The world is long ready for a woman to take the presidential leadership. Many democratic countries have already elected candidates. In politics, as well as in business, we proudly count charismatic figures such as Angela Merkel, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Christine Lagarde (FMI) Janet Yellen (FED) and among the most influential women CEOs of the S&P 500 : Oprah Winfrey,(Media), Melinda Gates, Susan Wojcicki (Youtube) and many more.
Historically it has been a long way. From natural, education rights to the obtention of the right to vote, our pioneers peer have set the path for equal employment and salary to men. Our society values improved considerably. Today, we even talk of a hyper-feminised society and metrosexual lifestyle. So what are the real challenges and strengths of being a woman of 21s century in the professional world ?
The best book which inspire me in my career is from Dr. Lois P, Frankel, the excellent NYT, WSJ, BW* best seller with concise content and efficient practical advice on women professional biased behaviors. The book explain typical mistakes that women make to sabotage their career due to their socialization.
Working too hard. There is a popular saying “Women have to work twice as hard to be considered half as good” Well, it´s a myth that people get ahead only because of hard work, several others factors are necessary for a successful career : likability, strategic thinking, networking, being a team player. Remember Parkinson’s Law : work expands to fill the time available.
Avoiding office politics. Politics is how things get done in any corporate, organizations, governments. By refusing to play the game, there is simply no way to win. We, women, often fail to capitalize relationships. The business of politics is to understand the quid pro quo: what the others need, what I can offer in exchange? by understanding the unspoken rules of how really business get done.
Obediently following instructions. Some women are anxious to get the assignments done so quickly that they miss the peripheral stakes. Looking at the bigger picture rather than the details, allow tactical planning. This will save time, money, energy and frustrations. Play chess for strategical thinking!
Being the conscience. Enron, WorldCom´scandals, illustrated an extreme example of women being the conscience, they acted with ethical and moral standards, and all praise is legitimate. In office politics, on a smaller level, rules deviations are common practice, women have to choose battles carefully, if it worth the potential profit and not trying to change the system alone.
When behaviors don´t match expectations, it creates dissonances leading people to mistrust. The way we act make perceptions become reality. Changing how we think is essential to change self-defeating behaviors.
“It´s not the strongest nor the smartest of species that survives but the most adaptable” Evolution theory – Charles R. Darwin.
Ingrid Johnson: Executive board member at Europcar Germany. Director Revenue and Capacity Management with 25 years experience in travel & hospitality sector.
“I manage with empathy, open communication and promote a team-style and goal oriented environment. When looking at discussions on what makes a manager successful, over 7o% of the attributes are associated with men (self-confidence, consistent, logical, direct..), whereas only 10% are associated with women (courteous, helpful, understanding..). Women can also be self-confident and assertive! There is definitely a lack of organic career growth for women. Women need to learn to make more noise in order to climb the career ladder. A challenge not only for women but for companies, who need to provide enough flexibility to enable women to make their next step. This is the reason my husband and I chose for our personal life a slight “reverse” role model. Men are not the only challenge women face, women do not offer one another sufficient support. The network between women must become stronger and more open than is currently been lived.”
Regina Schueller (57): Senior Communications Executive. Chief Spokesperson in the financial services sector, European Central Bank (1994-2013).
“The challenges for a female leader in the men’s world based on my experience in the financial services sector are: “Stereotyping: Masculine characteristics are still associated with success and achievement as well as strong task-orientation. Feminine characteristics still include being modest, selfless and nurturing. Furthermore Work-Life-Balance challenge: Women are still seen as the ones taking care of the family. And Perfectionism: Women are always delivering more as requested – 150 % instead of 100 %! Men are achieving the same results with less effort and through better “selling/promoting” their performance and actions.
What makes a leader successful beyond gender? You must be willing to accomplish today what others don’t, in order to have things, be in places that others won´t, tomorrow.
The digital Media era: Companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook are setting the rules for the next decades, management through digital Media is shaping the world considerably and evolving independently from gender. A new set of rules demands new set of skills: Personal growth, innovation, flexibility, out of the box thinking. Women will never think, work, communicate like men but differently (cf. Venus & Mars book). Business week even explain why women could be better leaders.
I belong to this generation of strong-willed, purpose-driven women. Along the journey, I had the chance to encounter few women with sensitivity, intelligent, managing their career, family life as well as being involved in caritative projects; folding the path, leaders.
“Dedicated to all smart women, despite the challenges, contributing to impact
positivity our society !”
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*New York times, Wall Street Journal, Businessweek