Best Beach Reading List for Women in Leadership

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One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2018 was to read more. For good reasons. It’s a fact: People who read books live longer. And truthfully, as I have said before, leadership development is a demanding field–one that requires staying abreast of new perspectives and learning from authors beyond our own particular industries.

Now that summer is here; I’m happy to say that I am enjoying my resolution and am eager to share some new book titles with you. So, as you throw your bathing suit and sunblock into that beach or pool carryall, consider adding one of the books I’ve suggested below, whether it’s to help uplevel your leadership abilities over the summer or to offset that summer blockbuster page-turner you just tucked in your bag.

1. Dream Teams by Shane Snow

Let’s start with this one: Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart by Shane Snow. Managing high-performance teams is a topic near and dear to my heart, one that I speak about in keynotes across the country. “Award-winning entrepreneur and journalist Shane Snow reveals the counterintuitive reasons why so many partnerships and groups break down–and why some break through.” Snow does an excellent job of walking the reader through the elements that cause a team to be high-performing instead of just a group of people who work together.

I appreciated Snow’s storytelling, which made the book an enjoyable read, and his insights based on history, business, neuroscience, and psychology. It’s a fabulous book, and I believe you’ll enjoy it.

2. Applied Empathy by Michael Ventura

Next up is Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership by Michael Ventura. In this Business Insider Best Book, Ventura describes the power of empathy, and how that quality may be what your company needs to connect, innovate, and grow. Ventura is an entrepreneur and the CEO of the award-winning strategy and design firm Sub Rosa. He has worked with brands like Google, Warby Parker, Nike, and General Electric, and organizations including the United Nations and the Obama administration.

In a world where we face the reality of digitalization and our increasing reliance on technology like artificial intelligence and augmented reality, the need for soft skills like empathy is vital. Bear in mind that the people who program this technology upon which we depend come to the work with their biases–and those can easily be incorporated in the development and coding processes. One of the key skills for those of us in leadership is and will continue to be, emotional competence; the ability to empathize with, motivate, and engage our teams.

Applied Empathy provides the reader with a framework for building diverse teams that can be successful in our new global marketplace.

3. Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam

Let’s change it up a bit with this next recommendation. Most of us run from one day to the next, frantically juggling the daily demands of our personal lives and our work lives. One of the things I hear from my female coaching clients is that they are doing it all, all the time, for everyone. They tell me they don’t have time for themselves. They don’t have time to work out, time to relax, or time to recharge.

Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam describes seven principles that time-free people have adopted. “Time-free?” you exclaim. Who would describe themselves as time-free in today’s hectic world? It turns out, plenty of people do because they embrace the seven almost counterintuitive principles outlined in Vanderkam’s book. Her book includes descriptions of “mindset shifts to help you feel calm on the busiest days and tools to help you get more done without feeling overwhelmed.”

This book is packed with helpful information and examples of how people using these principles are learning to apply new thinking to formerly chaotic schedules and lives. I found several invaluable pointers in the book that I plan to use in my own life, and I suspect you may as well. Give it a read. I recommend it highly.

4. Presence by Amy Cuddy

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy is a book I often recommend to my coaching clients. Cuddy, who gave the second most popular TED Talk ever, writes about the differences between authentic and inauthentic behavior, and between social power and personal power.

At this point, your instinctive response may be like this one: “I don’t read self-help books,” writes Laura McNeal in a Goodreads review. “Metaphorically I’m a 17-year-old hearing that it would be better to start my homework on Saturday instead of Sunday night at eight. My inner voice screams, ‘I KNOOOOOOOOW.’ ” If so, read on: “I was in deep danger of switching from the Bold Self initiative to my default setting, which is Holden Caulfield at the end of his madman weekend in New York. And yet I kept reading, and it got to a point where I was curled up on the sofa with a highlighter in my hand….” McNeal gave the book four out of five stars in her review.

Cuddy describes the differences between powerless poses and powerful poses and recommends adopting confident power poses and body language until the reader can become her authentic best self.” As a social psychologist, Cuddy bases her work on her research and is considered a leader among ” ‘next generation’ authors and academics who are pioneering evidence-based approaches,” according to a review by Bridgette Beyers.

Try this one and then let me know how you enjoyed it, and whether you found it as helpful and inspiring as I have.

5. Thrive by Arianna Huffington

Finally, I give you Thrive, by Arianna Huffington. Thrive is Huffington’s account of how she manages the challenges of her career and raising her two daughters. It is an intensely personal book, one that begins by describing her “a-ha! moments” after her physical collapse upon falling and injuring herself due to exhaustion. Huffington points out the reality too many people discover the hard way: The dogged pursuit of money and power leads to stress and burnout and a lessening in the quality of our lives and our careers. Thrive provides the groundwork and a blueprint for revolutionizing the way we think, work, and live. I thought it was a fantastic book and I believe you will too.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

8 Tips for Women Who Struggle to Take Time for Themselves

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As Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, said recently at a conference: The one word you’ll never hear associated with women is “Relaxed.”

Have you scheduled a summer vacation yet? Are you someone who struggles to take time for yourself? If so, you may want to take a second look at your calendar. See if you can find some time to get away from work and family obligations and relax. If this sounds like an unrealistic luxury, or if you feel like your boss can’t spare you, listen up: Research shows that taking a vacation is good for you–and for your organization.

How is you taking a vacation good for your firm?

If you’re burnt out or bored-out, it’s not good for anyone. You, your team, your boss, your household or partner. Taking summer vacation, and taking time for yourself, which I call “You Time,” is essential.

And, as it turns out, summer vacation is not only beneficial for you but also for your company’s bottom line.

According to research published by the recognition and engagement company, O.C. Tanner, for employees who regularly take a one-week or more extended vacation in the summer, there are positive correlations between their workplace engagement levels and work ethic. The study found that 70 percent of respondents reported feeling highly motivated to contribute to the success of their organizations, as opposed to only 55 percent of respondents who do not regularly take a week-long summer vacation.

The demands of work and family are stressful–but especially for women.

We all juggle the daily demands of our personal lives and our work lives, but women, in particular, describe feeling pressured and struggle to take time for themselves. One of the things I hear from my female coaching clients is that they are doing it all, all the time, for everyone. They tell me they don’t have time for themselves. They don’t have time to work out, time to relax, or time to recharge.

And I get it.

As women, we are socialized to take care of others. In addition to work, most women manage their children and family’s obligations. An increasing number of women also these days care for their aging parents. “According to the July 2016 Journal, Brain and Behavior, on top of juggling multiple responsibilities and roles, women have different brain chemistry and have to deal with hormone fluctuations,” says Yvonne Williams Casaus. “Also, women tend to cope with stress differently. The hormone fluctuations are the kicker,” she adds.

Women are also groomed to be perfectionists so we don’t know how to let go of the 20-30 percent of tasks that may not be vitally important–or can wait a day or two. Seriously, we need to remember: If the kids go to school with two different color socks or store-bought cupcakes, it’s really not the end of the world.

The importance of sleep.

We tend to underestimate the importance of getting enough rest. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, sleep is involved in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. In today’s global workplace, we’re online 24/7, but we shouldn’t be. We need to set those boundaries for ourselves because those boundaries aren’t being set for us. And, as women, we often find this hard to do.

As I said, I hear stories about the struggle with stress and burnout from my clients all the time. For example, a workshop participant who worked “part-time” recently described her typical day:

“I get up at 5 am, get online, then wake up the kids, get them ready for school, eat breakfast, make lunches, take them to school and go to work. I work five hours straight through without breaks–since I’m only part-time. Then I leave for school, pick up the kids, take them to a play-date or host one, get back online, make dinner, get the kids ready for bed, get back online or do house chores I couldn’t get to, and go to bed around 11 pm.”

She said all this in front of a male executive, and he looked her incredulously after she finished describing her day, and said, “I would never do that!” Meaning, he would never live his life like that. He didn’t respect the fact that she was essentially working full-time in a part-time position. He also was puzzled by the fact that she managed home, family and work without taking time for herself, to recharge and release stress.

What to do: Eight tips for recharging when you struggle to take time for yourself.

Making time in your life for yourself is critical. It doesn’t always feel possible, but there are things you can do. If taking a vacation this summer is not an option for you, here are some tips to start taking a little bit of time every day to recharge. Start here:

1. Begin to make yourself the priority–even if it’s only for a small amount of time every day.

2. Stop beating yourself up. Silence that critical inner voice that says you have to be perfect.

3. Do something, even something tiny that will make you feel good each day.

4. Make time to rest. Even a few minutes of deep breathing will help.

5. Start meditating. Just five minutes can make a massive difference.

6. Exercise. Walk more, or find a family activity that you can all do together to be active.

7. Begin planning a future vacation. Half the fun is in the planning.

8. Find a colleague to be your “accountability buddy” and keep each other accountable for finding that “You Time.”

Need more help? Contact me. I have more than 20 years of experience coaching women to take charge of their lives and become more empowered.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo: 123rf.com

Stop Apologizing for Success: Be Like Miranda in “Sex in the City.”

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Women, we need to stop apologizing for success. We need to start channeling characters like Miranda Hobbes, from Sex in the City; and model confidence and focus for all of the young girls watching us. “It’s time to be ‘a Miranda,'” said Cynthia Nixon. “One thing I always loved about that spirited redhead was that she didn’t suppress her ambitions in order to be more ‘likable,’ nor did she try to squeeze herself into stereotypical notions of womanhood and femininity,” she stated.

And you never saw Miranda Hobbes apologizing for success.

“As a successful lawyer on [ Sex in the City], Nixon’s character often found that she was more successful and more well-off than the men in her life, but she would hardly apologize for it. Why should she?” asks Rose Burke.

Why indeed?

I just heard a disturbing story about a woman who had worked really hard and had accomplished something for her firm that hadn’t ever been done before. Her accomplishment created tremendous positive change for her company. The executives in her firm publicly praised her, but then someone started saying behind her back that she was being celebrated just because she was a woman. Of course, the comments got back to her and made her feel like she should have downplayed her accomplishment.

Has anyone ever said that to you? Maybe you’ve had the same experience of hearing that people in your company are talking behind your back, assuming that you only got the job, the promotion, the raise, or the opportunity because you’re a woman.

It’s not uncommon.

Many women experience this. “They often feel the unspoken implication is ‘… and don’t you forget it.’ In other words, they got a job they didn’t deserve. They had a door opened for them because they were wearing a skirt,” writes Patti Fletcher in a post for Entrepreneur.com.

“The truth of it is that men are hired for what they might be able to do. Women are hired only if they’ve proven themselves over and over again,” writes Fletcher. I agree. Women, as young girls, are taught to collaborate, share, be nice, but not to stick our necks out and tout our achievements. We are expected to be nice. If we promote our successes, our colleagues perceive this as being opportunistic or arrogant. Even our female co-workers. In this, we women can be our own worst enemies here.

There’s a double standard at play here.

“What is really going on, as peer-reviewed studies continually find, is that high-achieving women experience social backlash because their very success – and specifically the behaviors that created that success – violates our expectations about how women are supposed to behave,” writes Marianne Cooper, for the Harvard Business Review. “Women are expected to be nice, warm, friendly, and nurturing. Thus, if a woman acts assertively or competitively, if she pushes her team to perform, if she exhibits decisive and forceful leadership, she is deviating from the social script that dictates how she ‘should’ behave.”

Success and likability are correlated in men but are not in women.

This was made clear in a case study for the Columbia Business School which profiled Heidi Roizen, a successful Silicon Valley venture capitalist. In presenting the case study to his class, however, Professor Frank Flynn gave half the class the case study showcasing Heidi’s successes. The other half of the class was given a case study with a different name and learned about the successes achieved by “Howard” Roizen. The research demonstrated the negative correlation for women between power and success.

What can we do?

As women, we need to share our success with others so we can act as role models for others–particularly those women who might be more unsure about how to self-promote and advocate for their own success. Not only does it not help us to hide behind our work and accomplishments, hoping they’ll speak for themselves, it actually hurts us. And it hurts others.

#TimesUp. It’s time for a change.

Research shows that men in particular view a lack of self-touting achievements as a lack of self-confidence. As women, we need to be visible, share what we’re working on, celebrate successes, help others and ask others to advocate for us.

Today, especially, we have a moral obligation to take on leadership roles and help change the dynamic at the top for women and men. We can create more gender parity in organizations if we talk about our achievements, share success, and celebrate our accomplishments–and stop apologizing for success!

Are you wondering how you can help? Here are some things you can start doing:

  • Don’t bury yourself in your laptop or tablet at work.
  • Use meetings as an opportunity to network and talk about your accomplishments.
  • Share your successes by email, and in person.
  • Talk about your manager and your team’s accomplishments, as well as your own.
  • Be visible in all-hands, in coffee corners or online, sharing compelling content.
  • Speak about results, not just what you’re doing.
  • Combat negative comments or tear-down behaviors by encouraging a correlation between success and likability–for all.

Need help? Contact me. I have more than 20 years experience developing innovative programs for women and men to create space for the necessary conversations to promote more gender equity.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Women, Stop Overthinking. Be Like Nike and Just Do It!

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Women, and you know who you areit’s time to stop overthinking things. Take the Nike slogan to heartand Just Do It! Whatever it is. Don’t be the one who never steps up to take a risk.

Overthinking, especially chronic overthinking, can hurt your career and impair your performance. I hear the stories all the time from the women in my workshops, “I didn’t ask, and then my male peer got the job.” Or “I was waiting for the right time, and then my manager left.”

Seriously, we know that women hold 85 percent of the buying power globally, make up over 50 percent of the workforceand there are three times as many female-owned start-ups as male-owned. Yet we are still underrepresented in top management, and are less often recipients of VC fundingand we don’t earn as much money than men.

What’s up with that?

Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, the chair of the department of psychology at Yale University and the author of Women Who Think Too Much: How to Break Free of Overthinking and Reclaim Your Life, has found that women are less likely than men to believe that they have control over negative emotions or important events in their lives.

The Confidence Gap

As Katy Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of the book, The Confidence Code, point out, evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men–and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence. “Compared with men, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions, they predict they’ll do worse on tests, and they generally underestimate their abilities.

“Do men doubt themselves sometimes? Of course,” write Kay and Shipman. “But not with such exacting and repetitive zeal, and they don’t let their doubts stop them as often as women do.” Yet for all the reasons that the confidence gap exists, that women tend toward overthinking and hold back in risk taking in the workplace, the answer is simple, if not easy: To become more confident, some need to stop thinking so much and just act.

Women who take risks

Amelia Earhart was not the only highly skilled pilot at the time she rose to prominence in a male-dominated industry, but she was determined and confident, and willing to go after what seemed impossible. Amelia Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928, and she was – incredibly – only the sixth woman to be issued a pilot’s license.

Vera Wang is almost a household name today. But when, as a young competitive skater, she failed to make the 1968 U.S. Olympic Team, she decided to pursue a career as an editor. As Heather Finn describes it, when she wasn’t hired by Vogue for the editor-in-chief position she dreamed of, Wang started working as the design director for accessories at Ralph Lauren. Her dissatisfaction with the quality of the wedding gowns available to her as she planned her wedding led to her career in bridal fashion design.

Beyoncé Knowles, a multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning recording artist who’s acclaimed for her thrilling vocals, videos and live shows, dropped her surprise, self-titled album at the end of 2013, she was terrified of what feedback she might receive, as Finn describes it. The album was hugely successful, and Beyoncé went down as one of the most fabulous risk-takers in history.

And J.K. Rowling, the ninth-best-selling fiction author of all time (estimated 500 million copies sold) lived as a single mom on welfare and wrote every chance she could get. Her belief in her book about a little boy named Harry Potter was so strong that she continued to send out her manuscript and to ignore the rejection letters. Finally, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was publishedand the rest is history.

So stop overthinking. Be like Nike. Just Do It. Whatever it is.

Be bold, push yourself, and get comfortable being uncomfortable.

– Angie Gels, Chief People Officer at Everything But The House.

Here are six tips to help you stop overthinking:

  1. Talk about your dreams, share them, make them come alive.
  2. Create a plan, and execute it. You can always re-tool.
  3. Confer with your mentor or other knowledgeable people in your network.
  4. Do your research. Find out what you don’t know. This will help with overwhelm.
  5. Have a Plan B. It will make you feel safer and more confident in pursuing Plan A.
  6. Use social media to promote an idea, crowd-source opinions or even funding.

Do you need help moving your career forward? Have you considered working with a coach? Contact me. Let’s talk about your options.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo by Steven Jones on Unsplash

The Real Reason Women Are Leaving Your Company

Let’s get this out of the way: The real reason women are leaving your company (and a myriad of others around the world) is not just because they are moms having babies.

Or lack ambition.

In fact, research from the Pew Research Center shows that 57 percent of women surveyed consider ambition to be an essential trait for a leader; while a fully 63 percent of Millennial women and 61 percent of Gen X have the same opinion.

And yet, they are leaving.

As documented in LeanIn’s Women in the Workplace 2017, 17 percent of women are leaving their jobs in mid-career, which, for a company of 500, represent a loss of 85 employees. Those numbers should concern us all.

As I wrote in my book, #WomenAdvance, women hold 85% of the buying power globally, make up over 50 percent of the workforce, and there are three times as many female-owned start-ups as male-owned. Yet, there are still barriers to women who want to rise to the top of today’s most successful corporations.

So, what’s going on?

A survey published by ICEDR finds that women around age 30 cite pay, lack of learning and development, and a shortage of meaningful work as the primary reasons they leave organizations. Not motherhood.

I hear other reasons too, in my women advancement coaching programs. The participants describe having to work harder to get promoted–and fear having to work harder at their job once promoted.

But what they need to do is to work smarter not harder.

And, it’s not that they are less ambitious than men are. In fact, according to a survey from Accenture, “…moms who return to work after having a child are just as ambitious as women without kids–or, in some cases, even more ambitious,” states Maricar Santos, writing for Working Mother.

Women are leaving your company mid-career because they are being paid less, they are not being offered development opportunities to help them move ahead, and they don’t find the work meaningful enough to sustain them. They leave, looking for something better.

Here’s what I would tell you

Understand that, while women may express more comfort in an individual contributor role, they may also be interested in a management or leadership role. Make sure your company offers the right tools for new managers, so it’s not so daunting. And make sure their managers know how to coach them on learning new skills and find the right career path.

Understand that the atmosphere at work might not feel good. If your leadership team is male-dominated, and those males aren’t used to including women, a woman simply may not feel comfortable in the organization as she progresses up the ladder. You may need to consciously develop a strategy to help create more diverse management and leadership teams.

There are companies out there who are doing precisely that. The Miller Heiman Group, for example, has made a significant investment in gender diversity and equality by recently promoting/hiring three executives to the C-Suite. Why is it so significant? Because promoting these women supports diversity and inclusion at the top and sets the example for the whole company.

And finally, you may not necessarily have a hostile environment or an overt discrimination problem, but you may have differences in communications styles. Men and women communicate differently, and this can cause misunderstanding, downtime, and hurt productivity.

You may be able to help by mentoring the men in your organization and showing them how to communicate with women more effectively. If men can start understanding women and move in their direction, too, it’s not such an energy suck.

Women are excited to contribute to your workforce, they work hard, and will be excellent advocates if your company gets it right. Promote diversity. Support inclusion. Win!

A version of this post was first published on Inc.com 

Photo: rawpixel.com from Pexels

5 Tips for Rocking Entrepreneurial Work-Life Balance

work life balance

Many of us wonder about work-life balance and how to achieve it. And, even imagine rocking entrepreneurial work-life balance. I did a study on work-life balance with women and men. Equally, they wanted more work-life balance, but the differences were striking: Men who had partners and families were more satisfied in their career. Women who had partners and families were less satisfied. Single men, less satisfied in their career, single women were more satisfied.

This data makes sense to me and is backed up by a statistic Sheryl Sandberg cited in a speech given recently at Salesforce: Women still do two times the amount of housework men do, and three times the amount of childcare. If women have families and a job, they are working much more. For men, it seems it’s almost the opposite.

So what happens when women want it all?

I was chatting informally with one of my favorite people, and superstar entrepreneurs, Courtney Klein, recently. Courtney is Co-Founder and CEO of SEED SPOT, an organization designed to educate, accelerate, and invest in entrepreneurs who are creating solutions to social problems.

SEED SPOT ranks as one of the “Top 20 Accelerators in the World” by Gust and one of the “Top 3 social impact incubators in the United States” by UBI Global and Cisco. SEED SPOT also holds an Emmy for their partnership with Univision serving Latino entrepreneurs.

Courtney is incredibly professionally successful; she has a growing family–and is well-known nationally. I thought you’d find her take on the question of balancing it all as an entrepreneur helpful.

Melissa: “Courtney, you’ve said that women ask you regularly about running a company and having a family at the same time. What’s your answer?”

Courtney: “When I was pregnant with my first child, a mentor said, ‘The best thing you can do for your daughter is to be the best version of yourself.’

And, as a small human was kicking inside of me, I realized that being the best version of myself meant uniting my identities as a mom–and CEO. After 200 flights with my daughter before she turned two, while still learning, I have learned a lot.

I often traveled with a relative and had nannies able to be on-call in seven cities. My daughter sat on stages with me at big conferences, played on my lap while I was on calls, and attended board meetings in her stroller with her favorite toy in hand. The benefit to the daily juggling act was that we never spent a day apart.

The gift of being an entrepreneur is that you get to make your own rules. The challenge is that you often have to create a new norm – really, a new normal. 

Walking into a donor meeting with unrecognizable baby gunk on my sleeve was a common occurrence, but if I didn’t react, neither did they. If folks were shocked that my morning coffee was transported by stroller, I didn’t let it bother me, and they soon forgot about it as well. If my daughter cried and I walked out to nurse her, I simply explained that her hunger was of higher priority than anything else in the room.

This was the way it was; this was the way it was going to be. People accepted it.

There is no one-size-fits-all model. There is no scoring system for how to be a good mom, or a good entrepreneur, or both. But the opportunity we have is to carve our own path for what our identities look like together, not separate.”

Tip: Unite your identities instead of separating them 

Melissa: “There is so much we could learn from you about social entrepreneurship, founding a company, growing a business, but is there something specific female founders need to consider?”

Courtney: “The startup culture is still super patriarchal – if one statistic alone tells the story it is that less than 3 percent of venture capital goes to women. It’s even less for founders of color.

If entrepreneurs play into a patriarchal startup culture system – it will never change. At SEED SPOT we have a huge focus on diversity and inclusion, 49% of our alumni are female founders.

We owe it to our children, the next generation of innovators, to set a new narrative for what an equitable startup culture looks like.

And the new narrative of equitable startup culture must be led by entrepreneurs who don’t take the passing sexual comment as casual, slam those who ask for integrity in exchange for capital, and demand equal pay for themselves and those on their team.”

Tip: Make the new rules for what an equitable startup culture looks like 

Melissa: “My research has shown that men want work-life balance just as much as women but they don’t discuss it as openly. What’s your take on why men don’t seem to worry about ‘balancing it all’?”

Courtney: “I think that’s the predominant cultural narrative in America, but I don’t think it’s actually true. The desire to balance it all has nothing to do with gender; it has everything to do with choice.

If bucking norms makes you uncomfortable, you are going to have an impossible time as an entrepreneur. And if you conform to norms and succeed, it only perpetuates the problem and digs a deeper trench for future generations to climb out of.”

Tip: Get comfortable bucking the norms, the next generation needs to witness a new model

Melissa: “What are some of the unspoken issues that women don’t talk about openly when it comes to balancing personal and business life?” 

Courtney: “It saddens me how many women that want to have a family don’t for fear they can’t do it or will lose their identity if they do. As entrepreneurs, we have the unique advantage of sculpting our own identities. And that can make a difference not only in our own lives but in the lives of women everywhere.

Tip: Social modeling matters – share your tips, tricks and lessons learned.

And, as Courtney pointed out in our conversation, “Sometimes it’s about rocking the compression socks at 30,000 feet, or discreetly muting a conference call button while nursing, or juggling a network of nannies in cities across the country. And, other times it’s about dealing with someone who isn’t quite there in terms of understanding your identity as a female entrepreneur, or an entrepreneur/mom. Sometimes it’s about sharing a resource, or a network, or a hug.”

Tip: Don’t let fear defeat you. Reach out to those doing it for support. 

A version of this post was first published on Inc.com.

Photo: Austin Neill on Unsplash.

Men Need Mentors too in the #MeToo Era

Women Mentor Men

Inclusion and diversity took center stage at the Oscars this year–and rightfully so. Hollywood reflects cultural and societal changes in the United States, and gender parity is on everyone’s minds these days. Frances McDormand, the winner of the Academy Award for Best Actress, used her acceptance speech to emphasize the vital need for diversity and inclusion in her industry. On the red carpet, Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino promoted the movement towards equality for women worldwide.

But what do diversity and inclusion look like in the workplace today? Women and men alike struggle to define the new normal. “What do women want?” ask men. “How can I show my support to my female colleagues?” These questions come up a lot in my work. In fact, during a recent podcast, I mentioned that women can, and should, mentor men to help them understand the issues at hand. Men need mentors too in the #MeToo era.

There’s a lot of talk right now about women mentoring women and men mentoring women, but I think women need to mentor men. If I were a man who saw a personal, moral, or business reason to support gender diversity in my workplace, I would go to a female colleague and ask her to mentor me.

My comment seems to resonate with both women and men.

According to researchers, Anna Marie Valerio and Katina Sawyer,”…gender inclusiveness means involving both men and women in advancing women’s leadership. Although many organizations have attempted to fight gender bias by focusing on women – offering training programs or networking groups specifically for them — the leaders we interviewed realized that any solutions that involve only 50 percent of the human population are likely to have limited success.

I know this to be true. One of my clients hires me to lead Advancement Strategies for Women workshops. My client had succeeded in raising the number of women in management from 22 percent to 37 percent in four years. But it became clear that without enlisting men’s active support within the company they would only go so far in creating gender balance at the top. That same company is launching workshops for men now, which has been really powerful. After these workshops, men will say things like, “I just realized their KPIs are gender-biased,” or “I never knew that woman on my team wanted a promotion because she was always working so hard.” And the number of women in management continues to grow.

If women and men don’t work together, we won’t achieve equality in the workplace.

Women and men have different communication styles.

Men and women communicate differently, something most of us understand instinctively but don’t always recognize in the moment. Psychology Today notes that while women speak around 250 words a minute on average, men clock in around half of that, at 125.  During the course of a day, women might speak up to 25,000 words while men speak around 12,000.

I teach key differences in communication between the sexes. One of them is status and recognition. The research shows that men seek first and foremost to be seen as the most important and the one with the most power in the room. Women primarily like to be appreciated for their accomplishments, hard work, and a job well done. For example, thanking men is fine but isn’t necessary, they don’t need it. In fact, sometimes it’s seen as a sign of weakness. By contrast, not thanking a woman could erode a working relationship. Understanding the differences in communication style is a vital part of becoming an ally to women.

Men can become more astute at recognizing non-verbal signals.

Non-verbal signals abound in the workplace. Women tend to go silent when they are talked over, interrupted or criticized. For example, if in a meeting, a man and a woman are talking and that woman suddenly gets quiet, what should that guy do? He should pivot and start re-engaging her by asking questions and listening more. Or, if he’s in a meeting and his female colleague is interrupted, he can speak up, restate the point she was making and ask her to say more on the topic.

And then there’s the big one. Tears, which are most men’s biggest fear: How to handle a woman who is upset or crying. It’s easy. Men need to do three things: Abandon the need to solve her problem for her. She doesn’t need a solution; she needs empathy and understanding. Next, show you care by saying something like, “It seems like you’re having a hard time. Can I do anything to help?” Finally, listen, just listen. Say a few encouraging words like, “That must be hard.” Or “I can understand how you feel.” I guarantee after thirty minutes of listening and just being there for her; you’ll see a change in her demeanor for the better.

And women. Step up and take on the responsibility for mentoring your male colleagues. Men need mentors too in the #MeToo era. You can make a tremendous difference by doing so. Here are three tips to help you get started mentoring your male colleagues:

1. Be direct and clear. According to the research, men hear better if the information is delivered without couching or soft-pedaling.

2. Be specific, especially if you have an ask: Men are hardwired to solve, and they go to solutions quickly. State exactly what you want them to do.

3. Don’t be critical. Reassure your male colleague that this is a learning process and of course it’s going to be awkward. Like learning another language or skill. It’s not about being a bad guy, but about learning how to be more in tune with what women want and how they expect to be communicated with differently.

So, men? Go find a woman who can mentor you and help you learn how to be an ally in the workplace. And if you feel you need additional coaching, contact me.

Finally, take my survey on perceptions of Sexual Harassment. I’ve replicated a study conducted in Europe, and I’d like to compare the answers of American men and women to the answers of Europeans.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.com.

Hiring Women is Smart Business

hiring-women-is-smart-business

Hiring women is smart business. According to research from McKinsey & Company, published in January 2018, gender diversity on executive teams is strongly correlated with profitability and value creation. The study also reveals that the executive teams of outperforming companies have more women in line roles (typically revenue generating) than in staff roles.

Yet, gender inequality continues to be a reality in the workplace, in politics, and in the entertainment industry. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Report 2017, based on research conducted by LinkedIn, estimates that it will take 217 years to achieve gender parity. LinkedIn’s Senior Director, Public Policy, Sue Duke states, “Our research found that women represent fewer than 50 percent of leaders in every industry analyzed — and in some fields, such as energy and mining or manufacturing, the representation of women is far lower, with women holding fewer than 20 percent of leadership positions.”

Advancing women and leadership are topics about which I am passionate. I believe that hiring women is smart business. I write, speak, and create programs for organizations all over the world that address issues of diversity. So when I learn about a company that is actively working to bridge the gender gap and promotes women in leadership positions–I can hardly contain my excitement. Recently, I had a chance to meet with three women from the Miller Heiman Group who have been elevated to C-suite positions. Miller Herman is a global organization with 63 locations across the world.

What happens when a company appoints women in C-suite roles to lead the business into a new age of sales and service?

The Miller Heiman Group has made a significant investment in gender diversity and equality by recently promoting/hiring three executives to the C-Suite. Why is it so significant? Because promoting these women breaks the glass ceiling in a traditionally male-dominated industry. “This isn’t about checking boxes for diversity; it’s about creating a stronger, more competitive business today and driving innovation for the future of the sales industry tomorrow,” they state.

I met with Allen Mueller, chief revenue officer (CRO), Dana Hamerschlag, chief product officer (CPO), and Aimee Schuster, chief marketing officer (CMO) to discuss their work in driving sales and success at the company. I asked each of them how they view their leadership roles. I wanted to understand how they see women as leaders, and how women’s strengths contribute to the company’s global sales, marketing, and product development.

Allen Mueller was promoted to CRO in December 2017 to lead Miller Heiman Group’s global growth strategy after a successful tenure as executive director, North America. Mueller has a unique perspective: “Women make successful leaders because they are socialized to empathize with others and listen first. Men often try to solve the “problem” quickly – jumping to a solution before understanding all the root-cause issues. Women are hard-wired to see the big picture and can thus react to the complexity of sales today by nurturing customers and listening to what say and don’t say,” she stated.

Mueller also made a point about managing teams internally, likening leadership to motherhood. She described the parallels between motherhood and leadership as both including the need to be available, disciplined, consistent, and to be both firm and nurturing at the same time.

Dana Hamerschlag, CPO, was hired in March of 2017 and leads the global product strategy and roadmap. She is driving an agile development approach, which includes an intense focus on responding to market feedback and building innovative cloud-based analytics. She talked about the changing face of the buyer and the challenge of adapting sales processes to meet the needs of diverse buyers. “How we behave needs to be different,” she said. “It’s not the football locker room anymore. We’re at a special moment in time. People are speaking up more, and when the tone and culture are offensive or not inclusive, that becomes a distraction.” Hamerschlag described working to create a culture of direct feedback, focusing on the way we engage buyers of all genders, speaking out against inappropriate behavior, and checking in with people to confirm whether the culture is supporting their ability to do great work as essential components of her role as a leader.

Aimee Schuster, CMO, brings two decades of marketing experience, with the last ten years spent working in Chicago’s technology scene. She founded and sold her tech company; deciding to take this job, in large part, because of the team and commitment to diversity. “I’m working with amazing women in this leadership team,” Schuster stated. “I’m joining forces with sales and product development to create a new marketing structure for the future,” she added. “We all demonstrate through our regular workday the importance of diversity, and we act as role models for the changing landscape.”

In today’s world, gender plays a role in the pace of change.

Miller Heiman Group describes these three women as crucial leaders in its aggressive transformation plans for 2018–and beyond. In our discussions, all three of these women emphasized the need to leverage the strengths both genders bring to the workplace.

And, to accelerate the company’s technology offerings and bolster its ability to help businesses build world-class sales and service organizations, these women have set out to modernize Miller Heiman Group’s sales methodology and its iconic Blue Sheet for the digital age–within the next six months. I’m betting they will be hugely successful.

How can your organization recruit and retain top female talent?

Hiring women is smart business. Wondering how your company can attract more women in top management? Here are three tips:

1. Create a culture of open and constructive feedback.

2. Invite women leaders to review and revamp processes and systems.

3. Acknowledge the unique qualities both genders bring to the workplace.

Does your company need help with gender diversity? Your leadership may need to develop more awareness of how women and men can best collaborate. Coaching and facilitated discussions are essential parts of this process. Contact me for more information.

A version of this post originally published on Inc.com.

Photo by Dane Deaner on Unsplash

Investing in Women-Led Startups Shows Strong ROI

women-led startups

Recently I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Allyson Kapin and Craig Newmark about the Women Startup Challenge, an initiative of the nonprofit organization, Women Who Tech. The organization works with talented women breaking new ground in technology to transform the world and inspire change.

As I’ve written in the past, hiring women is smart business. And, women also make exceptional entrepreneurs. I believe that women need to continue to rise to the top in all industries to ensure that we have more open, innovative and thriving organizations.

The Women Startup Challenge Emerging Tech competition featured ten of the best early-stage, women-led Emerging Tech startups, focused on Agriculture, Augmented Reality, Biotech, Health, Energy, IoT, Robotics, and Virtual Reality.

Allyson Kapin is the founder of Women Who Tech and has been named one of the Most Influential Women in Tech by Fast Company. She is also the co-founder of Rad Campaign, a web agency that works with nonprofits to fight the world’s toughest problems, ranging from climate change to health care reform.

Craig Newmark, a member of the Advisory team for Women Who Tech, is the founder of craigslist, the web-based platform that has fundamentally changed classified advertising. Craig is also the founder of Craig Newmark Philanthropies, which works to advance people and organizations that are “getting ‎stuff done” in the areas of women in technology, veterans and military families, ‎trustworthy journalism, and voter protection.

On March 6, 2018, the Women Startup Challenge Emerging Tech finalists pitched their innovative ventures to a panel of tech industry investors on stage at Google, in New York City. The grand prize-winner will be awarded a $50,000 cash grant for her startup. Additional prizes include $280,000 in Google cloud services. Meet the ten women-led startups who were finalists for the sixth cohort.

And, congratulations to the $50,000 Grand Prize winner, 14-year-old Emma Yang, for her “Timeless” app! Emma developed and built Timeless to help people with Alzheimer’s remember events, stay connected and engaged, and recognize people through artificial intelligence-based facial recognition technology.

Melissa: “What inspired you to launch the Women Startup Challenge three years ago?”

Allyson: “We originally created the Women Startup challenge because of the dismal amount of funding available to women-led startups. The latest data shows that less than 2 percent of VC money goes to women-led startups. That number has barely budged in ten years, and we wanted to find a way to shake up this culture and economy that has made it very difficult for women entrepreneurs to access capital.

We’re on a mission to find the best early-stage women-led startups and put capital, mentoring, and resources behind them. I’m happy to report that we’re moving the needle. The startups that have gone through our cohorts have succeeded in collectively raising over $20M.”

Melissa: “And Craig, what inspired you to get involved with the Women Startup Challenge?”

Craig: “One of the first principles that I live by is that I feel that you should treat people like you want to be treated and that means fairness for everyone. You need to give people a break.

I grew up in Jersey, and what people told me is sometimes you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is. Craig Newmark Philanthropies supports the Women Startup Challenge so that people take this extra seriously–and that seems to work.”

Melissa: “It seems as though you have both genders supporting the Women Startup Challenge, so it isn’t just women supporting the Women Startup Challenge, but you have men also supporting it.”

Craig: “That’s why that first principle I think is real important. Treating people like you want to be treated is something we all learn as kids and forget–but now I’m in the process of reminding people, particularly my male peers, to practice what they preach.”

Allyson: “To echo what Craig is saying, and one of the reasons we love working with Craig, is he’s been such an ally to us and to the women in tech community. I think that for us to solve these issues, with the lack of diversity and the lack of funding for women in tech we need male allies at the table.”

Melissa:  “What is it that prevents women from getting funding?”

Allyson: “What we have found through our own research, and other research that validates ours, is that both unconscious and conscious biases play parts in preventing women from getting funding. The gatekeepers of the investor world are primarily men–white men–and they rely on their own networks for warm leads. Investors need to diversify their networks, and we want to help them do that.

Craig: “In plainer terms: Sometimes people don’t get something good when others present it, and we can be real jerks sometimes. That may be too plain of language for you, but that’s the gist of things. Sometimes we’re short of empathy.”

Melissa: Would you say women present themselves, that is, pitch differently than men do?

Craig: I’ve seen some of the pitches, and the results are good, but I think that has to do with the training that Women Who Tech provides on how to give an effective fundraising pitch. You have very little time to pitch investors. The less time you have, the more focused your presentation has to be, and people respect that.”

Allyson: “I don’t see much difference between men and women pitching. But I do think there are unconscious biases that men and even women investors can have that can impact how the pitch is received. A key part of our program is our emphasis on training and coaching for all of the founders who are raising money for their next round.”

Melissa: “What’s the business case for investing in women-led businesses?”

Craig: “The bottom line is that if you invest in a women-led startup, you’re going to make more money. The research shows that women-led startups have a 35 percent higher return on vestment (ROI.) Investors want a better return on investment, so they should go where the return is better.”

Allyson: “This isn’t about charity. There’s a big business case for investing in women-led and racially diverse startups. If investors want to make billions of dollars, they need to start funding more diverse led startups that have game-changing products. And the time to do that is right now because we’re missing out on major innovation by not funding them.”

10 Tips For Pitching Your Start-up Business to Investors

  1. Identify the problem or challenge your product is solving.
  2. Clearly layout how your product is the solution to the challenges you highlighted.
  3. Show traction to date and have a clear go-to-market strategy.
  4. Demonstrate why your team is the one to bring this product to market.
  5. Keep the pitch simple, stupid aka the KISS principle.
  6. Don’t use insider jargon that investors won’t easily understand.
  7. Know your financials backward and forward.
  8. Highlight what the funding will be used for and how you will use it to scale.
  9. Condense your pitch. You will have only minutes to make your case.
  10. Work with a coach to prep for your investor pitching opportunity.

I look forward to seeing continued greatness from Women Who Tech in the future! And if you’re looking to start a business, I offer an impactful coaching program for female entrepreneurs. Contact me.

A version of this post originally published on Inc.com.

Image Credit: Pexels.com

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa Lamson is the CEO of Lamson Consulting, Founder of the highly popular leadership program for women, Advancement Strategies for Women, and creator of award-winning management programs for SpaceX, LinkedIn, and SAP. As an author, consultant, and speaker, Melissa accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by growing leaders, bridging cultures, and empowering teams.  More About Melissa Lamson

Gender Equality: Tech Still Lags Behind Other Industries [Infographic]

The tech industry by its very nature is progressive and innovative, but when it comes to women in tech, it certainly is not. Monty Munford, Forbes.

Tech companies still lag behind most other industries when it comes to gender equality and the gender makeup of their boards. Out of the top ten tech companies in the world, just how many women hold executive positions?

A version of this post was first published on ecardshack.com