There is far more opportunity in the world today for women than there was a generation ago, but there is still a long way to go until men and women are truly equal at the top of the business world.
The equality that women have found in most aspects of life seems to end at the boardroom. Women are increasingly making up a larger percentage of the work force and are more likely to graduate from college, but the same percentage, if not less, are reaching the upper echelon in terms of their careers.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg gave an interesting speech on the topic in December 2010 at that year’s TED Conference and she offered some things women can do to reach their career potential.
I saw the speech again recently and I felt what she had to say about women reaching their potential was interesting.
Too often women are dismissive of their own successes and abilities and, as she says, “No one gets to the corner office by underestimating their abilities.”
By underestimating their own abilities, many women fail to “Sit at the table,” as Sandberg puts it, and aren’t taken seriously when it comes to leadership and decision making.
This becomes even more interesting when we consider that, while success and likability correlate positively for men, they negatively correlate for women. As one writer on the topic put it, in our culture, good girls are taught to be nice, while good boys are simply taught to be good.
In the competitive world of business, nice just doesn’t always equate to capable or successful or to a leader. And when you combine the cultural undertones of what makes a “good boy” versus what makes a “good girl” with the difficult choices many women have to make when it comes to the balance between work and personal life, it’s easy to see why so many women choose to leave the playing field rather than compete with men.
So how do we change this scenario?
First, as the working force changes to more and more women, there is little doubt that new companies and corporate cultures will emerge that focus more on the woman entrepreneur, her skills, talents and aptitudes and how she works.
Secondly, as women we have to take a role in changing the culture itself. As a CEO myself, I feel it’s very important to empower the women who work for me to reach their full potential and grow.
Finally, we have to teach the next generation of women that being nice isn’t the same as being good and there will be times when difficult choices have to be made between your cultural identity and delivering on your potential, and that’s it’s okay to choose the later.
About the Author: Jodie Shaw currently serves as ActionCOACH CEO of U.S. & Canada. Prior to being named CEO of U.S. and Canada, she served as the company’s Director of Franchise Sales and Marketing, and served two years as Director of Marketing.
Since joining the company in 2006, she has overseen and directed the re-brand of the company, has increased coach revenue in North America as well as the expansion of the franchise into the Caribbean, Venezuela and China. A native Australian, Ms. Shaw previously served as an Account Director at De Pasquale Advertising and as a journalist with News Corp.