Hope Gibbs, founder of The Inkandescent Group, LLC
A journalist, author, publicist, public speaker, and serial entrepreneur, Hope has been a professional writer since graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986. She has won awards for her newsletters, blogs, and feature articles that have appeared in dozens of publications including The Washington Post, USA Today, the National Press Club blog; university alumni magazines (The George Washington University, The University of Pennsylvania, Baylor, and more); and Costco’s magazine, The Connection, where she interviews bestselling authors.
In 2008, Hope founded Inkandescent Public Relations, a PR, marketing, and social media firm that in the last decade has helped hundreds of small business owners increase their visibility using her 8 Steps to PR Success™ — www.InkandescentPR.com. Helping entrepreneurs supersize their small business is the focus of her 200-page interactive guidebook, “PR Rules: The Playbook,” lauded by reporters at The Washington Post, among others, and available at www.PRRulesPlaybook.com.
Also in 2008, Hope launched TrulyAmazingWomen.com, a website that features hundreds of women who are making strides and changing lives. In 2018, she launched Truly Amazing Women TV, a monthly series that showcases these remarkable women in videos on her popular YouTube channel, www.Inkandescent.TV.
Sensing the synergy between the objectives of Truly Amazing Women TV and Aspire Ascend, the two have come together to create a partnership for the new year. Jan and Hope sat down to share their vision for this exciting new partnership.
JM: What was your inspiration for Truly Amazing Women TV?
HG: The idea to create Truly Amazing Women came the afternoon I was sitting at a luncheon for the women’s group Aura at the Columbian ambassador’s home in DC’s Dupont Circle in April 2008. Surrounding me were 100 dynamic, invincible women determined to create change.
Speakers included actress and Cancer Schmancer founder Fran Drescher, politically savvy Hadassah Lieberman, and Holocaust survivor Nesse Godin. Later that day, I was among hundreds more women. As a journalist and advocate, I felt it was my job to shine a spotlight on these women — and thousands more — doing important work, but often under the radar.
JM: In the decade since that day, you have conducted interviews with more than 500 women. What does it mean to be a truly amazing woman?
HG: That’s a question I have been asked for the past 10 years, including by the women I have interviewed. From my perspective, each has accomplished remarkable things. But they rarely think they have ever accomplished enough. So, letting the world know their true value has been the real backbone of Truly Amazing woman.
JM: You have been working on women’s initiatives for a decade. How do you see your background in public relations adding value to the new collaboration with Aspire Ascend?
HG: By joining forces with Aspire Ascend, we’ll be featuring women from around the country in videos for my TV network (www.TrulyAmazingWomen.tv and www.Inakndescent.tv), podcasts for my radio network (www.InkandescentRadio.com), and writing articles for my online magazine for women, by women, about women (www.BeInkandesent.com).
We will also be co-sponsoring events and summits, and Aspire Ascend will write a regular column on women’s leadership for our various outlets as well.
JM: With this new collaboration, Aspire Ascend members will have the opportunity to become members of the speaker’s bureau with www.InkandescentSpeakers.com. Why is this important? What are the benefits?
HG: Having women tell their stories in their own words is powerful. With this collaboration, we will get more women in leadership in front of audiences around the country to share their message of strength and courage and encourage more women to do the same. It will also give Aspire Ascend’s members an opportunity to expand and increase their professional profile with a broader audience base.
JM: Who are some of the Inkandescent Women who are featured on your websites?
HG: I’ve written about hundreds of women in the last decade, including incredibly successful entrepreneurs, insightful futurists, bestselling authors, female politicians, award-winning artists, and more. Some you may have heard of, including “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” author Kristine Carlson, Banana Republic co-founder Patricia Ziegler, and philanthropist Sara Agah, who co-founded rocker Michael Franti’s Do It For the Love Foundation. There are also hundreds of other women featured who you may never have heard of who are doing remarkable things. The goal is to spotlight them all.
JM: Well, we are excited to be a strategic partner with you and look forward to rolling out new initiatives with you. We are looking forward to being able to help women brand themselves in more powerful ways and take the credit that is they are due! Here’s to 2019!
Men rule the world……or so it seems when the lion’s share of men sit in the executive suite across America. And in 2018, the share of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 dropped by 25% and now make up less than 5% of all CEOs. Crazy, right?
That means we need to double our efforts to advance change in the workplace and gender parity. Women make up over 51% of managers, yet so few rise to the C-suite. Even more telling, is the fact that women in the C suite are less likely to have positions with direct reports and profit-and-loss responsibility.
I have said it many, many times. It takes a sponsor to support and guide your career, one who can make a huge difference in your career projection.
We know that male champions believe gender inclusiveness means involving both men and women in advancing women’s leadership. They are career enablers who enhance visibility among top leadership and actively push for women's advancement.
Real sponsors actively drive advancement through concrete actions: they open doors, recommend women for promotions, and propose existing opportunities at the top. Yes, that is a real sponsor!
So how do you recognize a male sponsor? Well there are several key traits of a true male champion:
Male champions come in all sizes. But the one thing they have in common is their courage and persistence in order to overcome resistance to gender inclusiveness. They believe in the value of gender equity in the workplace and are willing to stand up for it.
Men play a crucial role in gender equity in the workplace. And the female leaders who have been championed by them come away with the confidence that they belong at the table and have the right to be there.
Last year, the European Commission took a dramatic step in its effort to diversify. Vĕra Jourová, the EU commissioner in charge of justice and gender equity, advocated for a gender quota that requires 40% of a company’s non-executive directors to be female. Firms that fail to meet that threshold would be required to prioritize female candidates over men when filling a board seat. (What a concept!)
The effort is aimed at fast-tracking progress toward gender equality on boards in the EU, where women currently hold about 22% of seats. By comparison, corporate boards in the U.S. are about 21% female, according to the Guardian.
According to The Economist, Norway—not a member of the EU—was a pioneer in corporate board quotas for gender parity when it introduced its 40% female representation requirement in 2006. A decade later, 42% of board seats in Norway belonged to women.
“Stronger regulations with mandates for minimum gender representations are in place in many of the markets with the highest percentage of female directors, while markets with less stringent regulations or no mandates tend to have fewer female directors,”says a study published in January 2017 by the Institutional Shareholder Services, Inc.
And then comes California, which just became the first state to require women on corporate boards. The bill requires that every publicly traded corporation headquartered in California have at least one woman on their board of directors by the end of 2019, according to the Los Angeles Times. It will most definitely face an intense legal fight but it has the support of a good portion of women executives.
For decades, men have held all the board seats for a quarter of the publicly traded companies in California and national numbers aren't any better. Right now, women hold only one in six board seats in companies in the Russell 3000. Reaching gender parity will not happen, if we are lucky, until 2055.
But, quotas have fierce opponents. Those against the quotas say it will encourage token appointments of women and end up elevating under-qualified women.
No, I don’t think so. Why is it every time it comes to putting a woman in charge, it requires force or justification. Why is it that women are under-qualified, yet I seldom hear that about male board directors?
And another thing! Women still have to overcome strong cultural issues that most men don't have to overcome to gain a seat in the corporate boardroom
On top of that, many businesses prefer veteran female directors over new, untested women directors, according to Equilar research. Most of the time, the only women executives’ male directors know are already on multiple boards.
Funny thing, being a board neophyte does not disadvantage male candidates because men have better connections to powerful men.
California is making the loudest statement, but organizations like State Street Strategies and BlackRock are all on board with gender parity and have openly stated that all companies should have at least 2 female directors. The lens is finally focused and that glass ceiling is getting more cracks by focusing on getting corporations to change their practices.
But what needs to change are attitudes!
Women are not under qualified. Women are the best thing to happen to the boardroom!
Women bring talent, experience, and a diverse perspective to board service.
According to 2020Women on Boards, having at least 3 women on Fortune 500 boards, results in 42% higher return on sales and 53% higher return on equity.
Women positively impact the bottom line!
What else do you need to know?
courtesy of Quote Ambition
Our thanks to Kelly Clarkson-"Stronger"
Stronger…...that’s what you have with the right network! Your network matters.
Over the course of my professional career, I have relied on my ability to create relationships and creatively network up through organizations. It isn’t easy and it takes dedicated effort to continually grow and expand this fabulous network.
Building a powerful network requires work, creativity, and tenacity. It means putting in the effort to develop lasting relationships and adding value to every connection without asking for anything in return. That “serve first” attitude comes across far more genuine and provides you with the best chance of growing your power and status.
And in this 24-7 era of news, rapidly changing technology and vapid attention-spans, you need to stand out from the crowd and in the minds of the right influencers.
Networking is all about the long-game! It does not happen overnight and you need to be able to develop trust and credibility with your network. Exchanging business cards in a single meeting is not going to get you anywhere and can’t even remotely be considered networking.
And you need a CONFIDENT ATTITUDE! Think about it……when you are surrounded by high caliber people, you up your game! You are a reflection of the people you surround yourself with.
So how do you get there?
You need to research, research, research. Identify the organizations and specific people you need to know and they need to know you. Leverage social media in your preparation via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
Attend the right events…not every event……the right ones.
Identify and follow influencers online—see what they are up.
Promote influencers in your network
Make introductions. This is HUGE! Bringing people together is one of the most important ways of expanding your network and adding value to the connection.
Give referrals without expecting anything in return.
And, remember to always think about how you can add value to your connections.
So “what doesn’t kill you, will make you stronger.” Get uncomfortable and stay that way!
This requires building a network of influencers and meeting new people way up above you. People who operate at high levels and will help you push the boundaries of your networking comfort zone.
As you engage in the process of establishing, building and maintaining your network, keep in mind ...
“What doesn't kill you makes you stronger
Stand a little taller
and put your best foot forward” Kelly Clarkson -- “Stronger”
Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash
Before Joining a Board, Is it Right for You?
Board service is not for everyone but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider opportunities and put yourself “out there” for a board seat. But you do need to carefully consider whether the opportunity represents a good fit with your experience, interests, capabilities and availability.
WHAT DO I HAVE TO OFFER?
Think hard about what aspects of your background, knowledge and skills are likely to prove valuable. Revise your resume and develop a board bio to make it more relevant to the work of the board. What contributions have you made to strategy development and projects that have crossed functional and divisional/regional boundaries?
HOW WILL I FIND THE RIGHT BOARD?
Finding the right board takes time. Don’t be surprised if you go to many interviews before you find a board that is both a good fit for you and wants you to join. This is perfectly normal. Due diligence is vital so don’t overlook it because you are eager to join the board.
HOW MUCH DUE DILIGENCE SHOULD I DO?
Select the right board with great care and be rigorous in your due diligence. Your current executive position may limit you to only one outside board membership, so the choice is extremely important and worth the time it takes ensure the right decision. Once you accept a directorship, plan to serve on for six years.
WHAT IS THE TIME COMMITMENT?
One of the pitfalls of becoming a director is underestimating the amount of time it takes to understand the business and get up to speed. It is not just a question of preparing thoroughly for meetings (reading the board papers/book is essential) but making time early on for the induction program and associated site visits and meetings with management. Think carefully about re-prioritizing your current executive responsibilities in order to leave enough time for your role as an outside director.
DO I HAVE THE TIME?
To do a job well and with the appropriate thoroughness is a significant commitment. Understanding the levers of the business can take some time. It is helpful if your current employer is also on a board and helpful in determining that you can manage your own time commitments in such a way that you can attend board meetings without diminishing your value in your current executive role. Ask for the board meeting dates for the next three years.
CAN I REALLY CONTRIBUTE?
Be clear about why the board is interested in you and how your presence and experience complement the existing team of directors. Identify where you can deliver unique and differentiated value and try to demonstrate that quickly. But understand, the first year will involve a steep learning curve as you gain a thorough understanding of the business model. Keep in mind that there is always more to a business than meets the eye. A good chairperson and CEO will give you the time to learn the ropes, but you must be absolutely committed to this.
WILL I LEARN?
How much you learn will have a great deal to do with the intellectual curiosity and open-mindedness that you bring to the role. Your choice of board should be determined not only by how much you have to offer, but also by how much you can learn. Having a mentor on the board is highly recommended, particularly in the first year. He/she can help prepare you for what happens at board meetings and debrief with you in the week or two following the meeting.
WILL IT BE FUN?
That will depend on your clear sense of purpose about your role, the cohesion and unity of the board, and the chairperson’s leadership style. Directors who choose their boards wisely, experience a cultural fit and strive to make a positive contribution are the ones who derive the greatest enjoyment from their roles.
DOES MY EMPLOYER FULLY SUPPORT MY OUTSIDE DIRECTORSHIP?
You may find it difficult at first to convince your employer that it is a good idea to join an outside board if there is no precedent. That is why it is helpful if your employer also serves on a board. If you think you are ready and enthusiastic for the task, work on selling the benefits. Your company will derive the greatest benefit if this is seen not just as a way to enhance your own development, but also as an opportunity to apply what you learn as an outside director to your current executive role. Once you have secured a directorship, make a point of sitting down with your CEO at least once a year to describe what you have learned and how you are incorporating this into your work for the benefit of the company
SHOULD I EXPECT A BOARD INDUCTION AND TRAINING?
Prior to joining your first board, it is a good idea to participate in one of the many new director training programs run by board advisory companies and talk to other directors who have recently joined a board for the first time. Having accepted a directorship, you should expect to go through an induction process, which will involve learning more about the business and its products, meeting the senior management team and going on selective site visits. The company secretary usually oversees this induction; don’t be afraid to ask for the process to be tailored to your needs if you want to explore certain areas of the business in greater depth.
And at the end of the day, what does your gut tell you? If you want that board seat so badly that you ignore that “warning” in your stomach that tells you their ethics are not your ethics…..SO, GO WITH YOUR GUT!
A woman of substance is a woman of power, a woman of positive influence and a woman of meaning. To be branded a woman of substance is one of the greatest compliments one can give a woman. You don’t have to be famous to be considered a woman of substance, you just need to create your own unique presence.
The photo (circa 1975) is Betty Doyle receiving an award from the Director of Personnel, Norm Perlberg, for her work at the Defense Intelligence Agency where she was the coordinator of the Federal Women’s Program.
Elizabeth Mahan Doyle died April 5, 2018 at the age of 95. She was an Electronics Engineer/Intelligence Analyst and a strong proponent for women in the engineering field long before STEM was an "industry."
She served as a Physicist in the Bureau of Ships, Navy Department from 1944 to 1948, where she became an Electronics Engineer. Her assignments included tours of duty in the Direction Finder Design Section, the Infrared and Ultraviolet Passive Detection Systems Design Branch and the Radar Design Branch. In 1956 she transferred to the Central Intelligence Agency, working as an Electronics Analyst in the Headquarters Electronics Intelligence Processing Center where she interpreted signals intercepted by the famous U-2 missions. While there, Betty Doyle earned a special award from the National Security Agency for her classified reports on the Soviet Surface-to-Air Missile Radar. This work led to the successful design of electronic countermeasure systems.
In 1963, Betty Doyle moved to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) where she conducted special studies to identify radar signal collection requirements and to determine how successful the airborne collections missions were in satisfying these requirements for both the Air Force and Navy. In 1971 she was appointed to be the Federal Women’s Coordinator for DIA in addition to her responsibilities as an Electronic Engineer/Intelligence Analyst. In this capacity she was the ombudsman for all of DIA’s female employees. If there was a problem she had a stable of generals and admirals that she could work with to address the issue. Needless to say, this didn’t earn her a spot on some individual’s Valentine’s Day Card Lists. But she was committed to see that all women in DIA were treated fairly, properly, and with the respect that they deserved as professionals.
Betty Doyle was a tremendous role model and a pioneer for women. We honor her work and the path she carved for women in the STEM fields and the workplace.
Role models are important in developing a career path. In this section we present women who have achieved high levels of success and influence in their career and personal life. They are committed to women's leadership issues and helping others through mentoring and sponsorships and are truly great role models.
Martha Boudreau is AARP’s chief communications & marketing officer and is a leader in the communications industry. She brings a wealth of expertise in national and international communications strategies with previous roles as president of the mid-Atlantic region and Latin America for FleishmanHillard, a leading global communications consulting firm. As a member of the global management committee, she was a key figure in growing the firm’s presence in the Middle East and its expansion into Latin America. Martha has also represented FleishmanHillard at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, and was an active participant in regional WEF events as well as the forum’s Global Gender Parity program.
“My career has benefited enormously from key mentoring relationships which, in turn, cemented my own belief in the importance of serving as mentor to other women. In some cases, I had formalized mentor relationships while at other moments, I mentor through situation specific advice, encouragement during a difficult time or an unvarnished piece of advice. I believe women create networks differently from men and often women hesitate to build out women-specific leadership traits. I have found that mentoring relationships create a safe environment for helping other women build their confidence as they create the path forward in their careers.”
President & CEO, Meyer Foundation
Nicky Goren is president and CEO of the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation, which pursues and invests in solutions that build an equitable Greater Washington community in which economically vulnerable people thrive. Prior to joining the Meyer Foundation, Nicky served for four years as president of Washington Area Women’s Foundation, which focuses on increasing the economic security of women and girls in the DC region. Her earlier career included senior level roles at the Corporation for National and Community Service—the nation’s largest grant maker supporting service and volunteering
“I have been fortunate in my career to have great mentors and bosses who invested in me – some were men and some were woman. They modeled for me the kind of leadership to which I could aspire. As a woman leader who is focused on advancing equity – in the workplace and in the world -- I believe in leading from a place of caring and compassion, supporting members of my team to achieve their potential, and hopefully passing on what I learned from the great mentors in my life.”
EVP & Head of Mortgage Banking, Berkadia
Hilary is an EVP and Head of Mortgage Banking at Berkadia, where she manages a team of 134 mortgage bankers in 29 offices around the country. Previously, Ms. Hilary was Senior Vice President and Head of Customer Engagement at Fannie Mae, where she was responsible for managing all of Fannie Mae’s multifamily production activities and customer relationships, including the Delegated Underwriting and Servicing (DUS) lending platform, Structured Transactions, Seniors Housing, Affordable Housing, Small Loans and Borrower relationships. Earlier in her career, Hilary spent 10 years in public finance investment banking, working for Goldman Sachs & Co. and Bear Stearns & Co. in New York.
“Commercial Real Estate and Financial Services have historically been male dominated industries. From my years working on Wall Street in the 1990s, through my leadership roles in real estate today, I have been committed to growing, mentoring and encouraging women in these businesses. We are fighting the good fight and making progress but not nearly quickly enough. I am optimistic however that change is possible if we keep pushing. I’ve been fortunate enough to benefit from the mentorship of others throughout my career, so I am committed to serving as a voice for women in the Commercial Real Estate industry.”
In the past 30 years, you’ve been a senior executive at two of the world’s largest companies, Unilever and Kraft Foods, and lived in Singapore, Moscow, and London, not to mention the many cities across the USA. Now you’re an award-winning author and the CEO of your own consulting firm, Perry Yeatman Global Partners. How did you make all that happen?
I feel so blessed to be where I am. As you say, the opportunity to work for two Fortune 100 companies, and with some of the most prominent people of our time – from world leaders like Margaret Thatcher to iconic CEOs like Irene Rosenfeld to thought-leaders like Peter Drucker – have combined to create a career and life that has surpassed even the wildest dreams I had growing up in a small town outside Philadelphia. But while my career has in many ways been extraordinary, the biggest factors in determining my success were somewhat ordinary, namely: hard work, smart risk-taking, perseverance, great mentors and sponsors and, of course, a bit of luck. So, if my story is anything to go by, I would posit that even if you don’t consider yourself extraordinary, you can still have an amazing career and life, provided you are smart, focused and motivated.
What strategies have you learned about advancing your own career that you could share with other women?
I’ve been out on my own for the past five years and it’s been great – giving me the flexibility and autonomy to do some things with my family I never had time for while working at the upper echelons of major corporations. But, as my daughter looks to head off to school soon, I’m thinking it’s time for me to pivot again and take on a new challenge, something exciting and meaningful in a larger organization that really revs me up.
Why did you decide to join Aspire Ascend and the Executive Edge? How does Aspire Ascend support your career or personal goals?
One of the things women don’t do nearly as well as their male counterparts is make time to network and build professional relationships outside the office. So, when I moved back east and then stepped down from Kraft, I wanted to be sure I built and maintained relationships with smart, capable, interesting professional women in the DC area. Aspire Ascend is one of the ways I am able to do that. And, the investment has paid off - both personally and professionally.
What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
I was lucky to have been born curious. So, I am always seeking new insights – about myself, about business, about government and civil society and the world at large. I just love to learn. It’s one of the reasons that having the Kellogg School of Management as a client for the past several years has been so wonderful. I’ve had a chance to step back and “study” business as opposed to just doing it. It’s been enlightening. I never got my MBA. I applied and was ready to enroll when a work opportunity in London came up that I just couldn’t turn down. So, I deferred. But in the end, I never went. Now I know what I missed! I’m so grateful I got a second chance.
Our experienced coaching team focuses on helping executive women increase their effectiveness, identify their strengths and development needs, build confidence and support to make bold moves and set and achieve challenging goals.
Chief Career Marketing Officer
Chief Career Marketing Officer
Chief Career Marketing Officer
Michelle delivers fresh insights and practical real-world strategies focused on attaining professional career growth. Her expertise spans the personal career-marketing spectrum, from leveraging LinkedIn to find and be found by opportunity, to executive resume writing. As an internationally recognized subject matter expert on careers, a storyteller, and an entrepreneur, she is passionate about assisting individuals to market themselves effectively and overcome challenges - individual by individual and one audience at a time.
As part of the coaching team at Aspire Ascend, we asked Michelle to share with us a few insights for women executives and their resumes:
“We live in a job market that demands candidates are well equipped with effective marketing tools, and a resume is one of the most crucial components to a personal career marketing campaign. A resume’s purpose is to communicate the value an individual has to a potential employer in a way that compels the reader to call the candidate for an interview. One of the first things we tell clients is as a potential candidate, you are a “product” that requires branding, marketing, and selling!”
Here are some tips from Michelle:
With 6 seconds to make a lasting impression, these sections are crucial, and they need to hit hard. They consist of the following:
1. CONTACT INFORMATION: Must be easy to read and on each page. Provide only one phone number and only one e-mail address. Include a personalized LinkedIn URL. Create hyperlinks from e-mail and the LinkedIn URL.
2. THE HEADER: Products have labels, and that is how we start. When a reader picks up a resume, it must be crystal clear to that reader who the person is and how they potentially fit into the organization. They do not want to waste time trying to find that information and you may get passed over if this information is not obvious at first glance. Begin your resume with a header and if you’d like to be more specific, even a sub-header.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
Hospitality | Hotels | Multi-unit Restaurants | Private Country Clubs
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
Hospitality | Hotels | Multi-unit Restaurants | Private Country Clubs
Notice how the header defines the candidate and the sub-headers offers more details.
3. VALUE PROPOSITION STATEMENT: Sometimes known as a summary section, this section is the hook.
We are often questioned about an objective statement instead of a summary…Never use an objective statement - you are an executive!
A Value Proposition Statement is designed to grab the reader’s attention right from the start and persuade the reader to continue reading. Our rule of thumb is if someone else can cut and paste what you wrote and put it on your resume, then it is not very effective. This is an opportunity to differentiate from other candidates by offering more than generic information.
4. AREAS OF EXPERTISE: You need to include keywords, and make sure they represent the level of the position you seek. There are skills that are not necessary to list in this section such as "Strong Communication Skills," "Organizational Skills," etc. Instead, use applicable keywords that indicate that you offer expert knowledge and experience.
When crafted properly, the above will fill the first 1/3 of the resume and can put an executive at an advantage from the competition.
These are just some of the career advice we provide through our Career Management program at Aspire Ascend. Learn more and become actively engaged in your own career direction and your online presence on a regular basis. The time spent working with a career management coach will help you increase your financial reward and better position you as an executive.
Whenever I’m in the presence of women who have achieved success in the historically male-dominated workplace world, I’m left with a sense of joy and inspiration.
That was the case during Aspire Ascend's latest Wine, Women & Knowledge event and panel discussion in recognition of International Women’s Day 2018. The audience of women representing businesses and non-profits across numerous economic sectors received a tutorial on how to achieve success from three extraordinary women who rose to the top in their chosen fields by reaching remarkably similar conclusions early in their careers about how to move forward. And, thinking about it afterward, I realized that a pattern – a similar roadmap – is emerging for those women who rise to leadership.
They recognize that workplace norms of today were developed decades ago by men who made up the majority of the workforce. It is now an accepted fact of workplace life that men and women think, lead and communicate in very different ways. And while today’s workplace may be a bit easier for women to navigate as a result of that understanding, it is still essentially “a man’s world.”
This reality has shaped the thinking of most women in leadership positions I have encountered and with whom I work. The result is a remarkably similar roadmap among women who succeed.
Determine career objectives early and find a workplace environment that offers a chance to thrive; one in which you are offered opportunities that increase your skills and for which your success will be recognized. That requires homework, 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.
Almost every woman leader I encounter – whether a client, a colleague, or fellow board member – has had a mentor or a sponsor at some point in her career. I have written and spoken many times of the need to find a mentor, someone to guide and correct you, to provide advice and a “safe haven” where you can map out a pathway through some of the workplace minefields we all encounter.
A good sponsor will also help you identify, address and even challenge the biases women in the workplace have to confront much more frequently than men.
Biases and assumptions about what women can and cannot do come in all shapes and sizes.
A colleague of mine related a story about her niece who, early in her career, took two years off from her management role to raise a newborn daughter. When she returned to work part-time, concerns were raised about her ability to handle a management role part-time. But, one senior manager simply asked “Since she has been a top performer for several years, why do you think she would not be able to succeed at this job part-time?”
The result of that simple question, posed by an advocate for my colleague’s niece, changed her career trajectory. She remained in a management role and continued to be a top performer while working part-time.
I don’t know whether that advocate was a man or a woman, but it doesn’t matter. Mentors, sponsors and advocates can be either.
Know what you want and don’t be afraid to ask for it. But, do your homework first.
A common thread among the comments from panelists was the need to be self-aware and be ready to ask for what you want. And, be prepared.
One panelist gave the example of a potential new hire who, after receiving the job offer, negotiated for a higher compensation package. When asked what she thought her desired package should look like, and what similar positions paid, she didn’t have any facts to support her request.
While she was given the position, she probably could have gotten a better compensation package if she had done more diligent homework.
And, what about the impression she left with her new employer? It could also have been better if she prepared more rigorous documentation on compensation.
My take away from the panel discussion:
One last observation… Each panelist – a CEO of a national non-profit, an Executive Vice President at a multi-billion-dollar organization, and the CEO of an international consulting firm – had the same view when it comes to women helping women. As one of them said, “too many women who have made it pull the ladder up after them, instead of helping women coming up behind them climb each rung.” Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said it with a bit more punch: “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
Either way, it’s a message worth remembering.