women in management

Harness the Power of Women Helping Women

Women Helping WomenThe power that is unleashed when women help other women is becoming abundantly clear to everyone through the initiatives like #MeToo and #TimesUp. Women, speaking out in unison, are amplifying the voices of victims, who were once blamed for the crimes against them. Nearly every day, we witness the power shift as the once-powerful perpetrators are being removed from their places of authority. However, in other settings, women continue to remain distant and unsupportive of other women, maintaining the limitations of the glass ceiling for possibly brilliant women leaders, who struggle to get to the first rung of the ladder and advance their careers.

Ann Welsh McNulty, co-founder and managing partner of JBK Partners, recently wrote in Harvard Business Review that some senior-level women distance themselves from junior women in the workplace in response to inequality at the top, and cited a study published in The Leadership Quarterly that found that the inclination to, “Separate oneself from a marginalized group is, sadly, a strategy that’s frequently employed. It’s easy to believe that there’s limited space for people who look like you at the top when you can see it with your own eyes.” She also reports that whereas many women are navigating alone, men are 46% more likely to have a higher-ranking advocate in the office.

McNulty writes that the antidote to being penalized for sponsoring women may just be to do it more — and to do it vocally, loudly, and proudly — until we’re able to change perceptions. That is a perfect approach. Times have changed and today there is room on top to make space for all of us. With that in mind, our upcoming book, In This Together, looks at the phrase “Not enough pie” which was used in the past to define women’s lack of support for other women. However, today Gloria Feldt sees women’s leadership not as a competitive win-lose situation, but instead as an infinite pie, and says, “The more there is the more there is. The pie just keeps getting bigger.”

Advancing women into leadership positions is not only the right thing to do, for a number of reasons, it is important to a company’s bottom line. For example:

  • A recent Catalyst report found Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women board directors attained significantly higher financial performance in three important measures:
    • Return on Equity: 53 percent higher.
    • Return on Sales: 42 percent higher.
    • Return on Invested Capital: 66 percent higher.
  • A recently published study from the Peterson Institute reports that companies with at least 30% female leaders—specifically in senior management—had net profit margins up to 6 points higher than companies with no women in senior management. That is a 15% increase in profitability.
  • In 2015, McKinsey & Co found that companies in the top quartile of gender diversity are 15% more likely to financially outperform their counterparts in the lower quartile.
  • McKinsey also found that companies with more balanced leadership do a better job recruiting and retaining talented workers, leading to cost reductions associated with replacing top executives.

Women have a lot of momentum right now, and we can use that to work towards equality and advancement at all levels. There is more than enough room at the top, and as we climb the ladder we need to reach out to other women, and help them along. Just as #MeToo and #TimesUp are proving, when women connect and collaborate we can do anything. We prove it every day and we need to take note in these times, that the more we focus our efforts and support one another, the more of everything we can create, especially “pie.” Let’s focus on creating opportunities for all women. If we work together, we can change the workplace, and in turn, change the world.

More Reasons to Create Gender Equality in the Workplace

Gender Equality in the WorkplaceFor decades, in order to make our voices heard, women in business strove to become members of the boys’ club. We mimicked how men thought, communicated, and even dressed. But now, for many of us trying too hard to tap into our “masculine side” has gone the way of severely tailored 1980s power wear (complete with giant shoulder pads), and a new study shows that we can and will continue to utilize our feminine strengths as gender equality in the workplace becomes more the norm.
As women, we know that we think and communicate differently—which means that we also lead differently. A researcher at the University of Salzburg in Austria agrees and suggests in his recent study that men and women not only have particular personality differences, but those differences grow in nations that have the greatest gender equality.
In addition to looking at personality traits, the study squared its findings against “gender equality” measured by the Global Gender Gap Index. The results showed that greater gender equality is associated with stronger expressions of gender difference. While the study’s author, Tim Kaiser says that it could be a “case of the personality adapting to changing societal conditions.” It could also be a situation where women are empowered to lead authentically as themselves.

Gender Equality in the Workplace Starts by Removing Bias

As it stands today, moving up the ladder is a competitive process, regardless of gender. However, to truly level the playing field, we need to create an environment where gender equality in the workplace is a given and ensure that advancements, promotions, and the entire workplace is free of discrimination and bias. Unconscious biases have a critical effect on our judgment and can stand in the way of women working their way into the C-suite.
Gender bias stereotypes – surrounding men and women – can lead to unfair decision making. To eliminate that from the workplace and advancement process, we need to educate employees about how stereotypes work. Mary Lorenz writes in Career Builder that since we are not always aware of our biases, we do not realize when they are influencing our decision-making; therefore, education and awareness are key to moving forward.
We also need to establish clear criteria before making decisions about hiring, promotion, etc. so that bias gets removed from the decision-making process.Research has shown the more formal the criteria are, the more women and underrepresented minorities will be hired. It’s also important to scrutinize that criteria on a regular basis and adjust and refine as needed.
It’s also important to set diversity goals, as agrowing body of research suggests that diversity in the workforce results in “significant business advantages.” Francesca Gino, professor at Harvard Business School says that at the end of every hiring process, leaders should track how well they’ve done against the diversity goals they set out to achieve.” This also encourages those involved in the hiring and in other parts of the company “to keep diversity and equality top of mind.”
And more than anything, be transparent. With education, clear criteria, and diversity goals, it should be a no-brainer to post numbers. As Lorenz writes, keeping, “track of our progress in terms of how we’re doing in terms of gender diversity in our workplaces really causes people to be more thoughtful in how they’re making decisions.” Transparency and accountability are essential tools in creating a gender equal workplace.
Because our natural skill set is increasingly valued in the global economy, we’re perfectly positioned to become today’s and tomorrow’s leaders. But in order for that to happen, and for women to have the opportunity to lead authentically, we have to level the playing field and work together to create a bias-free environment where women can use their unique skills and strengths to lead a more balanced and diverse workforce.

Equally Distributing the Office Housework

Who makes the coffee in the morning at the office? Orders box lunches for a team meeting? Takes notes at said meeting? Collects money for a co-worker’s birthday party or signatures for a “Get Well” card? Is it you? Or another woman in your office? If you, or a female coworker, find yourselves doing a lot of thankless, busy tasks around the office because no one else will, it’s time to stop.

Too many women who get stuck taking the responsibility of covering household duties at home, take these self-imposed responsibilities right into the office. It’s important to point out that taking these tasks on will not necessarily ingratiate you to upper management. In fact, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant wrote in a New York Times essay that when a woman takes on these chores, she is not seen as a better employee. However, an NYU study found that when men performed some of the same work-related tasks, they were rated 14% more favorably than their female counterparts.
Sandberg and Grant point out that without “housekeeping” at the office, the machine of a company doesn’t run as well. They write, “When a woman declines to help a colleague, people like her less and her career suffers. But when a man says no, he faces no backlash. A man who doesn’t help is ‘busy’; a woman is ‘selfish.’”

Yes, it’s a fact. Becoming the office homemaker can keep you stuck right where you are. Researchers Linda Babcock, Maria P. Recalde, Lise Vesterlund, and Laurie Weingart, recently reported in the Harvard Business Review that while women tend to volunteer for “non-promotable” tasks more often than men, they are also more frequently asked to take such tasks on. Their findings were based on their recent study, exploring how men and women accepted or volunteered for jobs with “low promotability.”

The simple definition of low promotability is any piece of work that won’t generate anything for you, but which still needs to be done by someone. These include tasks like organizing the office holiday party, agreeing to train new employees, or helping to clean out the supply closet. There’s obviously a wide array of what these sorts of things could be depending on your industry, but a task with low promotability is basically anything that improves your work environment without necessarily leading to more money or a better work review.

This can have serious consequences when it comes to promotion and advancement, and negatively impact gender balanced leadership. If women are disproportionately stuck with menial tasks that have little visibility or impact, they’re much less likely to gain the attention or responsibilities they need to advance. Even if you’re better at a task or more willing to do it, stop and think, are you allowing your biases about yourself and others keep you from advancing as you’d like. Educate yourself about what your industry and your company values as promotable qualities and choose to develop and show your capabilities at doing those instead.

Studies of industry and academia have also shown systematic gender differences in how work is allocated, continuing to show how women spend more time than men on non-promotable tasks. These differences may explain why, despite the advancements that women continue to make, we find vastly different trajectories to leadership positions.

Changing this dynamic and the division of non-promotable tasks has to become a top priority for organizations of all sizes. With most of these tasks automatically falling to women it serves as an example of both external and internalized sexism. Sure, a woman can just say “No” or call out the bias as it occurs. However, it might be more effective to shed some light on the big picture for the department or companywide. By doing so, suggestions on how to address the issue can come from women and men in all positions, and hopefully, move the organization towards change. Whether putting tasks on rotation, setting up a sign-up board with no repercussions, or fully engaging men in the company, once a system is in place, the tasks will not continue to be so disproportionately distributed.

When we identify things that are broken in the workplace and work together to fix them, we get closer to parity. Study after study has proven that today’s businesses gain when women join the top levels of the organization. Let’s commit to doing everything we can to help them get there. And let’s start today.

The Pay Gap Matters, and Affects Us All

I want to be paid fairly for the work that I’m doing. That’s what every single woman around the world wants. We want to be paid on parity with a man in a similar position—Felicity Jones
Equal Pay Day highlights the wage discrepancies that exist between men and women in the workforce. This year, the event was observed on April 10, and marked how far into the current year women had to work to earn what their male counterparts made in 2017. The National Committee on Pay Equity, which established the event in 1996, notes that Equal Pay Day is always observed on a Tuesday, to represent how far into the next work week women must work to earn what men earned the previous week.
Overall, women still earn just 82 percent of what their male counterparts take home, according to calculations by the Pew Research Center. That number is even less for minority women. For African-American women, Equal Pay Day won’t be observed until August 7th, and for Native American and Latina women, Equal Pay Day won’t be observed until September 7th and November 1st, respectively.
This disparity points up the need for all women to support our sisters of diverse ethnicities. We can gain strengths by working together and supporting each other’s advancement. Currently, gender disparities receive more attention (and lip service) than race. “More companies prioritize gender diversity than racial diversity, perhaps hoping that focusing on gender alone will be sufficient to support all women,” Sheryl Sandberg wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal. “But women of color face bias both for being women and for being people of color, and this double discrimination leads to a complex set of constraints and barriers.” We need to band together to eliminate this injustice to women of color.
For a few years it seemed that Millennial women were encountering less wage disparity than older women. However, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that today women between 25 and 34 are losing ground when it comes to pay equality. Women in that age group made just under 89 cents on a man’s dollar in 2016, down from a high of 92 cents in 2011. That means their gender gap in median weekly earnings is the widest in seven years.
This inequality is unexpected, especially since female Millennials are highly educated and encounter far fewer barriers to the workforce than in any prior generation. According to a Bloomberg report, Heidi Shierholz, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington and a former Labor Department chief economist during Barack Obama’s administration says that this group’s temporary rise might have resulted from decreases in men’s wages in those years. “Men just had been losing ground” Shierholz notes, “and instead are doing better now.”
Whether Millennial, Gen X, or Boomer, woman or man, the pay gap matters, and reducing it should be a top priority for anyone interested in the well-being of women, families and communities. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) projects that the U.S. economy would generate additional income of more than $512 billion if women received equal pay. And if that doesn’t get your attention, a recent McKinsey study showed that stricter workplace gender equity practices could add $12 trillion the global GDP by 2025 (seven short years from now) with stronger workplace gender equity practices.
At this point, no female demographic is exempt from this wage gap, and few, if any fields are immune. That means we all need to work together to change the status quo. We, yes women andmen, need to recognize and acknowledge the problem so that we can work together to correct it. Equal pay for equal work is a unifying goal everyone can support.
Below are three organizations working to educate us about the disparities so we can eradicate them. Please check out their resources and use them in your work to eliminate your gender pay gap.
Take the Lead– recently released a resource guide to help you step up your Equal Pay Day Game.
AAUW Work Smart– recently joined forces with LUNA to provide salary negotiation workshops across the country.
National Women’s Law Center– has a tremendous resource available for download, “The Wage Gap: The Who, How, Why, and What To Do.”
Bottom line, women have generated a lot of momentum right now, and we can use that in our work towards equality in all sectors. Equal pay for all women of every ethnicity needs to be a top priority. Equal Pay Day is a reminder that we have work to do and we need to point out the injustices, ask for what we want, make our case for why women and men of all races deserve equal pay, and settle for nothing less!
 
 
 
 

Ways to Enhance Your Leadership by Making Your Voice Heard

To really change the status quo, women need to make their voices heard. Across the country, women are tackling that goal on a large scale (say by running for office), or by voicing their opinions in the workplace and in community organizations. Whatever the venue, speaking out is key, especially if you want to advance. Interestingly, a new study has found it isn’t just what you say that helps you get ahead, but how you say it.
Research has found that speaking up with information intended to help your group has a ton of benefits. It can improve performance, help come up with creative solutions, and address (and even avoid) issues that might hold your group back. And by speaking up, research suggests that not only will you help your group get ahead, it can help you emerge as a leader.
In efforts to better understand the power of using your voice, researchers Elizabeth McClean, Kyle Emich, Sean R. Martin, and Todd Woodruff found themselves wondering which matters more: who speaks up, or how they do it? In a search for those answers, the group recently undertook two separate studies, and their results were eye-opening.
Sean R. Martin writes in Harvard Business Review that they found those who speak up can gain the respect and esteem of their peers, and this increase in status made people more likely to emerge as leaders of their groups. However, these effects happened only for some people and only when they spoke up in certain ways.
“Specifically, speaking up with promotive voice (providing ideas for improving the group) was significantly related to gaining status among one’s peers and emerging as a leader. However, speaking up with prohibitive voice (pointing out problems or issues that may be harming the team and should be stopped) was not,” Martin writes. “We further found that the gender of the person speaking up was an important consideration: The status bump and leader emergence that resulted from speaking up with ideas only happened for men, not for women.”
Their findings echo research that shows that people respond differently when men and women engage in similar behaviors, which suggests that women who speak up and share ideas may not see the same benefits as men. Proving yet again that there is a definite strategy behind effectively making your voice heard.
“This research is not intended to suggest that people — men or women — should speak up only with [promotive] ideas and avoid bringing up problems,” Martin writes. “After all, for teams to function, innovate, and learn, it is critically important to … to spot the things that be might holding a team back from even better outcomes.”
This research highlights the need for us to understand the different ways men and women speak. Men are very direct, use and expect one-word responses, women want the story behind the answer. Relationship building and collaboration lie behind women’s communication, while men communicate to get the job done.
My Leading Women co-author Gloria Feldt cites the work of Simon Sinek, who points out the benefit of explaining why before making a suggestion. For example, by first stating, “I have an idea for improving our overall productivity as a group,” before making their proposal, both women and men found their audiences responded better to their ideas.

My co-author Claire Damken Brown, Ph.D. is a gender communication expert and urges women to make their voices heard to build their credibility as leaders. If they do it correctly, the results can be beneficial, but it can be difficult to the get credit.  Our ideas are our intellectual capital, and in Leading Women, she relates how she felt when someone “stole” her idea in a meeting. She actually thought this just happened in textbooks, so she was stunned when it happened to her. To address the issue, she recommends that you:

  • 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.

Whether in the workplace or in the community, it’s up to all of us to recognize what makes us effective communicators, learn from our differences, and create a supportive, collaborative environment where women and men have equal floor time. As women, we can’t unlock our full potential in the workplace, in the community, or in our homes until we gain recognition for our ideas and build a world where equality isn’t the exception, but the rule.

One Way to Achieve Gender Diversity in The Workplace

It’s no surprise that Women in the Workplace 2017, a report from McKinsey and LeanIn.org., found that women remain underrepresented at every level in corporate America, despite earning more college degrees than men for 30 years and counting. There is definitely a need to do more, and most organizations realize this, which accounts for the fact that company commitment to gender diversity is at an all-time high for the third year in a row.
Women in the Workplace researchers write that, “One of the most powerful reasons for the lack of progress is a simple one: we have blind spots when it comes to diversity, and we can’t solve problems that we don’t understand clearly. Many employees think women are well represented in leadership when they see only a few. And because they’ve become comfortable with the status quo, they don’t feel any urgency for change. Further, many men don’t fully grasp the barriers that hold women back at work. As a result, they are less committed to gender diversity, and we can’t get there without them.”
While the workforce may be waking up to the fact that talented women can contribute at least as much as men in the organization, progress is still slow. In fact, Women in Workplace researchers even speculate that progress has stalled.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and author of Lean In, wrote in The Wall Street Journal that despite companies’ growing commitment to gender diversity, “It’s hard to solve a problem we don’t fully see or understand—and when it comes to gender in the workplace, too often we miss the scope and scale of the issue.”
Sandberg concludes that businesses can’t “afford to leave talent on the sidelines,” but that we “won’t unlock the full potential of the workplace until we see how far from equality we really are.”
Rather than focusing on who, and who isn’t, in the C-suite, Women in the Workplace researchers first examined the corporate pipeline, starting from entry-level professional positions. Their findings show that fewer women than men are hired at the entry level, despite women representing 57 percent of recent college graduates. Researchers also found that inequality starts with the very first round of promotions. In fact, the biggest gender gap occurs at the first step up to manager. From the very beginning of their careers, entry-level women are 18 percent less likely to be promoted than their male peers. This entry-level gender disparity has a dramatic effect on the pipeline as a whole. If entry-level women were promoted at the same rate as their male peers, the number of women at the senior vice president and C-suite levels would more than double
This is where we can start to raise awareness and focus our energies. Why are women underrepresented? Look at a company’s hiring practices and first round of promotions. To make advancement available to more women we actually need to get more women in the pipeline, and not just seeking the jobs, but looking for advancement opportunities from the very beginning. We need to make the workplace welcoming for both genders in order to make this happen. As Kelly Stickel, CEO & Founder of Remondista writes at GirlTalk HQ, “The companies that identify the value of the female workforce will win. The ones that cultivate an environment that is inclusive of the female leader, will win bigger. Why is it important to make everyone feel welcome? When people feel welcome they perform better, more ideas come to the surface, leaving you with more options for solutions.”
We need to do more than simply nod at inclusivity and representation; we need to actually change hiring practices and look closely at the workplace culture. The ability to collaborate and welcome every individual, male and female, is crucial for success in the global economy. We need women from all walks of life to apply for the jobs, put in for the promotions, and take the lead to engage this untapped resource of feminine leadership.

We Need More Women in Leadership

The world needs more women in leadership. The problems we face today – from our local communities to the workplace, and the global stage – require diverse leaders who have a variety of skill sets. Women bring the additional skills needed, as well as a different perspective to drive effective solutions. In short, female leaders change the game, and in many cases, change the way the world does business.
Perhaps one of the best snapshots of where we are, and how far we have to go, is the Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey and LeanIn.org. This year’s report, which was just released, has results from 222 companies that completed a survey of human resource practices and shared pipeline data for their total combined workforce of more than 12 million people. More than 70,000 employees also completed a survey about their experiences regarding gender, opportunity, career, and work-life issues.
The report’s findings illustrate the well-known obstacles to womens’ leadership that have been identified in previous reports – slow career advancement, fewer raises and promotions, and more obstacles for women of color. In spite of the fact that women make up 50% of the workforce, have higher education levels than men, are often the primary breadwinners in their families. Also study after study demonstrates that having more women in the workplace can lead to significantly higher productivity and efficiency. So what is the hold up?
First of all, for many it is a matter of perspective, and requires shedding light on the facts to shift perception. According to Women in the Workplace, “When it comes to how women and men see the state of women and gender diversity efforts, there are striking differences. Men are more likely to think the workplace is equitable; women see a workplace that is less fair and offers less support. Men think their companies are doing a pretty good job supporting diversity; women see more room for improvement. Given the persistent lag in women’s advancement, women have the more accurate view.”
We also need to raise the bar. Women in the Workplace finds that, “Nearly 50 percent of men think women are well represented in leadership in companies where only one in ten senior leaders is a woman. A much smaller but still significant number of women agree: a third think women are well represented when they see one in ten in leadership.”
We also need to give women the support they need, not only in their day-to-day work, but on the road to advancement. Women in the Workplace finds that women are less likely to receive advice from managers and senior leaders on how to advance, and employees who do are more likely to say they’ve been promoted in the last two years. Similarly, women are less likely to interact regularly with senior leaders, yet employees who do so are more likely to aspire to be top executives.
We can’t unlock the full potential of women in the workplace, in the community, or in our homes until we see how far from equality we really are. That means it is up to all of us to raise awareness of the true status of women in leadership, and celebrate each woman’s accomplishments. By recognizing that we do indeed need more women in leadership, and working together to help women gain confidence and the skills they need to overcome barriers and reach their goals, we truly can change the world into one of 50/50 parity, where both genders value each contribution and shed the concept of living in a male-dominated culture.

Nice Girls Finish Frazzled

We can probably all agree that we want our daughters to be “nice” above just about anything else. While it’s a given that kids need to be taught to be friendly and have basic manners, many young girls are expected to prioritize niceness over expressing unhappiness or distaste. That pressure to please doesn’t let up for women entering the workforce. In fact, a new study to be published in Human Resource Management Journal finds that for a woman to be considered confident and influential at work, she not only must be viewed as competent, she must also be liked. For men, being liked ― defined in the study as exhibiting pro-social traits, like kindness and helpfulness ― did not matter.
One of the paper’s authors, Natalia Karelaia, an associate professor of decision sciences at Insead Business School in Fontainebleau, France, told HuffPost, “They have to be good performers and show some conformity to gender stereotypes to be successful at work. This means that women literally have to work harder ― and do more ― to get ahead.”
A recent Pew Research Center survey on women and leadership finds most Americans find women to be indistinguishable from men on key leadership traits such as intelligence and innovation. In fact, many of those surveyed think women are actually stronger than men in the key areas of compassion and organization. However, women continue to feel the pressure to focus not only on the job, but on how they can be nice, approachable, and all things warm and fuzzy while doing it.
Marianne Cooper, lead researcher for Sheryl Sandberg’s, Lean In, wrote that, “High-achieving women experience social backlash because their very success – and specifically the behaviors that created that success – violates our expectations of how women are supposed to behave. Since we taught our girls to be nice above all else, grown women are expected to be nice, warm, friendly and nurturing. So, if a woman acts assertively, if she pushes her team to perform, if she exhibits decisive leadership, she is deviating from the social script that dictates how she ‘should’ behave. By violating beliefs about what women are like, successful women elicit pushback from others for being insufficiently feminine and too masculine.”
While this new study shows that niceness may help women in the workplace, the burden of carrying the extra pressure to always be nice can also hurt them. Leading Women co-author Lois Frankel, PhD, writes that it can make it harder for women to assume leadership roles and do it effectively. Frankel explains, “When they do, they often try to make everyone happy (which is impossible), delay decision-making by trying to get everyone’s buy in, hesitate to take necessary risks for fear of offending the powers that be, and communicate in ways that undermine their confidence and credibility. Ironically, each of these behaviors could work to the advantage of women – if only they would balance them with new behaviors that contribute to more effective leadership. In other words, stepping fully away from the nice girl messages learned in childhood, and into adulthood, is all it would take for any woman to be a phenomenal leader for this age.”
Frankel shares eight great tips to help women step into leadership in Leading Women, including tips on how to get in the risk game, ways to think strategically while acting tactically, ways to resist perfectionism, and how to consciously build your leadership brand. Simply implementing two or three strategies can create a dramatic shifts in how you feel about yourself, how others perceive you, and the impact that you make at work and in your community.
In order to strike a balance and lead authentically, we need to recognize the full potential of women, and throw antiquated, stereotypical views out the window. We need to embrace our power, take our seat at the table, and lead with our experience and abilities first, personalities second. It is time to level the playing field, achieve full equality and change the world.
 
 

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.

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, www.drnancyoreilly.com). “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.”

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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

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