Sheryl Sandberg and other #girlcrushes

Who is your #girlcrush?

Actually, I have three:

Christine Lagarde: Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.

Sallie Krawchek: CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, and former CEO of Merrill Lynch

Sheryl Sandberg: COO of Facebook, author, and founder of LeanIn and Option B organisations.

I was honoured to attend a breakfast meeting this week with one of the local Lean In chapters who welcomed Sheryl Sandberg.

She is so, so impressive and inspiring.

So much great advice and tips she shared from a career perspective (e.g. “Have a short-term plan and a long-term dream”, “Think big!” I'll share more of these in other comms), as well as from the perspective of societal change (“Equality isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s good for you.”)

I came back totally on fire and more committed than ever to help women find their voice, set clear, healthy boundaries, so they can uncover their power and confidence to become impactful leaders and inspiring role models in their lives and careers.

Switched on LinkedIn and saw another inspiring article from my other #girlcrush, Christine Lagarde, speaking from the World Economic Forum’s Davos meeting about the advancement of women and their place in society...

...to which I ‘liked’ and responded with a comment that included the phrase “Happy women mean happy societies.” One eloquent individual responded to my comment with,

“What a lot of baloney.”

BAM! Dropped from a height.

I didn’t respond (If he is not going to make an effort for intelligent discourse, my energy is better used elsewhere.) I get it. When you get visible and vocal, not everyone agrees. I’m OK with differing opinions.

Here’s where I was going with the statement, “Happy women mean happy societies.” It’s in the same vein as Sheryl Sandberg’s comment that equality is “good for you.” Studies have shown:

  • That men who support inclusion rise through the ranks quicker than those who don’t.

  • That companies with diverse boards perform better financially and are more innovative than those who don’t.

  • That children whose mothers work outside the home are better socially adjusted.

  • That women whose mothers work outside the home are more likely to hold positions of responsibility and earn higher wages.

  • That men whose mothers work outside the home are more likely to contribute to the household and spend more time caring for children.

Essentially, what makes a woman happy has the effect of making those around her happy or at least, more content. Women are the gatekeepers on relationships and they set the tone for them. They contribute significantly to social cohesion, social inclusion, and social empowerment which the World Economic Forum describe as factors leading to a happy and decent society.

And if that’s baloney, I’m a spicy sausage! :D


Children Benefit from Having a Working Mom, Carmen Nobel, Harvard Business School Newsroom https://www.hbs.edu/news/articles/Pages/mcginn-working-mom.aspx

What Makes a Happy Society? Claire Wallace, World Economic Forum https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2014/11/makes-happy-society/

"Women's Business"

I'm enjoying having discussions with a community of women in financial services, primarily in the insurance industry. I am striking up conversations to listen, and to get to the heart of their career aspirations, goals, challenges and needs, so I can best serve them as a performance and development coach.

The insurance industry is notoriously male-dominated. Since the industry began in Edward Lloyd's coffee house in the 17th century London, it has been a bloke's industry - lunchtime and after-work beers, cricket, rugby or golf corporate days out, a sense that women weren't really welcome in some quarters. In the last 20 years, as society changed, so too did attitudes in the industry; though in my experience, there have still been occasions when I have felt slightly uncomfortable in a work social setting because of my gender.

Change is Afoot

What I have been encouraged to hear is that change is afoot - not in all companies, but it is happening.  The diversity movement, about which certain male leaders expressed to me just 2 - 3 years ago made them feel decidedly uncomfortable, was in their opinion, a cloak for advancing women regardless their performance.  They felt bitter, but they knew that to be outwardly unsupportive of the movement would be viewed dimly by the organisation.  There were heated discussions about quota / no quota boards. These male leaders were paying lip service to the movement - supporting it outwardly, whilst inwardly wishing for the old days. (Caveat: this was a small group of leaders with whom I discussed the issue. This is or was by no means a broadly held opinion. It's an anecdote - my experience.) They needed to go through this process to understand, actually, this is not about them. Diverse leadership is good for business and it is good for society. As with many things though, there must be pain before there is pleasure.

I have learned from my conversations with women in the industry recently that the support systems put in place a few years ago for women, and wider diverse groups, are beginning to pay off. Many organisations now have a designated Diversity Officer, diversity focus groups have been established in which to share experiences and to develop personally and professionally, and coaching and mentoring is frequently available for new women leaders. Women are encouraged to apply for top jobs when before the suggestion might never have never been made. This makes me very excited that there are such resources in place for the advancement of women.

A Promising Future?

The conditions for women to succeed are improving, and the journey continues. Women leaders comprise 25.3% of FTSE 100 board leaders in 2015, up from a measly 12.5% in 2011 - which is at last real movement after several years of little growth; but there are still challenges ahead.

Anecdotally, I have also been told that there are many companies lagging behind in how they address diverse leadership. Some women I have spoken with are frustrated that change is not happening quickly enough. It makes the light on their career aspirations fade when there is no sense that their leadership truly believe in diverse leadership.

To continue their advancement, I have created a group in Linkedin, Women's Career Crew, a forum in which to discuss women's career challenges, aspirations, resources and advice. I don't imagine the group will change the world, but it is intended to be a vibrant, supportive space to get information and share career development resources, ideas and advice. It is designed to help you make conscious decisions about your career and more holistically your life. Feel free to join up and join the conversation. I'd love to hear your views and experiences.