Make Room at the Table: A Case for Women to Ask for Space at the Table and for Men to Make Room

Excerpt from a talk I gave on August 9, 2012 at Meadows Museaum, Southern Methodist University as Keynote Speaker at the event “The Art of Business with a Woman’s Touch: Benefiting from Perspectives in the C-Suite” hosted by FEI Dallas, and subsequented published in November 2012 by FEI San Diego.

Only 41 of the CEOs of the Fortune 1000 companies are women. In a world where women number 3.5 bllion ot 50.2% of the total population, 4.1% is not acceptable.

First step: Women, pull up a chair and speak up

Ladies, you have to be in the room to be counted. Don’t leave the office early when everyone else is staying late. The real work is building relationships that will help throughout your career and make you effective and valuable. The business world is like any sport with its written and unwritten rules. Like the best sportsmen, you have to play long and hard to become good. These rules are never taught and there’s no manual. You can only piece them together by not leaving the field.

A few years ago I was interviewing candidates for two high level positions. Of the finalists, the men consistently projected more confidence and asked for money money. The women were better qualified, but modest about their abilities and passively accepted the number I gave them. It is an expensive mistake that compounds over the life of your career. Ask for what you’re worth.

Next: Gentlemen, you have to make room. We need your help.

If women could do it on their own, we would already be there. At the entry level, women make up about 30% of the workforce. It is only at the higher levels, that the number of women starts to thin out. There are a number of reasons for this and a lot that we are women neex to do, but what us ckear to me is that our make colleages have to help.

Not because it is the nice or fair thing to do. But because, in the words of Val Keating, CEO fo Barclay Card: “Resist the temptation to hire in your own image. Teams with the broadest diversity in thinking and experience are, by far, the most powerful.

The most powerful. Not the nicest or the most balanced. Wouldn’t that be a great team to have leading your organization?

 

 

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