your power and bring your perspective.
And these perspectives can make all the difference!
That’s why we’re pushing so hard on creating diversity in companies, executive teams, and boardrooms. As well as bringing the perspective of a woman, I’m also bringing the perspective of a 62-year-old woman. You bring your expertise concerning markets and operations and a variety of other things, but you’re also sharing how you view the world.
You’re helping Tonal go from strength to strength, but how has Tonal helped you feel stronger?
Every week, for months, I wrote “get a personal trainer.” I have a variety of things around the house, but nothing really for strength. When I heard about Tonal and looked at the product, I said: “oh, I need that!”
Tonal has forced my husband and me to work on muscles that complement and support our shoulders, knees, and hips, and at my age, I especially need that. As a 62-year-old woman, I need strength to be better balanced and maintain my health.
In what ways do you feel Tonal is a game-changer for women that want to get stronger?
If you haven’t done it before, I think that weights can be intimidating. In the privacy of my home, I feel much more comfortable lifting than in the gym. Tonal helps you understand how to do it and how important strength training is, and then you get hooked and connected to it. I think it’s a fabulous product.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Strength Stories is an interview series highlighting individuals from the Tonal community.