Be Brave Women–Be Brave
“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”
These poignant words were quoted in my first session of Leadership California and each day they became more inspirational. Our gender is being called upon to be brave and have the courage to do the hard work of facilitating change. Many generations of young ladies behind us are more than qualified to fill our capitol steps and boardrooms. And by the way, so are we…
Fifty-one powerful women from the class of 2012 came to our state capitol to explore how to engage, and grow women in leadership positions. Not only in governmental positions of power, but in all sectors of business.
And in several conversations with these women, I found that most of us did not have a female mentor who helped us grow in our positions and in knowledge. Yet when someone did, their eyes sparkled with gratitude and their jobs were filled with commitment. The elephant laughing in this living room has been waiting for us to call it out and name it. We are not championing each other.
More often than not, women have not been helping other women to succeed in business in the same way that men have built their networks. So the positions of leadership we could occupy are not being filled by our gender unless we value elevating one another.
Ladies, we need to link arms and step forward into the leadership positions that await our talents!
Recently, McKinsey Research has taken a leadership stand in understanding the role of women in leadership in the business world, and what is keeping us out of positions of power. When the McKinsey Women Matter team asked corporate executives around the world what they valued in leadership attributes, these four skills were more commonly found in women:
- Intellectual stimulation
- Participatory decision—making or collaboration with all stake holders
- Setting expectations and building rewards
There are more women attending college today than men yet the leaking talent pipeline has continued to favor men in positions of power—why? Women start out their careers ready to take on the world and then they hit a wall. The invisible wall of juggling a family, going back to school to further their education or being the caretaker for their parents. These commitments, when married to the “face time” that has been the norm in positions of power traditionally held by men—have become the breaking point for women stepping off the career track. The current paradigm of company thinking rewards those who have a wife, not necessarily those who are a wife, mother, partner, adventurer or want a life!
I experienced this when my children were not yet in school. I was actually told a job would not fit me when they found out the age of my children. My commitment would be split at times they feared, and yes, they were right. Yet I knew I would have worked harder to succeed just because of this situation. In fact I continued on to do just this as my career progressed. But with the birth of my third child, I had to turn down juicy career advancing jobs because I was a mother first—the hours required would have adversely affected my family.
This paradigm will never change unless we as a gender make a commitment to encouraging work cultures that value job sharing, flex-time, work at home options and family values practiced at all executive positions. This is not only about sanity in a world that is communication saturated, this mindset allows for the thinking, dreaming and the innovation that comes when you are given time for free space creation.
So how do we change embedded management mindsets? The current adopted mindsets on WHY a woman cannot do a particular job due to other commitments?
It is well known that men have advanced based on potential while women rise based on performance. Since it takes much longer to build a legacy of performance, the men step into positions of leadership faster—a very frustrating circle for many women in middle management.
Yet if women in HR and management have the mindset of making sure they are advancing other women based on THEIR potential, what a difference that small change in behavior would make across company management and executive positions globally! The change that wants to emerge is being felt by all of us women. We have to help one another transition company thinking to one of embracing women in positions of leadership and helping one another to get there.
In other words, we need to be brave.
We must have the courage to speak up for our peers and mentor their growth. Changing a current management mindset takes a great deal of energy—plus you must also be prepared for the push back.
Continue on and be brave, be strong–have courage. This is a long journey that requires our dedication to modeling the exceptional leadership skills of women and how they influence the success of companies, families, communities and global politics.
Our legacy is laid out for us on what needs to change. So what will you do differently now and will you speak up? When your voice is trembling because you have chosen to push back against old thinking–remember to stay brave.
You have generations of women all standing behind you.
Maria Felice Cunningham
Big Sky Thinking
Class of 2012