I just read an article in “Fortune” magazine titled: “4 Ways Women Can Be Taken More Seriously At work”. It made quite an impression on me as to the state of women and business in this country. The first point: Decide to participate even if is daunting. The point made me think of Ann Madden, a senior creative person at Saatchi & Saatchi in Los Angeles. During an off site team building exercise with about 10 to 15 of the top people in the agency we were challenged by our team builders to scale a cliff about 80 to 100 feet high. Ann went first and scaled the cliff. When she safely got to the top she admitted she was scared of heights. I’m also scared of heights so I was deeply impressed by what she had accomplished. She told me “I figured everyone would do it so i decided to go first and get it over with”.
Ann was the only person to successfully scale the cliff. She fully participated even though the task was incredibly daunting. In my experience women have a great track record at accepting challenges and being successful, thus I was surprised at point one. The article stated 67% OF women and 74% of men participate meaningfully. Given the research it seems everyone, not just women should be willing to accept challenges. Women in business can scale heights.
Point two: Take responsibility for your career. Women have less mentors available to them and as a result have to be more responsible for their careers. This was a topic in my book “Theory You”. Women in business have additional challenges.
Point three: Recognize the value of collaboration. I’ve heard the reference numerous times that men collaborate better than women due to a male’s involvement in team sports. For a long time I supported that notion. However, with the rise of women’s team sports women are becoming much better collaborators and I’ve read studies that indicate women of a younger age are better at collaboration than men. Things change fast in business, and women in business change faster.
Point four: Practice, practice, practice. The author suggested women should be more willing to participate in open discussions. From both perspectives of business and teaching I have to conclude women are pretty good at open discussions. In fact, women in business are better than pretty good.
The thing that concerned me about the article and prompted this blog was the feeling I got that I was back in the 1950’s – the Mad Men age. Sadly, I think many people still have a distorted view of women in business. At Saatchi & Saatchi LA we had more senior women working at the agency than men and our biggest client was Toyota, a car company. At DDB NY the two key management hires I made were women. Later at DDB Miami women held the key positions working with me. Nothing was too daunting, they took responsibility for their careers, they were great collaborators and our discussions were lively and engaging.
The “Fortune” article seemed of an age past and not reflective of what exists today. It’s no wonder women struggle to achieve equal pay for equal work with passe stereotypes still finding their way into well respected publications. I suggest you all look around your office and reflect on the accuracy of the “Fortune” article. My guess is you will be as bothered as me. There are a lot of Ann Maddens in business…lots!