gender diversity

The rise of the fempreneur both inside and outside of your organisation

The most important factor in determining whether you will succeed isn’t your gender, it’s you. Be open to opportunity and take risks. In fact, take the worst, the messiest, the most challenging assignment that you can find, and then take control.
— Angela Braly, CEO, WellPoint


We live in extremely exciting times with the numbers of women pursuing entrepreneurial ventures on the rise. Did you know that .....    

“Women-owned entities in the formal sector represent approximately 37 percent of enterprises globally — a market worthy of attention by businesses and policy makers alike. While aggregated data is often challenging to find, the recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) found 126 million women starting or running businesses, and 98 million operating established (over three and a half years) businesses. That’s 224 million women impacting the global economy — and this survey counts only 67 of the 188 countries recognized by the World Bank.”
Anoop Saxena, Founder & CEO, Womenora


In fact, 35-55-year-old female entrepreneurs are the biggest demographic, according to Drew Hendricks on Inc Magazine.

So what does this have to do with executive women?

FempreneurPower.jpg

The rise of the female entrepreneur is not limited to small business.  In fact throughout business, government and corporate there is a significant increase in the number of women establishing expert status as both infopreneurs (those who trade in information and ideas) and intrapreneurs (those who innovate, take risks and create new ways of doing things inside corporates). Each of these are aspects of entrepreneurialism, ergo, the feminine entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in many areas of our society.

While creating, innovating and tailoring products and services specifically for women is smart in the entrepreneurial world I wonder if in fact it’s not so smart when it comes to the gender diversity and helping women lead.

When women speak to women’s only audiences, we’re preaching to the converted. We’re also not addressing or shining a light on the issues that frequently hold women back to the people who are best positioned to do anything about it.

One area where we can make a big difference - conference planning

Over the course of my own career, I’ve booked and briefed more speakers than you can poke a stick at. I always made a point to ask speaker bureaus and brokers for female speakers for technical conferences whether they were legal, insurance, policy or consumer affairs conferences or roundtables.

One thing I remember, that despite asking for female speakers on technical topics, I’d be told that audiences preferred male speakers ( ….. yawn .....right ....).

Something else I noticed was that there was definitely a shift in the last 10 or so years, as more female speakers came on board - however they were all speaking on female empowerment topics. (Hand on heart, I fit the bill as well.)


Why are these issues a problem?

The first is that the speaker gatekeeper was perhaps not as aware of gender diversity and inclusion principles as you might expect.  Don't believe the hype. Mixed gender audiences also love female speakers.

In my time, four of the audience favourites included Amanda McKenzie (a member of the youth climate coalition), Major Matina Jewell (on leading in a crisis), Avril Henry (on leadership more broadly) and Jane Caro (on consumer emotion), who each received rave reviews from men and women alike.

Secondly, if women keep preaching to the converted and to those who are already feeling marginalised, others inside organisations and industry, who may in fact hold more power to do something about it, never hear about the issues in the first place.

And finally, we keep perpetuating the cycle that aligns masculine voice with leadership and expert status. When we don't hear women speaking on leadership and expertise more broadly, men AND women don't see it was a viable option.

Reframe for a challenge

This week I was delighted to accept the opportunity to emcee the Project Management Institute Australian Conference in Sydney. Yes, it is a peak body event, showcasing innovative ideas, best practice and establishing benchmarks and standards for industry. Yes, it’s important that women are seen and heard on such conference programs and panels in areas that showcase expertise and leadership. And no, I didn’t insist on hosting the sessions designed to empower women.  

I'm delighted to emcee and create arguments and linkages, that help those women and men in the project management profession to create more effective pathways to leadership.  


Embrace your inner Expert and accept the challenge

It's got me thinking. As a result, I issue a challenge -        

  • To female executives, experts and speakers, whether you're trading in information, business transformation or creating new realities - to step outside of the narrow band of women's only topics and to tailor content for mixed gender audiences.        
  • To speaker brokers, bureaus, conference planners and conference planning committees - to program with gender diversity front of mind, but to look beyond gender. Don't simply program women on female empowerment topics and men for leading in a crisis topics. Consider fempreneurs and experts in the mix for technical and generic leadership topics, and consider male speakers for topics stereo-typically aligned with the feminine such as emotional intelligence and communication.  

Why?  

Because if we are going to move the dial on gender diversity, then we need to create a seat at the leadership table, not just at the table for women.  And until we change the landscape and establish a new normal for expert status, smart and highly visible women still run the risk of remaining in the margins.  And having feminine voice heard and accepted as part of this new normal is not just great for business, but great for men and women as well.

Go on and embrace your inner expert. You know you want to!

Feminine Leadership Super Powers + Fempreneur Expert Status = Priceless


Remember - smart and savvy truly is the name of this game! Vive la révolution!  #ambitionrevolution #feminineambition #executivebrand

Email me if you have a fempreneur expert status success story you want to share with me.

Or get in touch if you need a help with unpacking and selling your expert status brand more skilfully.

 

Liked this article? Try some more ....

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

The key to inclusion in the gender diversity & inclusion game ....

We've all heard of the terms diversity and inclusion. But what do they really mean? Let me put it into context. 

Remember back to when you were a kid in school. Specifically when you were out on the oval suffering through being picked by the cool and sporty spice kids to be on the team (unless you were the cool and sporty kid yourself of course!).

I hear you!  I wasn't into team sports as a kid so that made me a lousy pick despite being relatively athletic and highly coordinated.  And it meant that I regularly had to suffer the indignity of wondering if this was the week when I'd face the humiliation of missing out or being last.

Diversity in this context would be the sporting captain picking a team of people with different strengths and weaknesses so that the team played better overall.  Not just going with those he or she liked, but understanding that this was for the benefit of the team's longer term performance so selecting for skills and attributes that were different to bolster the team overall..

Inclusion would have been to ensure that each of the skill sets and attributes selected for were equally valued  (the goal shooter no more or less valued than the centre or the wing defence). That even the kid chosen last felt as though they were part of the cool brigade, a valued contributor and equally able to participate in the direction of the team as anyone else. Late to the party didn't mean valued less.

In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.
— Sheryl Sandberg



In a business environment?


Diversity and inclusion in a business setting are not really different in my mind, except that the cool kids are still ruling the roost and the inclusion piece is still a long way off.

Yet there is mounting evidence purely for the business benefits of the cause including recent research demonstrating that companies with at least 30% female leadership adding as much as 6% to net margins. (Peterson Institute for International Economics 2017)

Diversity - where you have different types of people working in an organisation. In the gender diversity movement it means organisations who have an even spread of men and women throughout, at all levels. Equal numbers of women and men in support type functions. Equal numbers women and men in leadership and management type functions.

Inclusion is where the organisation adapts and changes to embrace and value the different thinking, different approaches and different ideas that will result from having more women in senior roles and more men in more enablement/optimisation functions. 

You can invite women to management roles, to the C-suite and to the Board room table. But unless you also create and drive a culture that treats women, their leadership style and their opinions with respect, until womens' contribution is welcomed and valued, and the incumbent is prepared to adapt and relish the opportunity to change and grow - you are quite simply missing the point.

Inclusion_is_the_key.jpg
  • Quotas and targets will drive gender diversity.
  • Inclusion is the key that unlocks the benefits (social, cultural, economic & business) that gender diversity brings. 

Both require self awareness, direct links to strategy and future focused leadership, along with role modelling from the top down. And none of us will reap the rewards until the inclusion piece is solved.

And as women are still 'leaning out' at the rate of knots, business, corporate and government are obviously still not getting the formula right.

There is one company in Australia who is doing this extremely well. Aurecon headed by Giam Swiegers is winning hands down in reaping the innovation benefits that diversity AND inclusion bring.  I'd love to see far more.

Feminine leadership superpowers  + inclusion = priceless

Vive la révolution!  #talentrevolution #ambitionrevolution

So has your organisation really embraced the whole 'inclusion' piece?  Or is there still a layer of 'permafrost' in upper middle and lower senior management who haven't got the memo yet? Drop me a line and let me know. 


And reach out if you want help with this.

 

More from the archives ...

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Stereotypes, advertising and being prepared to stand out

I like to describe myself as a proudly visible member of the most invisible segments of our society - older women.
— Cindy Gallop

As I begin to unpack the issue of visibility for women in leadership, I can't help but reflect on the advertising industry. Cindy Gallop, the British self described 'visible older woman' advertising industry executive quoted above, is an extremely vocal advocate of change. Change, not just about the women and men who work in the sector, but because of the key messages this powerful industry perpetuates in society. In a nutshell, the advertising industry sells and perpetuates stereotypes - what it is to be a bloke, a woman, to be young, old, successful - and these stereotypes become then norm.

Relevantly, a recent global study of the advertising industry found that -

"just 2% of adverts featured women who could be described as “intelligent”; just 3% were shown in leadership roles."

The advertising industry is just the tip of the iceberg with the media and entertainment industries, all such powerful influencers of our socialisation, compounding the problem and promoting and reinforcing a lack of 'visibility' for women as leaders.

 
diversity

Real life statistics
Real life statistics aren't much better off with the recent McKinsey and Lean In global research highlighting that women only make up 19% of those in the C-suite despite intense focus and huge effort in the last 50 years.

The survey also found that the roadblocks, brick walls and glass ceilings that more mature women have battled for years are still having impact on younger generations - with 23% of millennial women believe their gender has prevented them from getting ahead at work (compared to 26% non-millennials), and with a more than 14% ambition gap between millennial women vs men (compared to 17% non-millennial).

You cannot be who you cannot see.
— Cindy Gallop

It's not that women aren't getting there because we're/they're not good enough. In fact, there is now overwhelming evidence to the contrary including analysis of performance during the GFC demonstrating that organisations with mixed gender Boards performed better at that time.  It's just that perception and biases get in the way of us seeing (women included) that women also make great leaders.

Bias is bad for business
Bias is a huge issue for those who aspire to leadership roles but don't fit the stereotype. It's also a huge issue for those industries and organisations who have yet to embrace the benefits that diversity brings in order to meet 2020 business challenges and remain competitive.

Relevance and sustainability in a modern and ever changing business environment are some of the greatest obstacles in any industry. If organisations want to remain relevant and be around in the future, they need to ensure that women are seen as leadership potential. Put simply, invisibility and the biases that surround it, are a problem for both the individual and the organisation. And to quote Jonathan Segal;

"Bias is bad for business."

When ambitious women don't fit in easily (don't always get the jokes, don't look the same, don't play golf, don't know the unwritten ground rules, other women think we're bossy and men may feel threatened) we may accidentally find ourselves becoming invisible in the leadership talent pipeline despite targets, quotas and best intentions.

Taking a stand makes companies stand out
Recently we've seen several brands come out and really embrace the benefits that diversity brings. Earlier in the year we saw Lynx parent company Unilever come out publicly and vow to drop advertising that promotes stereotypes.  Yes, this makes them far more visible in a crowded market place. Plus the lamb diversity campaign by the MLA in Australia is a great example of turning diversity into a competitive advantage.  

In a modern world, future focused successful organisations are also embracing diversity as a competitive advantage in terms of attracting talent, creating new markets and mechanisms to innovate.  

Why not be a stand out individual?

For the individual, this represents an opportunity to really stand out as well. This is an opportunity for you as an individual to let go of the old ways of getting ahead - fitting in, playing the game and playing by the rules. They aren't going to work much longer anyway.

Instead embrace the new rules of the portfolio career, personal branding and self promotion. Leadership opportunities will go to those who are prepared to Step Up, Speak Out and Take Charge. And the best bit? This then becomes a competitive advantage for those who don't fit the mold.

Some rules of thumb to remember in your quest for leadership:

  • Back yourself and be prepared to have a crack at it - women have a tendency to underestimate our future performance as compared to men. Don't let that tendency stand in your way.
  • You shouldn't have to fit in in order to lead - in fact it might be more helpful if you stand out
  • Invisible might feel comfortable, but visibility is the new black
  • Results don't speak for themselves, you need to speak to them
  • Your future leadership personal brand is your key differentiator
  • It's your job to sell brand you, not someone else's

While the advertising industry itself still has a long way to go, there are great lessons emerging for us all. And as Oscar Wild once wrote;

"Life imitates art far more than art imitates life."
 

Your thoughts?

  • Does your organisation promote the same old tired stereotype? Or are you seeing fresh ideas and different thinking championed and celebrated throughout the business? 
  • If you are seeing fresh ideas and different thinking championed - what are the results to date?
  • What mechanisms does your organisation have in place in order to encourage different thinking, diverse ideas and innovation?  
  • Have you tried to stand out and did it work (yet)?
Why not BYO chair? The view from the top is great.

Why not BYO chair? The view from the top is great.

Let me know.  I love receiving emails from you with your own ideas and insights.
And by the way - still don't have a seat at the table?  Why don't you BYO chair?  The view is great from where I'm sitting!

Vive la révolution!

#ambitionrevolution #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambition

 

And if you liked this article - please share.

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Key learnings from the Women World Changer event in Sydney 12 Oct 2016

I'm a self confessed conference junkie. I've attended hundreds of them, and run more than most people have had hot dinners.   I enjoy the networking, I enjoy the opportunity to down tools and reflect on best practice, brash new ideas and challenging concepts. I also appreciate being in a room with like minded individuals and reflecting that;

"Gee, what I'm doing on the money.  Keep on going. This stuff makes a difference."

Last week I attended the Women World Changers one day event in Sydney.

The speaker lineup was a who's who in gender and broader diversity discussions from Australia and beyond including the following: Wendy McCarthy AO, Holly Ransom, Avril Henry, Ming Long, Mai Chen, Pat Milligan, Dr Simon Longstaff AO FCPA, Ainslie van Onselen, Giam Swiegers, Libby Lyons, Jenny Leong, Christine Bartlett, Veena Sahajwalla, Amy Mullins, John Lydon, Hala Gorani, Jennifer Dalitz, Melissa Browne, Kim-Louise Liddell, Gen George, Karen Beattie.

And "girl" did I have a great day!  It felt pretty fabulous to be in a room full of men and women committed to gender equity - and the benefits for business and society more broadly.  Thanks to both Carla Wall and Deborah Harrigan who joined me at the event. It was great to share and compare highlights afterwards.

Significant moments for me?

Wendy McCarthy AO as the opening keynote drawing attention to:

  • "the gap between well intentioned programs and programs that deliver real outcomes"
  • "the face of poverty in the future is an older woman with no super"

Patricia Milligan - on the data

  • "Companies who measure the progress and publish the results get better results"
  • "One of the biggest issues cited by women for leaving the workforce is health and well being issues"

Ming Long on encouraging men into the conversation

  • "Slavery didn’t end because black people thought it was a good idea. It disappeared because white people thought it was a good idea. Let’s get men into the discussion about gender equity"
  • "For the men in the room understand gender equity in the workplace is a smart business move, not just a nice to have because you have daughters"
  • "Some of the male champions don’t quite get it, but they’re on the journey and most importantly in positions of power to do something about gender equality"

Mae Chen on Super Diversity

  • "Cultural capability (CQ) is the new currency of success for business and individuals"
  • "I came to this conference because the title is Women World Changers - we need to change the world for humans, not just women"

Holly Ransom on the future of work

  • "The nature of work is changing and becoming portfolio in nature with consulting, freelancing and flexibility options seen as more and more attractive"
  • "6 degrees of separation is out the window - with impact of a social media it's estimated to be more like 3.8 degrees"

Avril Henry with a rousing close on how women can make a bigger difference for themselves

  • "No-one is more interested in your career than you. Put up your hand and manage it!"
  • "Winning women don't play nice, they play fair"

Please enjoy (and share) the Twitter highlights below!

Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolution #feminineambition #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes

If you enjoyed this please spread the word! Let's inspire women everywhere to keep their eye on the prize

  • I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and art of amping smart and savvy
  • I mentor busy professional women to ensure they remain smart, strategic and focused on the bigger game.
  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but are struggling to do so.

 

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

5 Career Lessons for Women - from the online blogging world OR Linkfluencer Conference Highlights November 2015

Linkfluencer Annual Conference Highlights

Linkfluencer Annual Conference Highlights

In November, I attended the Linkfluencer Annual Conference hosted by Linkfluencer and run by Alex Pirouz.  While some conferences are theoretical and programmed to explore the problem - this one wasn't.  In fact, right from the get go we got onto practical, take home strategies that will help anyone to tap into and harness the power of LinkedIn better - particularly entrepreneurial and info-preneurial ventures.  

As some of you are aware - I've run or attended more conferences than most people have had hot dinners.  So I'm pretty picky when it comes to the program.

 

Thanks to the organisers for pulling together an awesome technical expert presentation team including Jeff Bullas, Robert Coorey and Andrew Wickham.

My one disappointment? No women on stage. I'm pretty sure that women are doing great things on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. Would have been nice to see that reflected on the stage too. While I don't want to rain on their parade (because it truly was a value packed event and the lessons absolutely invaluable), given that women are AWESOME at connection, socialising, communicating etc there would appear to be a natural fit with the power of social. Surely there is some woman somewhere in the social media world here in Australia who is doing great things?   Conference organisers need a check list when programming so they don't fall into that trap by accident.  (Note: since first publishing this on my blog organisers have already acknowledged that they are looking at this in preparation for next year.)

So what did I learn that might be relevant to those who work in professional roles?  Heaps!!  Let's extrapolate.

1. Blog before breakfast.
So you don't blog?  Don't worry. Same same, but different. This is not a new idea, but it is a great reminder - even if you don't blog.   The early bird catches the worm.  Many highly successful and powerful people wake early and get started on their work.  And according to Top 10 Career Lessons From Powerful Women on Forbes Magazine:

“Starbucks’ President Michelle Gass wakes up at 4:30 every morning to go running. (Former) Avon chairman Andrea Jung wakes up at 5. LongtimeVogue editor Anna Wintour is on the tennis court by 6 every morning before work. These women have realized that success comes easier when you have a jump on the day.”


So what are you waiting for? Set your alarm. Establish a routine. Beat the commute and get something substantive done and out of the way BEFORE breakfast. You might just surprise yourself at how energetic you actually feel.

2. Systematise, automate and outsource/delegate.
We know that systems and processes help mitigate anxiety and increase productivity. However sometimes human nature gets in the way and we get stuck in the rut of wanting to do it all ourselves. To keep highly productive it's time to regroup and ditch that thinking.

  • What can you eliminate that might be cluttering your thinking?
  • Or perhaps you feel negatively about so its an energy drain slowing you down?  
  • Or what else is simplynot getting done because you don't really know how to tackle it?  

Once again in that great article from Forbes on career advice for women and delegation:

“If you think of your career as a juggling act of various balls, ask yourself which of those balls are made of glass and would shatter if dropped, and which are made of rubber and would bounce back. Give away the rubber balls.”


3. Drop old school thinking about connecting on social media. 
If someone you don't remember invites you to connect, do your due diligence (vet their profile) but keep an open mind. Stay curious and consider how you both might be able to help each other - it's a new hyper connected world where joined up thinking, connection and collaboration are the way of the 21st Century. In the old world we were more likely to operate in silos and structures. Now openness and curiosity are queens. As we lookfor new ways to solve old problems we just might need to think outside the square.  

“Today, the lightning pace of change means you have to be ever-curious, always ready to learn and adapt to the new environment around you. Anne Sweeney, the co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television Group, describes herself as “driven by curiosity” because “it gets people excited” and “leads to new ideas, new jobs, new industries.” She says, “The smartest thing you can ever do is to constantly ask questions.” Forbes


4. Done is better than perfect.
Not a new idea by any means but obviously we all need constant reminding.  Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good!  Jeff Bullas showed us his first tweet. OOPS!! Not perfect!  He showed us his first blog. Another big OOPS - and another "not perfect". However these first steps were the beginning of him building an amazing social enterprise.   

So what are you procrastinating on right now because it's not perfectly polished? What projects, what new ideas, what initiatives are on the go slow because you are feeling like it needs more work?  Take a good look and then hit the "play" button.  You might be pleasantly surprised at the results.

5. The sooner you put scalable tools into place, the sooner you will grow. 
So how does this translate in the professional world?  Mentors, champions, coaches, sponsors, cleaners, VA's, outsourcing, systems and processes that free your thinking power up and allow you to keep growing -  and thinking bigger.  It's safe not to scale - but it won't get you very far very fast and in fact will eventually slow you don't.  Change gears and accelerate instead.

“Get comfortable with discomfort! And from there you will be far more effective”


So my question to you is - what can you do right now that will move you forwards?  What can you implement immediately that will help you execute your next bold audacious move?  Or what is the one thing you've been thinking about for weeks, but haven't yet done, that will land you the role of your dreams one day?  

And instead of thinking about it? Just do it.

Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolution


If you like this article, sign up here for weekly inspiration! And get your free copy of The Ambition Revolution E-book while you are there.

PS - sharing most welcome. Let's spread the word and inspire a woman somewhere. Hit the little share icon at the base of the article.

PPS - want to see the Twitter highlights?  See below.



Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Feeling ambitious? Three inspiring TED talks to keep you focused

Whether you are entrepreneurial or have a corporate focus, strategically managing your time and harnessing energy is pretty important. So here at The Ambition Revolution we are constantly on the look out for resources, tools and inspiration to help you play a bigger and better game - far more easily.  And while I'm a great believer in the beauty of books as development tools, sometimes a powerful video is equally as good, if not better, as it cuts right to the heart of the issue in a short period of time.  

I've curated the following three TED talks - not just because they'll help you you tackle your current role better, but because they just might help you see yourself differently - reminding you of your "why", your "what" and your "how" in ways that expand possibility - and help you get ahead more easily.

1. Why Gender Equality is Good For Everyone - Men Included (Michael Kimmel15 mins

The first is a talk by Michael Kimmel from the May TEDWomen 2015 conference.  Michael is the author of Angry White Men and a scholar on the topics of men and masculinity.  His rather humorous take on the gender equality issue makes it well worth watching and might give you a few new insights as to why you should step up, speak out and take charge.

In a nutshell, it's a great reminder that gender equality is about both men and women, and any inequality is a societal issue (not simply a women's issue). He reminds us of the notion of privilege and how the more invisible privilege is, the more fortunate you are.  He also reminds us that when anyone has to give up power it's going to be a challenge, so we need to help people see the benefits of giving up power in ways that make meaning to them.  You can read a summarised version of his talk here

So why? Because organisations are frequently better off, because you are frequently better off and because men are also better off in the long run when women step up, speak out and take charge.

There is no Mars and Venus, but in fact we are allies here on planet earth and our interests are the same.”
— Michael Kimmel

2. The Career Advice You Probably Didn't Get (Susan Colantuono13 mins

Susan Colantuono is the CEO and founder of Leading Women. You can read more about her here.  She is also the author  of a book called No Ceiling, No Walls: What women haven't been told about leadership, "which takes a close look at the conventional wisdom keeping women from rising from middle management."  

This talk is your how.  It's for anyone who feels like they've worked hard at "doing the job" only to find out that this doesn't get you ahead very fast. That there is a set of curriculum to which you've not been privy to,  and that is not easily taught (or spoken about at women's functions) - strategic acumen, financial acumen and business acumen - "the missing 33%".  

As women we've been socialised since birth to "work hard", to "do the job really well" and to be incredibly loyal to role, department or an organisation. What happens if these behaviours actually keep you "mired in middle management" and get in the way of getting ahead?  

With the right leadership skills, the highest levels of career success are well within reach. Unfortunately, conventional wisdom about leadership won’t get you to the top. Much of it is outdated, incomplete, and ineffective. What you need is.........The Missing 33%!
— Susan Colantuono

So how? Find mentors, coaches, champions and sponsors who can guide you specifically in these sorts of big picture intelligences (the missing 33%) so you can execute bold, audacious moves more easily.

3. Why Ambitious Women Have Flat Heads (Dame Stephanie Shirley) 13 mins

From the TED website:

"Dame Stephanie Shirley is the most successful tech entrepreneur you never heard of. In the 1960s, she founded a pioneering all-woman software company in the UK, which was ultimately valued at $3 billion, making millionaires of 70 of her team members. In this frank and often hilarious talk, she explains why she went by “Steve,” how she upended the expectations of the time, and shares some sure-fire ways to identify ambitious women …"

Wow! So in 1962 this amazing woman not only started her own software company in order to provide a great place to work for women and to make serious money - but also invented the Black Box.  This is inspiring and sad all at once because it highlights that as women in the workforce, we haven't really come all that far, and yet at the same time it's quite clear that we women can and will continue to create and undertake amazing work despite this.

This talk is about your "what". Aim high. Embrace a possibility mindset. Got a big idea? Give it a crack!  Go explore it. Yes, you can. And yes, you should. Don't believe your internal mental chatter or what other people say. 

We waste too much time being afraid, when what we should really fear is wasting time.”
— Stephanie Shirley, Let IT Go - The Memoirs of Dame Stephanie Shirley

So what? Stop playing your B game, stop planning small. Why shouldn't your idea be groundbreaking, earth shattering or incredibly popular?  If you ever need proof - consider the guy who invented the pool noodle!  

“When we dream small we create small things. When we dream big, we create powerful change.”

So have you worked out your why, what and how yet?

Maybe after watching these TED talks you'll start dreaming and scheming again - connecting back with your reason for being.  Just maybe these talks will inspire you to tackle your next promotion or opportunity with a little more clarity, focus and precision.

And more importantly, who are we to be thinking and playing small? Creating a new reality for yourself and others is yours for the taking, if you choose.

Vive la révolution!  #ambitionrevolution

  • I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and  art of amping smart and savvy. 

  • I mentor busy professionals to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game. 

  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so.


Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Language Warning! Four bad habits that undermine your credibility

The gender diversity (or gender equality) debate has been going on for years and seems to have gathered a new and welcome momentum.  Some of the issues we face include unconscious bias, conscious bias and downright discrimination.  However sometimes there is a piece of the pie that we women need to own. Sheryl Sandberg talks about “leaning in”.  I call it stepping up, speaking out and taking charge. 

When it comes to gender politics in the office, just like dressing appropriately, we also need to pay attention to our language and speech habits. If we want a seat at the “big table” then we need to speak like grown ups and “own that sh*t”.  And the following four habits that we women frequently demonstrate undermine our credibility and authority all in one - without us even knowing.

“And anyway, who wears a tiara on a jungle gym?”
— Sheryl Sandberg

1. Just – the most recent culprit  in the language debate is the use of “just”. Earlier in 2015 Ellen Petry Leanse, founder, Karmahacks; strategist, advisor, online pioneer was published in Business Insider calling women out on it.

I was delighted and couldn't agree more, because the word is a pet peeve of mine.  I hear this word all the time and mostly from women. Let’s be honest, frequently there is no just about it. At the very least the word is redundant – and at the most it diminishes the opinion, status or impact of the request by the initiator/asker.

Toolkit.jpg
  • “I just wanted to find out …..”
  • “I was just booking for …..”
  • “ I am just enquiring about …..”
  • “Just following up …”
  • “Just checking in …."

My own research (sample size of about six close personal female friends for brunch) determined that the use of the word is part of our feminine socialisation – not to big note ourselves, not to stand out, not to offend, not to challenge, to be safe and (let’s own the negative impact of fashion magazines, dieting and body image too) to be diminutive, small and not a bother.

So check your emails before you hit send.  Listen to your own speech patterns. Then remove “just”. This one small change makes your communications far more powerful. Try it. You may be surprised at how confident you sound and the results that you get with this one simple change.

2. Deflecting compliments . Oh boy. And most of us think we are simply doing the right thing!

You know when someone pays you a compliment and you say;

 “Oh, it was nothing, it was just my job, in fact the team did most of the work and … the reality is the project didn’t go so well. We hit a few speed bumps, we crashed into a few hurdles ………..” ? 

Sound familiar?

It’s okay to accept a compliment as it is and simply say thank you.  It makes the giver feel good, it boosts your own confidence plus it helps with your own credibility. Repeat after me -

“Deflecting compliments undermines credibility.
Accepting compliments boosts it.”

As women we’ve been taught time and time again not to big note ourselves, not to take credit unless its totally ours, and not to stand out . Why? Because it's allegedly “unladylike”. 

Well in a future where women are leading equally with men it’s totally unprofessional (non gender specific) to not accept a compliment.  So own it, accept it and maybe dish out a few compliments of your own as you see how they boosts the confidence of both the giver and the receiver.

3. Apologising for strong opinions

"Women are 37%* more likely than men to identify their own behavior as worthy of an apology, which leads to women apologizing more frequently than men do ... which in turn, unfortunately, fuels the double standard that women who aren’t “apologetic enough” are bossy (or worse)."  Upworthy July 2014

All true and correct according to a 2010 study by Karina Schuman and Michael Ross entitled Why Women Apologize More Than Men; Gender Differences in Thresholds for Perceiving Offensive Behavior.

However what’s more concerning is that as women we sometimes apologise for having strong opinions.  You’ve probably heard it in meetings or in strong discussions where sometimes, if a woman lands a contrary opinion, she apologises.

“If you set out to be liked, you will accomplish nothing.”
— Margaret Thatcher

Learn to accept responsibility for your own thoughts, ideas and opinions. They are just that; thoughts, ideas and opinions, not "truths".   These thoughts, ideas and opinions are based on the evidence you have access to at that time. 

As women we apologise even when its not our fault – when we bump elbows with someone on the plane next to us, when we are startled and when we talk over someone. Sheryl Sandberg says its because have been told we are too bossy since we were little girls. Sound familiar?  

It’s ingrained into us and a hard pattern to break.  But if you want to see evidence of what a difference it makes then check out this powerful campaign by Pantene – demonstrating the power of turning off your “automatic” sorry response.  

4. And finally - Uptalk – more commonly known as ending a sentence that is not a question with an upward inflection .

If you have any ambitions to head up a team, lead an organisation or influence others to join you in your new venture you’ll want to knock this one on the head - immediately.

Linguistic experts don’t really know where it came from but it’s fairly wide spread and, unfortunately Australians and New Zealanders are rather expert at it.  In a 2014 BBC article they call attention to the rise of the upward inflection (pun intended) and how it sounds like we are asking for permission all the time. This in turn diminishes your power,  your credibility and authority. 

Picture this - you are a high performer, possibly even a perfectionist, with an eye for your next big promotion.  You go in for your performance appraisal and you are totally and awesomely prepared.  In outlining your work, your input and the key measurable outcomes, every second statement you make ends with a upward inflection - which make it sound like a question.  

  • Where is the power in this conversation?
  • How credible do you think it sounds?

More importantly it sounds like you are seeking permission - rather than making statements - therefore undermining your best attempts at negotiating that extra pay rise or next big promotion.

The fix for it all?

The ego’s deep, ingrained need for approval is hard to fix - so you’ll need to be vigilant. 

  • Next time you have a conversation I challenge you to record yourself and listen for the tone and melody of your conversation.  Listen out also for apologies, the word just and also compliment deflection. Determine whether or not they were necessary - or simply ingrained patterning, people pleasing or seeking approval behaviours.
  • Ask a trusted colleague, coach or mentor to give you feedback next time you are in a meeting or in a situation where you feel stressed or uncertain.
  • Rehearse a few times and then record yourself again so you can hear what's really going on.  Fake it till you make it is probably great advice in this instance.
  • I've even heard of a manager using this as a teaching point with the entire team to ensure the department operated more efficiently and effectively - supporting each other and getting better results as a result.

So why is this important?

We're in interesting times right now.  As women we want to lead but frequently find the journey there is not easy at the best of times and downright challenging at the worst.  You want to make sure that your ambition "tool kit" is fitted out with the best of the best, sharpest, high quality tools that help you get ahead more easily.  Credibility, authority and expertise are great tools  - and we need to make sure that we don't accidentally undermine ourselves despite best efforts and intentions.

Vive la révolution! 

AmandaBcropped.jpg

—    If you missed it - 3 Signs Your LinkedIn Profile Sucks

  • I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and  art of amping smart and savvy. 

  • I mentor busy professionals to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game. 

  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so.

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Why Conference Planning Committees need to Consider Gender Diversity

In recent weeks I’ve been vaguely horrified by a range of industry conference speaker programs that were so heavily dominated by those of the middle aged masculine persuasion, that the programs could have been something from the 1950’s.  “In this modern era when gender diversity seems to be the flavour of the month?” I hear you ask. Yes, in 2015.  So why should those in the association world care about gender diversity?

Professional associations are often seen as the peak body for industry and are supposed to lead the way when it comes to demonstrating best practice.  While I’m currently not privy to current Australian statistics in the association world in terms of percentages of women in leadership roles, or on association boards, the sector has a reputation for demonstrating better rates of gender diversity than industry and business itself.  However in saying that there is definitely room for improvement as demonstrated by a recent report from the USA on non profits in general:

“ Men still hold 79% of the CEO positions for organizations with $25 million in assets or greater. A 2014 GuideStar report found that a gender pay gap exists in this industry as well. The sector is not perfect, but it is a place where women have a greater opportunity to lead.”
— Why Female CEOs Thrive In Nonprofits, Kim Williams, CEO, Interfaith Housing Coalition, Forbes

How else associations can help

Associations and industry bodies run industry conferences. These events are supposed to present cutting edge ideas, case studies worthy of emulating or avoiding as the case may be, present a pool of credible experts on the speaker program and provide opportunities for members to develop and grow.  Another way that associations can lead the way is by establishing benchmarks or guiding principles for the conference planning committees around gender diversity.

When associations don’t ensure gender balance on conference programs it sends a message to those who work in industry that expert status is reserved for men.  This may be the case in terms of consultants finding it easier (and more beneficial) to create time in their day to speak on conference programs but if recent reports are correct many industries are seeing a steady rise in the number of female industry consultants who could do the job equally as well. And we know from the multiple sources of research into this space that organisations with women in the leadership team perform better on range of measures including profitability, productivity, risk management, staff and customer satisfaction - so surely it's their expertise contributing.

When association and industry conference planners do manage to provide gender balance, they are sending a message to younger generations of professionals that speaking, thought leadership and industry wide expertise are not merely the purview of men but also women – changing the state of play and challenging the status quo at the industry level.

There’s an old saying:

“If we keep on doing what we’ve always done we'll always get what we’ve always got”

By providing opportunity, challenging and encouraging women to step up in this thought leadership arena and expert status, industry is more likely to find new ways to solve old problems that have potentially been dogging it for years.

Introducing the Male Champions of Change

Conference programs that don’t have gender balance are starting to look out of step with the times.  There is growing recognition of this as an issue from large corporates and government departments, whose leaders have signed the Male Champions of Change Pledge. This group have identified that gender bias on conference programs and panel discussions is not appropriate:

“it was simply unacceptable in this day and age that many high profile conferences, events and taskforces lack gender balance, despite there being no shortage of senior, qualified women to participate. Aside from the unhelpful gender norms reinforced by the current practice, the lack of diversity clearly limits the span of conversation. Perspectives considered, insights shared and conclusions drawn will be naturally skewed towards more masculine views and restricted as a direct consequence.”

So why should conference planners and associations care about this pledge?

Signing up to become a Male Champion of Change is not an empty gesture because members of this program have committed to asking organisers whether they have secured women leaders to participate in public forums, panels and conference programs.  If not, then the male leader has also committed to decline to speak until the issue has been rectified or will recommend a senior female leader to speak in his stead.

Many of the male champions may then create organisation wide policies that discourage the rest of the leadership team from participating and prohibit staff from attending events such as panels, forums and conferences where there is an obvious gender bias and lack of diversity.

There is the potential for this to become an issue for conference organisers wishing to both engage high profile speakers from big name organisations for programs and maximise attendance of delegates, unless gender diversity is addressed up front and centre. I'm sure this will soon cascade into the sponsorship dollar and event supporter values as well.  Given that many in the association sector rely heavily on conference and sponsorship revenues, this could represent a problem unless addressed.

It’s not always easy unfortunately

As someone who has programmed more conferences that you can poke the proverbial stick at I’m not saying this is easy. In fact, if you read my “back story” on The Ambition Revolution you will see what I mean and I know that my own track record has not been perfect in the past.

  • For every call for papers nine men would respond and only one woman.
  • I’d tap a woman on the shoulder to ask her to speak (pre identified by a committee as someone doing interesting work in her organisation) and she would handball me to a male colleague, manager or ambitious young male staff member.
  • For every second woman who did say yes, it was as though they needed to be reassured that they were indeed the right person for the opportunity and people would indeed want to hear what she had to say.  

It’s definitely a Catch 22 unfortunately and unless we do something about it soon, we’ll be caught in a loop and won’t be able to escape.

Ideas for the conference team and planning committee

I understand the pressure on conference planning teams to get the program finalised and out to market in time and on budget. Associations are frequently resource poor and also rely heavily on volunteer conference planning committees.  So let’s make it easy for everyone and help educate the conference planning committee along the way by having a few practical strategies in place:

  • Set a 50:50 gender diversity target for your next conference speaker program – particularly relevant if your audience is mixed.
  • Have this target front and centre for your volunteer conference planning committee to talk about and measure themselves against during and after the event, along with evaluations and financial measures.
  • Position it as an exciting challenge (rather than more work) - encourage a problem solving approach.
  • Feature an article in your industry publication or e-newsletter on the importance or benefit of gender diversity to your particular industry.
  • Run programs that support and encourage women to speak throughout the year – not just about how they got to where they are now, but also to share expertise and technical knowledge to mixed gender audiences.
  • And yes, for the first year or so it might take a bit more work, but as the years progress it will become easier, and the norm.

Why diversity matters

The issue is much bigger than simply gender diversity. As a society we benefit from diverse ways of thinking on every issue. So don’t just stop with gender diversity.

  • Ensure you provide opportunities for young professionals – once again bringing fresh ideas, new ways of thinking and communicating as well as reinforcing the notion that fresh perspectives are worth hearing about. It also grows growing their confidence in this arena creating a “talent pipeline” for leadership development down the track helping both yourself for future conferences but also helping industry provide opportunities for young talent to shine and develop.
  • Consider also cultural diversity and opportunities for those with disabilities on conference programs as well.
  • Where are your mental blind spots when it comes to encouraging diversity on your program and how can you remedy this?

In summary

Gender diversity is a huge issue for our society and business world and it’s proving challenging to move forward with any speed. In fact Australian statistics demonstrate that the gender salary gap remains the same after 30 years and a heap of work on the issue.  The topic is heavily laden with bias at best along with sexism and active discrimination at worst.  It’s full of examples where turf protection wars are waged, boys clubs and “this is the way we’ve always done it” type notions abound, along with arguments such as “I only want the best person for the role” (meritocracy). It’s backed up by generations of socialisation that reinforce stereotypical gender roles for both men and women.  Let’s face it, I’m sure there are times when both men and women sometimes struggle to see the woods for the trees because bias (conscious and unconscious) is so insidious and difficult to identify.  While associations in general do a better job than some with their recruitment practices and encouraging female leaders, I think there is definitely room to improve when it comes to planning conferences and demonstrating best practice to industry.

Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolution

AmandaBblackbg.jpg
  • Amanda Blesing is one of Australia's newest thinkers and speakers on ambition - how to spark it, tackle it, tame it and then channel it into producing a healthier, more inspired leadership talent pipeline.  
  • As the creator of The Ambition Revolution program helping women step up, speak out and take charge, she gets right to the heart of the issue with statistics, stories and insights as to what the problem is and what we can do about it. 
  • For the past 20 years Amanda has walked her own talk as she worked her own way through the ranks of the association world with her last role as Chief Executive Officer of SOCAP Australia (Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals in Australia)
  •  Amanda currently speaks with and mentors ambitious women and helps them make a bigger difference more easily.

 

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months