Thank You Lilly Ledbetter!

"Equal pay is by no means just a women's issue, it's a family issue ... And in this economy, when so many folks are already working harder for less and struggling to get by, the last thing they can afford is losing part of each month's paycheck to simple and plain discrimination."
President Barack Obama
on the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

Power to close the wage gap. Holding managers' and HR departments' feet to the fire to ensure equal pay. I'm giddy!

Read more here.

Leadership Lessons from Flight 1549

The landing of Flight 1549 in the Hudson River is a fitting metaphor for leading in turbulent times. Here's what we can learn from the actions of pilot Chesley Sullenberger and crew:
  • Don't look for the hero, look for the heroic in everyone. As products of America's individualistic culture, we look for personal qualities that define leadership, but other cultures often view leadership as something that is pulled out of the time and circumstances. As Sullenberger said, "Circumstance determined that it was this experienced crew that was scheduled to fly on that particular flight on that particular day, but I know I can speak for the entire crew when I tell you we were simply doing the jobs we were trained to do."
  • Give credit to the entire team. While the media extolled the pilot's actions in the stories immediately following the landing, Sullenberger speaks of and for the entire crew.
  • When the (economic) engine fails there's still energy for a safe landing. Smart decisions, expertise and teamwork turned what could have been a crash landing (think Lehman Brothers) into a safe landing (think FedEx - I hope).
  • Don't bail on those who depend on you. I have nothing good to say about executives who lay off employees who make a meager percentile of what they make while taking no cut in salary. Sullenberger, at great peril to himself, walked the aisle twice to make sure everyone is safe. What are you doing to make sure your "passengers" are safe?
  • Stay calm in the face of adversity. Emulate the professional demeanor and calm exhibited by the pilot and the air traffic controller as they considered alternatives and settled on "the Hudson".
  • Get everyone on the same page. "I made the brace for impact announcement in the cabin and immediately, through the hardened cockpit door, I heard the flight attendants begin shouting their commands in response to my command to brace. 'Heads down. Stay down.' I could hear them clearly. They were chanting it in unison over and over again to the passengers, to warn them and instruct them. And I felt very comforted by that. I knew immediately that they were on the same page. That if I could land the airplane, that they could get them out safely," (e.a.)
And, what do women CEOs and presidents have to say about leading in tough times. Here a 3 gems from a gathering of 20 of the most senior women in business and government in my state.
  • "You can't shrink your way to greatness." Balance attention on tactical survival activities and strategic growth positioning.
  • Craft tough messages with a helping of hope. Not all executives know how to do this; learn and teach your team to do it well. Another way of saying this is to use the Stockdale Paradox - "confront the most brutal facts of your current reality no matter what they may be AND at the same time retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.” (see also prior blog on Executive Lessons from the Inaugural Address).
  • Find your customers' new needs and create a new value proposition for them. Customers lead, they own your brand. Get out and get in touch.
Lead On!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women. She blogs on networking for PINK Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.

Executive Lessons from President Obama's Inaugural Address

When President Obama took the oath of office, he joined you and other national and global leaders at the helm in turbulent seas. Embedded in his address is a potent strategic communication lesson for any executive or manager. President Obama (who generally writes his own speeches) used 13 communication tools to remind his fellow citizens that, as the Stockdale Paradox says, they "must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality whatever they may be AND at the same time retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties." Succeeding in this is crucial for you as you communicate to your organization in these difficult times. Download the complete article.

Posted by: Susan Colantuono, CEO &Founder of Leading Women
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Women Advancing Women

On the WOMEN-omics website I found an article that demonstrates the power of women to advance other women. It illustrates that having a woman CEO is good for the advancement of women to senior positions. Check it out here.

Why does this happen? My experience indicates that it's not because women are giving free rides to other women, but because women don't wear the blinders about women's capabilities that many men wear. It is statistically obvious that if there were no blinders, no stereotypes, fewer mis-applied perceptions and assumptions, the numbers of women executive officers, CEOs and board members would be much closer to 50% than they are.

Another example of how women in positions of power are able to advance other women came in Hillary Clinton's prepared statement for her confirmation hearing for Secretary of State. She said,
“Of particular concern to me is the plight of women and girls who comprise the majority of the world’s unhealthy, unschooled, unfed, and unpaid. If half of the world’s population remains vulnerable to economic, political, legal and social marginalization, our hope of advancing democracy and prosperity will remain in serious jeopardy. We still have a long way to go and the United States must remain an unambiguous and unequivocal voice in support of women’s rights in every country, every region, on every continent.”
She went on to describe the significant benefits to women and families that derive from microcredit programs and Ann Dunham's (President Obama's mother's) commitment to economic justice for women.

I know neither Madeleine Albright nor Condoleeza Rice's stands on advancing the interest of women or on micro-credit. I like to think they actively supported both. But for Hillary Clinton the status of women has been an ever-present concern and my hope is that she will continue to be both a voice and an instrument for advancing women around the world...and here at home.

Posted by: Susan Colantuono, CEO and Founder of Leading Women
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President Obama and Leadership in Turbulent Times

I am eagerly anticipating President Obama’s inauguration and inaugural address. In these turbulent times, he has achieved unprecedented approval ratings - largely the result of speeches that he writes himself. I think it's safe to say that he has much to teach executives about leading in difficult times. Among the lessons:

  1. Have a Vision - Remain focused on what is possible and what you seek to achieve.
  2. Remain Strategic - Don’t get caught in the weeds. Look for opportunities hidden in the turbulence.
  3. Reassure - Remind employees that they’ve made it through tough times before.
  4. Inspire - Focus on peoples’ abilities to make a difference.
  5. Unite - Remind staff of the incredible power of many acting as one.

I’m honored to be chosen to be PINK Magazine’s expert blogger on networking. I invite you to check out my posts here.

Lead On!

Susan Colantuono

Susan Colantuono is the CEO & Founder of Leading Women. You can follow her on Twitter.

Another Superwoman to the Rescue

Carol Bartz' appointment as CEO of Yahoo! garnered national and international coverage (inside and outside the industry) with universally positive articles in:
Forbes excellent article by Carol Hymowitz
Times of London here
LA Times here
InformationWeek here
BBC here
and BetaNews, Wired, and PC World among others.

As yet another woman brought in as CEO of a company near disaster (think Anne Mulcahy at Xerox and Carly Fiorina at HP), Carol faces a daunting task. All indications are she's fully up to it.

As to why I highlight and honor the success of women leaders? Because women promote women. Take a look at this article from WOMEN-omics. Scroll down to the list of women-led companies and take a look at the numbers of their women executive officers and women on their boards.

Lead On!
Susan Colantuono, CEO & Founder Leading Women
Check out my blog on networking at: PINK Magazine
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Sources of Inspiration

In school we learn reading, wRiting and 'rithmetic, but what do we learn about resilience? Not much. And in today's economy, resilience is more important than ever.

Here's an inspirational primer of role models - some of America's most powerful women. They've bounced back from retirement, demotions and job loss, health challenges and business challenges. They've tapped courage to take big jobs within and outside of their fields of expertise. Hats off to you all!

Brenda Barnes "retired" from Pepsi to spend more time with her children. She was subsequently chosen to become and is currently, CEO of Sara Lee.

Carol Bartz retired from Autodesk in 2006, and was recently named CEO of Yahoo! While at Autodesk, she bounced back from breast cancer (she learned her diagnosis shortly after becoming CEO) and a radical mastectomy. She also successfully navigated Autodesk through the dotcom boom and bust. Read more of Carol Hymowitz's excellent profile here.

Carly Fiorina, who was fired by the HP board and has created life as an advisor, director, author and speaker outside of corporate employment.

Reported on by the Barbara Haislin for the Wall Street Journal:
Erin Callan, demoted in June as Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.'s chief financial officer, joined Credit Suisse Group to lead its investment bank's global hedge-fund business. Ms. Callan is a Credit Suisse managing director.

Mary Minnick, a Coca-Cola Co. veteran, left in February 2007 after being passed over for the company's No. 2 job. Ms. Minnick, who was president of marketing, strategy and innovation at Coca-Cola, is a partner at Lion Capital LLP, based in London. She became a partner in May 2007. Lion Capital is a private-equity firm focusing on investing in consumer businesses.

Read more here.
And tapping courage to make big moves are:
Kathy Murphy, who was the CEO of U.S. Wealth Management at ING just joined Fidelity Investments. She’s the new president of personal investments at Ned Johnson’s ever-so-secretive empire.

Paula Reynolds, the CEO of Safeco who sold her company to Liberty Mutual for $6.2 billion earlier this year, is now vice chairman and chief restructuring officer at AIG (AIG).

Lorraine Bolsinger is the new president and CEO of GE Aviation Systems. Bolsinger led General Electric’s (GE) Ecoimagination initiative these past three years. So now, are green avionics on the way?

Cece Sutton, who headed retail and small business banking at Wachovia until Wells Fargo’s (WFC) recent buyout, moved to Morgan Stanley (MS). Sutton is aiming to build Morgan’s retail operation as the investment bank morphs into a commercial bank.

The Fortune 500, meanwhile, has a new female CEO: Laura Sen, president and COO of BJ’s Wholesale Clubs (BJ), will become CEO on Feb. 1. BJ’s stock, btw, has outperformed not only the S&P but Target and Wal-Mart (WMT) too over the past five years. That’s a feat!

One more big appointment announced just yesterday: Karen Mills is President-elect Obama’s choice to head the Small Business Administration.
Thanks to Patricia Sellers, editor at large, for publicizing these moves on her FORTUNE blog here.

UPDATE: also from Patricia Sellers blog. Now up to 14! "The Fortune 500, meanwhile, has a new female CEO: Laura Sen, president and COO of BJ’s Wholesale Clubs (BJ), will become CEO on Feb. 1. BJ’s stock, btw, has outperformed not only the S&P but Target and Wal-Mart (WMT) too over the past five years. That’s a feat!"

Posted by: Susan Colantuono
To view Leading Women's career resources, go here.

Hard Row to Hoe...and up to #13

It's patently obvious when looking at the numbers that African American women have a difficult time getting to the top of organizations. The Executive Leadership Council surveyed 150 CEOs and directors, EVPs and VPs to dig into the reasons why. Their just released findings include:
  • 31% of respondents say that challenges to getting to the top are due to weaker or less strategic networks available to African-American women.
  • 24% cite inaccurate perceptions of African-American women's capabilities
  • 23% point to work/life balance demands as preventing or slowing down their rise.
As remedies...
  • African-American women should seek high-visibility stretch assignments to improve their access to C-Suite positions, (73 percent);
  • African-American women should set career goals and create the action plans necessary to achieve them (67 percent);
  • African-American women should work with executive coaches to prepare for and take full advantage of critical feedback (57 percent).
  • "Not only should senior executives cultivate more trusted and strategic relationships with high-potential black women executives, it is important for black women executives to have and execute detailed plans for advancement and demonstrate a passion for the values and culture of their companies."
Glad they put some of the burden for change on the executives who aren't African-American Women!

Now, for #13
Ellen Kullman stepped into the CEO role at DuPont this month, becoming the 13th woman FORTUNE 500 CEO.

USA Today has one of the BEST reports on the performance of women CEOs. In 2003 and 2004 women outperformed men. In '05 the women underperformed and '06 and '07 performance was about even. With devastating losses, the F500 women CEOs underperformed the DOW in '08.

In spite of the huge losses suffered last year, Susan Ivey at tobacco company Reynolds American Andrea Jung at Avon and Anne Mulcahy at Xerox have had stellar performances over time. Avon is up 65% during Jung's nine years, and Xerox is up 1% during Mulcahy's 6½ years (rising like a Phoenix from near bankruptcy). Reynolds is up 21% since Ivey began in 2004.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels?

I apologize in advance, but I just have to say this. If those in power in business stereotyped themselves, no one would put money in banks (or other financial situations) run by white men over the age of 45.

This is not an original thought. A colleague of mine made that observation back in the era of the savings and loan debacle. But it was brought to mind recently when I read this article by Saabira Chaudhuri of Women's E News and FastCompany.

I wondered how many women directors sat on the boards and in the executive offices of the failed/rescued companies. Here's what I found in a short while this morning.
  • Bear Stearns: 0/12 directors.
  • Lehman Brothers: 0/11 directors. (I can't find executive officer info.)
  • AIG: 0 women corporate executives, 2 out of 15 on the board
  • Fannie Mae: 2/10 women corporate officers (can't tell if they're direct reports to the CEO), 7 out of 54 directors. 54! Am I missing something? I don't see how a board (in this case advisory council) can function with that many members. (oops, I guess it didn't) Of those 54 directors, 33 work for Fannie Mae! Directors also represented Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and Bank of America.
  • Freddie Mac: 2/10 executives. 3/11 directors
To read more about women on boards, check out the Leading Women WOB page.

Posted by: Susan Colantuono