Be Your Own Mentor: Strategies from Top Women on the Secrets of Successby Sheila Wellington, Betty Spence
Surprising secrets of success from some of America's women leaders; all the things a mentor would tell you are revealed in this mentor-in-a-book. Sheila Wellington, the president of Catalyst, draws on Catalyst research, contacts, and know-how to tell you how to understand the unspoken rules in the real world of work today and how to get ahead.
Catalyst studies reveal that having a mentor is the crucial key to success at work, and it's the single advantage men usually have, and women usually don't. Even at the best organizations for women, there is still a shortage of mentors. Be Your Own Mentor becomes that mentor for you, providing through stories and eye-opening advice a step-by-step guide to advancement. How to master the art of networking, how to create opportunities to gain experience and visibility, how to manage time, how to negotiate salary, and much, much more is discussed, as you learn from leading women how they got where they are, the mistakes they feel they've made along the way, and how they created lives of achievement and satisfaction. Hear from women such as Carly Fiorina (CEO, Hewlett-Packard), Cathleen Black (president, Hearst Magazines), Judith Rodin (president, University of Pennsylvania), and Andrea Jung (president and CEO, Avon). From that first resume all the way to the CEO's office, Be Your Own Mentor guides you along your path to success.
Be Your Own Mentor gives advice from top women on how to:
Devise a short-term and long-term career strategy
Gain visibility in the workplace and in your field
Create opportunities to gain valuable experience
Change your career path
Balance work and family
And much, much more...
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Read an Excerpt
JUST THE FACTS:*
12.5% of corporate officers are women.
4.1% of top earners are women.
6.2% of top managers are women (chairman, vice chairman, CEO, president,
chief operating officer, senior executive vice president, executive vice president); 154 women versus 2,488 men.
7.3% of "line"-revenue-generating-positions are held by women.
*2000 Catalyst Census of Women Corporate Officers and Top Earners (New
York: Catalyst, 2000).
I'd like to be able to tell you that the glass ceiling has cracked and fallen in shards on the floors of executive suites everywhere. Like you,
I've noted in the national media something of a "been there, done that"
attitude about women's advancement in business, government, the professions, and academia. Every time one woman makes it, whenever there's any good news on the gender front, there are those who rush to believe the problem's solved.
A 1999 lead editorial in The New York Times noted, "There is still institutional resistance to women at some companies. Until recently, few companies have had women in senior posts who could serve as role models and mentors for younger women."1 If you look even closer at Fortune 500
companies, you find that women hold slightly more than 6 percent of the most senior executive positions (chair, vice chair, CEO, president, COO,
SEVP, EVP) and occupy slightly over 11 percent of Fortune 500 corporate board seats; 1.9 percent of board directors and 1.4 percent of corporate officers are women of color. Check the masthead on the stationery at most law firms, management consulting firms, or securities firms, and you'll note few women partners.
A small number of women have reached positions of real authority in their organizations. These pioneers serve as role models, as heroes for striving executive women. I'm encouraged by the giant strides some women have made,
but primogeniture prevails in business. Mostly, men in the top jobs continue to choose other men to succeed them. The invisible biases that keep women out of the top jobs-first dubbed the "glass ceiling" by The Wall
Street Journal in 1987-are present in all areas of the work world. Yes,
increasingly, there are panes that show a crack where women have slipped through. But in all too many organizations, the broken glass is replaced pronto. We need more deferred maintenance in the glass ceiling department.
Women in our groundbreaking survey Women in Corporate Leadership* had reached senior management positions in several areas-human resources,
public relations, finance, information management-yet the majority told
Catalyst they often felt like outsiders, subject to stereotypes and excluded from the informal networks that operate in corporations. As they were coming up in the corporation, they couldn't do business over lunch or dinner at the clubs that remained male bastions throughout the sixties and seventies. Nor could they swing a club at 8 a.m. on the golf links with the
COO, who might pass along a golf buddy's name to the CEO as candidate for managing an overseas operation (women weren't allowed to tee off until after noon at most country clubs where senior executives played golf).*
Things are getting better, but if we aren't at TGIF with the guys, we miss both the grape and the grapevine about the exciting opening in marketing.
And we sure miss what's going down in the men's room. Worse, sometimes we don't know what we're missing or even that we are missing anything at all.
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE WORKPLACE
As your mentor, I want to give the facts to you straight: Lots of us have been missing out. The level playing field is too often a myth. These days,
women and men may start out at the same level, but a gap seems to open up between them as their careers develop. Women's experience in the work world is inevitably different from men's-something that is not very pleasant to hear. But take it from me, you can either delude yourself with false hopes or face reality and learn how to deal with it. It's hard to do both. The misconceptions that follow are all variations on a theme, but if you read each one, you may finally "get it."
Workplace Misconception 1: It won't matter that
I'm a woman.
Fact: The question is not what's legal or what's right; it's a fact of life: gender by and large determines career experiences. Being female simply is different. How far you get, the jobs you land, the kinds of opportunities you're offered, the salary you receive . . . all of these will probably be different for you as a woman than they are for your male colleagues.
In 1962, when Catalyst was founded, it was widely believed that by the year
2000, gender would be inconsequential in the workplace. The 1990s showed otherwise. Catalyst's annual accounting of women board members, corporate officers, and top earners, along with our surveys of high-level corporate women and of chief executives in the Fortune 500, documents the existence of a glass ceiling, why it continues, and how entrenched it is. Outside the private sector, in nonprofits, institutions, and academia, women often find the same situation.
Among the small number of women who have made it to the highest tier of management, I occasionally hear one say that being a woman hasn't affected her progress. I smile and think that this accomplished, title-holding pioneer woman is terribly lucky and, for sure, most unusual. For every one of these fortunate women, hundreds say the opposite. Being a woman does matter. Only two women serve as chief executives of Fortune 500 companies
(still not even one percent), with six more in the Fortune 501-1000. Men make up 93.2 percent of top management in America's leading corporations.
Women in Corporate Leadership included interviews of Fortune 1000 chief executives and of high-ranking women in their companies. The CEOs'
responses to questions about women's progress revealed a lack of awareness of the glass ceiling and its causes. The women, though, saw it all too clearly. The women's ceiling is the CEO's carpeted floor. The survey asked,
"What holds women back from the highest ranks?" Chief executives answered that women "lack line management [revenue-generating] experience" and
"haven't been in the pipeline long enough." The women in the survey agreed that a lack of line experience did hold them back. But instead of listing this first, as the CEOs did, they listed it third. The top reasons they listed reveal why they lack that essential line experience.
The biggest barriers to women's advancement, women said, include being stereotyped by their male managers and being excluded from informal networks. It's the factors that are indiscernible to the chief executives-but glaringly obvious to women-that keep us from being assigned to key jobs and gaining the experience we need to advance. What gets in women's way are the unrecognized biases about abilities, commitment,
availability, flexibility, assertiveness. And it's also about not having the right connections. Women of color especially stress that being outsiders is a key reason for their lack of progress.
The discrepancy between the chief executives' perspective and that of the most successful women at their companies exposes the extent of the problem.
In fact, women were more than twice as likely as CEOs to consider factors in the culture of the job itself as barriers to advancement. The men at the top rarely see this; it hasn't been part of their experience. CEOs were more than twice as likely as the women to fault "time in the pipeline,"
meaning they think it's only a matter of time before women catch up. The women know from their own years of experience that time hasn't dislodged the barriers so far.
Although our study included corporate women only, all the research in other fields, such as academia and the nonprofit world (and I've read just about everything), strongly suggests that the situation is the same everywhere.
From the Pioneers: Bias is an everyday reality.
Patricia "Tosh" Barron (Clinical Associate Professor, Stern School of
Business, New York University), whose successful managerial career at Xerox proved that women can succeed in positions previously held by men, says,
"You're always, consciously or unconsciously, under a microscope as a woman. There's still the feeling that to really advance, you've got to be better than the men. Your challenge is to communicate how you're up to the tasks."
Judith Rodin (President, University of Pennsylvania, and first woman president of an Ivy League institution): "Clearly, there's still a glass ceiling in academia, although not in department chairmen so much as there used to be. Women leaders are still unusual in medicine, an area just beginning to be broken into."
I do see more and more organizations recognizing that their policies and practices hinder or exclude women, and they are starting to make important changes. Some are doing it because of legal pressure, some because it's right, and others because it's good business. Even though you'll certainly be better off working at one of these places (see Chapter 2 for how to find them), you'll still need to know what challenges you'll face-and what to do about them. The workplace is experiencing a slow evolution, not a revolution, toward gender blindness, and we have a long way to go.
Why? Because men designed the workplace, and they designed it to fit their own needs. That's only to be expected, and for a long time it worked well.
It doesn't work as well, however, for the millions of women who have flowed into the workforce since the 1960s (and, by extension, since many men are deeply connected with those women, it's not working as well now for men either). Over and over, women of ambition, talent, and commitment have run into barriers that are apparently invisible to many men.
Although these barriers often result from unintended and unexamined assumptions by men about women, that doesn't make them any easier to circumvent. Maybe men didn't aim to keep women out when they set up the ways of doing business. I think the majority don't mean to exclude us now.
But until women play a major role in revamping the business culture, we simply have to learn to contend with rules we did not make and that don't always make sense for us.
Workplace Misconception 2: Sure, there's a mythology about women, but it doesn't affect real women; it won't affect me.
Fact: No matter how competent, strong, talented, or smart you are, the myths about women can cloud your future when you least expect it. These myths can lurk anywhere-at law firms, accounting firms, management consulting firms, and banks, in corporations large and small, at not-for-profits in all shapes and sizes, in government agencies, and in academia. You cannot hide from others' preconceptions, but you can debunk them with reality.
Here are some common myths about women in the workplace:
— Women are less committed to their jobs than men are.
— Women can't or won't put in the hours that are required to get the job done.
— Women are not qualified or prepared for the job.
— Women are not aggressive enough.
— Women don't take risks.
— Women become pregnant and then stay home.
— Women won't relocate or can't travel for work.
— Women aren't rainmakers.
— Women don't need to work, because men support them.
On what are these myths founded? Some on fear and some on truth. Yes, it is true that women become pregnant, but not all of us and not for long. (And frankly, I never felt healthier than during my two pregnancies.) As one high-level woman put it to an appalled boss who did not want to lose her,
"I'm not going to be pregnant forever." It is true that most new mothers want to take maternity leave, but most of them resume work as fully committed as ever; in 1995, 83 percent returned within six months after childbirth.2
It's true that some women don't want to relocate for personal or family reasons. But I know great numbers of women who gladly move for their work.
Male managers often don't know this. If you sense that you're being denied opportunities simply because you're a woman, it's up to you to change things. Here's what you can do:
1.Bring up the subject.
2.Make it clear that you as an individual are open to relocation,
travel, risks . . . whatever it takes to rise.
3.If nothing changes after a decent interval, remind your manager again.
4.If there's still no change, consider looking for a new job.
What I consider the most pernicious myth is that when women leave jobs,
they go home to stay. Whenever I talk with the media, I try to quash this myth. How many women do you know who can afford such a luxury? The numbers from Catalyst's studies and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics make it clear that women are in the workplace to stay.* When women leave an organization, it's often because they've hit impenetrable barriers. Many leave to start their own businesses, which women are doing at twice the rate of men.3 Or they resurface at other organizations that have already tackled some of these issues and have implemented changes that afford an environment conducive to the retention and advancement of women.* If you are fortunate enough to find such an organization early in your work life,
your career progress may match your expectations.
Workplace Misconception 3: As soon as I prove myself, they'll forget the gender thing.
Fact: Senior managers are still mostly men, and many male managers who haven't worked with many women tend to make generalizations about them.? If their wives don't work, they may think it's weird that you want to. If the women they know aren't assertive, they may doubt, for instance, whether any woman can nail down a new account. If they've lost one woman to maternity leave, they'll expect all other women to follow suit. If you have children,
they may even suspect that you can't be a good mother if you're working.
Obviously, these beliefs can make a manager deal differently with a woman than with a man. He might not offer a married woman an assignment that requires relocation, especially a woman with children, because he assumes she won't want (or be able) to move her family. Or he might assign a lucrative sales territory to a man with a macho style rather than to a service-oriented woman, even though her numbers show her style works.
At most organizations, managers deciding who gets an assignment naturally choose someone they know and trust. If they hang out at lunch or after work or on the golf course with the guys who work for them, it's these faces they'll think of when opportunities arise. The informal methods many organizations still use to decide who gets an assignment or a promotion leave a lot of room for ingrained bias. Some organizations do use job competencies and formal review processes, and some trend-setting professional firms review how assignments are made, but such methods are far from universal.
Meet the Author
Sheila Wellington has been president of Catalyst since 1993. Prior to joining Catalyst, she was the first woman Secretary of Yale University. Catalyst, a nonprofit research and advisory organization, works to advance women in business. Called groundbreaking, by The Wall Street Journal, Catalyst is the leading source of information on women in business, and for the past four decades has had the knowledge and tools to help women and companies maximize their potential.
Betty Spence, Ph.D., is a freelance writer and journalist and former vice president of communications at Catalyst.
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Be good at what you do and master the art of networking. Good advice to be sure ¿ but without visibility, your career can come to a grinding halt. To really take charge of your career there is no substitute for creating a strategic 'personal' publicity plan. Your boss won't do it, and neither will your mentor. It is up to YOU. People have to know who you are, what you stand for, and why they should hire you, promote you, or do business with you. That's really taking charge of your career.