"I Did It My Way!"

"Regrets, I've had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way"
Who knew that Frank Sinatra's signature song concealed important career advice? Certainly not the woman I was sitting with at lunch the other day. She was chosen to participate in our Breakthrough Leadership series and I had asked her about her interest in moving up to the next higher level.

As with many women she replied that she wasn't sure that she wanted to take on the long hours that were required. So I asked her, "why are the hours so long?"

"Because in that job, client entertainment is important," she answered and went on to describe how often and late into the night the man holding her next likely job entertained clients.

I subtly suggested that she wouldn't have to perform the job as he currently did.

The executive who was seated at the table (let's call him Frank) returned from the buffet line and chimed in, "You know, you don't have to take clients to football games. I don't like football and have never used the company's seasons tickets."

We hadn't been talking about football, but his comment shifted the conversation to other types of entertainment - including horse shows, spas and theater. After he left I asked her, "what was the important message that you just heard?"

"That I can shape the job to my own interests and situation," she replied.


Too many women look at possible future jobs and make decisions about advancement based on what they see, not on how they could shape the job.

Don't let some guy's idea of how a job needs to be done ever dissuade you from seriously considering a higher or different position.

Take a bit of advice from Frank...take the job and do it your way!

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono, CEO and Founder Leading Women
Author of No Ceiling, No Walls and Make the Most of Mentoring. Underway is her new book, Network! What corporate women need to know about strategic relationships and success
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Lessons from the 13th Most Wealthy Woman

Forbes just released its list of the 400 richest Americans and it took until number 92 on the list to find a woman who is known primarily as an executive not an heiress. Meet Marilyn Carlson Nelson.

Marilyn Carlson Nelson was the CEO and now chairs the board of hotel, travel and restaurant company Carlson Inc. Her father, Curt  founded the company in the 1930s. Marilyn served as CEO until 2008 and will step down from her post as chairman next year. She is also on the board of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, whose member companies account for more than 40% of corporate giving in the US, and she teaches corporate responsibility to MBA students at the University of Minnesota. She has been named one of "America's Best Leaders" by U.S. News and World Report.

Marilyn has important lessons to teach women about leadership and about strategic relationships. In her book, How We Lead Matters: Reflections on a Life of Leadership, she writes:
"I am convinced that it would not have mattered where my life work might have taken me. In the end, I would arrive at the same conclusion: It is all about relationships."
She writes this as she reflects on her departure as CEO of Carlson and after expressing gratitude to the key groups in her strategic network:
  • Her executive team who taught her the "boundless power of 'we'."
  • Employees who care for one another and the customers.
  • Suppliers who enable the company to serve.
  • Customers and partners for their loyalty and trust in the company.
What lesson can you learn from her?
I find 3.
  1. Encountering people with gratitude and the assumption of positive intent.
  2. It's essential to have a strong internal AND external network.
  3. And it's important to develop your strategic relationships in the context of your organization and moving it forward.
If you take her lessons to heart, you might not make it to Forbes list of the richest Americans, but you'll help move your organization forward, have a rewarding career and make a difference in the lives of those you encounter.

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono, CEO and Founder Leading Women
Author of No Ceiling, No Walls and Make the Most of Mentoring. Underway is her new book, Network! What corporate women need to know about strategic relationships and success
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The Power of Women's Leadership

Guest blog by Renee' Aloisio and Kate Kennedy. As one of the state delegates to Vision 2020, I have enjoyed working with them and the other amazing women who are part of this effort. Thanks to GoLocal for the original.

As the Rhode Island economy plods along its slow recovery, our state's businesses continue to seek out any kind of competitive advantages to get ahead. One such advantage that has been widely documented and reported is the power of women's leadership. Some companies are making serious investments in this area, while others have yet to take full advantage of the opportunity.

Research indicates companies led by women or with a higher representation of women board directors experience higher financial performance. The correlations are found across industries ‒ from consumer discretionary to information technology. Here in Rhode Island, women currently make up 48% of the workforce, and many women can be found in entry- and mid-level management positions. But when we look at the top levels of management, executive officers hover at somewhere just above 10% and board seats are filled by a slim 16%. A clear indication that we can and should be doing better.
Vision 2020 Rhode Island's upcoming report, Women, Leadership and Wages, reviews the findings of a survey conducted with 22 of the state's largest not-for and for-profit businesses. The survey is focused on initiatives and best practices that advance women, such as commitment to women’s leadership, advancement of women into senior leadership, wage equity and women on boards. The report also examines obstacles and barriers to advancing women into leadership.

The findings at times fall below where we would hope Rhode Island businesses could be: for example, only 23% of for-profits and 1% of not-for-profits surveyed have a clearly defined strategy and philosophy for the development of women into leadership roles. However, some best practices are being utilized to advance women, such as requiring a diverse slate of candidates for executive searches and conducting wage equity audits that look for inequities in compensation between men and women serving in the same position. This report can and should be used by for-profit and not-for-profit leadership teams, human resource departments and board of directors to spearhead meaningful conversations for improving the advancement of women in their organizations' leadership team. The real benefits of paying attention to these measures ‒ short and long-term, financial and workforce ‒ can offer an alternative for contributing to companies' competitive positions and thus Rhode Island's economic growth.

On behalf of Vision 2020 RI's Corporate Sub-committee, we invite members of the business sector and other interested parties to attend and hear more about the report's findings at Leading Women's breakfast, The State of Women's Success, being held on September 11th at 8:00 at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick. We appreciate the willingness of companies who participated in the survey, and we urge all members of the business community to participate in ongoing research to share successes and challenges in advancing women's leadership as we work together to advance Rhode Island's economy.
Vision 2020 was developed by the Institute for Women's Health and Leadership at Drexel University College of Medicine to make equality a national priority through shared leadership among women and men. The organization’s goal is to advance women’s equality before the landmark 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

Renee Aloisio is Director of Internal Operations at LGC&D and Kate Kennedy is the Executive Director of Rhode Island Business Group on Health.

The report, Women, Leadership and Wages will be available online at www.leadingwomen.biz and at www.wfri.org on September 11. Hard copies will be distributed at the event.

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

Develop Top Talent - Challenge Managers' Mindsets

Following up on our blog about the Final Frontier for Women's Advancement check out our new video.

Managers have mindsets about women and men, about leadership and careers. Many of these mindsets create barriers for women and get in the way of developing top talent. Helping managers take action to minimize gender barriers is the new frontier in women's advancement -- and one that Leading Women is uniquely positioned to address.

For decades we've tracked over 15 gender-based mindsets. Our research tells us that the impediments created by these mindsets differ by country and corporate culture. With this knowledge we work with you to identify the barriers most prevalent in your business locations and prepare managers to make more equitable and effective talent decisions.

Read more about gender dynamics and ways the mindsets of managers create barriers to women's advancement here.

To explore the ways Leading Women can support your efforts to develop top talent and remove barriers to women's advancement, email us at info@LeadingWomen.biz or call us in the U.S. at +1-401-789-0441.

Lead ON!

Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls and Make the Most of Mentoring.
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If the President Can, So Can You! - Dinner with Family

Whether or not you support President Obama, if you're a mother you'll want to listen to the first 40 second or so of this interview.

We encourage women to be proactive with internal and external networking, but that doesn't mean that you have to overdo it. If the President of the United States can make sure that when he's in town he's having dinner with his children, so can you!

Of course, if your company has a ridiculous work-hour expectation, you might have to explain that you're leaving work on time because you "have a meeting." That's just smart.

Lead ON!


Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls and Make the Most of Mentoring. Follow her on TwitterLittlePinkBook  |  Facebook  |  Google+  |  LinkedInGroupLinkedIn

"Legitimate Rape" = Disdain for Women

I try to stay out of politics in this blog, but yesterday's comments by Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin have me incensed. He's a republican. I would be equally incensed if I heard such disdain for women from the mouth of a democrat.

His original statement was this piece of inanity that has no basis in medical fact, "First of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

His unapology did further damage, “In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it’s clear that I misspoke in this interview, and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year...Those who perpetrate these crimes are the lowest of the low in our society and their victims will have no stronger advocate in the Senate to help ensure they have the justice they deserve....I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action."

I'm fuming. Here's why:
Akin's depth of disdain for women is crystal clear.
  1. he has empathy for the woman
  2. the rapist should be punished,
  3. the "innocent zygote/fetus" protected.

What's wrong with this thinking?
  1. The woman is nothing but a vessel for the "innocent victim" - mean zygote/fetus. But the woman is so much more. She is a living human being who is the real innocent victim. And so I ask:
  2. What about the punishment that the innocent woman goes through for 9 months - knowing that she carries the spawn of a violent violation/attack - surely the work of the devil (if you believe in such things which he purports to)?
  3. What about the punishment the innocent woman goes through each time the fetus kicks or turns and she's reminded of the devil's attack?
  4. What about the punishment the innocent woman goes through each time she has to take time off of work to visit a doctor - possibly losing income?
  5. What about the punishment the innocent woman goes through each time she has to consider what to do about the fetus?
  6. What about the punishment the innocent woman goes through each time she has to meet with agencies if she decides to adopt - possibly losing income?
  7. What about the punishment the innocent woman goes through each time she's debased when people think she's an "unwed mother."
  8. What about the punishment the innocent woman goes through when on top of dealing with the long-term mental health consequences of a devil's attack/rape, she is also dealing with the mental health consequences of an unwanted pregnancy?
  9. What about the punishment the innocent woman goes through when the pregnancy itself could cause her death? (A 2010 study notes that the lifetime risk of maternal deaths is greater in the United States than in 40 other countries, including virtually all industrialized nations.)
  10. What about the punishment the innocent woman goes through when the delivery itself could cause her death? (see above)
  11. What about the punishment the innocent woman goes through explaining to loved ones what happened to her and their daily reminder (through her pregnancy) of the devil's act/rape?
  12. What about the punishment the innocent woman goes through when she incurs the out of pocket medical expenses associated with the pregnancy and birth brought about by the devil's act/rape?
  13. What about the punishment the innocent woman goes through when she has to stop work at some point and the U.S. has no paid maternal leave.
  14. What about the punishment the innocent woman goes through if she loses her job because of her pregnancy?
  15. What about the punishment the innocent woman goes through when she has to spend hard earned money to accommodate the changes her body goes through during a pregnancy that she did not want brought upon by the devil's attack/rape?
  16. What about the punishment the innocent woman goes through each morning that she has morning sickness or suffers from other pregnancy-related problems brought upon by the devil's attack/rape?
  17. What about the innocent woman who along with a pregnancy has to deal with the debasing legal system in order to take advantage of Akin's  promise to make sure the devil/rapists get the "justice they deserve?"
  18. Please add yours in the comments...
All of this applies equally to women who are victims of incest.

This has me absolutely furious and committed to bring women back into the discussion about contraceptive decisions and access to abortion - which has focused for WAY too long on the "innocent" zygote/fetus.

In Sisterhood,

Curiosity, Mars and the Final Frontier for Women's Advancement

Curiosity Exploring Mars
In the past 40 years, corporations have tackled the challenge of women's advancement by working diligently on two fronts.
  1. They have worked on the women. They help women set career goals and tell them what skills they need to enhance in order to get ahead - leadership, self-promotion, negotiation and more. 
  2. They have worked on corporate practices and policies. Instituting open job posting, mentoring programs, flexible work, day care options, maternity leave options and more.
And they've gotten each of these areas about 66% right. As a result, women have made great strides into middle management. But they have not made great strides into senior leadership. One reason is what I call The Missing 33%™.

The Final Frontier

This week's landing on Mars by the ship Curiosity suggests this fitting metaphor for what hasn't happened in organizations since the early years of the feminist movement. Companies have shied away from the final frontier - i.e. helping/requiring managers to understand how the mindsets they hold can negatively influence talent decisions about women. And to take action to stop the negative consequences of their mindsets. 

Most companies have avoided doing this work in spite of repeated studies such as the recent McKinsey report that said,
Of all the forces that hold women back…none are as powerful as entrenched beliefs. While companies have worked hard to eliminate overt discrimination, women still face the pernicious force of mindsets that limit opportunity…."
In other words, the mindsets that people managers hold have a subtle and gradual negative effect on women’s careers. 

We've been tracking over a dozen mindsets that wreck havoc with women's careers. Many of them (such as the culture of merit versus culture of self-promotion) have been turned into advice for women to change (e.g. get better at self-promotion). But this is only half of the solution - and we've seen after decades of this advice handed out generously that it hasn't solved the problem. The other half of the solution is to ensure that managers understand how their seemingly neutral (and in some cases benevolent) mindsets negatively impact women. Even though barriers to women's advancement are now semi-permeable membranes as opposed to glass ceilings, mindsets act to filter men through much more easily than women. 

Exploring the Final Frontier

Here's an example of what I mean. I worked with an executive team responsible for over 30,000 employees worldwide facilitating a discussion about actions they could take to minimize the adverse impact of mindsets on women's advancement. During the discussion, one of the women made the point that trust was very important to her in selecting candidates. A few minutes later, one of the men made this observation,
"Trust is very important for me, too. Trust is earned when I've known someone over time. What I just realized is that when I was in engineering school, there were no women in my classes. So that means that there are no women that I consider among the pool of trusted colleagues that I look to for candidates."
In his case, this seemingly neutral mindset - trust is important - has a substantially adverse impact on women's advancement. Luckily he realized it and will be able to consciously act to remedy the impact.

Recently Catalyst reported that a more inclusive culture can be achieved when white men are engaged as champions of inclusion. At Leading Women, we've begun to see the concrete impact of the gender dynamics work we're doing with women and men from around the globe. If the feedback from the diverse executive team cited above is any indication, their exploration of mindsets/gender dynamics will make a significant difference.

Is your company curious about or exploring the final frontier of women's advancement? Or, do you have similar initiatives underway? Please let me know.

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls and Make the Most of Mentoring.
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New Zealand Ahead...and Yet So Far to Go

During my recent trip to New Zealand, Jennifer, a senior HR executive said, “The U.S. is definitely ahead of where we are as far as women in senior leadership and business." And her comment is typical. Not long ago the NZ Census of Women’s Participation wrote,
"The corporate sector remains an embarrassment for New Zealand in terms of diversity of governance, at a time when women are increasingly consumers, customers, clients, employers, employees and investors," the report says…It is perplexing that boardroom doors are shut to women at a time when global business requires transformation."
When I talked with businesswomen in New Zealand they told me that women in the U.S. are ahead of them in terms of access to senior positions. This raised for me this interesting question, how did the country that was first in giving women the vote not rocket ahead on women in business? It’s especially intriguing because the nation has twice elected women to the position of prime minister.

Through the efforts of Kate Sheppard (image above), New Zealand became the first self-governing country to give women the vote. It happened in 1893!  Approximately 100 years later, the nation was led by two women - from 1997 when Jennifer Mary Shipley was elected as Prime Minister until November 2008 when Helen Clark stepped down. In the early 21st century New Zealand women have held other of the country’s key constitutional positions: governor-general, speaker of the House of Representatives, attorney-general and chief justice.

Today, the idea that women could not or should not be active in government is completely foreign to New Zealanders. In 2012, 32% of Members of Parliament are female, compared with 17% in today’s U.S. congress.

While they're far ahead of the U.S. in political representation, only 9.3% of companies listed on the NZX have women on their boards. That’s not the percentage of women on boards, it’s the percent of companies with women on their boards! 

As a contrast, nearly 85% of FORTUNE companies have women on their boards. A group of women (25%) and men who are high level corporate leaders have banded together in a bid to increase this number to 25 per cent by the end of 2015.

Women in each country have much to teach and much to learn about representation in positions of power.

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls and Make the Most of Mentoring.
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The Business-Savvy Barrier™

I can't reveal all the details of our research, but here's a peek. In countries all around the world, 90% of focus groups of men identified “lack of mentoring on business, strategic and financial acumen” as one of the top 3 barriers to women’s advancement. I call this The Business-Savvy Barrier.

Fewer than 10% of the focus groups of women recognize this barrier.

This is not surprising given the advice that women receive week in and week out. Much of it is advice that we’ve heard for decades, yet hasn’t made a difference in the rate of women’s advancement. To get an idea of what this advice entails, here’s a sampling of last week’s advice:

1.     Women need to push back.[1] Important advice from Selena Rezvani’s new book, Pushback on the importance of negotiation and communication skills.
2.     A collection of advice from banking leaders. For example, “Tell young bankers that one of the most important points is that you need to listen to others.” Again, important advice focused on ways to engage others.[2]
3.     Get in the game.[3] Rosemary Turner, president of the Chesapeake district for UPS told an audience about the importance of negotiation, not taking things personally and getting the job done. Important? Yes, but no mention of the difference between doing the job and relating performance to outcomes.
4.     5 tips from Selena Rezvani.[4] Selena, herself, spoke last week and shared 5 helpful tips – 2 of which had to do with managing interpersonal relationships and 3 were career navigation strategies.
5.     Honor the feminine in yourself as a new path to leadership.[5] I can’t tell you how sick I am of this meme! It’s been around since the 70s and (while there’s important truth at its core) after 40 years, you’d think the fact that it’s not that helpful would be obvious.
6.     Set your expectations higher. [6] Great and motivating guidance, but no mention of what it really takes to achieve those high expectations.
7.     Don’t be a “bitch in the boardroom.”[7] More advice about how it is that we can “all just get along.”

Not one of these articles addresses The Business-Savvy Barrier. And last week isn’t exceptional. Aside from articles I’ve written, I’ve never seen one hit this barrier (which I also call The Missing 33%™ or The Secret 33%™) head on. (Although, I have seen one video of a Fortune 500 woman CEO address it directly.)

The one bright spot last week was a short paragraph in Marie Claire’s interview with Sallie Krawcheck.
“[Women] have about 15 percent of the senior roles in corporate America — as CEOs, on executive committees, on boards. On Wall Street, that's a low single digit. We are significantly underrepresented there. But if you look around Wall Street and corporate America, we're putting women on diversity councils; we're putting them in mentoring programs; we're giving them special leadership training, telling them how to ask for promotions — but we are not promoting them. My goodness, we're just making women busier. There needs to be a rethink about how to make them successful in these organizations.”[8]

We do need a rethink. We don’t need to make women busier with the same old advice. We don’t need diversity councils, mentoring programs or leadership programs that double down on interpersonal skills (skills where women are consistently rated as outperforming men). We need to help women become more business savvy - skills where men are consistently rated as outperforming women!

Want to leap over The Business-Savvy Barrier? Here are 4 tips that will keep you from wasteful busy-ness and prepare you to leap:

1.     Learn the business of your business. You might think that if you’re doing your job, you’re doing enough. You’re not. Rather than being busy with superfluous activities, get busy learning how your business works, how what you do drives its strategy, how to speak about your results using the language of outcomes. If you don’t understand this advice, buy a copy of No Ceiling, No Walls. It will all become clear.
2.     No matter your level, step back for the big picture. You can only do #1 if you understand the big picture of your business.  As Ram Charan so rightly says, “It isn’t necessary that you be a CEO to seek the big picture. While CEOs and business unit leaders need to see the external patterns to position the business, other leaders need this know-how, too, for instance, for HR to do talent planning, for operations to choose plant locations, and for R&D to find new sources of information.”
3.     Get a big slice of PIE mentoring. Wondering now to step back and get the big picture? Wondering what’s an efficient way to learn the business of your business? A great way is to get a slice of PIE mentoring. Very briefly, PIE mentoring is mentoring on the Performance of the business, your Image as a leader and Exposure to how decisions are made at different levels and in different parts of the business. To learn more about PIE mentoring (and why it’s so different from CAKE!), pick up a copy of Make theMost of Mentoring.
4.     No matter your level, act like you own the business. This is one way of demonstrating that you are business savvy and it’s easy to do if you have the big picture. Every decision you make – whether it’s a major strategic decision, an important people decision or a small resource decision – should be made from the perspective of a CEO or business owner. In other words, be for the business. Promote it as if it were your own, think about improving it as if it were your own and guard its resources as if they were your own.

The Marie Claire interviewer followed Sallie’s statement about rethinking how to make women more successful, not with a question about ways to do that, but with this question, What should a woman working on Wall Street wear? I was happy that Sallie answered “You’re kidding me!”

Kudos to Sallie! If a woman dresses for success, she’ll make a good first impression, but if when she opens her mouth she can’t speak The Language of Power™ (which is the language of business outcomes), that positive first impression will fade away. On the other hand, if a woman is presentable and can speak The Language of Power, any poor first impression will fade away in an onslaught of impressive contributions. Which leads to our 5th tip:

5.     Learn to speak The Language of Power. When you self-promote with a focus on contributions to the business you’re able to do what we call “self-promote with grace and authenticity.” Why? Because you aren’t putting yourself above anyone else, you’re putting the organization ahead of everything else and demonstrating what Jim Collins refers to in Good to Great as that “paradoxical blend of personal humility and intense professional will.”

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls and Make the Most of Mentoring.
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Don't Grow Complacent - HBR Report Is Not As Good as it Seems!

While I was in Guatemala for our Leadership in Action program many of you sent me links to the Harvard Business Review blog asking: Are Women Better Leaders than Men? The authors' assertions are that in an analysis of their 360 feedback reports of over 7000 managers, women were rated as outperforming men in nearly all of them - actually 12 out of 16. BUT hold on a minute! There are 2 major failings in their research.

Let's use my definition of leadership to analyze the competencies they measure. "Leadership is using the greatness in you to achieve and sustain extraordinary outcomes by engaging the greatness in others." And note that our research indicates that when directors executives talk about the desirable skills for C-suite candidates and high potentials, 50% of the skills relate to achieving outcomes. These include skills related to business, strategic and financial acumen.

Here's how the reported competencies in the Folkman/Zenger study array.
  • Use the greatness in you: about 5/16
  • Achieve outcomes: about 5/16 (We were generous here! It could have been fewer.)
  • Engage others: about 6/16
As with nearly all the competency models we've analyzed, we see a disproportionate lack of emphasis on business, strategic and financial acumen (31%).

Another limitation of their research is that they aggregated the feedback from each manager's boss, peers and direct reports. This does nothing to explain why (as I've asked for years) if women are so good, why are so few of us at the top. Peers and direct reports have a limited impact on a manager's advancement. It's the opinion of the boss and others above the manager that weigh heavily an advancement decisions.

Given these concerns, here is the comment I left:
In the final analysis, advancement depends heavily on the perceptions of a candidate's boss and other higher level managers - especially perceptions about key business, strategic and financial skills. Both the importance of business, strategic and financial acumen and the impact of the boss appear to be understated. The the feedback of boss, peers and direct reports has been rolled together (or so the blog implies). Also, there is a significant under-representation of business, strategic and financial skills.

We'd be interested in knowing how the stats look if you report only the perceptions of people ABOVE the rated managers. There have been many studies where men and women are rated as fairly equal UNTIL the researchers examined only the boss' perceptions.

And what do you find on skills related to what we call The Missing 33%™?  Or, as our research indicates, are key business, strategic and financial skills under-measured in the evals. We've found that this is a significant pattern in Fortune 500 companies and accounts for a serious embedded gender bias that disadvantages women.

Don't be fooled by their report. Don't become complacent. You can't afford to believe that what companies measure formally is what helps women progress. And you can't believe that because studies like these show that women are perceived as "better leaders than men" those perceptions will serve to buoy your career.

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls and Make the Most of Mentoring.
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To Succeed in Life and Work

Before the holidays, Lisa Gates of She Negotiates started a discussion on ForbesWoman with this "burning question:" 
"What are the top 10 things you think all women need to learn to master to succeed in life and work?"
She sparked a pretty active discussion and here's what I observed about the replies. 

As you might expect the VAST majority of the answers had to do with enhancing personal greatness. Solid gold advice such as: believe that you're capable, take control of your life, discover your purpose, learn constantly, appreciate life, know your priorities and master emotions.

The second most common answers had to do with engaging others. These were significantly fewer of these comments which included: network strategically, delegation, ask for help, and teamwork.

There was virtually no guidance on the importance of developing and demonstrating business, strategic and financial acumen - out of 63 commentaries - many with multiple answers, there were about 3.

I am disheartened by this because remember the question was what do women need to master to succeed in life AND WORK

Shanti Feldhahn points out in her book, The Male Factor, that women and men view the world differently - and this discussion illustrates her point. Women view the "work world" as a smaller circle within a larger "personal world" circle. The assumption derived from this view is that if we constantly work on enhancing our personal greatness we will inevitably succeed at work. Men view the "work world" and the "personal world" as separate circles, each with its own set of rules. And while to me this is a less appealing construction, to ignore it in our search for career succes is perilous.

While it is true that honing our personal greatness will lead to success in life, it is simply not true that enhancing our personal greatness will naturally lead to success in work. As you know by now, success at work requires the development and demonstration of business, strategic and financial acumen. But that's not what I added to the discussion.

My answer to Lisa's question was that among the top 10 things all women need to master to succeed in life and work is this:  
To understand the difference between personal, professional and leadership excellence and act to develop all three.
Here's what I meant and why this advice is so powerful. Imagine 3 concentric circles. 
  1. At the center is personal excellence. Personal excellence is the core of what we need to navigate career and life successfully. All the advice about personal greatness is important here and working on this is fundamental. I know a woman who has twice run away from tough feedback. While she will continue to achieve a certain level of success...it's obvious that she is limited because she hasn't embraced the feedback.
  2. The second circle surrounding personal excellence is professional excellence. Professional excellence involves mastering one or more domains of action for example engineering, human resources, scientific research and/or parenting. This entails acquiring the body of knowledge, staying current and honing related skills such as your interpersonal skills. As I'm writing I'm thinking of Lynn Elsenhans, CEO of Sunoco who took increasingly responsible positions in industry organizations as she progressed in her career.
  3. The third circle is leadership excellence...and, as you know, this draws on personal excellence/greatness (including professional skills) but requires that you go further to hone business, strategic and financial acumen - not to mention strong engagement skills. This calls to mind Anne Mulcahy who as she assumed the responsibilities of CEO of Xerox was aided in developing financial acumen by an employee in the finance department. Or of Ginni Rometty, who received mentorship on developing external strategic relationships in the months before stepping into the CEO role at IBM. 
As I point out in , putting on the mantle of leadership is absolutely necessary for success at work - no matter your level. The demands of today's volatile marketplace means that everyone is paid to lead - to use her personal greatness to achieve and sustain extraordinary outcomes by engaging the greatness in others.
By all means, lhone your personal greatness or excellence. And continue on. Cultivate your professional excellence and your leadership excellence. These together will help you succeed in life and work.

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls.
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Why Women MBAs Do Less Well Than Men?

A while ago I sent a colleague who is a strong critical thinker our new research on gender dynamics that constrict talent pipelines. The findings motivated him to rethink some of their talent development strategies. In addition, he sent along this question.
"I’m curious why female business and MBA grads don’t fare as well as male business and MBA grads.  Both graduate with similar education and training. Any thoughts?"  
Of course I had thoughts and in a few minutes waiting for a meeting, here are the reasons I came up with.
  1. Women with MBAs tend to do better than women without, so the MBA does represent an advantage. Of the 19 F500 women CEOs I've studied at least 6 have MBAs, 3 have other masters and one has her J.D. (don't have info about all the others)
  2. Stereotypes still come into play - negative stereotypes about women and business, positive stereotypes about men and business, stereotypes beneath assumptions about women who are mothers, women take care - men take charge, etc.
  3. Henry Mintzberg argues (and I agree with him) that many MBA programs create financial analysts for Wall Street and not business leaders. So the making of business leaders is left to informal mentoring/sponsorship relationships that women have less access to (see #4, 7 & 8).
  4. Some men in business leadership positions are uncomfortable mentoring women.
  5. Women opt off the career track for many reasons.
  6. Women aren't considered for operations leadership positions.
  7. Women don't choose to go into operations - stay in staff functions.
  8. Women don't ask for advancement - wait to be rewarded
  9. Men don't ask women their career aspirations.
  10. Having business acumen through an MBA program doesn't mean women know how to demonstrate it (or that they will be in positions to - see 6 & 7 above).
  11. Women leave for better jobs in other companies because their efforts don't get them ahead.
  12. Most mentoring programs focus on the creation of a trusting relationship and good manners (follow through on commitments, be on time) instead of how to use a mentoring relationship to develop a deeper understanding of the business, how decisions are made at higher levels, etc.
...there are probably others as well. 

Do you have others to offer?

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

What's Love Got To Do With It?

About every other year I use February to talk about love in the organizational context. This year I'm inspired by a presentation I saw Brendon Burchard make in which he said that at the end of our lives, each of us wants to be able to give positive answers to 3 questions:
  1. Did I live?
  2. Did I love?
  3. Did I matter?
Too often these questions make us think about life outside of work. But they apply equally to life at work - as a matter of fact, they track with our definition of leadership.

So, what's love look like at work? First, know that when I speak about love at work, I am not talking about the American over-emphasis on sexual intimacy. This should go without being said, but it’s safer to explicitly define what I mean by loving at work. Here goes.

Loving at work means 5 things. What I had to say is too long for this post, but you can read the rest here.

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

The Role of Mindset in Advancing & Retaining Women

Back in the 1970s, progressive companies addressed the challenge of women's advancement issues with many tools including multi-day workshops that directly surfaced and addressed gender-based stereotypes. Does that surprise you? It probably does because since then, companies avoid this topic like the plague. This in spite of the fact that studies continue to point to barriers created by gender-based expectations and assumptions.

For example, McKinsey the global consulting firm has reported that:
“Of all the forces that hold women back, however, none are as powerful as entrenched beliefs. While companies have worked hard to eliminate overt discrimination, women still face the pernicious force of mindsets that limit opportunity Managers — male and female — continue to take viable female candidates out of the running, often on the assumption that the woman can’t handle certain jobs and also discharge family obligations.”
In anticipation of the day when companies once again are ready to take action on the fact that mindsets drive talent development decisions and actions, we've been tracking over 15 gender-based mindsets, how they influence the actions of people managers and actions managers can take to counter their "pernicious force". A small number of our clients in the U.S. have created opportunities to explore these dynamics.

When the issue of quotas for board positions was all over the European press, we predicted that the appetite for tackling this dynamic would grow in Europe. Many countries have framed the issue of women's advancement more broadly as an issue of gender equality. What excites me about this is that we've always held that the absence of women at the top is a result of 3 factors:

  1. Women's skills, knowledge and attitudes about themselves and men.
  2. Men's skills, knowledge and attitudes about themselves and women.
  3. Formal and informal policies and practices of organizations. 
For four decades, organizations have resolutely addressed #1 and #3. This has resulted in some progress. But without an exploration of #2, progress will continue to be glacially slow and as uneven as a potholed city street.
    What is your organization doing to help men in people management positions examine the impact of their gender-related mindsets? If they're ready to tackle this factor, let us know. We have the tools to support them.

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