Hello and Welcome!
I am really glad that you are here. If you are interested in reading my more traditional bio click here and you will get the full run down. If you want to know why women and self promotion and why now stay right where you are.
I have always felt most at home in the role of pioneer- whether that be in the literal sense of bringing new technology to remote outposts of Eastern Europe in the early nineties with Apple (Udmursk or Ufa anyone?) or in the figurative sense of bringing online advertising technology to local advertisers for the first time with DoubleClick. (Just don’t put me in a tent or horse drawn carriage please. I am not that kind of pioneer!) Being a pioneer often requires saying or doing things that others may not be prepared to say or do quite yet. Like Sheryl Sandberg and so many others I am deeply disturbed by the fact that there has been literally no progress in the efforts to grow the number of women in the senior ranks of major U.S. and global corporations in the past 5 years. I am disturbed not just out of principle but I am disturbed because I believe that true diversity in leading global corporations has the potential to change the trajectory of so many of the challenging issues we face today. And I do mean true diversity. And while true diversity encompasses much more than gender it is such a glaring gap I believe it is where we need to start. Several rigorous studies have already established that companies with gender inclusive boards and management teams produce superior financial results than those without them. Studies also point out that those same gender inclusive companies have superior corporate responsibility results than those without gender inclusive management teams and boards, donating more to charities, partnering with more diverse supplier bases etc. Tell me again why we wouldn’t want more of those things? Superior financial results and improved corporate social responsibility results? Um. Yes please.
So how does self promotion play into my grandiose plans to pioneer the corporate landscape? Self promotion has been identified as one of the key barriers to increased promotion and compensation for high potential women. According to research by Catalyst, high performing female executives from top MBA schools can do everything right but if they do not learn to promote themselves at work- which is simply sharing their successes- and networking with powerful others- they will lag behind their male peers in seniority and compensation. So basically this means that I can be just as good or even better than a male colleague but if I can’t talk a big game about myself and my accomplishments (in a way that is socially acceptable for a woman by the way) and I don’t invest time hanging out with the big wigs (instead of finishing up that report or rushing home) that male colleague will leapfrog me in terms of title and pay within 8 years of graduation from business school. This is maddening but it is also the cold, hard truth. And while most women want to toss their cookies at the mention of self promotion it is a much better idea to buck up and find a way to promote yourself that feels authentic to you. And while self-promotion is far from a panacea it is a huge step in the right direction and lo and behold it can be taught and I can teach it.
Of course, this is all good for companies that hire women too. Why? Because women who are adept at self promotion will offer you better insight into their capabilities vs their colleagues and give you as a company the opportunity to promote the better candidate- male or female- with less bias. And they will likely stay longer and be more engaged employees as well.
Do you remember when the research came out that launched the huge wave of investment in microfinancing? The research proved that if you provide financing to a woman in a developing country for her business she is likely not only to pay it back but to grow her business, feed her family, employ her neighbors and send her children to school. If you provide the same capital to a man in the same village it will likely disappear into a bottle of beer – or several. (Uncomfortable thing to say and to print but also true.) Obviously the dynamics in the U.S. and most industrialized countries are different. However, we already have proof that gender inclusivity produces superior financial results and better corporate citizens. Is it possible that a surge in gender inclusiveness at the top levels of companies will result in lower high school drop out rates? A reduction in domestic violence? A reduction in poverty levels? An increase in the number of girls attending schools in countries like Pakistan? I believe it is possible and we are remiss if we do not do our best to find out. Worst case scenario? Investors make more money and charities do better. Yes there are other issues to address, I am simplifying I know but we need to dig in and figure it out. If any country can innovate its way through a societal change it’s the U.S. and it’s now. I’m in. Are you?