From Secretary to Administrative Assistant: How the Admin Role Has Evolved

Administrative Professionals

Note: In honor of Women’s History Month, I’m sharing this article from Abby QuillenNinety-six percent of admin professionals are women. The Infographic is from Quill.com.

Gone are the days when secretaries took dictation on Steno pads and transcribed correspondence on manual typewriters. Today’s administrative professionals rely on state-of-the-art technology to perform their day-to-day duties. In addition to organizing meetings, planning events, and creating and giving presentations, many perform tasks ranging from database and website maintenance to videoconferencing. And less than 15 percent of administrative staff still go by the title secretary: Most are called administrative assistants, executive assistants, office managers, or office supervisors.

Over the years, many people have predicted administrative support jobs would disappear because of technological conveniences such as online scheduling software and email. However, the career continues to go strong. There are about four million administrative professionals in the workplace, and that number is expected to grow over the next decade. Administrative professionals are in high demand and paid well in many areas of the country, including Silicon Valley.

Ninety-six percent of administration professionals are women. However, not that long ago secretaries were exclusively men. Keep reading to learn how and why the administrative assistant role has evolved and why it continues to be a crucial job.

Keepers of secrets

The word secretary comes from the Latin secretum, meaning secret. Because heads of state and high officials needed to trust their secretaries with confidential material, the job has traditionally been highly valued.

The first secretaries were probably ancient Egyptian scribes who chiseled the details of business transactions into stone around 400 A.D. They were some of the most educated men of their time because they knew how to read and write. During the Middle Ages, clergymen performed most secretarial duties, giving rise to the terms “clerk” and “clerical.” Non-clergy clerks emerged during the late Renaissance to serve the growing merchant class. Until the 1860s, all secretaries were men.

The need for administrative support boomed during the Industrial Revolution of the late 19th century. Because of new manufacturing methods and expanded markets, businesses grew rapidly and paperwork proliferated as well.

In the 1860s, Christopher Latham Sholes changed the job forever by inventing a mechanical typing machine, which eventually became known as the typewriter. This machine played a pivotal role in women’s entrance into the paid labor force in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The first typewriters were manufactured by the sewing-machine division of the firearms company E. Remington and Sons, and they resembled sewing machines, with ornate floral décor and decals. The keys were originally in alphabetical order in two rows until Sholes introduced the QWERTY keyboard in 1875. It’s commonly believed that the new layout was designed to slow typists down to prevent keys from jamming. However, there’s evidence it was actually designed to make it easier for telegraph operators to translate Morse code. In any case, QWERTY keyboards have been with us ever since, despite several attempts to create more efficient letter arrangements.

Typewriters didn’t catch on at first. They cost about $100, which is roughly equivalent to $2,000 today, and they required a lot of maintenance. Furthermore, although typing was faster than handwriting, it was difficult to type quickly on the first typewriters, especially because early typists only used the first two fingers on each hand to strike letters. Moreover, when using an upstrike typewriter, which was the most common model in the 1880s and 1890s, users couldn’t see their work while typing.

Typewriters eventually improved and typewritten correspondence became the norm in business. Clerk-typists were needed to produce files, letters, and documents. However, the population of labor-age males took a devastating hit in the Civil War: 625,000 American men died on the battlefields between 1861 and 1865. Plus, male laborers were in large demand in the booming manufacturing, mining, and construction fields.

Rise of pink-collar professionals

With free compulsory public schooling in the 19th century, educated women became qualified to fill the surplus of clerical positions. However, they were expected to leave the workplace when they got married, and they were paid much less than men.

At first, women were hired to be copyists, who reproduced documents by hand. Then in the mid-1880s, they were hired as typists and stenographers who transcribed correspondence in shorthand. Typewriter companies began marketing their new machines as most suitable for women. “The typewriter is especially adapted to feminine fingers. They seem to be made for typewriting. The typewriting involves no hard labor and no more skill than playing the piano,” wrote John Harrison in the 1888 Manual of the Typewriter.

According to an 1885 article in Manufacturer and Builder, a journal documenting industrial progress, women were paid $12 to $15 a week in New York City for secretarial duties in 1885. That’s roughly equivalent to between $292 and $365 a week in today’s dollars. However, the pay was probably much lower in other areas.

Since about 1930, women have held between 95 and 96 percent of administrative support jobs. In 1950, secretary was the most common occupation for a woman, and that’s still true today. It has become increasingly customary for women to stay in the workforce after marrying and having children. Today, 68 percent of married mothers and 76 percent of single mothers have full-time jobs outside the home.

Administrative support professionals are more educated than ever before. In the 2013 International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) survey, 90 percent of respondents had some post-secondary education, and 45 percent had at least an associate’s degree.

New technology brought women into the secretarial field in the late 19th century, and managing new technology has been a large part of the job ever since. In the IAAP survey, 80 percent of respondents said they routinely use word processing, spreadsheet, email, and presentation software; nearly half also use virtual meeting and desktop publishing software. Moreover, the majority of respondents predicted their top challenge in the next five years would be “keeping up with changing technology.”

The tools of the trade are rapidly evolving, from keyboard data-entry to voice recognition, paper to paperless communication, and word processors to handheld devices. Entrepreneurial administrative assistants are now able to work from home on a freelance basis for various clients, which has led to massive growth in the virtual assistant industry. What future technological changes will bring for administrative assistants remains to be seen. However, if history is a guide, technology may make administrative professionals more necessary, not less.

From secretary to administrative assistant: How the admin role has evolved over timeA version of this post was first published on Quill.com. Infographic by Quill.

Women, Don’t Be Too Busy to Lead!

Three Ways Women Can Rise to the Challenge of Leadership

In her speech at The 2018 Golden Globes, Oprah said that things are changing. Girls have more women role models, and there are more examples of leadership to follow. Actors like Reese Witherspoon and Elizabeth Banks have created and head film production companies, knowing that their roles are limited if they leave up the casting and directing up to others. Michelle Williams brought #MeToo founder, Tarana Burke, with her to The Golden Globes, and Meryl Streep brought Ai-Jen Poo, the founder of The National Domestic Workers Alliance. Geena Davis heads an institute focused on gender bias in the media, continually reminding us where our blind spots are with regards to gender equality.

After hearing the powerful messages delivered around the world by leading women in Hollywood last week, I believe we’ve turned a corner on gender equality. The issues are out, they’re being talked about, women and men are taking action. Hollywood has been turned on its head, and I think other industries will follow.

Don‘t be too busy for leadership. Women leaders work hard. We are perfectionists. We believe the value we bring is in a job well done–that is when we’ve led our employees to complete their tasks efficiently and effectively. We even work alongside our teams. And those are all excellent qualities.

The problem is, many men approach work differently. Male leaders will spend more time delegating, networking, self-promoting, making deals. They are hard-wired to think more high-level. They don’t mess with the nitty-gritty as much, trusting others to get it done. And if a task is only 80 percent complete, they see it as better to move on than waste a lot of time and energy on it.

Men see women who are very busy, who stay in the weeds, striving for perfectionism, taking on projects that are for the good of the team or company instead of their immediate sphere of influence (or themselves!) as… I don’t know how else to say it… “icky.”

In my workshops on gender balance in leadership, men tell me that they don’t understand why women are so “hectic” and “busy.” One man actually said, “She kept her head down in her laptop so much I didn’t even know she wanted a promotion!”

Always be looking for opportunities. I hear from many women that they are simply too busy to look for opportunities. Too busy to network, too busy to look at job boards, too busy for social media… This has to change! We have to get our heads out of our laptops and start making time to network. We have to think about what we want in our careers, decide on it, and start asking for it. We have to create and use every coffee corner, company event, meeting with our boss, or extended team as an opportunity to let people know who we are and what we want. Now, I know that may sound “icky” to some women. But the truth is,

If we don’t promote our own self-interest, we can’t truly promote our team or organization

So keep your head up and look around, that’s where the leadership roles lie.

Ask for more money. Recently, I was chatting on a plane with a CEO of a construction company. Using the opportunity to do some research, I asked him what he sees as a big difference between men and women in the workplace. He said, “Men ask me for more money, women don’t.” He went on to say, “I always give them [the men] more money just because they asked me. It might not be all of what they want, but at least 50 percent.” I then asked, “So if women don’t ask you for more money, what does that mean to you?” Without skipping a beat, he said, “They’re not leadership material. If they can’t advocate for themselves, they can’t advocate for the company.”

I shouldn’t have been stunned, but I was. It made total sense.

Advocacy. That’s really what Hollywood said at The Golden Globes, and what the #TimesUp movement is all about, and what I’m saying here.  As women, if we don’t advocate for ourselves, and our own self-interest, if we don’t strive for more leadership roles, we can’t make the change that’s needed. So go for it, whatever “it” is.

If your head is up, you can see it.

For more on my coaching program exclusively for women leaders, click here.

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

How to Become a Thought Leader in Your Organization

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In today’s work world, leaders need to define their areas of expertise—and stand out. I’m seeing a growing trend for individuals who are creating their own niche inside their organizations. By doing so, they are standing out as thought leaders; pioneers and advocates on particular topics, which builds their visibility, their reputation as experts, and attracts opportunities inside and outside their company.

As Daniel W. Rasmus writes, for Fast Company, “Amid the cacophony of corporate voices, those found to be additive to the dialogue, rather than distracting, can be considered thought leaders.” These thought leaders have become known for something—hopefully a passion of theirs—and this perception of them helps open doors, and provides career and job security.

“The best thought leadership helps people in an industry, or more likely, in a role within an industry, do something better or gain insight that helps them better understand their market or their job,” writes Rasmus.

I’ve been following, interviewing, and coaching internal thought leaders for a long time now and realize there are common strategies that make these leaders successful. Employing these strategies in your own life can help you ascend to the next level in your career, and become a leader yourself. “Becoming a thought leader isn’t just a process. It requires a passion for and a commitment to spreading ideas that can help others,” states Ned Ward, vice president of Sterns & Associates, in an interview with says Inc. editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan.

“Thought leadership is commonly discussed in the business world, and to the average person, it may sound like another annoying corporate buzzword,” says Nicole Fallon, of Business News Daily. “But behind the jargon is the honest and admirable ambition of being viewed as a credible industry expert, one who cuts through the “noise” and offers something worth listening to.”

How You Can Become a Thought Leader

You may be wondering how you can become a thought leader. You’re in luck. I’m sharing these special secrets in a webinar on February 9th at 11 am PST/noon MST / 2 pm EST for 60 minutes. This webinar will analyze those who have successfully become thought leaders in their organizations. It will also deliver a step-by-step guide to creating a plan for your own thought leadership.

During my webinar you will:

  • Decide on your thought leadership topic
  • Design messaging and create a brand for your subject
  • Develop a step by step plan to launch your own thought leadership campaign
  • Learn how to expand and sustain your thought leadership reach both inside and outside your company and your professional networks.
  • Discover how to leverage your network to support your topic

After this information-packed, one-hour session you’ll leave with:

  • A topic of focus, passion
  • Clear branding and messaging around your topic
  • A plan for creating broader visibility for you and your subject
  • Unique ways to promote yourself and your topic
  • Ways to speak, write and use social media to promote your topic

What do you want to be known for? How high do you want to climb in your career? The thought leadership tips and coaching you will receive in my webinar will help you answer those questions—and more.

Remember, being perceived as a thought leader is an excellent form of career insurance; one that will open doors to new levels of professional opportunities and job satisfaction. Join us for my thought leadership webinar on February 9th at 11 am PST/noon MST / 2 pm EST. Register today!

Header Image: Wesley Fryer,  CC 2.0

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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 developing a global mindset, refining leadership skills, and bridging cross-cultural communication.  More About Melissa Lamson

 

 

8 Ways Women Can Win the Game

businessmen and women

Men and women “play” differently in the workplace. By knowing how to use different leadership styles, women can win the game.

Women–how many times has this happened to you? You’re sharing an idea in a meeting when suddenly you’re cut off–by a man.

According to participants in my women advancement workshops, it happens A LOT. The women view this behavior as a sign of disrespect and obliviousness where the men think it’s reasonable behavior and healthy competition.

This is one of many ways in which men and women “play” differently at work. And, these different styles can create friction and hold women back. But, if women learn the game and switch their leadership styles when necessary, we may be able to start taking up more space in the C-suite.

Here are eight ways women can play like women and win like men:

Pat yourself on the back.

A lot of women feel uncomfortable drawing attention to their accomplishments. They’ll say “we” when it’s really “I” or say nothing at all.

Gail Evans, the author of Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman, says because the workplace is run by a game where winning is the apparent objective, self-promotion is a way to show power. She advises not to be afraid to toot your own horn. If you don’t, no one else will.

Don’t be afraid to say “no.”

Men often have no qualms about turning down a project while women take on more and more.

Many women fear saying “no” is a sign of weakness–a sign that they can’t hack it. But Christopher Flett, author of What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business, says it is exactly the opposite. He says, “No-one promotes a ‘pile-on'”–a term he uses for someone who takes on more and more, never saying “no.”

I advise the women in my workshops that it’s okay to prioritize. “Work less and get promoted” is the statement I use over and over again. It’s getting women to think differently.

Speak up.

In the new book The Influence Effect, released this week, the authors from coaching firm Flynn Heath Holt reveal research that shows about half of women have significant difficulty inserting themselves into crucial meeting discussions. That’s while half of men say the most important thing women should address in meetings is being more confident and direct, less equivocal and apologetic.

Not speaking up in meetings is a tremendous missed opportunity to sell your ideas and yourself. Don’t be cowed by louder or more aggressive colleagues, or wait to be invited into the conversation. Force yourself to speak up more and defend your point of view. The authors of The Influence Effect share this advice–arrive early, speak early and ask questions.

Be confident.

In The Confidence Code, co-author Katty Kay says that research shows confidence is more important than competence–and women tend to focus firmly on the latter.

Don’t be afraid to take on something new and then figure it out. See it as an opportunity for growth–and believe that you can do it, even if you’ve never done it before.

Get to the point.

Men are generally conditioned to act, and so their communication style tends to be more solution-oriented and to the point. When communicating with men, women should aim to be succinct, direct and use declarative statements as opposed to finishing sentences with question marks.

Be specific with feedback.

If you’re leading men or collaborating with them, be specific in your directions–and especially your criticism.

Many men are hard-wired to let criticism roll off them. Rather than generalities, offer specific action items for them to act on.

Hit the water cooler.

The women at Flynn Heath Holt see “networking” or “schmoozing” as using the “power of the informal.” That means women can gain influence by working behind the scenes and using informal networks to strengthen relationships and get the support they need.

So, circulate the office or stay late at a meeting to find common ground with your male colleagues–talk about your kids or mutual interest in movies. This bond will extend to your working relationship and help you in the long run.

Don’t take things personally.

Because men and women communicate differently, often men’s way of doing things can be off-putting to women.

Remember that men aren’t likely trying to insult, offend or alienate you. And if they are, it’s even more important to put it back on them. You can use it as a coaching moment for yourself–and for them.

Working across gender in the workplace is more of an art than a science, but knowing these gender differences may quell some misunderstandings and even help more women get into the C-suite.

A version of the post was first published on Inc.

How to be a Good Ally to Women at Work

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As the #MeToo movement grows in strength, it seems there just might be a silver lining to the Harvey Weinstein scandal. We have a chance to change workplace culture. And one of the places to start is for men to understand the need to be a good ally to women.

The list of women who say they were harassed by film studio exec Harvey Weinstein is astonishing long–and growing by the day.  And sadly, much-admired men, like Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Russell Crowe, are being criticized for standing by and allowing–or even aiding in–Weinstein’s cover-up.

This has precipitated an important discussion on just how many women in the workplace (and life) suffer in silence. And, I believe this discussion of these atrocities has a silver lining.

Through awareness and speaking out, we–men and women–now have an opportunity to change society and workplace culture for the better radically. Men, specifically, can be allies to women.

Men? Here are seven ways you can help.

1. Listen. Listen. LISTEN.

Have you ever been in a conversation where it seems like the other person isn’t getting the message you’re sending? They are on their phone or going completely off topic. It’s frustrating, isn’t it?

We all need to work on our active listening skills–that is, those skills that help you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words a person is saying but try to understand the complete message being sent.

Repeat what’s being said. Ask clarifying questions. And, be patient even if the person could get to the point faster.

2. Learn how the other sex communicates.

Yes, it’s true. Men are from Mars and women are from Venus–at least in how we communicate. The sexes do it quite differently. For example, men have been socialized to take risks quicker. Many women need to formulate a plan and talk through their decisions to feel reassured before they leap.

If a female colleague is feeling uncertain about a decision or task, hear her out and reassure her.

3. Tell them a job well done.

It always feels good to hear when you’ve done something well, but this is especially true when you may feel subpar as compared to your male colleagues.

Call out your female team members’ good qualities. Tell them when they made a good point in a meeting or aced a presentation.

But, stay away from commenting on appearance or dress. That can be taken the wrong way!

4. Don’t underestimate.

2015 study found that one in three women have been sexually harassed. Now with allegations coming to light from scandals like Bill Cosby or Roger Ailes, this statistic is becoming more believable.

Don’t underestimate what women have gone through to get where they are. There’s a good chance they’ve been treated poorly just because of their sex.

Take them seriously and treat them as equals. And, understand that women may be suspicious of your behavior because of past treatment. Be aware of how you act and how it may be received.

5. Be inclusive.

Here’s a news flash. Not everyone likes to play golf.

Women might prefer to bond doing something else–a wine tasting or a 10k run, for instance. When planning an outing, think about if everyone will feel comfortable and included, but don’t assume. If you are going to play golf or any sport, be sure to invite your female counterparts, too.

6. Think before you ask.

There’s a salient point made in The Confidence Code about the difference in the way men and women ask for things–in that, many men see asking as being weak and instead make demands. But women view asking as a way to foster goodwill.

Men, bear this in mind. Use collaborative speak. Don’t forgo niceties. If you do, you’ll be seen as selfish and pompous–and far from being an ally.

7. Speak up.

Should you observe a woman being treated poorly, demeaned, or harassed in any way shape or form, support her. Encourage her to go to human resources.Offer to go with her and share what you’ve seen. Don’t be afraid to speak up and make your work environment one that is welcoming and inclusive. Be a good ally to women in your workplace.

If there is any positive to the atrocities that have come to light from the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and all the others, it is that they are now in the open. We–men and women–are on the precipice to change what’s gone on for way too long.

If you need help with understanding how to be an ally for women, or if you are a woman who is interested in advancing her career, contact me.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Image: cafuego, CC 2.0 

You’re a Woman, and You’re About to Lose Your Job–Make These 5 Career Moves

business woman holding box with office items.

Layoffs in the U.S. are up–20 percent last month over the previous month–and many workers are finding themselves unprepared for the impending job loss.

For women, job loss can be particularly difficult because most professional women are really busy. We’re so busy getting tasks done and taking care of others that we aren’t in the habit of focusing on what we need and what’s good for us.

In the recent economic climate and in a world swirling with unknowns, we can’t risk leaving ourselves out of the picture. Otherwise, we risk being blindsided.

So, sisters, here are six steps to get your work affairs in order and prepare for the worst.

1. Know your strengths.

We need to be acutely aware of what we’re good at. Ask yourself some simple questions–like, “What do I love to do at work?” or “Where do I bring value to my team?” Write down your answers. Ask others what they think your strengths are, too, and review old performance reviews.

Use this material to create your personal brand statement that succinctly outlines your capabilities, what you’re passionate about, what you stand for, and what you might want to aspire to next.

2. Shamelessly self-promote.

A lot of women have a tough time tooting their own horns. They don’t want to sound boastful. But, it’s important to highlight your success and attributes, and there are ways to do so that don’t sound obnoxious.

So, speak to where and when you’ve brought value. Talk about achievements you’ve made as a team or in collaboration with others. Promote the leaders of your organization when discussing your work successes.

Let people know about projects you’re excited about, how you contributed to them, and what’s next for you. Bonus points if you talk about new challenges you hope to work on next.

3. Target your network.

There are many ways to network–cold calling new people, attending conferences, meeting with mutual contacts–but doing something called “targeted networking” holds the most promise–especially for those whose jobs hang in the balance.

Targeted networking means making a list of the key people who can help you be successful or get you to your next play, and then set up a short meeting with them (even over the phone). The purpose is particular. You have a goal for the meeting and an outline of what you want to say. This outline includes sharing what you’re working on and what you want to come next for yourself professionally.

4. Refine your ask.

Know what you want and ask for it. Know what you’d like to have in your next career move–a new title, more money, or new work content. There’s no reason to think you can’t make lemonade out of a sour job loss. It may give you the guts to spring for the job you’ve always wanted.

5. Talk with your manager.

If you’re in the unfortunate situation that you know you’ll be jobless soon, talk with your manager about it. Put your feelings aside and ask them if they can help you with the next step by writing a recommendation or putting you in touch with key contacts.

Exiting gracefully is essential as you never know where your paths may cross again.

6. Talk with recruiters.

An impending job loss or not, it’s never a bad idea to put yourself out there using social media like LinkedIn and other recruiting sites. Update your photo and information, and leave yourself open. LinkedIn even has a new function where you can let only recruiters know you’re looking for opportunities.

Doing this lets you know your market value and can help build confidence. And, it can give you a plan B if plan A falls apart.

Even if your job is secure and you think you’re not going anywhere, life is full of surprises. No one has ever been sorry for being prepared for the worst.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

3 Life Lessons from Wonder Woman Gal Gadot

When the original Wonder Woman came out in 1975, there weren’t a lot well-recognized female superheroes in the world.

Flash-forward to today, and we can see them everywhere, on screen and off. I encounter wonder women in my life every day–my mother, best friend, colleagues, and with whom I leaders I work. For example, a colleague Tania Katan, co-created a female empowerment campaign#ItWasNeverADress, for software company Axosoft.

And, as it turns out, Gal Gadot, who plays the new Wonder Woman, is one in real life, too.

Here are three lessons professional women can glean from the actress:

1. It’s not about work-life balance; it is about management.

Gal shot the blockbuster in LA, while her family lives in Israel. She knew she couldn’t balance the time between work and family. After all, she cannot be in two places at once.

So, she did the next best thing–she mastered international conference calls, international travel, jet lag, and time zones. She shuttled herself back and forth to audition for the movie, meet about it, and then film it so that she could continue her career while being a mommy and wife.

2. Don’t wait for the baby.

I am asked by women all the time if they should put off starting a family so that it doesn’t stall their professional momentum. They try to time their pregnancies around their careers. But, Gal did it a different way. She went for both at the same time.

She was pregnant while filming the Wonder Woman movie and they green screened out her baby bump. She didn’t try to arrange her life or hold herself back; she knew she wanted to have a family and she went for it.

And, being Wonder Woman doesn’t mean being able to do it all by yourself. It means being part of a team. Gal has a husband that supports her in her goals and plays a substantial role at home. Ask for help, and take it if offered.

3. Leverage all your skills.

Who would have thought that being in the military would help an acting career?

Gal served for two years in the Israeli army, and her knowledge of weapons and physical strength helped her land her a part in Fast and Furious, and then in Wonder Woman where she does most of her own stunts.

Gal used her unique skill set and made it work for her.

So, look at all your past experiences or all the challenges you tackle in your life–even in your personal life–and use that to your advantage.

I can’t write an article about Wonder Women without a shout-out to the first, Lynda Carter. As a young girl, I looked up to her in the role and always liked her calm, yet commanding presence.

Lynda, if you’re reading this, you’ll always be my number one.

 

A version of this post was first published on Inc. 

Photo Credit: Kho/123RF

5 Traits That Make Women Better Global Leaders

More and more women are rising up the ranks to lead countries and global organizations worldwide. In fact, according to a Pew Research Center study, published in 2015 and updated in 2017, since 2005, the number of world leaders who are women has more than doubled. A fact that is not surprising since women possess certain traits that make them better global leaders.

Having said that, a lot of work still needs to be done. In the U.S., women hold less than 5 percent of the C-suite top spots. And, in regions like Latin America or Asia, women leading large organizations is pretty uncommon.

But, in my work helping women around the world develop advancement strategies, I’ve noticed traits, unique to women, that set them up to be influential leaders–particularly in a global environment.

Here are the top five traits women possess that make them strong global leaders:

1. Women empathize.

Being able to wear other people’s shoes is very important when leading in a global environment. Leaders need to try to understand different perspectives and empathize to be effective.

While I’m always the first to teach the premise that agility and empathy are not exclusive to either gender, it’s hard to ignore the research. An in-depth white paper by Caliper states:

Women leaders also were found to be more empathetic and flexible, as well as stronger in interpersonal skills than their male counterparts.

“These qualities combine to create a leadership style that is inclusive, open, consensus building, collaborative and collegial,” said Herb Greenberg, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Caliper.

2. Women communicate.

Communication is key to effective leadership, particularly when it comes to communicating across cultures, write Deborah Blagg and Susan Young in an article for Harvard Business School’s (HBS) Working Knowledge. And, according to HBS professor Nitin Nohria, author of Beyond the Hype: Rediscovering the Essence of Management, communication is the real work of leadership. “Great leaders, he notes, “spend the bulk of their time communicating, and they know how to employ all three of Aristotle’s rhetorical elements.”

Multiple studies over the years have consistently indicated that women are better communicators than men. Some suggest that women use many more words than men (anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 words a day to a man’s 5,000 to 10,000). One study, by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, attributes this to female brains possessing more of the “language protein.”

3. Women listen.

The female leaders I’ve worked with seem to have an innate skill for listening. When one woman is sharing a problem or challenge, the others seem to give their undivided attention instantly. They listen, ask some questions, and then share their thoughts.

Listening is a skill that’s necessary and appreciated across all cultures and particularly useful when leading teams of people from different backgrounds.

4. Women collaborate.

When managing cross-cultural teams, leaders need to understand that team members work, assess problems and come up with solutions differently.

Women seem to genuinely enjoy working with others. They enjoy learning new perspectives and coming up with solutions together. The women in my workshops always ensure each person in the room has a voice and is a part of the conversation. This means that everyone’s opinion and skills are included, allowing for stronger and more creative outcomes.

5. Women learn.

As I mentioned, women enjoy learning about other’s perspectives. They’re also very interested in discovering new ways to improve upon themselves and sharpen their skills. This focus on development makes women self-aware–crucial for both improving leadership skills as well as emotional intelligence.

McKinsey and Catalyst found that more gender balance at the top produces better financial results than those with the lowest representation of women board directors. However, there are still many challenges that keep women from leading global teams and companies. But as we continue to chip away at these barriers, both internally and externally, our organizations will only become stronger.

Do you need help creating gender balance on your team? Or, are you a woman who is hoping for a leadership position in your organization? I can help. Contact me.

 

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo Credit: Elwynn/123RF

14 Ways to Guarantee the Women in Your Life Are Happy

guarantee-women-happy

When this post first published it was Valentine’s Day, a day when men across the nation try to guarantee the women in their lives are happy. Extra happy.

You know who you are. You buy flowers and chocolates and make reservations at fancy restaurants, which is lovely.

But the truth is, for most women, small everyday actions are the way to their hearts. This goes for women in your personal life, as well as, in your professional life.

With that in mind, here are 14 ways to guarantee the women in your workplace are happy:

1. Be authentic in every interaction. Nothing creates awkwardness like a coworker who thinks you’re trying to be something you’re not.

2. Use the right phrase. If a woman in your workplace says she had a bad day, don’t try to fix it. Ask her if she wants to talk about it. (For more tips on the right things to say, check out my Love Deck which is a set of flash cards with scenarios and best and appropriate responses.)

3. Listen. Ask more questions in conversations, and comment to show you’re engaged and interested.

4. Don’t worry about how others perceive you. Focus on building relationships and learning from your coworkers to create the best possible results.

5. Praise coworkers on their professional abilities or share a technique that’s brought you success. Remember tip 3–listen more than talk.

6. Identify topics to talk about like world news, culture and industry trends rather than relying on typical small talk about work and sports. The family is always a safe area. Parents love to talk about their kids, and this can provide you with common ground to bond over.

7. Don’t view attractive female colleagues as something to be avoided (or pursued). Think of them as sisters or girls you grew up with and treat them like anyone else.

8. Don’t assume your new female contact is less accomplished or educated or needs your assistance. What you might view as “help” might be perceived as condescension. Get to know her background and treat her as a peer, not a subordinate.

9. Women prefer to discuss solutions as a team. Be prepared to brainstorm and gather ideas. The process is as important as the outcome.

10. Thoughtful gestures will go a long way. Remembering a birthday or grabbing your colleague a cup of coffee when you’re getting one for yourself will be greatly appreciated.

11. Be aware that women communicate differently than men do. They may suggest a solution when asking a question.

12. Women sometimes view competition as negative, especially with other women. You might want to instigate more of a win-win policy in the team.

13. Think before you make jokes or use humor that might be offensive. If you question saying it at all, it’s probably not a good idea.

14. When asking a female colleague to do a task for you, you might take a less authoritative approach and instead ask her for help. This will be perceived as more collaborative.

Remember, most of your coworkers want to minimize awkward moments, too. Authentic and positive work relationships benefit everyone. And, if you reach out to women in your workplace and industry in a thoughtful and respectful way, that’s exactly what you’ll build.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Image: Pexels by Bruce Mars 

 

 

Five Friday Highlights: The Power of Shared Experiences

Gender Equity

There’s something really powerful about … shared experiences. People might be skeptical about their ability to change if they’re by themselves, but a group will convince them to suspend disbelief. A community creates belief.- Charles Duhigg

Today’s highlight selections all tie back, in one way or another to shared experiences. From Sheryl Sandberg’s revelations after becoming a part of the single parent community, to women who still are subject to unwanted touching at their employers, it is shared experiences which catalyze action. It is my hope these actions create a richer, more equitable world for everyone.

Acting on shared experiences can result in a richer, more equitable world for everyone! {TWEET THIS}

Sheryl Sandberg released a Mother’s Day message on Facebook about how her interpretation of “Leaning In” has changed over the past year, after her husband passed away and she became a single mother. In addition to sharing the evolution of her personal viewpoint, she says, “We need to rethink our public and corporate workforce policies and broaden our understanding of what a family is and looks like.” I agree!

Sheryl Sandberg’s change of viewpoint was brought about by a change in her life circumstances. After her spouse’s death, her pool of “shared experience” had broadened. Shared experience, writes Georgene Huang, founder of Fairygodboss in Forbes, matters. Read more in Your Gender Matters at Work and That’s a Good Thing.

Some industries move more quickly toward gender parity than others, and Sydney Ember shares in The New York Times how advertising is not blazing a trail. In For Women in Advertising, It’s Still a “Mad Men” World, Ember writes “…in interviews with more than a dozen women, mostly executives, who work in advertising, many said they found it hard to believe how much their particular business still remained a white man’s world.”

Who is going to make a measured, mature contribution to the hard work of rethinking public and corporate workforce policies referred to by Sheryl Sandberg? I have to think the people willing and capable of doing that will exhibit the characteristics discussed in 7 Reasons Why Emotional Intelligence is One of the Fastest-Growing Job Skills from Fast Company. Like the article states regarding the emotionally intelligent, “…with the rates of change and pressures in the workplace rising, they’ll become even more sought after than ever.”

I believe those emotionally intelligent people can make a difference in the changes that will help bring about more fairness and, in all honesty, more profits! In Why Inclusive Hiring Practices Help Bottom-Line Earnings for Savvy Companies from Sharp Heels, guest contributor Heather Ready provided examples such as, “…investments in companies with at least one female founder performed 63% better than … investments in all-male teams, according to a report released last year.”

Success in business is not, of course, all about monetary profit However, I don’t see why we can’t do both: be richly diverse and rich in the conventional sense. Who wants to help me try? Email me here with your ideas!

Image Credit: 123rf/gajus