Last September, I wrote the following piece after attending a symposium focused on women entrepreneurs. The big questions were: Why aren’t there more women entrepreneurs? More women CEOs? More women at the top?
After months of research, including advising and interviewing women, I am convinced that the main reason there are fewer women leaders is lack of confidence. We need more of that fabulous fuel that compels us to take action, keep us on track, and get us from dream to dream-come-true.
I will be sharing more about my findings in upcoming posts. For now, consider the changes I discuss below. These still hold true.
How Women become Better Leaders: Change begins and ends with you.
When the question arose at the symposium–”why aren’t there weren’t more women at the top?”–of course, the first target of discussion was men. They are the problem.
Ladies—this is wrong and you know it.
As I listened to cries of “men don’t treat us as equals in the board room”, and “they don’t take us seriously,” the first reason came to mind: it’s how we perceive ourselves that matters. Trust me, I’ve chaired enough high powered meetings where I’ve been the only woman, and, anyone who knows me knows I can hold my own. That’s because I don’t look around the room and say—“wow, these are all high-powered men.” I just see them as colleagues, teammates, equals.
We are never a minority, unless we think like one.
So, change #1: Think of yourself as an equal. Stop walking into the board room with preconceived ideas, a chip on your shoulder, or looking for differences. We are all created equal.
Now—back to the meeting….. While there was a loud cry of inequality, a female law partner, who headed the panel, told a different story.
This woman spoke of her experience as an associate moving up the ranks, always being backstabbed by other women associates. She vowed that when she made it big, she would help other women, because she knew what it felt like to be hurt. I’ve seen her in action. She kept her promise.
Moral of the story: once you storm the citadel, don’t shut the gates behind you.
Which brings me to change #2: Women need to be better team players. Maybe the guys have an advantage because they’ve played more team sports as kids. I’m not sure. I am sure that leaders need to be exemplary team players. In some of the talks I’ve given, we’ve discussed great attributes of team players, and how to assess ourselves. The top descriptions are: reliable, supportive, positive, adaptable and accessible. Does this describe you? If it doesn’t, then remember: the only person you control is you. Your thoughts. Your behavior. That’s how you become a better you, a better teammate, a better leader.
And this brings me to change #3: We need to stop trying to change, correct—or should I say, “fix”—other people. C’mon—if you have a husband, boyfriend, or significant other, you know what I’m talking about.
I was just in a creative seminar where we were broken out into groups. My group contained four men, one other woman, and me. Our task was to come up with our own book titles, and then help each other develop chapters. We were to get our creative juices flowing by collaboration and free thinking—no editing our thoughts. The guys shared ideas without any judgment. Then the other woman chimed in. Many of her ideas were great, but, she spoiled it by constantly criticizing the way I spoke. She told me not to start any of my sentences with the word “but”, and constantly interrupted my creative flow by trying to correct me. But, I wasn’t looking for her to change me. I was looking for her to help me.
You see, no matter how much we might try, the only people we can control and change are ourselves. We can’t control men, the world, injustice and bad things that happen to us. The only things we have power over are our own thoughts and actions.
Taking control of ourselves in a more supportive and less critical way gives us more confidence and self esteem. That’s what it’s really all about.
When we change ourselves for the better, and feel good about who we are, there are no barriers. Positive change begins and ends with us. And there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it!
Copyright 2013, 2014 Michelle Kerrigan