Manterrupting Is Back in the News

Manterrupting, or men interrupting women has been making the news…again. From the Uber boardroom to the US Senate, powerful women, including Arianna Huffington and Senator Kamala Harris, have been victims, proving once again that when women break the glass ceiling, their journey is just getting started. In fact, women who step on to majority-male boards or committees often encounter barriers to their authority from men who, whether intentionally or not, monopolize the discussion or interrupt women’s speaking turns.
Last week, Tali Mendelberg and Chris Karpowitz told CNN that women need more than a seat at the table, and shared their studies revealing that women are silenced when they hold a smaller percentage of the room. Between 2007 and 2009, Mendelberg and Karpowitz looked at how women exercise authority in groups where they are a minority. Their findings showed that, “Where women make up a minority, they speak less, receive more hostile interruptions, refrain from articulating their views, and are rarely rated as influential. In other words, in meetings where women are scarce, they are actively disrespected. The group suffers, too, as its range of perspectives shrinks.”
The phenomenon hasn’t decreased with time. In 2015, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant wrote in the New York Times about the perils of “speaking while female,” along with research proving that this happens to all women at some point. In the case of recent manterrupting involving Senator Harris, Sandberg and Grant reported that powerful male senators speak significantly more than their junior colleagues, while female senators do not.
They further cite that male executives who speak more often than their peers are deemed more competent (10% more), while female executives who speak up are considered less (14% less). Following the research, the two found that in the workplace, many women speak less, are interrupted more, and have their ideas more harshly scrutinized.
This has to change. Women have to be able to gain equal time on the floor and be shown enough respect to make their ideas heard. Gender communication expert and Leading Women co-author, Claire Damken Brown, Ph.D., urges women to speak out and get their voices heard to build their credibility as leaders, and in the case of manterrupting, she shares strategies for recapturing the idea:

  • Bring attention back to yourself
  • Buddy up with someone in advance and have them bring the attention back to you
  • Seek help from the meeting facilitator.

This final point, however, she warns might not work. The facilitator often gets caught up in the meeting and doesn’t control the flow of dialogue. It is most important to speak out for yourself. That’s why she stresses that the only way to be perceived as a leader is to express your idea clearly and make sure your voice is heard.
Bottom line, nothing squashes creativity and innovation faster than a perceived lack of respect for others’ opinions, and manterrupting, whether intentional or not is definitely disrespectful. Progress comes from mutual respect. The pendulum is swinging, and women are taking to the streets to make their voices heard, recognizing that their voices do have merit, and their opinions do matter. That means it’s time to clear the manterrupting from the conversation, and truly work together.

Crafting Your Image from the Inside Out

style and branding expert

Melissa Murray

Melissa Murray is an image architect and style expert who was born knowing what to wear, how to wear it and how to tell everyone else how to do it. Along the way, she integrated corporate management expertise with personal image insights to create her own unique niche. Today, she shows high-achievers how to blend their visual impression with the message they’re delivering, helping them become recognizable within their industry. In this interview, Melissa provides practical guidance and personal stories that helped her become an industry influencer in branding from the inside out.
As an award-winning VP of sales, Melissa played the man’s game like a man, always looking to get a jump on the competition and that meant looking the part, from the can-do walk to the successful business suit. It was a shock when she moved to California and saw people coming to work in wet hair and flip-flops. She urges women to go ahead and wear work-out clothes to work out in, but then think about the image you want to project and how you want people to respond to you, then get dressed for it. Dr. Nancy agrees that California women may need to work on that.
The other shock Melissa had was the way women supported her in California. In Texas, her experience was that if women got power, they kept it and didn’t share. In contrast, when Melissa was introduced at her first networking event in California, everyone there (over 100 women) gave her their business cards and asked how they could help her.

Common Mistakes Women Make

As the old adage goes, “You never get a second chance to make a great first impression.” Melissa says it takes five subsequent interactions or three hours with a person to undo a bad first impression. And, she adds, who is going to give you that kind of time?
Three common mistakes that set women back are:

1. Trying to be something that you’re not or being completely unauthentic.

When your messaging and your brand don’t match, you can’t get past that. People will see the incongruency and won’t respond as you want them to. A simple handshake and sincere, “Hi, how are you?” is best.

2. Not looking people in the eye.

Women don’t look people in the eye. We look down. Melissa told of an exercise she does in her presentations where she tells the audience to look one another in the eye for ten seconds. No one can do it, not even men. The message is “I’m insecure.” We’ve become confident on our phones, but not with eye-to-eye contact. We’re so busy looking for the next great thing that we’re not truly present. We need to correct that and concentrate on having meaningful in-person communication.

3.  Being so intent on getting someone’s business card that you stalk them at a networking event.

Networking events should be about building relationships, whether you are new or already acquainted with many members. Focus on being present, asking questions and finding out how you can help one another. In fact, when Melissa commented to her coach about the stalking behavior, her coach said, “Melissa, why would you ever take your business card to a networking event where you know the people? They are already networking for you.”

Leading as Women

Dr. Nancy and Melissa discuss how difficult it has been for women to adjust to leading with the feminine. Dr. Nancy mentions that we must admit vulnerability and reach out to support each other. Melissa talks about how women put themselves last and don’t invest in their wardrobe in favor other people and things. She advises women to prioritize themselves and be authentic. Women want to lift each other up, lead each other, share, cry together or whatever it is. To do that, we must be real and not try to be more than we are or someone that we’re not.
Listen to this interview to hear Melissa’s personal struggle with chronic pain and how she learned what it means to show up as your very best self. Why you need to think about your image even if you’re driving your kids to school or planning a weekend BBQ. Check out her website, for more information about her presentations, her blog and testimonials about her work and her social media links. She also has an award-winning podcast, “Intentional Influence,” that features insights from professionals on all aspects of branding and image creation.

Take Control of Your Money

Financial Fitness Coach

Jen Turrell

Financial Fitness Coach Jen Turrell helps women entrepreneurs take control of their money, so it doesn’t control them. An accumulation of life experiences has made Jen passionate about helping women be financially independent, so money issues don’t keep them in abusive relationships or jobs they hate. Her primary goal is to help women align their values with their money, so they can do the things in life that make them happy.
Jen has run businesses as diverse as indie music, agriculture and personal finance. When her first daughter was born with autism, the crisis of suddenly needing to care for a child with special needs (and no insurance coverage because of the autism exclusion) forced her to leave her job and find help for financing her daughter’s care. She worked her way through the maze of expensive services seeking advice from many different professionals, and now she helps others with early financial intervention for autism.

Women Control More Wealth That We Ever Have.

Jen points out that women have only had power over money for the last 200 years. Prior to that, we were a commodity–bought and sold or married as alliances. In fact, she says it’s still this way in many parts of the world. Jen thinks that now women have a chance to make serious changes, not just for ourselves and our daughters, but for womankind overall, and  says, “I feel like those of us who live in countries where we have the ability to wield that power through money have a responsibility to uplift women in the whole world.”

Money Is The Vehicle to Get You Where You Want to Go.

Jen says that one size doesn’t need to fit everyone. With the internet, we have a lot of opportunities to pursue what makes us happy. She gives advice about how to start in small stress-free ways in this interview. You can plan your exit strategy from your day job and start part-time, and  she has a few other ideas that require little investment as you embark on your future.
Dr. Nancy agrees with Jen about how the Millennials have the right attitude. Nancy says they want careers that make them happy and quotes, “Work is my passion and my passion is my work.” Jen commented about how much she enjoys hanging out with them on her podcast. It took her years to develop a work-life balance, but the Millennials she has spoken with are seeking that balance before marriage and children. Jen says that’s the smart way to begin a career and she applauds them for it.
Listen to this interview for valuable financial advice and to hear Jen’s powerful personal story that made her passionate about helping women get their financial freedom. Check out her website, her blogs at Huffington Post and Daily Worth. Also, she has just launched a 6 week program to calculate, eliminate, negotiate and automate your personal finances. Click here to find out more and to contact her for personal prosperity management.

Lead Like a Girl

10 Ways to Put Your Feminine Strengths to Work at Work

As we move further into the 21st century, the face of leadership is becoming more and more feminine. Here, the coauthor of Leading Women shares 10 traditionally feminine strengths that make women ideally suited to take their place as leaders.

For decades, women in business strove to become members of the boys’ club. We mimicked how men thought, communicated, and even dressed. But now, trying too hard to tap into our “masculine side” has gone the way of severely tailored 1980s power wear (complete with giant shoulder pads). Women have realized that we think and communicate differently—which means that we also lead differently. And—here’s the best news—because our natural skill set is increasingly valued in the global economy, we’re perfectly positioned to become today’s and tomorrow’s leaders.
(As the powerful and popular campaign by Always proves, doing anything “like a girl” is something to be proud of—and that includes leading!)
“Women already have the raw material we need to become successful leaders,” says Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, who along with 19 other women, cowrote the new book Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life (Adams Media, ISBN: 978-1-440-58417-6, $16.99, “We just need to shift our attitudes and master the best practices to put these natural skills and abilities to work.”
To be clear, this isn’t a contest between the sexes. As one of O’Reilly’s coauthors Lois P. Frankel, PhD, points out, women aren’t better leaders than men—just different leaders. And bonus: What followers expect from leaders in the first decades of the 21st century are behaviors and characteristics traditionally associated with women.
In her book O’Reilly has brought together 20 nationally acclaimed women authors to share their real-life advice for breaking free of women’s traditional limitations in work and community. Coauthors include New York Times and Amazon best-selling authors, corporate coaches, an Emmy Award-winning television host, and more.
Here, O’Reilly and some of her coauthors share 10 ways you can use your feminine strengths to lead like a girl:
Reframe your ideas about power.  If you think power necessarily means “command and control leadership,” think again. Women wield our own style of power and, frankly, it packs quite a punch. (Consider the fact that we influence 85 percent of all buying decisions and are thus pivotal to the success of many industries.) Often, just shifting the way we think about power can make women feel more comfortable with taking the lead.
O’Reilly’s coauthor Gloria Feldt explains that instead of seeking “power over,” women are more comfortable seeking the “power to.” Feminine power is the ability to accomplish our goals, provide for our families, and make the world a better place—and to help others do the same.
“Women understand that more for you doesn’t mean less for me, that power isn’t a finite resource,” O’Reilly comments. “The more girl power we use, the more of it there is.”
Don’t try to be the strong, silent type. Because women are seen as talkative and chatty (often non-productively so), many make a conscious effort to hold their tongues in professional settings. But research suggests that this is a misconception: Men actually talk more and hold the floor longer than women during meetings.
Claire Damken Brown, PhD (another coauthor), says that women’s reputation for wordiness might stem from the fact that our talk patterns are indirect and detail-driven, meaning that we usually provide more background information than men. But research has found that women talk to exchange information and establish cohesion.
“So as long as you stay focused on goals instead of gossip and practice the art of the brief response, it’s okay to use your words,” O’Reilly observes. “Odds are, your feminine communication is making you an effective leader.”
Ask for help. The traditional image of the “strong” leader is a man who is self-sufficient and capable. He’s the prototypical rugged individualist and never asks for help. Of course, this is an outdated stereotype, but for many leaders (male and female alike), the reluctance to ask for help persists. What we need to understand is that women have long realized the benefits of tapping into the resources and expertise of others—Will you watch the kids? What’s your advice? Can we work together on this?—and it’s an incredibly efficient—and effective—way to get things done.
“For millennia, women have actively built strong, supportive connections to help their ‘sisters’ live their very best lives,” points out O’Reilly. “Because women don’t mind admitting what we don’t know and are willing to share the credit, we are good at spotting problems and making sure they get fixed. When we don’t let our egos get in the way of asking for help, we’re far more likely to achieve progress and success.”
Take to the podium, woman-style. How many women do you know who’d rather do almost anything than speak in public? Anxiety about public speaking is common to both women and men, but it’s especially important that women overcome this fear. To advance in leadership roles, women will need to be seen and heard at the podium—and be remembered positively afterward.
Leading Women contributor Lois Phillips, PhD, says women have a natural affinity for public speaking. We tend to provide information to help listeners achieve their goals, rather than to establish dominance over the group or negotiate status. We also want to connect to our audience and have an innate ability to read and respond to their nonverbal cues.
Shift your perspective (and theirs, too). Women have a special brand of resilience. We are able not only to power through tough times, but are often able to creatively use obstacles as teachable moments and stepping stones. And a big part of this quality has to do with an ability to reframe who we think we are and what we think we deserve. (M. Bridget Cook-Burch tackles this subject in Leading Women.)
“The stories we tell ourselves about events in our lives are every bit as powerful as the events themselves,” says O’Reilly. “For example, if your company is failing in one area, you might see that ‘failure’ as a springboard to move in a fresh new direction. Being able to shift your focus away from what you don’t want to the things you’d like to create will not only help you survive and grow; it can help your entire organization become more future-focused and productive.”
 Stop trying to network. Instead, connect. Women love to make satisfying, mutually fulfilling connections with each other. (And we’re good at it!) That’s why the mile-wide-inch-deep world of social media, insincere business card exchanges, and traditional “What can you do for me?” networking often leaves us feeling cold.
“The good news is, it’s easy to start asking instead, ‘What can we create together?’” O’Reilly comments. “This is Connecting 2.0—it’s the powerful force behind the women-helping-women movement that is rapidly changing the playing field for women in business, government, education, philanthropy, and other fields. It feels good and it works.
“There are so many ways to make authentic connections,” she adds. “You can gather successful women in your community and organize a round table discussion. You can collaborate with a different team at work. You can get involved with a philanthropic cause. The idea is to reach out to other women, offer to share resources, and see what happens.”
Don’t be afraid to get a little personal. Historically, female leaders have tried to compensate for being the “emotional,” “soft” sex by keeping it all business, all the time. But women’s ability to nurture relationships can actually be a huge asset in a business context. The quality of a leader’s relationships with peers and employees can have a major impact on company culture and morale, and thus productivity and growth.
“Feminine skills like showing empathy, being emotionally intelligent, being able to put others at ease, caring about their concerns, and more are now ‘must-have’ abilities for leaders,” notes O’Reilly. “And make no mistake, these are not ‘soft skills’; they are actually quite difficult to learn and develop. Case in point: As my coauthor Birute Regine, EdD, points out, no one ever succeeded in mastering relational intelligence during a two-hour seminar.”
Extend a helping hand, especially to other women. Women are natural collaborators. We know the significance of a helping hand, mutual support, and mentorship, and we value the satisfaction and meaning that come from aiding others. In the workplace, this ability can mean the difference between being a “boss” and being a “leader”—a distinction that creates employee buy-in and engagement.
“Giving your time, knowledge, understanding, empathy, and support to other people can have a huge ROI,” observes O’Reilly. “Be especially vigilant for opportunities to help other women by being a sponsor or mentor. This can lead to improved opportunities for both of you via reciprocity. Plus, it sets a positive example and is good karma. Helping other women claim their power and passion is always a sound investment. When the hands that rock the cradle join together, they really can rule the world.”
 Use your collaboration skills to tap into “collective intelligence.” Successful collaboration is a lot more than just putting a group of people in a room and asking them to work together. As Birute Regine, EdD, notes, it requires participants to accurately read nonverbal cues and others’ emotions, to use empathy, to put ego aside, and to be sensitive to fairness and turn-taking. All of these are feminine skills. Without them, collaboration can easily devolve into group-think and follow-the-leader. With them, though, a group becomes capable of “evolved thinking.”
Furthermore, Regine says, research shows that groups are most likely to display a level of creativity that’s greater than the sum of its parts when at least half the chairs around the table are occupied by women.
“Women are adept at creating conditions of mutuality, equality, and trust—all of which are necessary for team members to feel comfortable enough to share ideas and take risks,” observes O’Reilly. “That’s why it’s so important for women in leadership positions to reach out to bring other women into the fold. When we join forces, the benefits have a powerful ripple effect that extends well beyond the original participants. No individual woman is as creative, skilled, or powerful as we are together.”
Trust yourself. From the way we dress to the jobs we do to the way we spend our time, society feels especially free to tell women how to live their lives. It’s very easy to internalize those voices and allow them to shape our choices, aspirations, and dreams—a path that leads to regret for too many women.
“Trust yourself and listen to your instincts,” O’Reilly urges. “They are usually right. Don’t let anyone make you doubt yourself by telling you what you ‘should’ think or feel. One of the best ways I’ve found to stay on track is to stay present and turn on your senses. When facing opposition or making a decision, tune in to how you’re feeling, not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally too. If you’re headed in a good direction, you should feel alive and energized.”
“As women, it truly is our time to step up and take our place as leaders,” concludes O’Reilly. “When we focus and hone our feminine skills, we can make a positive impact on our companies, our communities, and our world.”


Originally appeared in Working Mother, March 3, 2015. Working Mother is a women’s interest publication offering ideas, solutions and support for all aspects of working mothers’ lives, including work and family conflicts, balancing roles as a mother and employer/employee and child care

Making Leadership Appealing

While women make up about half of the workforce, there is a huge gender gap in leadership positions nationwide. Francesca Gino, a Harvard Business School professor, points out that women only represent 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, 15 percent of executive officers at those companies, less than 20 percent of full professors in the natural sciences, and 6 percent of partners in venture capital firms.
As recently reported in Scientific American, scholars of the leadership gap suggest that some of the explanation for the gap directly correlates to how people perceive and react to women, and the fact that compared to men, women are perceived as less competent and lacking leadership potential. Women also receive fewer job offers and lower starting salaries, and are more likely to encounter challenges to, and skepticism of, their ideas and abilities.
New research also points out that women simply may not want to take on the task of leadership. While we may be on the right track working to get more women into leadership roles, we need to look at how appealing those positions actually are. Summing up a paper by Hilke Brockmann and her colleagues, Gino writes that overall, women seem to be significantly less enthused about the prospect of being a manager, and more likely to take a significant hit to their happiness should they be elevated to such a position, than men.
Brockmann’s research demonstrates that for women in positions of leadership, the level of happiness and life satisfaction is lower than that of their male counterparts, and when it comes to advancement, women may, “Find the position to be as attainable as men do, but less desirable. The reason is that they see the position generating not only positive outcomes (such as money and prestige) as much as men do, but also negative ones (such as tradeoffs they’ll need to make and time constraints). That’s where men and women differ: in how much they predict these negative outcomes will affect their lives.”
Whether it’s a concern about the loss of flexibility, goals outside of the workplace, family constraints, gender based discrimination, or sexism, there are things that companies can do to address the issue directly. Gino writes that organizations can influence a woman’s decision by structuring and compensating managerial work differently, building in more breathing space for leadership positions, and allowing for flexible career paths.
When women don’t try for promotions, they move us further away from parity and reinforce the idea that women don’t belong in leadership roles. Women must rise into top positions in order to advance gender equality. Here are three things that we can work towards immediately to make leadership positions in the workplace more appealing to women, and move us closer to parity.
Flexibility Flexibility needs to work. People with adaptable work environments – both men and women – tend to have healthier habits with time for both self-improvement and family and friends, which makes them more productive and efficient when they work. Flexibility doesn’t just benefit women’s work performance. Research has looked at more subjective areas affected by schedule flexibility, including people’s happiness and satisfaction. Studies show that when people can choose to do things, like take their kids to school, sleep in or help their spouse that they’ll enjoy better relationships, a better quality of life, and be happier with their employment.
Establish a Mentor Program – A good mentor provides career advice, counsel during stressful times, and unwavering support. And you don’t have to be a member of the C-suite already to provide guidance to another woman. We can all build strong support systems, encourage and mentor one another every day. The benefits of mentoring flow both ways and both mentor and mentoree learn from each other. Successful women are guiding others through the ranks and sharing their experiences. Mentoring relationships can provide the boost to propel mid-career women into top management positions.
Provide Routine Feedback – One area that is frustrating for women is a lack of feedback. Feedback is critical for improving performance, but despite asking for informal feedback as often as men do, a 2015 study found women receive it less frequently. Direct feedback helps employees take the steps they need to improve their performance and advance. And we all know that without clear, actionable advice and performance feedback, women aren’t able to see a clear possibility for change or a way to reach the next level in the workplace, which can be very frustrating. Following established criteria and clearly identifying key issues and potential for growth will lead women to invest more fully in the workplace, not to mention the fact that providing specific feedback can help us close the gap and create a path forward for all women.
We need women to see the path to leadership clearly and without hesitation. While this latest study shows that some of the reasons women aren’t rising to the leadership challenge go beyond potential discrimination and access to resources, if we build firm foundations in the workplace, well qualified women may decide to go for it, and to take the leadership positions. We need to level the playing field and create a workplace that encourages women to seek top positions and advance gender equality.

A Collaboration Crash Course

How to Join Forces With Other Women (When You’re Used to Going It Alone)
Collaboration is an incredibly valuable skill in today’s marketplace, and what’s more, women are naturals at it. But if you’ve always been the “lone (she) wolf” type, you may not know how to get started. Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly offers 10 tactics to kick-start your collaborating career. 
We all know that the ability to collaborate is a crucial skill in the global economy. And it’s not hard to see why. The problems faced by today’s organizations have gotten so incredibly complex that a diverse range of skill sets is needed to solve them. After all, no one can possibly be good at everything. No two people will ever arrive at exactly the same solution. And of course, there’s an amazing synergy that arises when we join forces with others.
And here’s the coup de grâce, says licensed psychologist Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly: Women are perfectly poised to catch and ride the collaboration wave to unprecedented heights.
“Women are hardwired to connect, to share ideas, to combine resources, and yes, to change the world,” says O’Reilly, who along with 19 other women, cowrote the new book Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life (Adams Media, 2015, ISBN: 978-1-440-58417-6, $16.99, “This ability is the cornerstone of the women-helping-women movement that’s taking shape.
“Women are at our most powerful when we join forces, so if we don’t do it, we squander our greatest strength,” she adds. “Plus, working together for the greater good feels good!”
So what is collaboration? “Basically, it’s what happens when you put five women in a room and watch how they can make anything happen. The word impossible disappears from the language when we apply our individual talents with our power to achieve a common purpose.  We not only get it done in record time, we have a lot of fun doing it.”
“Magic happens when we collaborate,” she explains. “We’re influenced by each other’s take on things, and ideas begin to evolve. We draw from each other’s energy. Something entirely new is born, and it’s often far greater than anything one person could have come up with alone.”
One thing’s for sure: Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur seeking to start something new, an employer wanting to expand her company, or an employee hoping to “lean in” further, collaboration is an incredibly valuable skill for staying viable in today’s marketplace.
So if collaboration is as natural as breathing for women, why can’t YOU seem to do it? Maybe you’re steeped in the “rugged individualism” mindset. Maybe you’ve had some bad experiences with “group projects” in the past. Maybe you’ve even bought into the outdated notion that other women are competitors. For whatever reason, you’re just not used to seeking out other women to join forces with—and it’s time for that to change.
Here, O’Reilly shares 10 tactics to help you unlock the “power of sisterhood” by tapping into the women-helping-women movement:
Understand up front that collaboration goes beyond mere “connecting.” Technology may have made it easy to reach out to and network with a large number of people, but collaborating in a strategic way goes far beyond collecting LinkedIn connections, Facebook friends, or Twitter followers. (Not that there is anything wrong with doing these things; actually, social media can be a valuable collaboration tool.) How deep and how broad our reach is, and how well we can partner with other women, determines our success.
“Collaboration is about building a real relationship with someone, not just striking a business deal or adding another name to your digital Rolodex,” O’Reilly comments. “So don’t rush to the close. Take it slow, get to know each other, take an interest, and follow up. Don’t miss out on the satisfaction of gaining a new friend.”
Think creatively about who you might collaborate with and why. Sometimes potential collaborations are fairly obvious. For instance, if you have expertise as an interior designer but lack experience with bookkeeping and managing a staff, you might partner with another woman who does have those skills. But other times, fertile collaborations aren’t so obvious. Think outside the box about who might have the same needs and goals as you.
“For example, let’s say you sell home alarm systems,” says O’Reilly. “You could seek out other businesses that have a customer base you’d like to tap into—like contractors and home builders—and pay them a percentage for referrals. I’ve even heard of women who collaborate with competitors. If one person is approached by a client who would benefit more from a competitor’s expertise, she refers that client—and vice versa. Ultimately, everyone wins—each woman is able to play to her strengths, and the client walks away happy.”
 Don’t gravitate toward women who are like you. It’s a natural human tendency to seek out and spend time with people who share our viewpoints, opinions, attitudes, and methods. It feels good when others validate how and what we think. But on the flip side, that’s not how we learn.
“Be careful that your efforts to collaborate don’t turn into groupthink or an echo chamber,” O’Reilly warns. “Instead, seek out women who have skills and strengths you don’t already have. Remember that as long as respect and civility are present, debates and disagreements are a good thing. That’s how amazing, higher-level creativity is fueled.”
 Set a collaboration goal. Put some numbers with it or get it on the calendar. Good intentions don’t mean much when it comes to successful collaborating. If you don’t have a finite goal to work toward, it will be all too easy to “think about it tomorrow,” Scarlett O’Hara-style.
“Decide that you’ll connect with X women a month or meet X times a month with a collaboration partner,” O’Reilly suggests. “Insert your own numbers depending on your circumstances, goals, and personality. Quantifying your intentions will force you to be accountable. Otherwise, your desire to collaborate will remain just a vague dream.”
Assume nobody is off-limits. You may assume that “eligible collaborators” have to work in your industry or be within a few rungs of you on the corporate ladder. This is not true. The world is full of all kinds of women, in all different industries, and at all levels of authority with whom you might mesh perfectly. In an ever-flattening world where hierarchies and titles are less important than ever, it doesn’t make sense to categorize potential collaborators this way.
“Don’t let how busy or important another person is hold you back from reaching out,” O’Reilly urges. “If you want to collaborate with a thought leader or C-suite resident, ask. I am usually pleasantly surprised by how willing women are to share ideas, best practices, advice, and support—even with so-called competitors.
“One of the things I love most about working with other women is that there really is a sisterhood that supersedes making money and getting ahead. Women who have achieved success know how much it means to help their ‘sisters’ get a leg up.”
When you approach someone, don’t just wing it. Whether your proposed project involves a business venture, a community cause, personal development, or something else, have a few ideas going in. Put together a convincing pitch and be prepared to sell your idea. If your idea is too vague and unformed, what should be a dynamic meeting of the minds can quickly fizzle out or turn into a rambling gab session (which is fun but doesn’t count as collaboration).
“You don’t need to (and in fact, shouldn’t) have every little detail mapped out, but you should be able to explain your overall goals for the project and what you envision each person bringing to the table,” O’Reilly notes. “While there is incredible synergy when talented minds meet up, they still need a plan to follow. Don’t expect something great to coalesce from idle chit-chat.”
On the other hand, don’t be too rigid or dominating. Even if you initiated a particular collaboration, stay open to the other woman’s thoughts and input. Let the interaction unfold organically, even if it veers from the path you’d envisioned. Nothing squashes creativity and innovation faster than a perceived lack of respect for others’ opinions.
“Believe me, I understand how difficult it can be to unclench, take a risk, and let other people have partial control of your ‘baby’s’ destiny,” O’Reilly acknowledges. “It isn’t always comfortable, but setting aside your original vision and staying open to 360-degree feedback is the best way to spot problems, work out kinks, and discover the most innovative ideas.”
Keep ideas doable (and fun). Keep in mind that most potential collaborators are likely to have plenty of preexisting commitments and responsibilities of their own. If you make your idea seem like just another box the other woman will have to check off her to-do list, you’ll be less likely to get her buy-in.
“All I’m saying is, don’t overwhelm the other woman by making your project seem like a ton of work or a huge drain on her time,” O’Reilly comments. “Your ideas need to be realistic and energizing so that she will want to be part of them.
“Often, it can help to pair your collaboration time with other activities,” she adds. “It doesn’t have to happen at a conference table during business hours. Get creative about when you collaborate. For example, you might ask the other woman to join you on your daily walk to discuss ideas. Or have a tête-à-tête while your kids play together at the park. And so on!”
 Make sure you’re not just a “taker.” Sure, collaboration is a group effort—but it’s one in which you need to pull your own weight. Even if you’re approaching women with more experience and/or resources, you must bring value to the table. Show that you are prepared for and invested in the project and make it clear that you are willing and ready to work hard.
“The women-helping-women movement isn’t about free lunches; it’s about combining forces,” O’Reilly comments. “Both parties need to benefit. Think long and hard about your knowledge and skills and how they can help your fellow collaborator. Spell this out up front so she won’t think you’re just looking for a free lunch.”
Think long term. If you can’t make a project happen with someone right away, don’t write her off forever. A “no” today might be a “yes” six months or a year down the road. Remember that successful women often have a lot on their plates, so whenever possible, stay flexible with your timeline. The wait will probably be worth it.
“If you get a ‘maybe later’ answer from a potential collaborator, check in every once in a while,” O’Reilly advises. “Be persistent without being annoying, and keep the other woman updated on any new ideas or progress that might affect how you work together.”
“Over the course of human history, many wise people have observed that we become like the people we spend the most time with,” O’Reilly concludes. “So why not seek out and work with as many smart, talented, passionate women as possible? Together, we have the power to change our lives, our industries, our communities, and our world!”


First appeared in Imperial Valley News on February 26, 2015.

Imperial Valley News is an online publication for the Imperial Valley Weekly, a weekly newspaper serving the El Centro, CA area.

A Woman’s Guide to Winning Leadership

Political Activist for Women

Rebecca Sive

Rebecca Sive is a self-proclaimed fierce and devoted advocate for women’s full participation and leadership in every sphere of public life. She is also a lecturer at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy Studies, where she was the founding Academic and Program Director for Women in Public Leadership and author of Every Day is Election Day: A Woman’s Guide to Winning Any Office, from the PTA to the White House.

Can Women Candidates Win?

When asked the question, “Are the American people ready for a woman president?” Rebecca reminds us of the fact that millions more people voted for a woman to be president in 2016 than for the person currently holding that office. She adds that millions of women in the U.S. today want to run for public office. And when a woman runs, statistics show that she is just as likely as a man to win. It’s true! Winning is not gender-based today because women and men have an equal shot at winning a public office!

18 Million Cracks and Counting

Rebecca’s inspiration to write Every Day Is Election Day came from the 2008 Presidential Election. When she saw the “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling” created by people voting for a woman candidate, she reached out to ask women their stories of the obstacles and strategies they used to win their races and to share her expertise in leadership and politics. Rebecca has two reasons behind her passion: first she was raised to believe that working in public service furthers the greatest good, and second, most women seek public and political leadership because they care about issues and it follows that if they win, things will get better.

The Biggest Barriers to Women in Public Office

When Dr. Nancy mentions how women are attacked for how they look or what they wear–things that shouldn’t matter to political office, Rebecca agrees. However, she says that gender prejudice is only one of the barriers. The biggest barrier is that women do not get to sit at the table where leaders decide who runs for office. There are several reasons for this, but one of them is that women often don’t decide to run early enough. Before they can make that decision, they have to talk with their families about how serving in public office will change their lives. Yes, most women take the majority responsibility at home, so the commitment and time away from those duties affects everyone in the family. But however it’s done, support for women candidates must be communicated to the decision-making committees before we will see more women in public leadership.

How Can You Help Women Candidates?

The first thing to do, Rebecca says, is identify a woman in your peer group—perhaps one of your close friends—who is willing to seek a leadership position. Tell her that you want to support her. The same goes for you if you want to seek office. Tell your close friends and family what you want to do and how they can support you.
Next put your strategy together. That part, Rebecca advises, requires many different areas of expertise in politics, issues and business. Friends can help in their professional areas, such as accounting, contacts in the community or state, etc. Like any professional position, public service requires training and there are many organizations that provide this online (some are listed in the Resources section of Rebecca’s book).
Of course, every candidate needs financial help, but you don’t have to be wealthy to help. You can have a bake sale, organize a fundraiser, or sponsor a benefit. Finally, and most important, if the campaign begins to struggle, for example if your friend loses points in the polls, let her know you are still there for her. And there are numerous ways to support depending on the situation. For example, someone at a forum asks your friend who is going to cook dinner for her family when she has a meeting. You can expose the gender bias by asking a male candidate the same question. It’s up to all of us to be aware and advocate for women leaders who are willing to take on the task of making our world better for all of us.

More Guidance from Rebecca

To learn more about Rebecca’s work, check out her website and watch her videos at or read her posts on Huffington Post. Every Day Is Election Day is available on line and from Now you can get it for half price with the code, SheRuns. Also group sales are offered for 38 or more copies. Rebecca says the more women do things women have never done, the more we will reduce the barriers to our leadership potential. Listen to this interview for more insights into the most important actions we can take to resolve what Rebecca believes is the biggest crisis facing us today.

ALL Moms Are Leading Women

A Mother’s Day Celebration of the Leadership Traits We Naturally Possess

If you’re a mom, your kids have done more than steal your heart, make you laugh, and (occasionally) drive you crazy. They’ve also brought out your inner leader. Just in time for Mother’s Day, Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly looks at seven leadership traits moms possess naturally, and how they manifest in business as well as in the business of mothering.

It’s a great time to be a woman. Over the past few decades, the leadership torch has passed from one gender to the other. Not that men are irrelevant in business. (Far from it.) It’s just that women’s “feminine skills”—those inherent qualities that make the fairer sex such great nurturers, connectors, and collaborators—are being recognized for the tremendous value they bring to the global economy. And according to Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, these skills aren’t just seen at the conference table: They’re on full display at play dates and PTO meetings, too.
“When I was researching my book about the secrets of successful women, I realized something amazing (but not surprising),” says O’Reilly, who in collaboration with 19 other female leaders wrote Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life (Adams Media, 2015, ISBN: 978-1-440-58417-6, $16.99, “All moms are leading women. Whether a mother works outside the home or not, nowhere are her leadership skills more apparent than when she parents her children.”
Lois P. Frankel, PhD, who is one of O’Reilly’s coauthors, says that you are a leader if you have ever convinced anyone to follow you. Mothers definitely fall into that category—just think of how they manage to corral their broods into a (more or less) cooperative group while handling a myriad of tasks such as negotiating client contracts, cooking dinner, and organizing the high school fundraiser!
Here are just a few leadership skills women naturally possess—and how they manifest in both business and in the business of mothering:
Mothers are flexible enough to do what works. Whether you’re moving forward with a new business plan, leading a team charged with fixing a faulty process, or pitching a new idea to a client, you’ll surely run into roadblocks and opposition. Women are great at navigating these situations because, instead of digging in their heels and holding fast, they stay open to other options. They’re great at coming up with solutions that benefit everyone. And according to O’Reilly, many women learn this skill in the trenches of motherhood.
“Kids don’t respond well to the ‘command and control’ type of leadership,” she comments. “If a stubborn three-year-old is refusing to eat her green beans, it’s almost impossible to force her. If you try, you will end up with an ugly scene, at best, or a lifelong aversion to green beans, at worst. A mom knows to say, ‘I forgot to tell you, these are special Big Bird beans. That means if you eat them, you can watch your Big Bird DVD after bath time.’
“The kid gets a win because she gets to watch her favorite video,” O’Reilly adds. “Mom gets a win because the kid eats the green beans and she, the mom, gets 30 minutes to herself after dinner. Is this a bribe? I call it good negotiation! It has the desired effect and is good for both parties.”
Mothers are giving, nurturing, and empathetic (and yes, these are leadership skills).  These “soft skills” are actually quite formidable and difficult to learn. After all, points out coauthor Birute Regine, EdD, no one ever succeeded in mastering relational intelligence during a two-hour seminar! The innate ability to nurture relationships makes women amazing leaders in the workplace. They can have a huge impact on company culture and morale (and thus productivity and growth).
“Even more than business leaders, mothers give freely of their time, energy, and love—usually without questioning it for a second,” says O’Reilly. “Of course, this is only part of what it takes to raise high-functioning human beings—parents must also instill a work ethic, self-discipline, and so forth—but it’s the caring and encouraging that makes these life skills ‘stick.’ Why? Because it makes the kids want to master the attitudes and behaviors Mom is imparting.
“Soft skills fuel performance because they speak to the acknowledgment and validation people crave, deep down,” she adds. “This is true whether they’re five or 55—and whether the setting is the home or the workplace.”
Mothers like to talk. Yes, women occasionally get a bad rap for being chatty (which is actually a misconception in business, points out coauthor Claire Damken Brown, PhD, since research shows men talk more and hold the floor longer during meetings). However, it turns out that our talking patterns are actually a huge strength. Feminine communication contains valuable, detailed information that helps us understand the situation and make connections.
“This benefits us not only professionally, but at home, too,” notes O’Reilly. “We know what’s going on at school, down the street, and in the community—and we can leverage that knowledge to make sure our kids get the support, encouragement, and opportunities they need.”
Mothers make meaningful connections (beyond mere networking). In business, traditional let’s-exchange-business-cards networking rarely pays off in a meaningful way. Often, that’s because participants go into each interaction wondering, What can this person do for me? Instead, connections that result in success happen when we ask, What can we accomplish together?
“Women know that connection and collaboration, not competition, are best for everyone,” says O’Reilly. “In fact, a women-helping-women movement is rapidly changing the playing field for women in business, government, education, philanthropy, and other fields. And, of course, this movement has been helping us on the home front for millennia, as mothers reached out to other mothers to share childcare and chores and keep the family economy healthy. Reciprocity and the genuine desire to help are at the heart of these connections.”
Mothers know how to facilitate collaboration. Successful collaboration is a valuable business (and life) skill, and as anyone who’s ever done it knows, it involves a lot more than just putting a group of people in a room and asking them to work together. To achieve positive results, points out coauthor Birute Regine, EdD, leaders must accurately read nonverbal cues and others’ emotions, use empathy, and be sensitive to fairness and turn-taking.
“All of these are feminine skills, and mothers use them every day at home as we rally the troops to keep the house clean, cook dinner together, run a family business, or have fun during family game night,” O’Reilly says. “We’re experts at making sure everyone does their part while feeling heard, valued, and loved. In fact, it’s around the proverbial dinner table that we all learn to first speak up for ourselves and debate issues that are important to us.”
Mothers are resilient. In business, female leaders are often noted for their ability to power through tough times, creatively using obstacles as teachable moments and stepping stones. These women shift their focus away from what went wrong (and even away from how they thought the outcome should look) and focus instead on how their current resources can be leveraged to create a rosier future for their organizations. (For example, if a leader’s company is failing in one area, she might see that “failure” as a springboard to move in a fresh new direction.)
“Every mother knows what this is like,” comments O’Reilly. “We’ve been through all kinds of struggles with our kids, yet we don’t give up on them. We tirelessly work to make sure they have resources and opportunities, sometimes in spite of their best efforts to drive us crazy! We come to see, just by living and mothering, that ‘this too will pass,’ that life is a work in progress, and that the most frustrating challenges can lead to the most fruitful outcomes.”
Mothers don’t mind asking for help. For the most part, women are not diehard individualists. That’s because they value the greater good—of their team, department, employees, or family—more than their own egos. And on an instinctive level, they understand that utilizing the resources and expertise of others is often the most efficient and effective way to get things done—at the office and at home.
“Women don’t feel diminished as individuals when we enlist the aid of others—quite the opposite!” O’Reilly notes. “We understand that tapping into our ‘sisterhood’s’ collective intelligence is something to be proud, not ashamed, of. And this is nothing new; as I’ve pointed out, women have been relying on each other for eons. It’s easy to imagine one of our ancestors asking another, ‘Can I drop the kids off at your cave while I gather dinner? How do you get them to eat all their bison?’ And of course, we still do this: ‘Do you know a reliable babysitter? Where’s the best place to buy stick-on labels for summer camp?’”
“Even in our increasingly enlightened modern age, motherhood and career are all too often seen as two separate, and usually conflicting, arenas,” O’Reilly concludes. “And while we’ll probably never come up with a magic formula on how to ‘have it all’ (if such a thing is even possible), we can make meaningful strides in this direction by acknowledging that these two areas of our lives actually depend on many of the same skills.
“By seeing mothers as leaders whose parenting experience can translate profitably into the professional realm, all of us—moms, families, and organizations—stand to gain tremendously,” she says.
First appeared in Imperial Valley News on April 29, 2015.
Imperial Valley News is an online publication for the Imperial Valley Weekly, a weekly newspaper serving the El Centro, CA area.

Five Ways to Create an Environment Where Women Can Lead

new report takes a look at why women hesitate when it comes to competing for top jobs. The researchers found that a woman’s desire to reach the top ranks has less to do with family responsibilities and more to do with her working environment.
The data shows that existing gender diversity had a big impact on how workers felt about pursuing more senior roles. In environments where men and women believed that progress was being made towards gender diversity, women were more likely to aspire to a leadership position. At such companies, 85 percent of women were seeking top spots. At companies that weren’t seen as making progress in gender diversity, just 66 percent of women reported such ambitions.
The stereotypical explanation says that while many women begin their careers eager to climb the corporate ladder, this ambition diminishes due to family obligations or feeling that they’re unfairly held to higher standards. A more nuanced view notes those issues can definitely be a factor, but the researchers argue ambitious women are also rational and respond to the realities of their work environments. This environmental effect can stall women in our communities too.
Why is it so important to get closer to a 50-50 blend of women and men in leadership? Research has proven repeatedly that having more women leaders actually creates better results. In one of the most recent and comprehensive of these studies, companies in the top 20 percent of financial performance have nearly 30 percent female leaders, while the poorest financial performers have under 20 percent women in leadership roles.
We need more women in leadership for so many reasons. The question is, how do we create an environment in which they want to pursue those positions. Here are five ways that we can create a culture that fosters equality and make leadership more appealing to women in the workplace and community.
Make me a mentor. A good mentor provides career advice, counsel during stressful times, and unwavering support. And you don’t have to be a member of the C-suite already to provide guidance to another woman. We can all build strong support systems, encourage and mentor one another every day. The benefits of mentoring flow both ways and both mentor and mentoree learn from each other. Successful women are guiding others through the ranks and sharing their experiences. Mentoring relationships can provide the boost to propel mid-career into top management positions.
Actively sponsor other women. Women with senior positions should keep an eye out for promising younger female talent and actively seek to cultivate them as protégés. It can be hard for younger female employees to break into a company, so senior women should make the workplace friendlier for advancement and help mentorees find a place. Younger females may hope to get noticed for doing good work, but they also need to find opportunities to network with women at the top, asking them to lunch or for a meeting to seek career advice.
Flourish with feedback.  Feedback is critical for improving performance, but despite asking for informal feedback as often as men do, a 2015 study found women receive it less frequently. In fact, women are 20% less likely than men to receive critical feedback that improves their performance. Following established criteria and clearly identifying key issues and potential for growth will lead women to invest more fully in the workplace and move forward.
Opt for diversity and inclusion. Recruiting and retaining a diverse, inclusive group of employees makes an organization reflect the outer world. It also enables a team to develop fresh ideas and solutions to meet customer and  community needs. True gender and cultural diversity requires promoting as many diverse, smart, talented, passionate women as possible.
Cultivate powerful confidence.  When something goes wrong professionally, women blame themselves. When things go right, they credit others. Women are also more likely to be perfectionists who wait until they’re 100% sure of their desired outcome. This limiting self-programming, along with a lack of confidence, makes it unlikely women will apply or re-apply for an executive job or other leadership position. Being passed over doesn’t have to be a defining negative event in your life. See it for what it is – a moment in time. Rejection and success go hand in hand, and all successful women have received their share of rejections.  How they handle that rejection is what defines them.
If you’re in a workplace or community situation that doesn’t feel female friendly, it’s not your fault. Just recognize it for what it is and keep moving forward. We achieve parity one woman at a time, so whether you have to work on your confidence or find a woman to mentor, remember that working together is the only way we will accomplish gender equality in leadership.
When women don’t try for promotions, they move us further away from parity and reinforce the idea that women don’t belong in leadership roles. Women must rise into top positions in order to achieve career goals and advance gender equality. It’s the only way to create leadership environments that support both women and men.

Leadership Lessons from Horses

Executive Coach, Author

Evelyn McKelvie

The transformation of her life and career as took place during her first experience with a horse, recalls Evelyn McKelvie, Executive Coach, author and founder of Equine Coach. She describes its effect on her as both physical and spiritual, to the degree that she felt her emotional body had been given a deep tissue massage. At the time she was working in Information Technology, which she calls a knowledge-based abstract intellectual pursuit, while learning all she could about horses and searching for a trainer. She found her perfect trainer in western Canada, named Chris Irwin, who opened her eyes to the secret world of horses, their language and the way they behave with each other. Erwin taught her how to communicate with horses so they understand her.
Evelyn began comparing the socialization of horses to that of humans in the workplace. Both species are mammals that perceive the world in terms of threats or safety. In fact, technology has recently shown that people react to potential threats much faster than possible rewards. Horses also perceive threats most of the time, but because of the difference in their brains and social patterns, their response is much different. In fact, the stability of the herd lies with everyone knowing their roles in the hierarchy and behaving within those roles.

First Respect, Then Trust, Finally Love.

Evelyn wrote a book about her experience and how she incorporates it into coaching called, The Executive Horse: 21st Century Leadership Lessons from Horses. She Executive Horse Book Coversays that the idea of the stallion as the leader came from the Victorians and is not how the herd actually works. The lead mare is acknowledged by the herd when she has proven that she can care for the herd and keep it safe. Horses don’t love until they know they can trust you. She describes the stallion as the doorman or bouncer who keeps other stallions from mating with the mares. But the leader is chosen by and earns her place within the herd. If humans chose their workplace leaders in the same way — based on behavior and character, instead of by power or money — Evelyn says our workplace leadership would be much more authentic, and our work more productive and positive.

Awareness of the Present Moment

Both Evelyn and Dr. Nancy talk about how you have to remain in the present when working with horses. Dr. Nancy laughs about what happens if you let your attention stray. Because of horses’ size and strength, self-awareness becomes absolutely imperative. Evelyn became comfortable with living in the now while riding. This present-focus kept her acutely aware of the interaction dynamic and how she could create a greater sense of ease and calm with the horse. If we would apply that to other humans, our relationships would be much more rewarding for both parties.
Evelyn invites everyone to check out her website. She has a 7-minute self-assessment there that only takes around seven minutes called “The 8-Fold Path of Equis,” which is based on the principles from her horse trainer. She also has a blog and offers to sign her book if you order it from her website. Also attend her monthly webinar in which she interviews women leaders with executive coach Carrie Galant at “Alpha Mare Leadership.
Be sure to listen to this interview for more comparisons and contrasts from Dr. Nancy and Evelyn between horses and humans. Learn how very much they have to teach us about creating relationships that work.

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