4 Powerhouses Give Women Leadership AdviceOctober 18, 2013
Every Sunday, the New York Times publishes an interview for the “Corner Office” column in its business section. Run by Adam Bryant, the column asks a different top executive each week about leadership lessons learned throughout his or her career.
Both women and men from all sorts of backgrounds have been interviewed, but until recently, Bryant has never asked women gender-related questions. “My thinking was simply to interview leaders who happened to be women, rather than focus on the fact that they were women leaders,” he said in a special “Corner Office” on women and leadership published earlier this month. In the front-page feature, Bryant interviewed not one but four women (all previously featured in the column) about their leadership experiences — and his questions are all about gender. Here are some of our favorite excerpts.
1. On why gender still matters in leadership
“I never wanted gender to be a reason I did anything or was successful, and so I ignored it all. I just plowed ahead. But I look at our daughters and [other] women, and they’re still struggling, and I’ve decided I’ve got to talk about this more because it’s still an issue. It’s not better. There’s still a glass ceiling.”
— Doreen Lorenzo, president of Quirky
2. On speaking up
“[W]e say to women that you have to claim your voice. Don’t make statements that sound like questions. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Own the room. Speak with confidence. But to the extent that doesn’t come naturally, women, in an effort to do precisely what they’ve been told, sometimes will over-occupy the space. … We give really mixed messages, and we don’t teach women exactly how to [speak up] because it’s not very graceful when somebody’s trying to claim a room in a meeting.”
— Amy Schulman, executive vice president and general counsel at Pfizer
“If you’re treated like a secretary, what can you do? What are the steps you can take? Part of it is saying, ‘We’re going to end the conversation now until you listen to me. If you can’t listen to different opinions, we shouldn’t be having this meeting.’”
— Doreen Lorenzo
3. On choosing a seat at the table
“[As the founder of a company], I used to sit at the table but not necessarily at the head of the table, because I felt there were things I needed to learn, and I wanted to be part of the team, and sit with the team.
I don’t do that anymore. Now I sit at the head of the table. But I don’t consciously say, ‘When I walk in the room, I’m going to make sure I’m at the head.’ I just sort of gravitated there naturally, and that’s where I sit, because what I’ve learned is that, regardless of whatever little skill sets here and there that I might not know really well, I do know this brand better than anybody else. And that’s the authority that I have, that’s the voice that I have to be, and that’s who they need me to be.”
— Lisa Price, founder and president of Carol’s Daughter
4. On being ignored because you’re a woman
“First of all, if it happens to you, remember it, because you will have the opportunity to make sure it doesn’t happen to somebody else. The other is to arm yourself before it happens, so that you’re ready to walk into that room and insist on the introduction. When it happened to me, I was floored, because I did not grow up in a world like that. Knowing that it could happen, be ready for it. Make sure you’re introduced. Do what a guy would do automatically. The third thing is to address it after the fact. It’s OK to go to the person who should have introduced you and say: ‘I did not feel comfortable about this. I’d like to make sure this doesn’t happen again.’”
— Marjorie Kaplan, group president of the Animal Planet, Science Channel, and Velocity networks
Have you faced challenges as a woman leader? Tell us in the comments!
Invaluable advice given to the hundreds of college women who attended NCCWSL, an annual skill-building conference.
How you speak matters and you don’t have to be a public speaker to pay attention to your voice.
I would like to suggest that women spend some of our time and effort reading about how women have succeeded.