Playing with the Boys (Literally!): A Lesson From Alice Cooper’s Guitarist

Earlier this week, I saw Alice Cooper live in concert. It was a great show! It’s remarkable that at age 69, he’s so energetic – a real showman, and a true professional. He gave an excellent performance!

But while Alice is, of course, an amazing musician, what impressed me most was his guitarist, a young woman named Nita Strauss. Nita has been involved with a number of rock groups, including the band Femme Fatale, and the musical backing group for the Arena Football League team LA KISS.

One of the friends I was with remarked on how hard a female guitarist must have to work to get to that level. Like many other industries, rock and roll is male-dominated. So, reaching Nita’s level of success requires a lot of dedication, navigation and talent.

After the show, I was able to talk with both Nita and Alice. I said, “Nita, as a female musician, do you think you have to work harder than your male counterparts?” Her answer? “You bet!”

And Alice added, “Yes, I only surround myself with the best!”

“People don’t think about the time that it takes and the work that it takes to put in,” she observed in an interview on the No Guitar is Safe podcast. “You have to sweat it out,” was her advice. “That’s how you get good.” [Source: time: 25.59]

The hope, of course, is that one day women and men in the workplace will truly be on an equal playing field. But for the time being, women often have to work extra hard to prove we deserve to be there as much as the men.

Advancing your career is not just about the work, but also who you know, and who knows what you are doing. Every successful woman in business has connections, work associates with whom business is the basis of the relationship, as well as strategic relationships that are helpful to both parties. Women who want to advance their careers need to develop a network of smart, influential people who are familiar with their knowledge, accomplishments and strengths. And if you are one of very few women in the upper reaches of a corporation, it means learning to network with men.

You have to work hard, stay disciplined, and meet the guys where they are. This means being able to comfortably converse with them, and show them you’re an equal.

Whether you’re in a rock band or in corporate America, it’s harder for women to get ahead. You have to know how to navigate the landscape. Be like Nita. She truly owns her space and holds her own – even alongside a renowned male rock star like Alice Cooper. She seems to be totally comfortable with herself, and everything about her says I deserve to be here! She truly OWNS her space!