Motivating women to lead
June 26, 2012 3 Comments
This article is being shared across my networks and as a mother of four professional women, this topic is dear to me. The initial reactions I’ve seen is that being told they can’t have it all is depressing to women, even if being a CEO, or dean, or political leader, was not a personal goal.
The article by Anne-Marie Slaughter is 22 pages and has promising points, and offers innovative examples of work-life-balance policies that are being implemented around the world and across industries.
The author admits that the cross section of women leaders referenced are blessed with GOOD; health, talents, relationships, financial status, education, drive – and still are not achieving it all. ALL, in this case, is the stellar career of choice and a family as blessed as themselves. The statistics cited relate to how the top level leadership in governments and businesses is still 85 to 97% male and the majority of these men have families. But about half of those 3 to 15% of female leaders do not have children.
While the tone of the article and talk feels like these are miserable statistics, I think it’s awesome. My parents generation may have seen militant feminists entering the workplace as an infiltrate-and-destroy-the-fabric-of-society scenario. But that didn’t happen. Instead, those early trailblazers gained positions of leadership by doing business as usual, only better.
These new women leaders, few though they may be, have done it their way as intelligent and motivated women, not as “the softer side” or with an “I’m better than you” agenda. I think we’re in the beginning stages of equal opportunities and business cooperation that is being defined by more variables than the gender of the elite leaders. The subtext message of the article is the importance of life partners, who support career goals and share family duties, instead of the having-it-ALL fiction as an individual woman.
Leadership is a talent possessed by a few to bring innovation and success to the many. Expecting leadership equality to only be achieved when it is reflected by a 50-50 gender split, at the highest levels of power, is distracting from the opportunities and achievements taking place in the trenches.
At a grass roots levels, the equal pay-respect-opportunities-regardless-of-gender-or-race is growing. Humanity is evolving from the ground up, even if that’s not evident from the top down.
In a perfect world, all citizens will be leaders of their own lives and apply their energy to their passions. Everyone will have financial freedom with no issues of race, gender, sexual preferences, or religious affiliations. Those are old school challenges and conflicts. It is time for new goals and methods.
Some solutions presented in Ms. Slaughter’s article are:
- Make School Schedules Match Work Schedules for a better career-family balance. Increase flex and work from home options so the working parent can schedule work time around family activities.
- Family time should be protected and observed with the same dedication as Jews observe the Sabbath. A whole day each week unplugged for family fun.
- The time and effort a coworker spends as a parent should get the same respect as the time and effort a coworker spends training to run marathons.
- Studies and statistics suggest: “Organizations with more extensive work-family policies have higher perceived firm-level performance.” (This is perceived to attract greater talent and improve stock value. My summary.)
The article is packed full of advice and examples for women to plan their careers around being a parent, even to delay taking positions of leadership after the children leave home. There also is acknowledgement that many working women do not have ALL the resources or drive to be leaders. But those that do now have more substantial direction and examples than the jingle from my childhood when career choices for women were secretary, teacher, or nurse.
I’m pretty sure the jingle referred to a new brand of cigarettes with pretty flowers on the filter: “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let him forget he’s a man…”
The primary point women need to determine in their pursuit of happiness in career and home is:
Their personal definition of ALL – and then go for it.