I just listened to this Sheryl Sandberg talk from Ted Talks. Ms. Sandberg, CEO of Facebook, lays out three behaviors women must take on to successfully raise to leadership ranks in their careers:
1. Stay at the Table
2. Make your partner a real partner and
3. Don’t leave before you leave
Sheryl Sandberg’s Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders (Ted Talks)
I recommend it for food for thought. Her thesis is that the world would be a better place with more equal representation of women in the highest levels of leadership. She notes extreme under-representation in every sector - government and political leadership, corporations and nonprofits. She does a great job explaining barriers and providing general insight into how women might overcome these barriers. Her explanations are note the usual ones - they are honest and forthright, allowing for more complexity than I normally hear.
Stay at the table is about how women shy away from center stage and are more likely to doubt their own capabilities DESPITE evidence that women are largely better prepared and more competent. Women are more likely to attribute their success to others and/or luck, whereas men are more likely to take credit for their own success. A driving reason for this, she asserts, is that women who too aggressively seek carer advancement are typically seen as unlikeable when the same traits in men are seen as likable.
Ms. Sandberg advises women to stand out and advance, despite the subtle social pressures not to. I believe that until this culture changes, few women will be willing to do this. In my opinion, women have, and will make more progress in leadership of organizations by starting their own businesses and organizations. So, if you’re watching the video and you feel unwilling to take the steps she outlines, consider entrepreneurship an alternative path.
I also believe that women also need a set of sponsors and hard-nosed advisers who won’t let them compromise their careers. Often women pass up opportunities and need someone to give them a little kick and say, “What are you thinking! Go for it! You can do it!” This is the concept behind Conspire Leadership Coaching Circles.
Make your partner a real partner speaks to data that show that women who work full time typically do much more house-cleaning and child care than their male partners. I believe that having a strong community of partners is also key - people in your life who can help your family in a bind, who are invested in the well-being and success of your career and your family. To create a better world, we all need to get better and building interdependence and communitarian behavior so it is possible for every individual to follow their professional calling.
Don’t leave before you leave is an important message about about pulling back from career progression way before being pregnant. She advises the opposite - move up as high as you can in your career until just before you have a baby. In other words, don’t kill your career before it’s started.
In my coaching practice, I’ve witnessed young women beginning to pull back without even the prospect of having a baby in the near future, in preparation for that time. The key is that if you are a valued employee that has established competence and results, your employer is much more likely to accommodate your needs when you do have a family.
Please take a moment to watch Ms. Sandberg’s talk.
And, if you’re interested in harnassing the power of other women to breakthrough to higher levels in your career, consider joining a coaching circle or engaging in one to one coaching.
Women tend to be relatively successful in developing mentoring and peer networks throughout their careers. Recently, the coaching field is taking note that women are less successful in developing sponsor relationships than men. The impact? Women continue to stagnate in lower levels of management and settle for lower compensation. Sponsors, unlike mentors, do more than advise and support – they take action and risks to actively promote your career and open doors for you. Here’s some advice and some references to good articles on finding a sponsor:
1. Identify influential people who can open doors for you.
2. Develop a strategy for making yourself and your abilities known to these influential people.
3. Slowly, and respectfully, implement a thoughtful strategy that adds-value as attracts sponsorship. This includes leveraging your peer networks and converting existing mentoring relationships into sponsoring relationships.
4. Know when to ask for active sponsorship, and ask for it.
5. Be grateful and find ways to make the sponsor’s risk worth it.
Here are some recent, very good articles on this topic:
Why Men Still Get More Promotions Than Women – Herminia Ibarra, Nancy M. Carter, and Christine Silva, Harvard Business Review
The Sponsor Effect: Why Qualified Women Don't Make it to The Corner Office
Mentors vs Sponsors – They are different and why you need BOTH
At Conspire Coaching and Consulting, we train women to seek out Sponsor relationships that make such a dramatic difference in one’s leadership and earnings potential. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get started!
We conspire with mission-driven women to lead, succeed and thrive in their careers, lives and organizations.
Individuals: We envision women who are enlivened, empowered and emerged. Our members have clarity of purpose and lead from strengths.
Community: We bring communities of women into the practice of seeing each other's strengths and potential. We envision multiplying communities of women-fueling-women's success and impact.
World: We conspire to unlock the potential energy & contributions of 51% of the human population. When this potential energy, thought power, and talent is unleashed, we will solve even the most difficult problems and transform the world.