Photo Credit: Peter Werkman
Margaret Heffernan poses a thought provoking question in her Fortune Magazine article titled: "Why Do Only 26 Fortune 500 Companies Have Female CEOs?”. She describes her conclusions via two (2) phenomenon (direct quotes):
Covering: A term used to describe the ways in which outside groups – women, minorities – try to cover up, minimize or disguise their difference. For women, this may manifest in any number of ways: never talking about domestic life, feigning an insincere interest in golf or football, steering clear of discussions on diversity.
Calculating: Research shows that women are just as willing to compete in a game if – and it’s a big if – they believe they have a good chance of winning. In the Olympics, women entered confident that they competed on a level playing field – on which they could, and did, win. At work, women are very good at gauging their chances, eschewing contests in which they’re likely to fail.
So the challenge for women isn’t that they lack competitiveness or drive. It’s that they are shrewd estimators of risk and therefore spend too much energy trying to fit in, instead of standing out. And one way not to stand out is not to look ambitious or to ask for stretch assignments that we might not get.
That Highlighted Quote Concerns Me
I’m a Dad and Uncle of Two Remarkable Daughters and Four Incredible Nieces. My daughters are still young (10 and 3 years old). Two nieces are in university (the other two are pre-high school and kindergarten). Every time I see them it’s a gift. Time vanishes as I see their personalities, self-image, and self-confidence transform.
Please Don’t Jump to Conclusions by this Article’s Title. My mission as a parent (and uncle) isn’t to develop the next Most Powerful Women in a Fortune Magazine Most Admired Company. My goal as a parent and role model (I hope a good one on both counts) is to guide and encourage my female loved ones to:
- Choose To Stand Out
- Define What Standing Out Means For Them
- Make Smart Choices Leading to Healthy, Productive, Fulfilling, and Independent Lives and Careers
I Value Relationships with Women Who Stand Out
I Gravitate to Proactive and Strategic Thinkers. I’m grateful some of these smart, generous women provide their friendship and advice. Others, I have yet to earn the privilege of meeting face-to-face. I’m lucky they’ve granted permission to directly communicate via emails, social media, blog commenting, etc.
Building and nurturing these relationships are important to:
- Benefit Each Other. I hope I help them as much as they help me.
- Learn and Understand The Female Perspective. I don’t know what I don’t know. I seek first-hand experience from women I know and trust. That’s the only way I’ll be able to help my loved ones face situations when I have no frame of reference (like what Heffernan describes in her Fortune article).
- Overcome Adversity. Heffernan’s article and work details unique challenges for female executives targeting C-Level careers.
6 C-Suite Traits Emerge Among Female Business Executives Who Stand Out
Forgive Me for Focusing on Business World Examples. I’m aware of success patterns in other fields such as the arts, healthcare, entertainment, and education. I’m a marketing and corporate strategy geek. My stock and trade: identifying and uncovering trends/patterns from multiple industries.
Here’s What I Observe. These are the patterns and traits I am going to advise my daughters and nieces to practice so they stand out:
- They Practice the 4 R’s: Risk, Relentlessness, Resilience, and Reinvention
- They Write With Purpose
- They Possess the Courage to Speak Up
- They Connect Others
- They Deliver Generosity (with a Stick of Butter and a Smile)
- They Fake It, Till They Become It
1. They Practice the Four R’s: Risk, Resilience, Relentlessness and Reinvention
I Read Those Words and Think of Julie Roehm. Julie embodies safe is risky (and risky is safe). I’ve tracked Julie's career moves since 2005. She was THE Marketing Strategy Purple Cow of the automotive industry. She could have stayed in Detroit, but she took a risk in accepting a new challenge in the retail industry with Walmart.
It didn’t work.
I respect her for leaving an industry she knew like Coach Pat Summitt knows championships. If she stayed in Detroit, Julie could have continued making a great salary and building her sizable expertise and reputation. She took on a high-profile risk to learn if she could adapt and excel in a different corporate culture and industry (direct quote from a Fast Company 2009 article):
"I wanted to be able to show that I can adapt anywhere, I can do anything. The thing I learned about myself is that I'm not a full-on chameleon, and there's nothing wrong with that."
Julie Roehm Learned and Recovered from a HUGE Career Setback. That type of public, high-flyer mishap would have crushed most people. Not Julie.
She battled back for five years before becoming SAP’s Senior Vice President and Chief Storyteller. During her wilderness years, she hustled and scrapped like a Silicon Valley startup to create a dominating social media presence and reinvent her personal brand.
Julie was Relentless. She Showed Up Everyday. I’m glad she did. I’d miss her marketing talent, charisma, and chutzpah if she didn't. All successful women (insert your definition of success here) understand and practice the power of reinvention. Here’s great advice from my reinvention hero — the brilliant Dorie Clark:
Julie Reinvented Herself into a Multi-Media Storyteller. She's fearless where this might or might not work intersect. Check out her presentation from the 2013 Inbound Marketing Summit on Customer Storytelling: Elevating the Voice of the Customer in a B to B World. If this isn’t great storytelling AND putting yourself out there, I’m People Magazine’s 2014 Sexiest Man Alive (not Thor):
I’ll Counsel My Daughters and Nieces to Seek Out and Welcome that "I’m Afraid Feeling.” If they have that feeling, they’re on track to doing or making something important. If it doesn’t work out, I want them to have the self-confidence and awareness they WILL recover. Because, they’ll be wiser and smarter for attempting "whatever it was."
2. They Write With Purpose
Everything Ann Handley Writes is a Gift to Humankind. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 63 different times, Ann Handley’s the best writer in the business. If you’re serious about your writing and content marketing:
“How Can I Write Like That?” I ask that question every time I read and study Ann’s work. I can’t (and I wouldn’t expect my daughters and nieces to either). There can be only one.
Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content is One of 2014’s Most Important Business Books. Thank goodness Ann teaches great writing. She poured her heart and soul into this book (or as Ann says “like giving birth to a Volkswagen”). Invest in yourself and buy Ann’s book. I promise you’ll benefit from her knowledge, her hard-earned talent, and enormous heart.
Writing Matters. Writing with Purpose Matters More. The media’s endless joy in working up well-meaning, America parents that our children choke on the dust of their global counterparts in the STEM 100 meter dash ignores an important fact: writing and storytelling skills activate financing for ideas and inventions of talented students and entrepreneurs.
Here’s Ann purpose for Everybody Writes (direct quote from page eight):
What’s harder is to find a book that functions for marketers as part writing and story guide, part instructional manual on the ground rules of ethical publishing, and part straight talk on some muscle-building writing processes and habits.
What’s also hard to find is a book that distills some helpful ideas about the craft of content simply and (I hope) memorably, framed for the marketer and businessperson, as opposed to say, the novelist or essayist or journalist.
I wrote this book because I couldn’t find what I wanted—part writing guide, part handbook on the rules of good sportsmanship in content marketing, and all-around reliable desk companion for anyone creating or directing content on behalf of brands.
I’m Guarding Ann’s Book for My Daughters and Nieces Because A Significant Portion of Their Careers and Livelihoods Will Depend on It. That’s no overstatement. Whatever careers my daughters and nieces pursue, I’m advising them how writing well delivers lifelong competitive advantage. I'm guarding my hardcover and Kindle versions of Everybody Writes the way our German Shepherds express their protectiveness (with a “stranger/danger don’t mess with that book” 240 - 800 PSI stare).
3. They Possess the Courage to Speak Up ...
… and The Grit to Keep Speaking Up. Sallie Krawcheck thought she was done. More than once. I’ve followed Sallie’s career since her days as Wall Street’s Last Honest Analyst. I still have Sallie’s article from the March 21, 2005, Fortune Magazine Issue of “The Best Advice I Ever Got — Don’t Listen to the Naysayers (required daughter-niece reading).
Speaking Up Can Cost You Your Job. It cost Sallie hers as CitiGroup’s Chief Financial Officer and Head of Wealth Management. She published a follow-up LinkedIn article to "Ignore The Naysayers" with instructive advice on sticking to one’s personal principles (direct quotes from article’s conclusion):
I drew on this advice when I was a new research analyst and published less-than-rosy recommendations, when most of Wall Street was bullish and left me feeling exposed. I drew on it when senior executives of a couple of the companies I covered tried to have my boss fire me because they didn’t like that research. I drew on it when I was named Director of Research and we decided to take ourselves out of the investment banking business because we believed the client conflicts were too meaningful. And I drew on it in the recent market downturn, when my then-company and I disagreed on how to treat individual investors who had suffered investment losses from our products.
Those were important. But its greatest impact may have been in less-public ways. Early on, this advice enabled me to “find my voice.” There is plenty of research that shows women are less likely than men to speak up in business meetings or state their opinions;many report that it is because their upbringing conditioned them to not stand out and to wait their turn. But sometimes the meeting is over before their turn comes. Having the confidence that standing out need not be a point of shame – but indeed can be a point of pride, particularly for the right reasons – can make the world of difference….perhaps especially for us southern females.
Sallie Krawcheck’s Next Act: Owner, Entrepreneur, Investor, Reformer, and Connector. Her latest ventures are The Ellevate Network and Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund. I know she’ll succeed because she’s doing something she loves and has personal meaning. She’s badass tough. That grit and mental toughness accounts for everything when confronting adversity.
Speaking Up Means Sharing Your Experiences to Help Others. Sallie’s LinkedIn Influencer Articles are vital in career development. I love her articles not only because her insights benefit me but also because her experiences guide me as a parent. Here are some of my fave Krawcheck Classics:
4. They Connect Others
Remember The Connectors Malcolm Gladwell Describes in His Book, The Tipping Point? Gladwell discussed why the world’s Lois Weisbergs are influential and important. I’m blessed to know two in my life: Barbara (Barb) Karstrom and Kathryn (Kathy) Feldt. When I read these direct quotes from The Tipping Point, I think of Barb and Kathy:
Sprinkled among every walk of life, in other words, are a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. They are Connectors.
Connectors are important for more than simply the number of people they know. Their importance is also a function of the kinds of people they know.
They are people whom all of us can reach in only a few steps because, for one reason or another, they manage to occupy many different worlds and subcultures and niches.
The point about Connectors is that by having a foot in so many different worlds, they have the effect of bringing them all together.
It isn’t just the case that the closer someone is to a Connector, the more powerful or the wealthier or the more opportunities he or she gets. It’s also the case that the closer an idea or a product comes to a Connector, the more power and opportunity it has as well.
Barb and Kathy are Living Proof of Who You Know is What You Know. They’re wicked smart, resourceful, successful, and well-connected. They can talk to anyone about anything because each “has a foot in so many different worlds.” They understand the value (and discovery) of diversity in thought. When I lived in Chicago (Barb) and St. Louis (Kathy), they introduced me to different people I’d never meet on my own (or would have access to).
I’ve Never Forgotten Their Kindness and Generosity. If you’re a current or aspiring Chicago-based or St. Louis-based female executive who's serious about your business career, invest in yourself and build a relationship with either Barb or Kathy. I’ll advise my daughters and nieces to seek out the Barbs and Kathys.
Buy them lunch / breakfast and get to know them. Just don’t talk smack about the Chicago White Sox (Barb) or St. Louis Cardinals (Kathy) when you meet them...
…that may not go over so well.
5. They Deliver Generosity (With a Stick of Butter and a Smile)
That Attitude is Why Zena Weist Became and Continues to Be One of Kansas City’s Most Important Digital Strategy Leaders and Ambassadors. Zena (or “Z" as I affectionately call her) is wicked smart and accomplished. She’s a Gladwell Triple Threat: Connector, Maven and Saleswoman.
- Quoted in David Meerman Scott’s book, Real Time Marketing & PR (see pages 174 - 175 of David’s book; previous hyperlink connects to his promotional eBook).
The “stick of butter and a smile” reference comes from Jeremiah Owyang’s VentureBeat article: Here’s What Silicon Valley Can Learn from Good Old Midwestern Values. His great article highlights Zena’s thoughts on Midwestern values:
From Zena Weist of Kansas City, I learned about helping others, “A stick of butter and a smile, and no need to pay me back.”
I Learned That From Zena Too. These past six months, I benefited from her advice, knowledge, and connections so I could follow through on an important career change. I hope my daughters and nieces will practice how Z gives away abundance (without keeping score). There’s an important lesson (and movement) Jeremiah observes in Silicon Valley that’s relevant to delivering generosity (direct quote from his article):
The Midwestern value of helping others without expecting reciprocation is best summarized by the “stick of butter and a smile” axiom when a neighbor is in need. Silicon Valley’s traditional come-get-mine attitude rewards the disruptors and the fiercest competitors. While San Francisco boasts that nearly one of every eight residents are millionaires, a vast majority are not living at middle class standards and are struggling just to get by. The potential for a backlash is rapidly increasing.
Be Like Z. I hope the backlash Jeremiah writes about never comes to fruition. We can prevent it from happening one "stick of butter and a smile" at a time.
6. They Fake It Till They Become It
Susan Kare’s Advice For Young Designers Applies to Any Woman with an Opportunity for a Stretch Assignment. Kare has two (2) simple rules for designers: 1) Fake It Tlll You Make It and 2) Design Never Really Changes. When Susan Kare applied applied for Apple’s first-ever graphic designer position, she worked at a furniture store. She prepared for her interview by studying graphic design books from the Palo Alto library (direct article quotes):
Having designed many of the Mac's early system fonts such as Chicago, the (original) San Francisco, Geneva, and Monaco, Kare is one of the pioneers of early digital typography. But when she first applied to Apple, she was pulling her type design qualifications out of thin air.
"I was working at a furniture store at the time, and I didn't know the first thing about designing a typeface," she told me. "But I'd studied graphic design, so I said, 'How hard can it be?'" So Kare went to the Palo Alto Library and took out a number of books on typography. "I even brought them to my interview to prove I knew something about type, if anyone asked!" she laughs. "I went into it totally green."
She's not so green now. Here's a great video of Susan Kare sharing her design expertise:
Think About That. If Susan Kare listened to The Resistance, she wouldn’t have achieved designer history. So if my daughters or nieces ever experience self-doubt, I’m going to tell them to have the self-confidence and self-belief to "fake it till they make it." Or, as Dorie Clark of Reinventing YOU, teaches: “Fake It Till You Become It.”
Please let me know if you agree or disagree with my thoughts in the comments. If you disagree, I would love to hear from you. I’m also here to read, listen, and learn from YOUR PERSPECTIVE. Comments are open. So let’er rip!
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Tony Faustino is a marketing and corporate strategist. He thinks and writes about how The Internet reinvents marketing strategy in his personal blog, Social Media ReInvention. Follow his tweets @tonyfaustino or circle him on Google+.