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Men As Allies (33)

Women’s Confidence—How to Get It If You Don’t Have It

Fake it until you make it.” When I wrote my latest book Make Room for Her, that was a central piece of advice that men gave women when it came to the issue of confidence. When researching the book, I spoke with a male colleague of mine who is an Executive Vice President of global business development, who had this to say on the subject of women and confidence:

“The only way you grow is to lose some battles along your way to winning the war. When taking on new opportunities or working in unfamiliar areas where you have little or no experience, it’s important to be okay with knowing that you are going to stumble and fall. You will certainly make mistakes, but in the long run you will learn and grow, which will make you considerably more valuable to others.”

This EVP also told me that women need to keep “putting themselves out there” and “taking the risks involved with something that’s new to them,” adding that doing so starts with believing in themselves. “Women have to know that they can be successful without having all the answers and they have to be willing to fail in order to ultimately succeed,” he said.

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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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What Men Can Learn From Women

In my last post, I shared some strategies on how organizations can engage men in advancing more women into leadership positions. With that general background in mind about the important role that men can play in helping boards and executive teams achieve more gender-balanced leadership, let’s shift our attention now to considering why men and organizations should care about women’s leadership.

The primary reasons are first, men want to be part of successful organizations, and second, organizations need to be competitive to succeed. Simply put, research has proven that a balanced leadership team leads to better business outcomes. Top-performing organizations recognize the value of having women on their executive teams in addition to a wider spectrum of diverse thinking, styles, and backgrounds. This is true from a business perspective as well as a leadership advantage.

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How Organizations Can Engage Men in Advancing Women’s Leadership

When confronting the frustrating challenge of the dearth of women at the executive ranks, it’s tempting to point to men as the problem. Yet the model of Integrated Leadership shows that on the contrary, when properly engaged by their companies, men can play an important role in the solution.

Interestingly, while men as a group have spent the most time in senior leadership and comprise close to 80 percent of the executive ranks, companies typically don’t see the potential of harnessing men’s experience to help advance their female leaders. Many organizations have invested plenty of time, money, and resources into diversity initiatives and women’s leadership/networking programs, yet this hasn’t truly moved the needle at the rate that is needed for the 21st century. HR generally has sole accountability for these efforts and results, rather than considering the significant role that men—who, in most cases, constitute the most powerful stakeholder group in large corporations—could play if working in partnership with women and organizations.

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Who You Know Matters as Much as What You Know—Women Can Advance Their Career Through Sponsorship

Over the last several weeks, I have had the opportunity to speak at several conferences and client organizations with one common request: to address what really drives women’s career growth and advancement. While we all know that there is no single “quick fix” that will instantly create gender-balanced leadership, one important factor that facilitates better balance is providing sponsorship opportunities for your top female talent.

In SHAMBAUGH’s work with talented female leaders, we’ve found that while high-potential women generally have strong and supportive professional relationships, these tend to fall under the category of mentors—advisors who serve as role models, providing perspective and constructive criticism. But when it comes to understanding the importance of developing relationships with potential sponsors—key high-level decision-makers who are able to go beyond mentoring to advocate on women’s behalf in relation to strategic opportunities and advancement—female leaders still tend to shortchange themselves.

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When It Comes to Women’s Leadership, Talk Continues But Action Remains Stalled

It was a familiar scene in Davos Switzerland, where the World Economic Forum took place in January: many men around the table and relatively few women. (Women represented only 18 percent of total delegates.)

What was a bit different, though, was the focus on the increasingly urgent need to achieve gender parity in organizations worldwide. CNBC reported that not only was the corporate gender gap among the top three hot topics discussed by the delegation, but the subject was also recognized as one of the most tweetable, generating 10,000 tweets during the conference.

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Lessons on Leadership and Life From My Father

My dear father, Max Shambaugh, has passed, and I was by his side his last hours this weekend. He was my “hero” who inspired me in so many ways, both personally and professionally. He was so influential to me that I wrote about his impact on my life and career in the very first chapter of my first book, It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor, where I shared these thoughts about how he inspired me:

“I…began to reflect back on the conversations I’d had with my father, Max Shambaugh, at the kitchen table when I was a little girl. I was always fascinated by the fact that he had built a third-generation family business into one of the largest construction companies in the country. My father instilled in me an approach to work that I still value today. Specifically, he encouraged me to take risks but to be prudent about it, to build on my strengths and relationships, and to follow through on things I’m passionate about.”

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Who You Know Matters as Much as What You Know—Why Women’s Sponsorship Still Matters

Do you expect that if you work hard to prove your value and differentiate yourself as a model employee that you’ll be automatically considered for career advancement? Research has shown that over three-quarters of women (77 percent) believe that long hours, hard work, and education lead to promotion rather than relationships and key connections.

This belief is simply false—and men know it. As I reported in my recent book Make Room for Her, Catalyst’s research has shown that 83 percent of men believe that who you know matters as much or more than your job skills and level of competence when it comes to corporate advancement. Men focus more energy than most women on building and intentionally leveraging a meaningful network to help them rise in their career. Women would be wise to follow their lead, since studies have shown that women are overmentored yet undersponsored.

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An Important Part of the Equation for Your Women’s Leadership Strategy

It’s been a busy whirlwind of speaking engagements these past few weeks, where I’ve discussed what I refer to as “Integrated Leadership” at a number of conferences and executive forums. The reason that Integrated Leadership is so crucial is that it reinforces the already compelling business case for gender-balanced leadership.

I recently met with Henry Maier, President and CEO for FedEx. Henry spoke just before I did at a recent conference in New York, where he stated so well: “When it comes to gender-balanced leadership, we are all in this together—men, women, and the organization.” Henry’s perspective is exactly on point in that it emphasizes the importance of having an integrated strategy focused on advancing talented women in our organizations. To move the needle in that direction, we all need to walk the talk.

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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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