We’re coming to the end of Women’s History Month. I’ve been reading two kinds of articles: the ones that celebrate women’s accomplishments and the ones that bemoan how far women still have to go to gain equity.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the articles that highlight the accomplishments. It was great to see Sarah Blakely, the creator of Spanx talk about her success. But she was on just about every talk show and highlighted in so many magazines that I found myself wondering if Sarah was the only woman the media could find to talk to about her climb to success.
I also found myself wondering if Sarah had said to any of the interviewers that she knew of some OTHER amazing women that they should talk with about success.
If women are going to ever reshape (no pun intended Sarah!) the male dominated business culture, they are going to have to do a few things differently:
Women need to learn how to use their power. Power that isn’t accessed and wielded isn’t much in the way of power at all. Using the power they have to change the culture of business seems to be a good use of it – and yet, it’s not happening.
Networks are the currency of the business world but women are not leveraging their networks to forge strategic alliances and coalitions. Networks that only provide support are not the kind that forge any kind of revolution.
If you want to change the current status quo, don’t wait for someone else to make it happen. Women make up the majority of employees currently employed, college graduates in the US, MBA school graduates, graduating attorneys and physicians. If you simply go by the numbers, women have a louder voice so perhaps it’s time to speak up. Waiting hasn’t gotten us very far.
Waiting for power is like Waiting for Godot (I know – and obscure English Major reference!) – rather than hoping it will be offered, women need to go out and grab it. The old days of being tapped on the shoulder and selected for greatness is long gone.
Studies indicate that women like to be liked. While few people enjoy conflict (OK – there are a few people for whom a day without conflict is like a day without sunshine, but they are rare) women may choose popularity over power. They are not mutually exclusive but friends are personal and work is, well, work!
I recently spoke to a group of women about the decade that has just passed (since my book was published) and asked if a decade had made a difference. Sadly, when you look at the data, it really hasn’t. In 2001, women made 76 cents to the men’s dollar. In 2011, they made 81 cents. In 2001, 5 of the Fortune 500 CEO’s were women and in 2011, there were 8. In 2001, 28.2% of all business owners were women and in 2011 the number percentage was 28.7%.
Next week I’m giving another presentation for women and I’ll choose my words carefully. I am delighted for every step forward we’ve made and every accomplishment we can point to. But it’s not enough.
And not to put too fine a point on it, when the political rhetoric is male dominated and focuses on the right for women to have access to health care and birth control – then we haven’t come near far enough.