International Women’s Day is March 8th with the theme, “Choose to Challenge.” This year I join my sisters across the country and choose to challenge, and call out, gender bias and inequality. “We choose to celebrate women’s achievements!” We want an inclusive world! We want gender equity!
International Women’s Day is a global united movement of women across countries and continents coming together to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It is also a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.
Women have been fighting for equality for a very long time; in this country, since the glorious Suffragettes took to the streets to fight for the right to vote. Equality!!! They actually started the first International Women’s Day with an event in 1911. It took a decades-long fight for women in the United States to win the right to vote. It took nearly 100 years to win that precious right with the ratification of the 19th Amendment and today, women are the beneficiaries of their brave forebears’ tenacity and spirit.
And yet, progress toward gender parity remains slow!
Last year, the representation of women in corporate America was trending in the right direction, according the McKinsey Report: Women in the Workplace 2020. Women in the C suite grew from 17% to 21% over the previous six years, yet they remained significantly underrepresented- particularly women of color- but still the numbers were slowly improving.
And then came COVID-19. As many as two million women are considering leaving the workforce or downsizing their career as they have added caretaker, teacher and the burden of household chores to their already heavy load.
If that happens, we will end up with less women in leadership and even fewer in the pipeline of future leaders. The number of women influencers, mentors and sponsors will be diminished. All those gains of the past six years, will evaporate.
We can’t afford to have that happen. Companies can’t afford to lose women leaders and potential leaders!
If we lose so many senior-level women, the financial repercussions also will be significant. Research shows “that company profits and share performance can be close to 50 percent higher when women are well represented at the top.”
Additionally, senior-level women have a huge and meaningful impact on a company’s culture.
So let’s take this challenge!
I choose to challenge the status quo.
I choose to challenge the lack of gender parity in the C suite and the ongoing fight for a seat at the table.
I choose to challenge the bias and barriers against women in leadership roles and in the boardroom.
I choose to challenge the notion that women don't put in the hard work as leaders because they value family more than their careers.
I choose to challenge organizations to ingrain women's’ advancement in all corporate practices and cultures.
I choose to challenge the gaps in corporate culture /mindsets with inclusiveness programs that build conviction that what is good for women will be good for men.
You know, equality is good, but equity is better. Equality is about sameness, equity is about inclusion. Equity promotes fairness and justice by putting everyone on a level playing field. Equality is giving everyone shoes; equity is giving everyone shoes that fit. It can only work if everyone starts from the same place.
Equity is about fairness. It is about making sure people get access to the same opportunities, so we must ensure equity before we can enjoy equality.
So join me and choose to challenge and become a catalyst for positive change for society.
Not only is gender equity right, it also makes business sense!
We all know those women — the ones who stride into a room with an air of grace. They’re not always the prettiest or smartest. They’re not arrogant. But they are the ones who make you want to be around them. And they turn heads!
True confidence has a look of its own!
Can you learn confidence? Of course you can. And, learning to be confident is clearly important. Understanding how to be a confident woman is one of the things that sets you apart from everyone else.
Women who are comfortable in their own skin project confidence, and that’s a fact.
Confident women are optimistic. Confident women are positive and are not afraid of failure. And yes, confident people experience failure just like everyone else. But the difference is how they handle that failure.
Pick yourself up and dust yourself off! Failure is just another opportunity to improve yourself and make changes that will help you grow. They are what confident women call “learning lessons.”
Confident women walk into a room and go right up to people they don’t know—YET!
So many of us walk straight toward people we already know. Or even worse, we stand there and wait for them to notice us.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable! Walk right up and introduce yourself.
Confident women know themselves. Yes, they are self-aware and know that no one is perfect…and they accept that. They know their weak spots and how to highlight their positive attributes…the very strengths that foster that self- confidence and belief in themselves.
Confident women own their executive presence and image. You know, we make impressions, good or bad, on people instantly.
Do you know what you are saying when you aren't saying anything? That is called body language.
People form their impressions based on your nonverbal communication:
Women don’t have access to the range of power postures that men traditionally use— but they do have a few that are very powerful.
Yes that powerful pose can boost feelings of confidence, and definitely has an impact on your state of mind—even when you aren’t feeling your best.
But there are several other ways to build confidence and spread your wings more comfortably:
These changes are subtle, but they convey your presence to others as well as give you more confidence.
Confident women believe in themselves. They don’t care what others say…. they walk to their own beat.
That’s called self-assurance. You recognize those women—they know how to make informed decisions and bring other people along with them. And they own their decisions as well as their consequences.
And the most Confident women bring other women along with them. They surround themselves with very accomplished women and support each other. They do not become the competition.
Yes, confident women bring other women up with them! Too many women who have made it pull the ladder up after them, instead of helping women coming up behind them climb each rung. Don’t be one of them!
So. Are you a confident woman!
The visibility of public boards is increasing and more executive leaders are becoming interested in joining corporate and paid boards. Generally, organizations and companies seeking board members continue to recruit from the same pool of candidates as they always have: current ranks of CEOs, CFOs or retired CEOs.
But today, board membership is accessible to a wider range of candidates, including business leaders who have not served in the CEO role or even in the C suite.
Still, companies are highly selective in choosing board members and competition continues to be fierce. Organizations are aware of their obligation to deliver a financial return to their shareholders, so they continue to look for potential board members with proven expertise starting, running and growing successful businesses.
In a nutshell, corporate boards routinely seek very senior executives who have big-picture experience, possess keen operational and financial skills, and know firsthand how business works and the functions and processes that make it work.
But there is also another avenue to board membership. Boards now have greater need for specialization, increasing their use of committees which provides greater opportunities for independent candidates to be considered. But, what continues to influence selection decisions are the needs of the key board committees: audit, governance and compensation.
If you are a professional with a deep subject matter specialty, your prospects for a corporate directorship may be rising rapidly! Your experience can add real value to board committees. Greater specialization and the intricacies of modern board work are reasons for the increased demand for boards to utilize committees. While the board as a legal unit always retains responsibility for the work of its committees. Committees, because of their focus on the Board’s mandate, tend to add efficiency and effectiveness in meeting that mandate.
More than ever, today’s boards are filling seats and committees with highly specific “mission critical” skill sets. Social Media, Cyber Fraud/security, Digital technology, Global market entry, Employee engagement and retention, Political expertise for heavily regulated companies and customer loyalty to name a few.
Here is the really good news. That list is just the tip of the iceberg.
Given the rapid change in today’s business world, the need for new subject matter skills are constantly emerging. And that is really good news for independent candidates.
They are not synonymous! But both are very important!
First, consider your own worth and value in the workplace.
Your worth is the amount of money you expect to receive for your level of training and experience, perhaps your business contacts or other attributes you bring with you. Basically, things you have accrued as you built your career.
Your value is a parallel concept. It is the combination of your unique strengths and the projection of contributions you will bring to the position and to the organization. This is really an important concept to know.
Many executive women still don't get or demand the compensation they deserve. I believe that is due, in large part, because they don’t fully understand the concepts of worth and value, so they do not promote them.
The challenge of understanding and promoting worth and value begins after college when you start that first job. You are already making less than the guy who was hired with you—at the rate of 82% of what your male counterpart is being paid, according to a study by the American Association of University Women.
And, that’s just the beginning. It just gets worse over time.
What could be the reason for the pay discrepancy? The contributing factor, outside of the gender wage gap, is that women simply do not negotiate as well as men—if they negotiate at all.
Women, unlike men, don't ask for what they want!
I have presented many negotiation workshops to help women acquire skills to demonstrate their value to decision makers.
And, inevitably there is always one woman in the room who asks:
“Do you think I should wait to discuss my compensation?
Over the course of a woman’s working lifetime, not negotiating and not promoting your worth adds up to $2M in lost revenues for the average woman climbing the career ladder.
So how do you avoid getting less than what you are worth?
Aim high- -Identify the most you're likely to achieve in terms of pay and benefits and the least you are willing to accept. Set targets that are ambitious but realistic, and know what your best alternative is if negotiations fail.
RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH. Talk to friends; search the Internet;and use connections, such as alumnae associations and professional organizations, to learn the going rate for someone with your experience and training.
Identify common goals and keep the other person's perspective and constraints in mind. Ask yourself: “What do I bring to the table that is a win-win for you and the organization.”
Know your unique value proposition (UVP) - your UVP defines the replacement value of your professional contributions. Why are you an invaluable asset as a leader-not just an employee!
Be a contributor to the bottom line; align your achievements with strategic objectives. Know your impact (both current and potential) on the ROI of the organization as well as your personal ROI.
Sing your own praises. Build and promote your brand as a confident leader. You must speak for yourself. A bit of confidence and bragging helps you stand out come promotion time.
Being a confident leader means that you have realistic self-awareness and help others to be more successful.
Look and act confident!
When it comes to YOU, you are the sales team! Be prepared to pitch yourself!
So, in the end, knowing your worth increases your value and motivates you to take control of your own career.
My father used to love to tell this story about my middle brother. My two brothers and I would be in the backseat for any outing in the car. And depending on the length of the trip, my middle brother would be afflicted by a very unusual malady: a “hamburger headache.” That meant we needed to find a McDonald’s…pronto!
My brother’s favorite character in the McDonaldland commercials was the Hamburglar, and thus the “hamburger headache” was born.
That was just fine with the rest of us. McDonald’s was our very favorite place in the world.
While we knew nothing about branding, the McDonald’s brand was firmly planted in our brains.
Branding of companies and organizations is common. But, in today’s extremely competitive marketplaces of jobs and ideas, the need to brand oneself is growing-particularly for women executives.
Branding is your reputation. Branding is about showcasing your unique value proposition and what sets you apart from others.
It is about building a unique name for yourself!
Branding is about being authentic and real. People want to connect with people they can trust. Authenticity also gives you the space to evolve and grow as others embrace your brand.
Investing in your personal brand enhances your most valuable asset- YOU!
Whether you know it or not, you do have a personal brand.
Don’t believe me? Google yourself and audit your online presence.
What comes up? You’ll find out what others are saying about you…something you need to know. Knowing what others say and think about you, measures your brand’s success and provides guidance for adjusting the “brand,” if necessary.
The question is no longer IF you have a personal brand, but do you allow your online reputation to take on a life of its own, through input from others, or do you control the narrative yourself?
Crafting a strong and authentic personal brand is one of the most impactful keys to executive presence, and success. If you don’t take charge of your online brand, search engines and third party tweets will do that for you.
Here are some ways to build that personal brand:
Think of yourself as your brand and become an expert. Think Oprah! She build a personal brand on her own story that people trust. Her name is her brand!
So, what is your area of expertise? What makes up your brand? Not only do people want to hear about you, but they also want to understand your story. Don’t be afraid to inject your story and your personality into your brand.
Define your unique value proposition- who you are and your unique abilities – in a sentence or two.
Networking - Surround Yourself with Powerful People The biggest key to building your brand is to surround yourself with powerful people—your network is your power.
And now doing these times, it is more important than ever.
A powerful network increases your visibility; that visibility increases your influence and status, which in turn increases your ability to build and maintain the right kind of relationships and get more done through them.
Networking is one of the best ways to brand yourself within your industry. By forming relationships with people in your audience, you can grow your reputation, your business and your brand long-term.
And last, but not least- Be who you are - your authentic self. Express your brand across multiple communications channels. Know your area of expertise and where you fit in. Remain visible to your target audience.
The Bottom Line: Personal branding is good for you, your business and your career
Discover Your Uniqueness…And Promote It!
courtesy of Unsplash
During these times of uncertainty and anxiety, there are some things we can do to take control of our lives…at least our professional lives.
Whatever your field and whatever level you are in an organization, there is one BIG thing you can do for yourself that will open up doors for your career.
Create your own Strategic Career Plan!
Making a plan is not rocket science…it is a ONE page tool to help you design your career progression. It will also provide a baseline against which you can measure success. Take a good, long look at where you want your career to go and how much effort you are willing to make to get there; whether your destination is a board seat or a new executive role.
First, describe your role in one sentence! Yes, you can do it in one sentence. For example: “I drive shareholder value by evaluating opportunities and implementing corporate contracts in the US.” If you can’t, then perhaps you don’t understand what role you actually play in your own organization.
Understand your unique value proposition (UVP) Your value proposition demonstrates how your work and the way you do your work aligns with the strategic plan and contributes to specific, positive business outcomes (e.g., “I build business relationships that fund research and medical advancements…” or “I design technological innovations so work gets done more effectively and efficiently…”).
Once you identify your value proposition, you will understand the impact of your contribution to the success of the business. Your unique value proposition allows you to position yourself internally as an executive who can help the business grow or add real value to a new organization.
Knowing how to promote your UVP to key stakeholders and colleagues gives you the opportunity to stand out, and the credibility that becomes the foundation of a personal brand.
Surround Yourself with Powerful People
A career is not built in a vacuum! The biggest key to building power is to surround yourself with powerful people—your network is your power.
A powerful network increases your visibility; that visibility increases your influence and status, which in turn increases your ability to build and maintain the right kind of relationships (both internally and externally) and get more done through them. The time you spend on this has an exponential impact on your status and power which, of course, increases your visibility and influence.
Your network is the most strategic and valuable asset in your arsenal!
Allies and champions can open up doors to new opportunities as you work your long-term career plan A powerful network gives you the support and encouragement you need to nurture your ambition and overcome obstacles.
Actively manage your career- get a sponsor!
Both male and female – an executive champion who will open doors, risk their reputation or credibility to lift you higher. Be a sponsor yourself.
Having a sponsor is the most powerful relationship you can have to help you reach your career goal.
Sponsors give you advice and take action on your behalf. They have the influence to create visibility and opportunities for you.
Avoid being the “go to person”
Trying to be “that person” who everyone goes to for the answer or to get things done can actually impede your career progression. By presenting the image of someone who can operationalize a strategy, it may obscure the perception of you as someone strategic…a leader who can develop the strategy!
Don’t be the person who believes that their work alone will get them recognition to move ahead. Or that staying late at the office with your head down will be recognized.
Let go of the belief that your work alone will get you ahead. That kind of thinking prevents you from focusing on strategic networking which is vital to your career.
Make sure you are in a workplace environment that offers a chance to thrive.
An environment where you areoffered opportunities that increase your skills and for which your success will be recognized…and in which you are comfortable are important keys to success. Finding that environment requires homework and due diligence, prior to accepting a position and the strength to walk away from a job offer that doesn’t advance your career goals, even if it means turning your back on a tempting compensation package.
Make sure you have clear milestones and expectations
Do you really understand what it takes to bring your career up a notch? Do you understand the expectations set by your plan? Are you prepared to do the hard work?
Stop praying for a promotion and make it happen. Put yourself out there and take a risk!
Creating your own strategic career plan allows you to maximize your opportunities and feel more in control of your career — a pretty nice place to be!
Are you ready to take control of your career?
I always ask women about their personal brand. “What are you known for?” And I generally get a look of confusion. Then I get answers all over the map, but nothing truly resembling a personal brand.
So, I suggest beginning with a story. Why? Because storytelling is so powerful. It grabs attention, stirs emotions and, by the way, sets you apart from everyone else…because it’s your story.
Setting yourself apart is just another way of saying “building your brand.”
And, in the world of marketing, brand storytelling – selling your brand – has a tremendous impact on the way the marketplace sees you and lets you stand out with the influencers you want to attract.
If your personal brand isn’t telling a story, you’re diminishing the impact necessary to capture the audience you need.
A personal brand story is the best way to engage the individuals you want to influence by inviting them into your life and letting them identify with you.
They will learn, in just a few strong and well-crafted sentences, who you are, what you do and what value you offer them.
Let your audience see what you care about, the passions you share with them, and your commitment to those passions. They will feel more compelled to listen, and learn more about you and become your greatest supporters.
Your personal brand story should reflect the values and beliefs that drive your vision for what is possible.
What makes your work meaningful?
So, what makes you – and your story – unique?
That is what you have to determine. It will become your unique value proposition – and begins with the answer to the question: what am I known for; what is my “market distinction”?
Tough question, but that’s the starting point. And how do you get the answer?
Ask the “marketplace.”
What do others say about you and your contributions? The answer to that provides the key to how the market will ultimately measure the value of your brand. It also gives you the ability to talk about yourself with great confidence.
Coming up with that unique value proposition — or your personal brand story — can be daunting. Everyone has skills so the key is figuring out how you can differentiate yourself in a positive way.
You are your own best advocate, and being able to articulate your value proposition is the best way to convey your personal brand with clarity and impact.
Highlight your unique skills and experience and don’t be afraid to stand out!
Then find the distribution vehicles that get your story to the right market. Reinforce that story through your social media channels. Post photos on Instagram of your working on a project. Write a Facebook post on a success resulting from a risk you took. That’s the kind of branding that will deepen a connection between you and others.
People pay attention to stories because people like to learn vicariously through the experiences of the people in them.
If your audience learns from you — then you become more memorable. That generates interest and intrigues people enough to want to meet you, get to know you, and work with you.
It is your personal brand story! Own it!
Courtesy of Unsplash
All over the world, women are creating, designing, and innovating to make better organizations and communities.
But too many women are putting their heads down and doing their jobs early on in their careers, but by the time they lift their heads up and realize they want to be CEO, they haven’t built the building blocks or the relationships.
Here are business tips to accelerate your career!
Speak up and Amplify: Women NEED to speak their value daily instead of waiting for others to notice them. Speak up and “own your” place’ at the table.
Say “I” instead of “We.” Women tend to give credit to their team and forget to take the credit as their leader. So, when we talk about a success we tend to use ‘we,’ which is statistically proven to get women fewer promotions and lower pay.
Take more risks. Whenever a door opens, walk through it if you can—take the risk, don’t grow too comfortable where you are. When you have a "can-do" attitude, people seek you out.
Increase your visibility. Being a legend in your “own mind” is not enough. You need to increase your visibility!
Take “I’m sorry” out of your vocabulary. You are not sorry! ‘And take “just” out of the equation as well. “Just” is one of those words that has a habit of creeping into our emails and spoken conversations…..“ I just wanted to.” If you want to have more authority, lose the “just.
Get a sponsor! Both male and female – an executive champion who will open doors, risk their reputation or credibility to lift you higher. Be a sponsor yourself.
Networking matters! Surrounded yourself with high caliber people and up your game! You reflect the people you surround yourself with!
Know what you want. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. But, be prepared and do your homework first.
One last observation…
Remember to bring women up with you! Too many women who have made it pull the ladder up after them, instead of helping women coming up behind them climb each rung.
Invest your Future!
Aspire Ascend provides programs, coaching, leadership training and public speaking on women’s leadership, board and career development.
In spite of individual, and in some cases high-profile successes, barriers continue to stand in the way of women in leadership roles. It doesn’t matter where those roles may be; large or small corporations, non-profits, or any level of government.
There are a number of easily identifiable examples of obstacles confronting women. Easily identifiable, but not so easily addressed.
How about the commonly-held belief that women in leadership positions are less likable when they do the same things male leaders do. We call that the Double Bind - a well-documented phenomenon for working women.
According to the Double Bind, “if a woman is too ‘nice’ at work, or uses stereotypically feminine vocal characteristics she’ll be seen as too soft and won’t be taken seriously. On the flip side, if a woman is too assertive she’s seen as brusque and bitchy.”
Women who are caught in the Double Bind frequently receive performance reviews that seem more personal than constructive: “You can come across as abrasive. You need to pay attention to your tone. You come on too strong and judgmental.”
As a women leader, how many times have you heard the adjectives -bossy, abrasive and aggressive used to describe your leadership behavior?
How many times have you been told you are “getting emotional” when you object to the mis-characterization of your performance?
How many times do you get vague feedback and nonactionable suggestions for improvement cloaked as “constructive criticism”?
Because the “aggressive” label doesn’t just come up in informal discussions, but also in performance reviews, it can have a major impact on careers and hold women back.
And the sad part is that the Double Bind can be applied even when your boss is a woman!
Companies are getting a bit better at correcting women’s salaries to be commensurate with the men, but similar corrective measures have not yet been applied to the performance review process.
Advice for Women:
Take “I’m sorry” out of your vocabulary: You are not sorry! If it took some time to get the answer, you do not need to apologize for being prepared. How about: “Thanks for your patience.” Stop starting sentences with an apology: ‘I’m sorry, I just need….” And take “just” out of the equation as well.
Say “I” instead of “We.” Women tend to give credit to their team and forget to take the credit as their leader. “I” is a good word! You can thank the team after you have described your part first.
Don’t wait to be asked; take a seat at the table. Stop sitting at the back of the room or on the periphery.The importance of women not only taking their seats at the table, but practicing what it’s like to be there, cannot be underplayed.
Speak up and amplify! When a woman speaks up in the workplace, she walks a tightrope; asserting her views without coming across as too loud or aggressive. As a result, many women opt to stay silent rather than risk saying something “wrong.” And when they do speak, women tend to get interrupted more often and given less credit for ideas. When a woman makes a key point, repeat it and give credit to the speaker, which forces the room to recognize the speaker’s contribution. And don’t allow an interruption to slow you down. “May I finish…” is a perfectly acceptable – and necessary – way to interrupt the interrupter before continuing to make your point.
Get a sponsor! Both male and female – an executive champion who will open doors, risk their reputation or credibility to lift you higher. Be a sponsor yourself.
Advice for Employers and Hiring Managers:
Unconscious-bias education is a priority! Make everyone, and especially leaders, aware that inadvertent bias language in performance evaluations is not good for anyone and is unacceptable in your organization. Develop mandatory programs on unconscious bias that includes formal evaluations, other employment documentation and gender “coding” in job advertisements.
Have clear evaluation criteria. When managers don’t have specific criteria and evidence to measure the performance of an employee, they’re more likely to rely on their own biases and stereotypes, and allow personality traits influence them.
Evaluators need to be accountable. Hold evaluators accountable for their work, and eliminate anonymity. Before they even start to do the work of evaluating, educate them about how biases can show up in evaluations and how they can influence their views about an individual’s – man or woman – performance. about the impact.
Across industries, leadership is desperately trying to retain talented women. All too often women leaders receive formal and informal messaging that they neither belong nor fit in the workplace, and they are frequently penalized for their authentic leadership style.
There is overwhelming evidence that businesses with gender diversity in senior management, the C-suite and the boardroom can increase bottom-line performance by as much as 15 percent.
Reducing evaluation bias and the “double bind” is not only a business imperative, it’s also the right thing to do!