There’s plenty of data that shows the positive effects that result from the growing presence of women in the business world.
There’s a couple reasons why women have proven to be a positive boost for business:
They’re half the population, which is a tremendous floodgate of talent.
Women tend to have a different take on things, which has proven valuable. For example, women are generally more sociable and tend to excel in a group dynamic that enables them to flourish, which helps others in the group.
Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, according to research by McKinsey & Co.
Making the case for more women in technology
I worry, though, that similar progress in gender diversity isn’t being made in technology, a male-dominated sector. Here’s a couple reasons why I’m worried.
Women are receiving fewer STEM degrees. Over the past decade, number of women securing STEM bachelor degrees has been declining. The biggest decline was in computer science. In 2004, women received 23 percent of bachelor’s degrees awarded. In 2014 that fell to 18 percent.
Dealing with the presence of unconscious bias. Some people have an implicit bias that girls and women are not as good as boys and men in math and science.
It’s more than identity politics. A 2015 lawsuit exposed Silicon Valley’s “brogrammer” culture and how challenging that environment can be for women, which is bad for business. Why is it bad? Women are the lead adopters of technology, according to Intel researcher Genevieve Bell. Dow Jones found that successful startups have more women in senior positions than unsuccessful ones.
As more women lead businesses, the boys’ club will need to adapt. More women are starting companies, and they’re doing well. This may lead women business leaders to wonder why most of their tech divisions are dominated by men. Women can help build a more collaborative environment, which will help the old boys’ network to adapt.
On the bright side, educators see the importance of emphasizing STEM for girls. Sierra College has been holding its annual Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW) event to encourage high school girls to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM).
Employers are facing an ultra-connected, multi-generational, multi-ethnic, and global business world. That world needs all the talent, perspective, and insight that women offer. Encouraging girls and women to be themselves within the STEM and STEAM space is the smart thing to do.
Today’s guest contributor is Nicole McMackin, president of Irvine Technology Corporation, a firm specializing in information technology solutions and staffing. Nicole grew up in Southern California and is a graduate of the University of California, Irvine, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. She sits on numerous boards, including the CHOC Children’s Families in Need, Orange County Board of Education Executive Committee, Tilly’s Life Center Board, University of California at Irvine Chancellor’s CEO Roundtable, and Young President’s Organization. She is an Honoree at the YWCA.
It was five minutes after the time we were supposed to meet, and I was worried because I was still sitting alone in the coffee shop. Had I gotten the date, time, or place wrong for our meetup? A frantic scroll through sent messages confirmed I was in the right place, right day, and right time.
Ten minutes ticked by. Still sitting alone. Wishing I wasn’t such a “good girl” about always being on time,
Might she have been in an accident? Taken ill? Dealing with a work emergency? Concerned, I called her.
She apologized, saying she’d forgotten about our get-together. Said she’d gotten busy on another project and that our appointment had totally slipped her mind. She didn’t offer to reschedule. The call ended pleasantly.
She’d forgotten about our meeting. That stung. It had been her idea to meet—she said she wanted to get to know me.
Feeling a little hurt, I finished my latte and watched others as they huddled over their coffees at the small tables, engaged in conversation with people who remembered and showed up, whispered the little voice in my head. My personal pity party was under way.
My little voice pointed out that I obviously didn’t matter enough to be remembered. *ugh* A low, slow simmer of anger bubbled up and mixed with my hurt. Together, those feelings lingered throughout the rest of the day.
Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner. ~Lao Tzu
Come the next morning, I wasn’t hurt or angry anymore.
Instead, I was fixated on wondering what her forgetting said about me. Did she forget because she discovered I wasn’t important? Did she forget because she’d regretted her spontaneity in suggesting that we get together? Did she not mention rescheduling because she’d decided I wasn’t interesting enough to meet with? Where had I fallen short?
These ridiculous, self-defeating thoughts continued to lurk in my head over the next several days.
Just give it a rest, will you? Implored my little voice (funny how it changes sides, isn’t it?). You’re giving this non-issue too much air time. She was busy. This isn’t about you. My little voice bounces between critic and coach. Fortunately, the coach was back.
The coach voice was right. The woman said had she’d gotten busy and forgot. Accept it, believe it, and move on, urged the coach. Quit making something personal that isn’t personal at all.
I was giving entirely too much power to a stranger. I had no control over the woman forgetting. I did, however, have complete control over how I responded to her forgetting.
I called her and suggested we reschedule. She readily agreed.
When we met, she thanked me for reaching out. She said she couldn’t bring herself to call me because she was embarrassed and ashamed for having behaved badly. She said she thought she was a better person than that but, obviously, she wasn’t.
Isn’t it fascinating how both of us had turned the focus back onto our self-perceived failings and short-comings and made something personal that wasn’t?
Always on the lookout for teachable moments, I found seven of them in this situation:
Don’t jump to conclusions. Get the facts, test assumptions, and clarify, clarify, clarify before deciding you have the answer, know the reason, etc.
Not everything is about you, so don’t unnecessarily give your power away.
Consider the situation from the perspective of the other person, seek first to understand.
Don’t conflate the behavior with the person. There are times when all good people behave badly.
Self-worth comes from the inside out, not the outside in. Don’t be so quick to sell yourself short.
Talk it out.
Forgive, let go, move on.
We’re all human. That means we construct our view of reality through our personal filters, experiences, values, and beliefs. That, in turn, means we need to be eternally vigilant to not make everything about us. Because most of the time, it isn’t.
When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” -Miguel Ruiz
When we get out of our own way, that’s when success, true connection, and growth happens. Thank you, little coach voice.
I’m often interviewed and asked about successful women in the workplace and my views on being one of the few to break the glass ceiling in the technology sector.
My response has always been that I never saw a glass ceiling, so I didn’t give myself an excuse not to break through it.
What research reveals
However, various articles and statistics about women in leadership roles in the United States do prove that there is a disparity of women leaders in the workplace. Currently, the Fortune 500 is led by 32 female CEOs, a record high.
In a recent study conducted by Pew Research Center, 34 percent of respondents surveyed believe that male executives are better than women executives at assuming risk. Moreover, when asked about specific industries women could support, a significant portion felt that men would do a better job leading technology, finance, and oil and gas companies, whereas women would be strongest at running retail and food companies.
Although that survey is full of traditional stereotyping of women, you still need to ask yourself: “Why aren’t more women promoted into the CEO position, but rather held back?”
Historically, it seems that women do not have the consistent high-ranking executive sponsorship who campaign for their advancement. Why is this?
As a sex, women represent more than half the population, a group that’s more than ready to prove themselves in senior levels in the workplace and to have the opportunity to earn equal pay for the same job.
Although women can keep up with the rigorous pace and workload at the office, maybe they can’t keep up with the social politics of the perceived “Good Old Boys Club.”
Because of the lack of women in leadership roles combined with the desire for career progression, women’s perceived need of survival overtakes their personality or natural disposition to be a leader.
Typically, in these scenarios, women play down their strengths in an attempt to over-compensate for not being equal or the same to men. Throughout my career, I’ve heard more commentary about a woman’s disposition in a meeting or board room than I ever heard about a man’s.
Women are left in a quandary, discussed, judged, and evaluated every time they open their mouths. They’re are considered harsh and manlike if they speak up to their peers or a weak follower if they don’t.
Recent studies show that a diversified executive team will produce up to 34 percent more revenue to a corporation than an executive team filled with the same sex.
Corporations and stockholders are beginning to recognize the need for more sex and gender balance within companies, which is leading them to adapt policies that deviate from the perceived “Good Old Boys” norms and create an environment that’s friendlier to all minorities.
A call to action
With the backing of corporate stockholders, women now have an opportunity to take accountability and remain true to themselves while engaging with their male peers.
Women will only succeed if they demonstrate the will and power to not act like a man, but to leverage their natural gifts of honesty, teamwork, compassion, and persuasion.
About today’s guest contributor
Nicole McMackin is president of Irvine Technology Corporation, a firm that specializes in information technology solutions and staffing. She has an established career in sales and management, emphasizing account ownership within Fortune 300 organizations.
As women have taken on greater leadership roles in the business world, it’s paid off for both them and business.
A study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that firms with women in the C-suite were more profitable. Meanwhile, the number of female-owned businesses grew 45 percent from 2007 to 2016 compared to just a 9 percent growth in the number of businesses overall.
But will all those women in leadership roles change the workplace culture to make it more female friendly—and does it matter?
The power of culture
As a corporate anthropologist, I’m aware of the recent shift in thinking surrounding how cultures should be restructured in order for women to thrive in the workplace. This has caused me to ask: What type of culture do women really want and is it that different from what men want, too?
The results of my research were surprising.
It turns out that, in many ways, men and women want similar things in the workplace. Both prefer a strong clan culture that emphasizes collaboration, teamwork and a focus on people.
So what lessons does that hold for women who start their own businesses or are hired or promoted into leadership positions in existing businesses?
3 things for female leaders to do
Based on my personal experiences, and what I’ve learned from female business leaders I’ve interviewed, some of the ways women can succeed when leading an organization and make the workplace more attentive to the needs of both men and women include:
1) Create a culture that blends work and home.
I talked with the founder of one company that intentionally took a whole-life approach and didn’t force employees to choose between work and family. That company won all sorts of local awards for being one of the best places to work in the area.
2) Encourage staff to be innovators.
Often even the employees who think outside the box are reluctant to act outside the box for fear of repercussions if things don’t work out quite the way they hoped. But for innovation to happen, a good leader needs to empower employees to try new ideas.
3) Be an adventurer, stay curious.
If you expect your employees to try new ideas, you need to be willing to do so as well. Don’t worry about failing. Keep tinkering and trying stuff and sooner or later you’ll hit upon your a-ha moment.
My research shows that the females who know how to create success are not just building better businesses; they are changing the way people work.
The corporate cultures in women-run businesses reflect the personal beliefs and values of the women leading them, and those businesses tend to be highly successful.
What’s been your experience running or working in a women-run business?
Andi Simon, today’s guest contributor and the author of On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights, is a corporate anthropologist and award-winning author. She is the founder and CEO of Simon Associates Management Consultants, a public speaker, an Innovation Games facilitator and trainer, and a tenured professor of anthropology and American studies at Ramapo College of New Jersey.
In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders. ~Sheryl Sandberg
And when that day arrives, we’ll have no more need for today’s International Women’s Day, an observance that began in 1909 to commemorate the bold struggle for women’s rights.
Lots of work is needed to reach that milestone. Women’s issues need to become business issues. Women, men, and organizations need to work together to make respect, inclusion, and equity real for all. Women and men need to push for faster progress.
I found it poignant and creepy that Carrie Fisher passed away on my birthday after suffering cardiac arrest. Heart disease is a silent killer of women. Why? Because we insist we’re just fine even when we aren’t.
I know. I did just that.
Thankfully my loving husband ignored my “I’m fine” remarks and took me to the hospital. Because of him, I dodged the silent killer. I got to celebrate my last two birthdays.
That privilege, I’ve learned, comes with opportunities and obligations. Opportunities to live a life of purpose and an obligation (albeit a welcome one) to share, educate, and inspire.
So, about women and heart disease, here goes.
90 percent of women have at least one risk factor for heart disease that’s ignored. Think about your life. Feeling mental stress? Do heart problems run in your family? Feeling depressed? Do you smoke? Overweight? Is your diet convenient-food rich and fruit-and-veggie poor? Spend most of your day sitting at a desk?
A “yes” answer signals a risk factor to watch.
Cardiovascular disease and stroke, not breast cancer, is the number one killer of women, claiming one out of three women each year. While still serious, one out of every eight women develop invasive breast cancer across the course of their life.
One out every three women dying from a heart problem is a scary number. One that’s incredibly humbling as I nearly became one of those statistics.
Know the symptoms
Heart attack symptoms differ between men and women. Not knowing the difference isn’t uncommon. Even doctors mess up.
Women are seven times more likely than men to be misdiagnosed and sent home from the emergency room. Men’s symptoms—chest and arm pain—are widely recognized; women’s not so much. Women’s symptoms can include being extra tired for no apparent reason, experiencing unusual shortness of breath, feeling light-headed, or having pain in your neck, jaw or back.
I dismissed my episodes of dizziness and shortness of breath as signs of overwork and lack of exercise. That was almost a deadly mistake.
Know your numbers
If we run a company or a department, we know our metrics. We look at the numbers to know what’s going right and what needs attention. As women, we need to rattle off our blood pressure and cholesterol numbers just as easily as we do the bottom line business ones.
Not wanting the attention
Why do women continue to let heart disease be a silent killer? There’s many reasons.
We don’t want to make a fuss.
We don’t want to be selfish.
We don’t want to admit that something serious might actually be wrong with us.
If you’ve used any of these reasons to avoid acting, you have lots of female company. Women are far more likely than men to delay seeking medical treatment for heart conditions.
Share the love
Loving life and others starts with loving and taking care of ourselves.
February is heart health month.
To celebrate, start now. There’s no reason or excuse big enough not to act.
Schedule an appointment with a cardiologist. Now! Go even if you feel just fine. Don’t let a risk factor sneak up on you.
Encourage your gal pals to schedule appointments, too. Meet up for coffee after and compare notes. Hold each other accountable for self-care, for not downplaying symptoms, and for knowing your personal health numbers.