A Busy Month.
September was a busy month. USC Provost Elizabeth Garrett was selected as the 13th President of Cornell University. Bonnie Hill was the keynote speaker at the UCLA Director Networking dinner for their Governance Training program. Two women were added to the board of the Southern California Chapter of NACD. That’s just the few women of achievement in my small circle of associates. Imagine if there were a more concerted effort to acknowledge outstanding women. Wouldn’t it be inspirational to read more about these role models and mentors? What will it take to make this happen?
Women writers could start by declining editors’ invitations to write about the “dearth” of women in various categories of professions, education, or expertise. We could tell editors, “I’ve been getting a lot of push-back from younger generation women who don’t want to hear the negative arguments that ‘somebody has to do something’ for women.” It IS true that young women today are much more active in making change happen in their own circles. They are not waiting for some large, nebulous movement. They are chipping away at the stereotypes and presumptions about what women want and can do in their daily lives.
Women writers at blogs and LinkedIn groups could edit their own postings, asking themselves whether they are promoting women’s success stories and achievements. If they are not sharing those stories, then who else would do it, after all?
In conversations with other women (and men) at professional networking gatherings, what are we talking about? Are we propagating the news about “How many women are doing this, now!” or are we merely telling the same old story lines about “How few” women there are somewhere? Which conversation motivates us to action? What discussions incent us to follow the lead of exemplary women? Which conversations depress us, leaving us with a hopeless and helpless feeling?
As advisors to women’s organizations and speakers at women’s events, are we promoting a competitive, professional level of advice that might pertain to men as well as women? Or are we telling women they have to do more because they are women with special burdens they must bear?
Which message persuades women that they have a right to be here on the stage, earning the speakers’ fees that reflect the equal value of their knowledge and expertise? Or is our advice to women “FOR WOMEN ONLY,” thereby contributing to the under-expectations about women, that they should only volunteer and donate their time?
What is our message for the next generation of aspiring women and for the current generation of women in leadership? Every word we speak, every example we set, becomes part of the social and cultural expectations we are presenting to women. Are we mentors or not?
Elizabeth Ghaffari is president and CEO of Technology Place Inc., a corporation that delivers strategic technology advisory services to U.S. and international business clients. Previously, she was a manager of IT at major financial institutions in California and a consulting economist to major development firms domestically and abroad. Elizabeth is the author of Tapping the Wisdom that Surrounds You: Mentorship and Women, which helps readers to recognize invaluable mentorship and guidance all around them—from family members, at school, at work, in recreational and social settings, in the media and politics, and even from those who have left us. Learn more at her Website: http://www.championboards.com/tappingthewisdom