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Ride the T-Rex
Much has been written about the high numbers of women—some 30 percent—who drop out of the corporate game, selecting themselves out of the management track and choosing part-time or entrepreneurial work. This book is for the other 70 percent of women managers who want to win, who love the power and complexity of big business, and who dream about finding and climbing through the windows in the glass ceiling. It is also for the millions of women who want to make the next strategic move in their career or who simply want to know what it takes to make it to the highest corporate levels—so they can evaluate whether they have the desire and the personal and professional skills to make it.
No book could present the ideal formula, the perfect combination of abilities, behaviors, and decisions that will guarantee your advancement to the top executive tier. Every individual, every company is different. What this book will do is point out the commonalities that 200 of America's highest-level executive women share and the advice they want to impart to those coming up behind them. You will be able to use their insights to plan your ideal career at whatever level is right for you.
Who Are T-Rex Women?
The women in this book are courageous, adventurous, and strong. They are able to stay atop some of the most powerful corporations in the world. They are among the pioneers. They are part of the first significant wave of professional women to take their place in the executive suites of major corporations. With anaverage of twenty years' experience behind them, this small vanguard, now mainly in their mid-forties to mid-fifties, are in many cases the first and only women who have ever reached the senior levels of their corporations.
They are women like Carlene Ellis, a Vice President at Intel Corporation. In her early fifties, Carlene is decisive, direct, and candid. When I first met her, she was dressed casually in slacks and a tailored cotton blouse, her graying blond hair carefully coiffed, a navy blazer draped neatly over the back of her chair. Seated behind the desk in a minimalist ten-by-fifteen cubicle (all Intel employees, even executives, have cubicles), decorated only with a laptop and table and chair for visitors, she seemed bright, challenging—a forward thinker. At any given moment during our conversation, she was two thoughts ahead of me.
The desire to win motivates Ellis every day. "I want to be the person making the decisions," she told me matter-of-factly, "and I love the challenge of meeting seemingly impossible goals. Running this organization," she added, "is not at all like riding a tiger. It's more like riding a T-Rex. You can't control it, but you try to stay on top of it and guide it in the right direction. The thrill for me is to try to keep the organization disciplined, creative, and ahead of the curve."
I like that analogy. Corporations, like the Tyrannosaurus rex, can be fierce, unpredictable, unwieldy, lumbering, archaic, commanding, and not easily understood. They are often difficult to get one's arms around—and it's a tough climb to the top. Like never before, some of the largest corporations are even faced with extinction—through acquisition, deregulation, or changing technological, economic, or consumer trends. Yet the women who have made it into the highest executive ranks seek out and relish the challenge. They even revel in it.
Liz Fetter, former senior executive at Pacific Telesis, SBC, and US West Communications, and now President and Chief Operating Officer of NorthPoint Communications, is such a woman. In her late thirties, Liz sat in a beautiful corner office, chicly dressed in a designer suit and scarf when I first met her, and she exuded femininity. But she was also direct, thoughtful, assertive. I could sense that she valued protocol and enjoyed the power and prestige of her position. Liz has been motivated by her desire to influence results on a large scale. "I love to lead," she declared, "and I love to win. I work like a dog. I am very clear about what I want to do, and I do what it takes to fulfill my ambitions. To make it, you really have to know yourself, the system, and the game you're playing."
Anne McNamara, General Counsel of American Airlines; Karen Elliott House, President of International for Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal; Linda Keene, Vice President of Market Development at American Express; Ellen Gordon, President of Tootsie Roll Industries; Terri Dial, President of Wells Fargo Bank—these are all women who have found a way to achieve the highest levels of success. Their successes have been celebrated and studied. They have been singled out as curiosities, and praised and criticized for storming the barricades of a man's world. And standing right behind them, emerging from their shadow, is the next generation: thousands, perhaps millions of women just like you who are crowding the mid-management ranks of corporations and thinking about their next move.
In the 1960s, fewer than 30 percent of college women believed that they would be working at age thirty. Perhaps this is partially attributable to the fact that women were denied access to the nation's most prestigious undergraduate programs—Harvard did not admit female students until 1963, Yale until 1969, and Columbia until 1983. (Although it's true that women's colleges developed many professional pioneers, their alumni networks were not as powerful as those emanating from the men's colleges because they had few graduates in the upper echelons of business.) But today, women earn more than 35 percent of MBAs and more than 42 percent of law degrees (that's up from 3.6 and 5.4 percent, respectively, in 1970), many from Ivy League institutions that were closed to them as recently as thirty or forty years ago. Their overwhelming numbers are dramatically changing the face of corporations. Women now make up 48.9 percent of all managerial and professional jobs—fully double the percentage they held two decades ago.
Common sense dictates that, in time, many women should make it to the top of the corporate pyramid—the prized corner offices of CEO, chairman, president, and other top executives. The plain fact is, however, that only a handful has leaped from mid-management to the highest corporate levels. In 1997, merely 3 percent of top executives in America's 500 largest companies were women.
Does this mean that there is still a glass ceiling? Many mid-level women believe that it exists because they feel they've hit it, and they're struggling to get through. However, most of the senior executive women with whom I've spoken don't believe there is a glass ceiling because they never encountered it! That's not to say that there weren't obstacles in their way or behaviors they had to learn. Although progress for women at the upper echelons of the corporate world is still slow, I too am beginning to see that today the glass ceiling is no longer the impenetrable barrier it once was—a barrier that had to be shattered by law or custom. In reality, it has a few windows through which an increasing number of female executives like Carlene Ellis and Liz Fetter are making their way to the top.
In this book you will learn about the common characteristics, behaviors, and experiences of these outstanding women. In their own words, they will tell you what helped them succeed and which pitfalls you would be wise to avoid. They will provide you with a composite role model and a road map for your own corporate climb.
The top executive women whom you will meet in these pages are all enthusiastic about sharing their insights and experiences. All of them know from personal experience how very difficult it is for women to make their way through the corporate labyrinth. Now they want to share their knowledge with those coming up behind them. Most agree with Gale Duff-Bloom, President of Company Communications and Corporate Image at J. C. Penney, who told me, "Women need courage and support to go for the top jobs. We need to help empower other corporate women—to influence their success and give them the confidence and tools it will take for them to be leaders."
Questions and Confusions
In her mid-thirties, Sara Drozdowski is a fast-rising product manager for Fannie Mae in Washington, D.C. "I'm ambitious," Drozdowski insisted. "I want to keep moving up the corporate ladder. But I know that competence and intelligence by themselves won't get me there. I think that today things are easier for women in corporations than they were ten or fifteen years ago, but at the same time I believe that advancing to the next level is still harder for women than it is for men. What I need to know is, what are the unwritten rules? What are the qualities I need to cultivate to move up? How did other women do it?"
Like Drozdowski, you too may be hungry for knowledge that will help you evaluate your career choices and increase your odds of attaining the highest corporate levels. You too may benefit from other women's hindsight and experience as you reach crucial decision points in your career. You may be confused by questions such as:
· What does it take to reach the upper levels of my company? Do I measure up? Is this even something I want to do?
· Should I make a lateral move to broaden my base of experience—or take a prestigious or lucrative promotion that might not, in the long run, take me to the top levels?
· Should I make a risky career move, perhaps to a far-flung location, that would give me profit-and-loss experience—or go for a safer staff promotion at corporate headquarters?
· Where should I draw the line between my business and personal lives? Is it even possible to reach the upper tiers and have a personal life or family?
Until now there were few answers. Unfortunately, the lessons that the current wave of women executives have learned—and the passages through the windows in the glass ceiling they created—have not yet been passed along to the next generation. In truth, the women who have reached the corporate pinnacle are so few and often so burdened with obligations that they cannot effectively serve as coaches and mentors to the many women coming up behind them.
In this book, I will present the crucial guidance that potential executive women need to go to the top. Drawing on in-depth interviews that I conducted with 200 top executive women positioned within one or two steps of the CEOs at Fortune 1000 companies (with annual revenues over $800 million), I have created a road map for you, the aspiring executive on the rise. I will instruct you on how to recognize and pass through the gaps in the glass ceiling that others have identified before you.
This is a forward-looking book, one that focuses on what works rather than on the many impediments to advancement. And I have consciously written it that way. Consider this: In a high-performance driving school I recently attended, the instructor warned us that we tend to steer toward what we're looking at. For instance, if the car goes into a spin, and we focus on not hitting a tree, simply by looking at the tree we tend to point the car in that direction. The same principle can be applied to our careers. Indeed, I have often found that we achieve what we focus on. If we focus on obstacles, that may be exactly what we encounter!
Consequently, throughout this book I emphasize the ways that you can succeed rather than dwelling, like so many others do, on the reasons why you may not. That's not to say that the road to the top is smooth. There are barriers. However, if we concentrate too much on those barriers to advancement, we may become paralyzed and frustrated. Worse yet, we may head directly for the walls or ceiling rather than the openings.
Remember, We Achieve What We Focus On: Reframe your thoughts and reposition your energies toward identifying and creating pathways to the top, rather than focusing on obstacles.
How Did They Make It Through the Glass Ceiling?
The glass ceiling that my interviewees encountered on their way up was real, but clearly, it was not impenetrable. Those whom I have studied found a way through it. In the process, most didn't use confrontation or force to shatter barriers, wounding themselves or others as they rose to the top. Instead of trying to change their company, they thoroughly understood its rules and played by them. Rather than blaming themselves or their organizations when thwarted, these women pragmatically found routes around the hurdles blocking their advancement—paths that propelled them through openings in the glass ceiling.
And, perhaps most important, all of them used three vital strategies to get ahead:
1. They analyzed themselves and what they wanted. Liz Fetter said, "I am very clear about what I want to do, and I do what it takes to fulfill my ambitions. To make it, you really have to know yourself, the system, and the game you're playing." Liz was demonstrating this first characteristic. When you do a self-assessment, you ask, "Who am I? What do I value? What do I want to do with my life?" Maybe you don't even want to move into the senior ranks—that's good to know as you plan your career road map. But maybe you do, with gusto.
Indeed, virtually all of the executive women whom I interviewed understood themselves exceptionally well. They were realistic about their strengths and weaknesses. They were determined to "stay in the game," and they loved to win. They thrived on the complexity and competitiveness of big companies, on making a large-scale difference, and they were energized by the controlled chaos of running America's largest corporations.
Moreover, most of the executives I interviewed were not in it solely for the money. They wanted to effect a large-scale change, to impact global society. They loved their jobs and were passionate about what they did—they wanted to get up every morning because of it. With upswept honey-blond hair and a tanned, sunny face, Sue Swenson, President of Leap Wireless International and former CEO of Cellular One, exemplified this positive attitude. "My job is fun," she told me. "I mean, it is really fun. I like coming to work every day. I like the challenges. I like the way people approach problem-solving. I like to see how they all work together."
The corporate world is a much more enjoyable place to be when you truly know yourself, your capabilities, and why you are there. Throughout this book, you will have opportunities to assess your own strengths and weaknesses, and you will find particular help in Chapters 2, 3, and 13.
2. They learned about their companies, including its unwritten rules, and how to get to where they were trying to go. Knowing themselves, these women acknowledged, was only the first step. They also needed to understand, intimately, the unwritten rules of their corporation. They could only glean that knowledge by seeking the guidance of others who had been around long enough to understand the game.
Learning about your company means asking your boss or a mentor, "What competencies do I need to master in order to move up? What outcomes should I produce? What relationships should I develop? And how can I do all this and stay sane?"
When Liz Fetter joined Pacific Telesis, prior to her positions at US West Communications and NorthPoint Communications, she took the advice of a manager who had been with the company a long time. He told her, "Be humble, learn, become a student of this business. You're smart, but you don't know everything." Fetter took his counsel to heart—and after two years, she was the only executive who had been hired from outside at her level who was still with the telecommunications firm. Even today, as President of NorthPoint Communications, she actively seeks the advice of those who know the organization, the ropes, and the players well. "There are a few people in this company," she noted, "who feel committed to helping me be successful. I can count on them to take me aside and tell me what's really going on." Chapter 13 will guide you toward understanding yourself vis-à-vis your company's unwritten rules.
3. They emulated successful role models. Most of the women in my study honed their skills and corporate style by carefully watching and emulating the behavior of top executives. They asked themselves, "How did those people make it?" "What makes them different?" They analyzed the behavior of people not only within their company, but also at other, similar companies.
However, they did not consider these individuals "mentors" in the usual sense. In fact, they largely avoided linking themselves too closely with a single powerful person. Instead, they emulated specifically chosen qualities of different people as they progressed in their careers. They called these individuals "advisers," "role models," and "influencers." Throughout this book, the voices of the many women whom I interviewed will coalesce into a composite role model for you to emulate in your quest for advancement.
A Word About My Research
My interest in the human side of business began some years ago when, after having worked on Wall Street as a financial analyst for Goldman Sachs & Company, I was hired by IBM as a sales representative responsible for selling mainframe computer systems to strategic accounts.
After I had worked for IBM for about six months, the company acquired Rolm Telecommunications. Talk about a culture clash! All IBM employees were required to don suits and starched white shirts every day. The men wore their power ties, and the women sported those cute little rosettes at the collar. (Weren't those lovely!) But the telecommunications specialist on my team was from Rolm, and he often came to work dressed in jeans and a casual shirt. Right away I knew something was amiss. Our Rolm colleagues had company-sponsored beer busts on Fridays, while we weren't even allowed to drink at corporate parties. They got sabbaticals every few years—a concept that was quite foreign to an IBMer.
After working with my Rolm colleagues for a while, I became curious about the kinds of due diligence companies perform when considering a merger or acquisition. I approached several business-development people to better understand the rationale. When I looked at the checklists many of them followed, I immediately understood why one-third to one-half of all mergers fail. Of the hundred or so questions on the checklists, I found only one having to do with the compatibility of people and corporate cultures. Everything else was related to market, legal, and financial issues. In fact, as I might have predicted, IBM's merger with Rolm didn't work out either. They spun off the company a few years later.
But all of this set me to thinking about the psychology of business. So in 1993 I returned to school for a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology. One of my areas of interest was leadership. I wanted to understand how business leaders attained their success and how they make decisions. This was sparked, in part, by my branch manager at IBM—Amal Johnson. There was something different about her that led me to believe that she was on the fast track to the top, which indeed she was. I wanted to understand what made Amal and other executive women so different—what made them tick! What could I learn from her and people like her that I might use to advance my own career? And did I have the stuff to make it too?
There had been a good deal of research on breaking the glass ceiling, but most of it focused on the obstacles to women's success rather than on helpful strategies. And even the few researchers and authors who did study success strategies typically looked at mid-level management women whose skills had not yet been proven for the executive level. It seemed to me that a more efficient approach would be to discover what actually worked for the few women who had found those windows through the glass ceiling. What did they deem useful? What could they recommend to other women who aspire to the executive suite?
And so I began conducting in-depth interviews with top executive women positioned within one or two steps of the CEOs at Fortune 1000 companies. I met with them in their offices. My original research involved seventy of these extremely high-level women, but I was so fascinated by their responses that I have continued this work, and to date have collected the stories and observed the behaviors and characteristics of more than 200 top-level executive women. In fact, I've spoken with many of their bosses—usually male CEOs—to gather additional insights.
A Hunger for Connection
Surprisingly, some of the interviews lasted more than four or five hours. Why did they go on for so long? After all, these are very busy, highly responsible people. I believe the answer lies in the fact that many of the women I interviewed feel isolated. They are starved for someone to talk with who understands them as executives and as women, who can relate to what they face, who will maintain their privacy, and who is outside their companies. Because I met these criteria (I have received their permission to tell their stories in this book or have masked their identities by changing their names, industries, or other identifying characteristics, where necessary), they wanted to share their experiences and advice with me.
My interview allowed them to stop in the middle of their hectic day to touch a different part of themselves—an emotional and reflective part. They usually shut that off at work, where they know they must wear a veneer of firmness that conceals their vulnerabilities. I was able to speak their language. And, I admit, I also posed some pointed questions that unlocked their hearts.
People sometimes ask me, "Do you really feel these women were honest with you? Aren't they just telling you what you want to hear?" For some, perhaps, this was true; however, most were much too emotional for that. Indeed, several of my interviewees became tearful during our conversations. For the first time, someone else truly understood and was genuinely interested in what was going on inside them. Because many of their spouses were involved in different types of careers and didn't fully grasp the demands of their jobs, these women couldn't share all of themselves with their partners, even if the relationships were strong. And, as you'll see in Chapter 4, they also didn't feel they should completely confide in anyone at work.
So I became a sounding board for them. "Am I alone, or are there other women struggling with the same issues?" they wanted to know. They also wanted to talk to one another. Many of the interviewees felt the need to share their experiences with other senior executive women, but not with women in their own companies.
To address this need, I founded the Executive Women's Alliance(tm) in 1996. Its mission is, in part, to provide a forum for senior executive women to discuss key business and leadership strategies and personal issues.
Immediately after the first Executive Women's Alliance Conference in 1996, Gale Duff-Bloom, President of Company Communications and Corporate Image at J. C. Penney, confided in me that getting together with other senior executive women had changed her life. She no longer felt as isolated. She could see that others were dealing with similar issues, and that gave her the courage to stand up to her own convictions and to be more candid and forthright. There is an inherent strength in numbers.
Participation in the Executive Women's Alliance Conferences has also helped some of the women to legitimize their feeling that they belong in the positions they hold. Think of it this way: If you're the only woman on the men's basketball team, you soon feel that you don't belong there. Similarly, if you're the only women on the executive team, you may feel out of step as well. A great many of my interviewees didn't truly own their successes, but attributed their lofty status within their organizations to luck or to merely being in the right place at the right time. Seeing that other women had attained those same levels validated their position and gave them perspective. Maybe it wasn't a fluke or just good luck that they had made it. Maybe they were not an anomaly.
Another goal of the Executive Women's Alliance is to retain and advance talented women in leadership positions. To that end, I conduct Windows in the Glass Ceiling(r) seminars for mid-management women. During these workshops, the more-senior executive women talk candidly with high-potential female managers about their successes and, perhaps more important, their failures and how they bounced back. As a Senior Principal at American Management Systems (a billion-dollar international consulting firm specializing in business re-engineering, organization development, change management, and systems integration), I manage executive development programs that assist American Management Systems and other progressive companies in their promotion and retention of talented women.
As time goes on, I keep adding more and more data. All of the interviews, conferences, seminars, executive coaching, and consulting that I continue to provide help to keep my research current and evolving.
My interviews were as varied as the women with whom I spoke. The shortest, with Ellen Gordon, President of Tootsie Roll Industries, took about thirty minutes. Ellen was running late and needed to take a conference call from Hong Kong, which cut our time short. But after providing me with thirty minutes of solid content, she handed me a shopping bag into which she had tossed several pounds of Tootsie Rolls, Dots, Charm Blow Pops, and other assorted goodies. Like all of the executive women, Ellen had her own unique personality and identity. The longest interview was with Anne McNamara, the General Counsel at American Airlines; it lasted more than four hours.
Eighty-three percent of the women in my original study were Caucasian; 17 percent were women of color. This, of course, does not reflect the current situation in our society, since only 0.1 percent of all senior executive women are minorities. I feel fortunate in having had the opportunity to speak with so many executive women of color; you will find their insights and suggestions in Chapter 11. The average age of the women with whom I spoke was forty-four. The youngest was thirty-three, while the oldest was sixty-seven. Some of the women are still on their way up; some, perhaps, will be CEOs of Fortune 500 companies in the not-so-distant future. Others, particularly those in their late fifties and older, have likely reached the highest positions they will hold.
From the time they started their professional business careers to the point at which they crossed into the executive ranks, it took the women an average of eleven and a half years to make it into the executive level. (Many of them had already been executives for more than ten years when I spoke with them.) You might consider this to be a long time, or you might think it's short. Your perspective depends on your own personal experience and on the rate of advancement at your company. But I found it most interesting that the length of time it took for a woman to make it into the executive ranks did not depend on her age, education, marital status, number of children, or race. Rather, it had more to do with her understanding and adopting four critical success factors (I call them C.O.R.E. characteristics) early in her career. You will read about these factors in Chapter 3.
Eighty-one percent of the women I interviewed have earned graduate degrees, with 53 percent having a master's and 28 percent doctorate-level degrees (of the latter, 19 percent were attorneys). Seventeen percent had bachelor's degrees, and two executive women had only high school diplomas.
Ninety percent of the women I interviewed were or had been married, but many had either chosen not to have children or had limited the size of their families. Some 45 percent had no children, 44 percent had one or two, and only 11 percent had three or more. More than half the women were over thirty when they gave birth to their first child. These statistics dispel the belief that there is no room for a full life at the top executive level. I'll explore these issues—and especially how the executives came to these choices and manage their busy lives—in greater depth in Chapters 9 and 10.
As I researched their career advancement, I asked the women in my study many questions, including the following:
· Why do you think you made it into the executive ranks and others didn't?
· What were the key decision points in your career?
· What have been your biggest failures? What did you learn from them? How did you bounce back?
· What would you do differently if you had the opportunity?
· What advice do you have for other women who aspire to the executive ranks?
And I was quite surprised by their responses. In fact, I discovered that many of the advancement-related convictions I had held early in my career and had heard other women espouse simply did not hold up. They were myths. I identified six common themes that dispelled the beliefs most of us hold even today. These myths include:
Myth #1: The results speak for themselves.
Myth #2: You have to network to get ahead.
Myth #3: You have to be ruthless to succeed.
Myth #4: If you keep your head down, you won't get shot.
Myth #5: You need to "play the man's game" to get ahead.
Myth #6: You need to find a mentor who will pave the way for your career.
I will be exploring these myths and the reality behind them throughout Part II of this book. I will also let you in on the backstage—what male and female CEOs have observed about their up-and-coming women employees. Because of the top-level contacts I've developed through my research, I have unique access to these corporate leaders and was able to conduct face-to-face interviews with twenty CEOs from large corporations. I asked them about the success factors needed to reach the higher-echelon corporate jobs, the mistakes they felt women made that could derail them in their quest for success, and the advice they would offer women to increase their chances of advancement.
The CEOs were impressive in their candor. They were observant of women and had put much thought into how to help their top female employees succeed. I will share with you their valuable insights throughout the pages of this book.
How This Book Can Help You
Because self-knowledge is crucial to career success, you will have the opportunity to discover what you know about yourself and your path to success in Chapter 2, where you will focus on a short but penetrating self-assessment. And like many upwardly mobile female managers whom I have encountered in my seminars, perhaps you too will be surprised to see how far along the road you have already traveled.
In Part II, we will examine in depth the six myths and the realities associated with each myth. In Part III, we will take the view from the top, as successful executive women reflect candidly on the choices they have made, the demands and satisfactions of their work, their future goals, and the strategies they used to advance their careers. In Chapters 9 and 10, for instance, I pose the question, "Can you have it all and still have a full life?" The answer, it seems, is a resounding "Yes, but perhaps not all at once." How the executive women in my study made the choices they did and how they manage their busy lives can give you insight into making those tough decisions yourself. In Chapter 11, we will explore the unique roadblocks that women of color face in their career climbs. And in Chapter 12, I will summarize, by providing you with fifteen proven strategies for career success.
Finally, we will examine your personal steppingstones along your path to career success. I found it fascinating that a good many of the executive women whom I interviewed ascribed their success to "being in the right place at the right time." They seemed to chalk up their career advances to luck. In fact, the majority tended to not plan their careers. Only 27 percent of Caucasian women in my study had well-defined career goals. But today I firmly believe that if more women want to become executives, they must aggressively plan their futures. They need to envision where they want to go and assertively ask for what they want. In fact, I don't believe a laissez-faire career strategy will work for you if you're moving up in the twenty-first century.
In Chapter 13, the workbook section of this book, you will find interactive exercises to help you determine what you want for yourself, what your company requires, and also how far you have come. These activities will help you construct your own career road map. Their purpose is to help you concretely visualize what you have already achieved, and what still remains to be done. They will also help you identify your long-term and short-term goals and provide you with a list of what you need to focus on now and in the future. With this road map in mind, you can increase your chances of finding the windows in the glass ceiling that can lead you into the executive suite.
All in all, this book will:
· debunk six popular myths about what it takes to make it into the executive suite and set you on the right track;
· explain the four C.O.R.E. characteristics that you must have to reach the highest corporate levels;
· emphasize the many executive virtues that are necessary for success—such as responsibility, forthrightness, flexibility, curiosity, realism, and graciousness;
· explore the personal and career choices that executive women have made;
· discuss the specific barriers to career advancement that minority women face;
· provide you with a personalized career road map;
· include the candid reflections of top corporate women on the demands and satisfactions of their work, their future goals, the impact of their choices on their personal lives, and whether they would have made different decisions if they could do it all over.
Why the Time Is Right for You
There was a time when the notion of a female CEO was totally foreign to most of us. Indeed, Carol Bartz, CEO of Autodesk, recently told me that she has what she calls "zoo status." When you see a rare and exotic animal in the zoo, you look and point. You think, "Boy, this animal is extremely unique!" You may like it, think it is weird-looking, or believe that it just doesn't belong there. Carol felt that perfectly described her situation as a female CEO when compared to her male peers.
But times are changing. With the advice the senior executive women proffer in these pages and the myths about female advancement that I will shatter in the next several chapters, more and more women will be moving, perhaps sooner than we think, into positions of corporate leadership. That, at least, is my fondest hope.
Besides, as I spoke with various CEOs from large corporations, they explained that one of the biggest challenges their companies will face during the next decade is the recruitment and retention of talented employees. There is an enormous demand for all kinds of people of both genders and all races, and companies don't currently have the talent in house (or in this country, for that matter!) to sustain themselves. For instance, in the state of California, of the three largest employers—the entertainment industry, technology (Silicon Valley and the like), and the penal system—two must go outside the United States to attract high-level, skilled people. The penal system is the only industry that can fully recruit from its own population.
Part of this has to do with demographics—the big dip in population after the baby boom. There are actually fewer people to train in the next generations. Jobs are not being filled because there simply aren't enough applicants. As a consequence, there is a great deal of competition among companies for talented workers. As one CEO in high tech told me, "We're fighting for the ability to retain high-quality resources today, and looking five to ten years out, that is the battleground worldwide. That's the number one, two, and three wars to fight in our industry. It's not technology, it's not chemistry, it's intellectual resources." That is, people.
When I asked if any specific skills were missing, the consensus among the CEOs was adeptness in management and leadership. For instance, Rick Belluzzo, Group Vice President at Microsoft and former CEO of Silicon Graphics (SGI), told me, "We need people with technical talent—and from a financial reward standpoint, high-tech engineering is probably the best career a young woman can contemplate—but we also need people to lead businesses. You can teach someone technical skills more easily than you can train someone to become a leader."
What does all of this mean to you as an aspiring businesswoman? If you have the leadership skills and the know-how, understand that companies are desperate to hire and promote you. The time is right for advancement.
But be deliberate and strategic about charting your course. The CEOs whom I interviewed suggested that women could do a better job at stepping back and taking an honest inventory of their careers. It's important to look at where you are and see how you can leverage your position in interesting ways. As women, we don't do a lot of that. In fact, men are more likely to construct a careful career plan: "In two years I want to be this, and in three years I want to be here." They're willing to either bulldoze their way through it or figure out how to reinvent themselves to get there—to take charge of their careers and set long-term goals.
The Time Is Right for Advancement: If you have the leadership and know-how, understand that companies are desperate to hire and promote you.
This may be due to the fact that we don't often ask for what we want. Or maybe we're so busy trying to manage everything else in our lives—the family, husband, and household—that we put ourselves and our career-planning goals last. Or perhaps it's a question of perfectionism. If we say we're going to do something, then we stick to it, no matter what. Men may be more flexible. They might treat their careers a bit like a pinball game. They go down one path, but if they hit a bumper they'll say, "Okay, let's try another way," and careen off in a new direction.
In this book, I will help you take ownership of your career. Today, a scant twenty years since the windows to the glass ceiling began creaking open to admit women, the possibilities seem limitless. So what are we waiting for? Let's get started!
|Part I||Windows in the Glass Ceiling||1|
|1||Women Who Ride the T-Rex||3|
|2||What You Know About Yourself and Your Company||22|
|Part II||Six Lessons for Success: Shattering the Myths||37|
|3||Focus on the Big Picture: Results Are Only Part of the Story||39|
|4||Create Alliances: Networking Is Not a Requirement for Success||66|
|5||Help Others Be Successful: You Don't Have to Be Ruthless to Succeed||92|
|6||Take Risks: Keeping Your Head Down Can Keep You Off the Fast Track||111|
|7||Be Yourself: The "Man's Game" Isn't the Only Game in Town||142|
|8||Find Advocates: One Mentor Won't Pave the Way for Your Career||163|
|Part III||Life at the Top: Creating a Road Map for Success||183|
|9||Having It All and Having a Life: Making Choices About Marriage, Family, and Career||185|
|10||The Juggling Act: Making Choices About Work Time and Personal Time||206|
|11||Career Strategies of High-Level Minority Women||231|
|12||Going to the Top: Fifteen Proven Strategies That Will Advance Your Career||254|
|13||Constructing Your Road Map||288|