Even as a child, the most important thing to me was self expression. If you ask anyone in my life, from my family and friends to my colleagues, they will tell you that I have strong opinions. Although having strong viewpoints is important, the art is in how you express them and your ability work with others to reach consensus.

In many circum stances, women are uncomfort able expressing their true thoughts. I have seen it both person ally and professionally. Often, these women tend to remain quiet or simply agree with the opinions of others. Many times this is a result of their fear of being viewed as weaker, or somehow less intelligent than their male counter parts. My advice to those women is to find your voice and in doing that, you find yourself.

Having a voice does not mean always being the first to speak or having the most to say. Instead, it’s remaining true to your character and speaking with con fidence. For me, one of the most effective ways to communicate is to say nothing at all and simply listen to the opinions of others. This goes far beyond just hearing what people are saying to you, but truly endeav oring to understand their viewpoint.

Having a voice involves taking what you learn, considering it carefully, and sharing a resulting opinion that is unique to your personal ity, your voice. Taking the time to consider a topic before defining your stance will always serve you well, as it will show your careful consideration of a view rather than just your reaction to words.

Most importantly, having a voice does not mean insisting that you are right. Always have the courage to admit your mistakes and con tinue to move forward. That simple recognition will earn the respect of your peers and the wisdom of the moment. We can learn much from our mistakes and from the mistakes of others. If we were never wrong, we wouldn’t evolve person ally or professionally.

Most of all, it’s impor tant for women to be in an environment where they feel comfortable expressing themselves, making their voices heard. I am fortunate to be a part of an organiza tion in NYSE Euronext that rec ognizes the con tributions of women, particularly in senior roles. Intelligence, drive and commitment are not the property of any background or gen der. They are what you cul tivate in yourself and express to the world, using your voice.