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.

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

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.

Women in Leadership, Women in Business: What Glass Ceiling?

Women in Leadership, Women in Business
Interview by Melissa Lamson
Interviewer: Hana Al-Abadi

Q: Why are women in business such a hot topic right now?

A: I think that we have thought – at least in the US and Europe – that we fought the battle for equality in the past but when we looked around a couple of years ago and saw that positions, money, and treatment still wasn’t always equal, the subject came up again. Women finally see ourselves as equal business partners and we want careers equally to men. Because of that there’s a lot of pressure on individuals to find flexible solutions to create that equality in the workplace as well as at home. The topic of women in the workplace is big because of that pressure and that evolution. Women tend to be really spectacular working globally because they are good at developing relationships. I don’t think it is a coincidence that we are going global successfully because we are good at it.

Q: Do you believe women still bump into the glass ceiling?

A: Yes I do. I would say there are two challenges. The first challenge is that women are trained to not focus much on self-promotion because we will be seen as a threat, an opportunist, or simply not a “nice girl”. Different from men who are admired for self-promotion; its expected from men. So we’ll sabotage ourselves and not promote our accomplishments enough to be seen for that promotion or next project. The other challenge is that as women we are very focused on performance, mostly because we are socialized to be perfectionists. So we have a perfectionism issue, we need to be more conscious of not being too much of a perfectionist but to pull ourselves out of the weeds, look up, and develop those key relationships, particularly with men.

Q: What are the top 3 keys to women being successful in the workforce? Anything special they need to consider when working globally?

A: 1. Don’t be a perfectionist. 2. Self Promote. 3. Build targeted relationships. (Don’t just socialize with those people you like.)

Q: As a successful business woman, author, and consultant who travels all over the world, would you say women are more or less successful in business outside of the US/in other countries?

A: I wouldn’t say more or less successful. In the US, women have been at a disadvantage in the last 20 years because many believed the whole issue of equality in business was fixed and no longer an issue. But there is still inequality we need to think about consciously, proactively and collaboratively with men. Sheryl Sandberg is one of the most well-known people who recently came out and said “it’s still not equal and we need to be conscious of this”. She also was the first women to admit publicly that a major success factor in a woman’s career is determined by the support of their partner.

Globally, it’s interesting to see the gender roles in parts of Asia and the Middle-east. They are very distinct between women and men. Men don’t try to do what women do and vice versa. It becomes an advantage because when we see the male and female roles, people just tend to leave each other alone in their roles. It doesn’t get messy because men get a little nervous when you’re in their territory and it’s in their nature to be more competitive. So if you don’t have people stepping on each other’s toes then it’s easier to get things done so I think women have more opportunities in some other countries because of that. Having said that, women all over the world are speaking up, getting an education, and want to use that education to launch their careers. It’s economically driven, in many cases, young couples or families need or want more money and material possessions and a more luxurious lifestyle than their parents had. Its also emotionally-driven, where women want to use their brain, invent, create and shape the world.

Q: What is your advice to women wanting to start their own business?

A: Find  people who have done something similar and who are successful at it and either go meet them, work for them, and/or model yourself after them. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel. Also, it’s helpful if those role models are women so you know how to overcome specific challenges. Further, I would find men who are successful and ask them to be formal mentors to you because they will always give the male perspective. When you’re interacting with clients who are male, they will be able to help you. Particularly when negotiating money or asking for the sale, men tend to do that differently from women and its good to learn both styles.

For more information about women in business, contact info@lamsonconsulting.com