Breedlove's Briefing: Women Business Leaders: Why So Few and How to Have More

December 10 - Stephanie Breedlove
 

Hi! I’m Stephanie Breedlove, Co-Founder of Care.com HomePay, Author and Angel Investor.

I absolutely adore taking an idea and giving it life in the form a business, then leading it to its full potential. Nothing is more fun. (Seriously!) I’d love for every woman who wants to start her own business to say the same thing, so here I am, mentoring millennial entrepreneurs. When I’m not working, I like to recharge and head outdoors to hike, bike, or stand up paddle board!

Is that list of business news and trending articles you’ve tagged still unread? I get it. Allow me to help. Take a couple minutes to read my summary of articles serving the most pertinent, actionable business topics. Or, take 10 minutes to read the full article, and put another brick on the foundation of your growing career.

This Week’s Must-Read:

Women Business Leaders: Why So Few and How to Have More

Who it’s for:

Women and men who want to crack the code for maximizing success and leadership impact.

Why it’s important:

We know that equality in leadership positions will create numerous wins – for businesses, women, men, etc. But how do you get there smartly? This article caught my attention because it discusses the value of awareness and offers actions at the individual level. Those big, systemic changes that we’re waiting for are critical, but the path to changing the big stuff often starts with the small stuff. This one is worth the read, and here’s the summary:

The new report “Women in the Workplace 2018” by McKinsey&Company and Lean In recognizes how women have begun to make their claims for leadership, but often encounter a workplace culture that makes the challenges severe. The report also suggests that male leaders may not be fully aware of or be able to recognize these obstacles (important to remember, ladies).

Women are generally paid less for similar work, do not ascend to the highest levels of leadership and, thus, often lose their ambition and opt out. There is no simple reason for this and no simple solution. The loss of so many capable women from the higher levels of our workforce takes a toll on organizations, especially as we seek leaders who are capable of navigating organizations through high levels of change and uncertainty.

As women enter the workforce and seek to advance, they pursue strategies fitting of that work in the short term, but eventually erode their sense of self-confidence and ambition without long-term strategies.

While ostensibly working in the same place, men and women have vastly different work experiences. The men look up and see many folks like them as role models they can aspire to be and emulate. Women face a very different scenario: If they seek out relationships with older male mentors, they’re treated with suspicion, which isn’t a comfortable situation for either person. Not surprisingly, women have a hard time looking ahead to a place at the table. How can they drink, play golf, hang out or go to business events with male mentors?

Another obstacle to women’s success is the competing demands women feel to succeed in work while raising children. Their lack of female mentors at the workplace and the difficulty in finding support for this role-balancing adds to the distress. When working women volunteer at school, for example, they often receive critically toned comments such as, “We haven’t seen you in a while.” Yet, working men experience the opposite; when they show up, they get the affirming, “Wow, you’re such an involved dad!”

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a pioneer as a tenured professor at Harvard Business School, wrote that the first noticeably different person who ascends to a role will always be seen as a representative of the emerging group, and never as totally legitimate. Despite this truth, there has to be a first in order to make way for the second and third to enter the role and to be seen as belonging.

So what can be done to support women in sustaining their ambitions to enter leadership? Help women cultivate the presence to respond non-defensively to everyday stress in their workplace so they can develop the capability to choose whether to confront, avoid, or challenge the lack of respect in their work lives. Practice maintaining presence even when you may be upset or disrupted, and say and do what you would like to in a way that seems confident and not overly aggressive.

Why is this information important to companies and not just to women? Because no workplace wants to train and develop leaders only to see them leave.

Top Take-Away/Final Thought: With more women in positions of leadership, the workplace may become not just a better place to work, but also one that is more adaptive and productive. We can only learn if this is true if we work to develop it.

Want a deeper dive? Read the full report:

Women in the Workplace 2018, by McKinsey&Company and Lean In

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