Women Taking Care of Business – Like A Boss
“That’s why every time, I enter a room, I leave the door open so more women can come through.” Donna Brazille
For thirteen years, I was part of a dynamic team of senior managers for a Group of 10 diversified companies. All the operational units and departments within the Group, except one, were headed by female managers. These women were geniuses in their fields ranging from insurance, banking, law, hospitality, travel, loss adjustment to real estate.
Over those years, all of us worked together like well-oiled machines. Our brainstorming sessions were unbelievably intellectual and at the same time mission-driven. Despite our varying roles and business portfolios, there was one common thread – we ALL SUCCEEDED in our own right.
Our competences were never called into question. We were pragmatic, balanced in our views and, when required, there was the unavoidable “lean in,” as popularized by Sheryl Sandberg, when we needed each other’s help or advice.
The Why’s of Success
Often in my quietude, I wondered why we were able to do so extremely well in a male-dominated environment. Perhaps it was our common wish to succeed. Perhaps it was our determination to shatter the proverbial glass ceiling – subtle or constructed. Perhaps it was our determination to quiet the naysayers.
Our Chairman was openly and often admired by some of his peers while others ridiculed him, referring to us as his “Petticoat Managers.” Our trail of success did not go unnoticed and on several occasions, the sector overseers lauded our progress, growth and the “Best Practices” coming out of our units and departments.
“A strong woman understands that the gifts such as logic, decisiveness and strength are just as feminine as intuition and emotional connection. She values and uses all of her gifts.” Nancy Rathburn
Women Are Still Locked Out
Despite our successes and that of women in all corners of the world, the journey to empowering women has just begun. Even with a reported 52% of professional jobs being held by women, we are still underrepresented in leadership roles. Only 14% of executive officers, eight percent of top earners and four percent of Fortune 500 CEO’s are women. It is predicted that at this rate women will not achieve leadership parity until 2085. (Source: Bloomberg Business Report)
“If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.” Margaret Thatcher
It is often felt that not all barriers facing women can be attributed to the supposed glass ceiling installed by tradition. Women often hold themselves back from advancement through self-imposed barriers, regulating their activities or postponing their own advancement.
There are a number of reasons put forward why women are not advancing at a faster rate including:
- A fear of failure. Young women often fear that workplace missteps will cost them their jobs, reputation and success.
- Family matters. Some women fear that their employers may see them as vulnerable, inefficient or unmotivated if they decide to start a family.
- Inferiority Complex. There are women who still believe that men are stronger leaders, have better ideas and are more equipped to achieve success.
2 Tips To Break Barriers To Career Success
So, how do we change this? [tweetthis]Plan you career and baby moves wisely. Check out this blog post for some tips![/tweetthis]
I had my son when I was professionally at the top of my game. It was a very well-thought out decision, one made with a couple criteria in mind for starting a family:
- I had to be at a particular stage of my career
- Financial stability was key as I had to be able to provide for my child/children.
This kind of planning is crucial for women if we are to maximize our working years and then pause to have and raise our children. When I announced my pregnancy there were many raised eyebrows and the question came: “Why now?” Some of my friends hilariously thought I was bored and needed some diversion. After my son’s birth, those raised brows transformed into admiration at how well I was able to balance family and profession. In fact, within three years of Jared’s birth, two of my peers took the plunge as well. I can only say that I left the door open.
Women can only break through these barriers by helping themselves and other women. Whatever age you are and stage of your career you are at, we all need to get more assertive about our careers and more focussed on propelling ourselves forward to our goals. That requires having a vision, creating a road map, adopting the practices that work for others and suit your personal style, dedication, and yes, balance.
When I joined the Group of companies mentioned earlier, one of my tasks was supervising 65 members of staff, 60% of which were women. Undaunted by the size of the team, I moved into my role with enthusiasm and contrary to popular belief that women fight against each other, it turned out to be less of a challenge motivating the women than the men.
Women in leadership have much to give, including and quite often a unique set of skills, ideas and life experiences that help to broaden the company, its culture and strategies. Assuming the reigns, I was very clear in my mind what the task at hand was and went about formulating and implementing strategies to breathe new life not only into the operations of my department but also in the lives of my team members.
AND it was always my goal to remember to leave the door open for other women to enter.
Take part in our poll about the current status of your career and share your comment below whether you believe there is still a glass ceiling. [tweetthis]Women: Check out this blog post and take part in this poll about your career![/tweetthis]
Clara Brown lives in Kingston, Jamaica with her spouse and son who will soon be entering High School. She is an Insurance Executive with years of experience, a member of the Facebook group – Daughters of Sheba and a regular Contributor to this blog. Subscribe and receive updates when next she posts as well as articles of other Contributors.