Associating with Associations

Here at Leading Women we're obviously big fans of that we mean the cultivation of strategic relationships inside and outside your organization. Why? First, because getting the job done almost always requires cooperation with others. Second, because the higher you go in your organization, the more important become external networks - specifically those with organizations that can influence the business environment for your organization.

That's why it's important to consider association memberships. Professional associations, industry associations, customer industry associations, vendor/supplier industry associations and trade associations are all fertile possibilities. To get you thinking, we offer a list of professional associations on our site. But through my own network, I recently came across a site with a comprehensive list of women's associations - as a matter of fact, nearly 700 of them! From advertising to banking, construction executives to railroad, to accountants.

With so many to choose from (and for most of us so little time) how do you choose? Here are 3 tips for finding the right associations to participate in.
  1. Consider your profession. Most professions have at least one related association for example HR = Society for Human Resource Management; IT = Women in IT. As a matter of fact, our list is mostly professional associations.
  2. Identify the industries represented by your major customers and discover the associations they belong to. This is a great way to keep customer trends in the forefront of your mind.
  3. List the industries represented by your major suppliers/vendors. Their associations will alert you to trends that might disrupt or provide opportunities in the supply chain.
Relationships nurtured in any or all of the above will keep your thinking fresh and contributions valuable. So, be sure that you're associating with associations as part of your strategic networking plan.

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls.
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Lest We Forget

I generally try to stay away from things overly political, but I see frightening trends  (and actual votes) at the state and national level that will take women back to the 1950s when we had no ability to legally plan for families. And the recent vote to de-fund Planned Parenthood could mean that low income women will also have less access to maternal health care.

Why does this matter to women in leadership? Well, several years ago the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston published a study that indicated that access to family planning was one of the most significant factors in enabling women to have careers.

How are women and men allowing this trend to happen? I think it's because we take our rights of access for granted. Rights of access to family planning, rights of access to credit, rights of access to jobs. We believe that these rights are the norm and can't be rescinede and/or we buy into the myth that there is no inequality - in spite of statistics that shows that there is. For example, Ginka Toegel's Fortune story and the HuffPost article illustrating wage gaps by industry (visual above).

Lest We Forget...

This week, Congresswoman Jackie Speier courageously spoke against the de-funding of Planned Parenthood
"As the night wore on, the vitriol and grotesque commentary got worse and worse," Speier, a second-term Democrat from California, told HuffPost. "I sat there thinking, none of these men on the other side have even come close to experiencing this, and yet they can pontificate about what it's like. It just overwhelmed me."
Conservative, republican legislators in Wyoming told their personal stories when they spoke out against exceedingly restrictive and intrusive anti-choice state laws.

Recently a colleague sent me a link to a Story Corps story about a woman in the 1970s who was a pioneer in her profession. Thanks to her and women like her, we have the access that we do to various professions. Listen here as Dee Dickson describes how she made her way as an electrician.

Stephanie Coontz has a new book about the life of women in the 1960s. Worth watching:

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Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls.
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Enhancing Your Leadership Brand

A while back, I commented on the ForbesWoman LinkedIn group to a discussion on personal branding. The question was, "are businesswomen avoiding the spotlight, not as focused on Personal Branding as men?" Here's my response:
"My observations  confirm that women are less likely to seek the spotlight and develop a professional brand by displaying expertise in many arenas. For example, in several gender-neutral LinkedIn groups on leadership, the comments are overwhelmingly offered by men. Another, a review a few years ago of HBR articles showed that nearly all were written by men.

That being said, I wouldn't say that women are not as focused on our Personal brands. We are mis-focused. Here's why: most messages we receive about personal branding are over-focused on personal style: attire, fitness, accessories. This mis-focus on style is coupled with women's humility and distaste for or discomfort with self-promotion. As a result we often don't look for or take advantage of opportunities to establish professional competence and leadership credibility."
This was a timely question. Earlier that week I presented to the WISE group at New York Life. One of the most important pieces of advice I offered was that there is a difference between your personal, professional and leadership brands.

This is a distinction rarely made, but absolutely essential for women who are working to create careers that soar or businesses that succeed.

If you want to learn more about the distinction and how to make it work for you (and the other women in your organization) email info at

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls.
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Career Lessons from the Mouth of Gabrielle Giffords

People who know me, know that one of my favorite quotes is this:
"No one cares the storms you encounter, they only care did you bring in the ship."
In the context of business, this means that no one cares about the problems you're having as you work to get your job done. In other words, there's no whining in business.

I find a way to work this into most of my programs because I encounter far too many women who, when asked how they are, launch into a complaint about how overwhelmed and busy they are. This is a career derailer for this reason: if you can't handle the job you have, why should you be considered for a bigger job?

That's why this morning's headline in Huffington Post caught my eye, "'Hi, I'm  Good': As Giffords Starts to Speak, Doctors Work to Help Brain Rewire Itself."

Can you imagine! Here's a woman who could choose to complain about many storms, but her choice was not to. Instead, when talking with her brother-in-law Scott Kelly as he orbited the international space station, she said she was "good." No complaint crossed Gabby's lips.

So, take a lesson from Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). At work, when someone asks  you how you're doing, avoid complaints. Fussing about the amount of work you have doesn't make you sound important, it makes you sound incapable. Instead, consider one of these 3 strategies:
  1. Graciously self-promote about a recent accomplishment. For example, "I'm doing great. We just wrapped up the xyz project on time and on budget and it's going to make a difference to this quarter's top-line revenue."
  2. Report on progress on an important project. "I'm doing great. My team is ahead of goals on the abc project."
  3. Describe a strategic conversation. "Great, I just met with about opening up the market in Central America."
And, if you're wondering why I chose the photo above instead of one of her more professional photos. For a couple of reasons. One, I know from my own experience as a rider that to be any good you have to become the "lead mare." Second, riding is immensely therapeutic and so I hope that the rehab facility gets Gabby on horseback asap!

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls.
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Compartmentalizing Life

In her excellent book The Male Factor, Shaunti Feldhahn describes the difference between how many women and men view their worlds.

Men view the "work world" and the "personal world" as distinct disconnected spheres of activity. Women tend to view their "work worlds" as circles within the spheres of their "personal worlds". There are benefits to both views. Today, Michelle Obama described a good example of the benefits of the male view (advance to around 7:45 on this clip).

She explains that when he walks from his office in the West Wing to the family quarters, President Obama lets work drain away so he can be present as a father and husband. It is safe to assume that when he walks back to the West Wing in the morning, he lets home drain away.

On Monday, I was working with a group of women from India and we had a discussion about whether women in India face a choice between being mothers and being successful career women. I made two main points in the discussion.

First that most of the Fortune 500 women CEOs are mothers, so the obvious answer is, no. We don't face an either/or choice.

The second was that to get ahead, it is important how a woman manages her home life when at work. It is useful to learn to let our home life drain away so we can be fully present as professionals and leaders. Because, while our identities as women might be deeply tied to our identities as mothers, our identities as leaders are not.

A woman who leads with home issues will be seen as a less valuable resource. Recently, a participant in one of our assessments received many comments about the significant demands of her home life. The unstated message behind these comments is that she has trouble meeting the demands of the current job given her home life, so why would management consider her for a bigger job in the future.

If compartmentalizing is something you'd like to get better at, here are 3 tips:
  1. If you have to pick up your children or attend an event, don't explain to anyone. Leave and take care of business. If you have to explain, say something like, "I have an appointment."
  2. Don't initiate conversations with discussions about your family. If the men you work with do, feel free to contribute at a personal level that goes no further than theirs.
  3. Be sensitive to over-displaying family in your work space. Look at the work areas of people whose jobs you aspire to and take a cue from them.
That being said, there are important benefits to carrying who you are at home into work. Carry your strengths, values, core beliefs and worldview to help you lead with authenticity. Carry your compassion, openness and creativity. Just be wary of carrying in the challenges of parenting.

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls.
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More "Colorful and Beautiful"?

Quotas have been much in the news lately. The drive to bring greater numbers of women to the World Economic Forum raised the issue once again.

The WEF goal is to have the100 corporate "strategic partners" of this year's World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland – a group that includes companies like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, and News Corp.  —  bring at least one woman among their five delegates to the conference.  Did it work? Not really. According to Reuters, women made up only 16% of the 2500 delegates this year. Worse, 20 of the sponsors brought all male teams.

And now, Germany is having a conversation about quotas for women on boards (see my posts on this topic here). As stark evidence of why something has to be done, read what The Local (Germany's news in English) had to say about the Deutsche Bank head:
“I’m pleased that the Chancellor has said that she does not want a legal quota for women,” said Deutsche Bank boss Josef Ackermann, according to Handelsblatt.

Though Deutsche Bank has an all-male executive committee, he told the paper there should be more women in executive positions, adding that they made company boards “more colourful and beautiful.”
Colorful and beautiful? Really!

No wonder quotas are in the news. 40 years into the women's movement, it will require forcing women on boards and to Davos to confront antiquated attitudes like that.

UPDATE: Article 2/13 from the U.K.'s Independent.

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls.
 Follow her on TwitterLittlePinkBook  |  Facebook  |  LinkedInGroupLinkedIn

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