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HBR Article Review & Women in Corporate Leadership

Happy Friday!

Today, I read a good article and attended a Women in Corporate Leadership lunch.  I’d like to share my thoughts on the article and the Women in Leadership lunch.  I know this isn’t the perfect topic for a Friday when we want to take a break from work, but it is what is on my mind so it is what I’m going to write about 🙂

The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time – Tony Schwartz – Harvard Business Review.

This article talks about how multi-tasking uses up our energy reserves faster and takes us, on average, 25% longer to complete tasks (and the quality is probably much lower than if you focused exclusively on the task).  This is exactly how I’ve felt the past few weeks.  I’ve been double-booked and in meetings from 7am-4pm a lot of days so I’ve been trying to keep up on email, get performance reviews written, and move my tasks along while I’m on conference calls so I don’t fall (further) behind.  

At the end of the day, I’ve been so exhausted I can barely form an intelligent thought, yet I still haven’t felt like I made progress on the important things at work.  I struggle with this in my personal life too, where I am on my phone while watching tv so I’m not fully enjoying my downtime or my mind drifts to what I need to get done at home when I’m having a conversation so I’m not fully present.   

My solution?  Lately, I’ve been making more conscious decisions to keep my phone in the other room when I’m at home or leave my laptop in my office when I head to meetings at work.  It is something I will need to work on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis, but I think it will make me a much more engaged and productive worker and a better friend… while also making sure I leave the office with a little more energy.

Women in Corporate Leadership lunch

The host of this event was Dale Kurschner, Editor-in-Chief of Twin Cities Business.  The format was a presentation of the recent study on women in leadership and board positions and then a panel discussion.  It was interesting to see the facts behind women in leadership:

  • Women represent 40% of the workforce
  • 51% of middle management roles are held by women (which was surprising since that is a higher percentage than the general population of women in business)
  • The average percent of women on boards is 14.2%
  • Less than 3% of Fortune 1000 companies have a female CEO

In all honesty, I don’t really like the whole “women need equal representation” talk.  It implies that women are promoted because they are women, not because they are qualified.  I’ve worked too hard in my career to have my qualifications be dismissed as a gender thing.  I think that is the attitude of the typical Milennial or Gen X female.  I also think that attitude is proof that Baby Boomer women were successful in forging the way for women to be seen as equals in the workplace.  I don’t feel like I have to prove myself as a woman, I feel like I have to prove myself as an employee.  The Baby Boomers shattered the ceiling, changed the perception, and gave me the confidence to have that attitude. 

Now, I will step off my soapbox.  Obviously, women are under-represented in top-level corporate roles.  The largest factor is probably that most people who lead Fortune 1000 companies are typically in the generation where women have been under-represented.   When women were in leadership roles, it was often in HR or Communications; whereas, a CEO usually has a strong financial, operations or sales background.  I am not defending the low percent, but I think it is a stretch to say it means we don’t have equal opportunity.  What I think it means is there was once an imbalance, which led to a very small pipeline of women leaders with the right experience to become CEO.  It takes a long time to build a pipeline of good leaders.  As the current generation of CEO’s retire, it will make way for the next generation that has a strong pipeline of women leaders to take over.  I will be very surprised if we don’t see the number of female CEO’s drastically increase over the next 5-10 years. 

I found the data to be interesting (and not surprising) and the panel to just be “meh”.  They weren’t very energetic and the topics were the same you’d hear at any other luncheon.  The gist of it was:

  • The Milennials want more flexibility in their work – how, where and what they work on.  All of these companies recognized that they will need to provide this flexibility if they want to retain talent.
  • You can have it all, but usually not at the same time.  At some point, you need to make trade-offs.  The group that came up a lot in this discussion was young mothers and fathers.  The law firm Fredrikson & Byron lets their Associates work part-time so they can stay on track to reach partner and spend more time with their kids.  (obviously the partner track is longer in this case)
  • Having a diverse board and Executive team leads to more diversity in thought, which leads to better decision-making. 
  • Be yourself.  People can connect better with people who are genuine.  This is something I’ve found to be the most helpful in my career.  I am honest and straightforward, so I can usually build up trust pretty quickly that I’m here to work hard and make the right decisions. 

Have you read any good articles lately?  What are your thoughts on my thoughts about women in leadership?

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