March 8: A shoutout for all women

Here are som advices and a boost I think we all need

Don’t Take Your Foot Off The Gas

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, gave a now-famous TED talk on why we have too few women leaders. As a mother of two, she is sympathetic to women feeling like they have to choose between career and family, so she offers this: “Don’t leave before you leave. Stay in. Keep your foot on the gas pedal, until the very day you need to leave to take a break for a child–and then make your decisions. Don’t make decisions too far in advance, particularly ones you’re not even conscious you’re making.”

Know Yourself

Ellen Kumata of Cambria Consulting says, “Women tend to think more broadly about business issues on both the business and the people sides, including the long term. But they are not thinking broadly about themselves. They do not see their own potential; they do not fully comprehend the politics.”

Women who get into and are successful in the C-suite realize that it is perfectly okay to work the high-end corporate politics in order to pull the top team together in ways that advance them to the benefit of the organization.

Don’t Be Afraid To Scrap

Linda Chavez-Thompson, former executive VP of AFL-CIO was called many names in her 30-year tenure in the labor movement–and “pushy broad” was one of the nicer ones. “I wear it like a badge of honor. Back in Texas I’d be in meetings where I’d cuss like a sailor. I didn’t have a choice: How much you could take and dish out was the measure of others’ respect for you. Remember, I was dealing with six-foot-tall, 250-pound Texans who smoked big cigars. I couldn’t let them push me around. While a few of my union brothers didn’t like me, they sure did respect me.”

Take Charge of Office Politics

Kimberly Davis, president of JPMorgan Chase Foundation, finds that niche cultures within the overall corporate culture can be pockets of innovation, if you play your cards right.

And finally four important tips to get on the Corporate Board – which must be the perfect ultimate job for women, considering the flexible work hours:

1. Excel at What You Do. Get great experience where you are in your corporate career. Ensure that you have business and financial decision-making experience. Getting P&L responsibility is critical. Boards also look for people who have strong emotional intelligence and can work well with others. According to Mary Madden, Executive Director of WCD and NACD in Atlanta, if you happen to be in a Senior Executive position in a corporation, make sure you understand what restrictions may exist related to you being on a corporate board.

2. Develop A Clear Articulation of Your Brand/Value Proposition. Start with getting clarity on why you would like to be on a corporate board and what kind of corporate board you want to be on. What is your unique value proposition or personal brand for a prospective board? Why should a board hire you? What unique skill sets and strengths, experiences do you bring? Create a Board resume that highlights your experiences, strengths and skill sets.

3. Get some Non-Profit Board Experience. According to Carol Tomei, CFO of the Home Depot, who sits on the Boards of UPS and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, non-profit boards are an excellent way to start getting Board experience. Make sure that these boards are not rubber-stamp boards but have tough issues to address, where you will learn board governance. If you’re in a large organization, connect with the community relations person and get their advice on a good non-profit board to be on. Make sure you are passionate about the cause, as it requires discretionary time for which you are not getting paid. According to Donna James, CEO of Lardon Associates, being on the board of a powerful non-profit is what gave her exposure to the people and relationships that would eventually result in getting her on the board of the Limited Brands. She also sits on the Boards of Time Warner Cable and Coca Cola Enterprises.

Another option to get experience is to start with smaller company or start-up boards. They often do not pay or pay a whole lot less but you get a feel for the issues and learn to have a voice at the table, learning the difference between being a leader running a company and being on the board of one.

Once on a board, make sure you contribute. According to Martha Brooks who is on the boards of Harley Davidson and Bombardier, your contributions will get noticed and will allow you to be known for other possible Board opportunities.

4. Build a Powerful Network of Relationships. Relationships count. Who to build relationships with? People who are on boards themselves. Connect with recruiters who do Board searches.  Make sure you have your Board pitch and resume ready as you connect with people.

Texts from the glasshammer and fast company

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