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Balance Matters—Here’s One Way to Get There

It seems like practically every article that comes out about women’s leadership is about where women are not. Two recent New York Times articles are good examples of this—the one I mentioned in my last post about “Why Women Aren’t C.E.O.s” was followed a week later with a piece on female execs finding “shaky ground” even after making it to the C-level.

Many of us are experiencing a growing fatigue around stories like this that continue to reemphasize the same points about women’s failure to conquer the C-level in numbers matching men. I think part of this feeling of disillusionment is coming from the reality that these articles aren’t telling the whole story—what’s missing is how to get where we need to go next. At SHAMBAUGH, we’re strong proponents that it’s time for a different, more disruptive conversation around new leadership models and changing mindsets.

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Changing the Narrative on Women in Leadership

It’s often said that the dearth of women at the C-level is due to a pipeline problem. But according to a recent New York Times article, “Why Women Aren’t C.E.O.s, According to Women Who Almost Were,” the pipeline isn’t the issue.

In the piece, author Susan Chira emphasizes how women who aspire to reach the senior ranks in corporations or institutions continue to experience resistance despite their clear capabilities and proven capacity to get results. After interviewing dozens of female CEOs, would-be chief execs, and other professionals, Chira finds that “many senior women in business are concluding that the barriers are more deeply rooted and persistent than they wanted to believe.” In other words, old narratives are at least partly to blame.

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How to Get on a Corporate Board

As I travel to different parts of the country for speaking engagements and conferences, I’ve noticed a growing trend. An increasing number of women have been asking me about what steps they can take to land a board seat—particularly on a corporate board.

It’s a timely question, since the latest research on women and boards released in February showed only a very small increase in the percentage of board seats held by women. A new report from Deloitte and the Alliance for Board Diversity found that in 2016, women and minorities occupied less than one-third (31 percent) of board seats in Fortune 500 companies. Meanwhile, the usual pattern continues of white men continuing to claim the vast majority (over two-thirds) of corporate board posts.

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How to Make “Women’s Issues” Everyone’s Issues

I was heartened to see the recent New York Times article by Peggy Klaus. In her piece, Peggy notes that she has recently heard more professional women questioning the value of women-only events and conferences, asking “how helpful is it to talk mostly to one another instead of to the men who hold the power and who must be a key part of the solution?” In one of my recent posts, I referred to this tendency as the “isolation factor.”

This is an issue that we’ve been addressing for a long time at SHAMBAUGH, specifically through our Integrated Leadership model. As Peggy said in her article, “we should not leave women’s issues to the women alone.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, which is one reason why our Integrated Leadership model focuses on what organizations and men can do—alongside women—to harness the full power of gender-balanced teams and leaders.

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Is Culture of Overwork Behind Women’s Stalled Advancement?

The speculated reason why fewer women than men reach the leadership ranks has changed over time. From the early to mid-1990s, most explanations for the discrepancy at the top pointed to sexism and sexual harassment of women, according to research from Harvard Business School (HBS). From the mid-90s to 2000, the media chorus shifted to blame women’s exclusion from the “old boy’s club.” By 2001, the focus turned to responsibilities for children as the reason more women couldn’t get ahead.

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The Ultimate Mentor to Women: Dave Goldberg

As I heard the news about Dave Goldberg’s death last weekend, I joined many in feeling the sadness of this loss—to his wife Sheryl Sandberg, his family and friends, his colleagues at the company he headed as CEO (SurveyMonkey), and to the technology industry, where Goldberg inspired many.

The loss also extends to women in the industry, and to anyone who cares about women’s leadership development, because of the important role that Goldberg played in prioritizing women’s advancement over the decades of his career—long before it became fashionable to do so.

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How Important is Executive Presence to Executive Success?

You may or may not have heard about the recent, sudden ouster and subsequent reinstatement of the University of Virginia’s first woman president, Teresa Sullivan. The story received national attention and dominated the local news here in Virginia where I live.

As for why Sullivan was forced out, a New York Times article suggests that although she is a talented and well-credentialed administrator, UVA’s Board of Visitors (i.e., board of trustees) perhaps felt she was just that – an administrator rather than a leader. The article further infers that Board members thought Sullivan lacked vision and a strategic perspective, didn’t possess the “mettle” necessary to make tough decisions, and didn’t fit their image of a chief executive. But after numerous on-campus protests and a significant social media backlash, the Board reinstated her. I wish Teresa well in what will undoubtedly be an awkward, if not difficult, situation going forward.

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