Sunday, February 15, 2009

WOMEN LEADERS AND NETWORKS

This morning I watched a video clip on the WSJ online. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright discussing women and leadership, finding her voice and the current state of women leaders around the world.

In the interview she makes a point about women needing to support other women. She mentioned that when she was in the UN there were only 7 women as permanent members.

They started a network group and agreed to take each others calls before any others.

Last week, I had the opportunity to hear Mary O'Hara- Devereaux speak at a women in business leadership forum. She was outstanding. In her speech she mentioned that women needed to start "power networks". I really missed the boat here.

Throughout my career, I stayed away from women's networks completely. This was driven by the misguided notion that if I shunned these groups I would be a leader not a woman leader.

Earth to Gail- you are a woman!

When I did participate, I saw them as social networks. Fun to be with people with similar interests. And yes, at times, I even whined with my female friends. This is hard for me to admit as I have always had a "no whining rule".

But I never used these networks as power networks. The reason? Well, after much soul searching, I realize it is the word used that bothered me. I did not want to use my friends. I did not want to use the fact that I was a woman.

Now what is really shocking about this is that I realized very early in my career that business was all about relationships. I believe companies do not sell to other companies but rather people sell to other people. In fact, I believe my interpersonal skills- building and earning trust, building relationships- were key to whatever success I attained.

So why then did I shun a natural connection such as other women? I have also spent much of my career focused and committed to developing others, especially those who worked for me. Yet, I was very careful not to favor the women.

Well today all that changes. I am publicly declaring my new commitments.

I am committed to building power networks.
I am committed to leveraging my relationships with other women leaders.
I am committed to helping less experienced women succeed.

Now, this does not mean I will do any less then I have been doing for the men I know. There are great male leaders out there. Although these days we are hearing more about the leadership failures.

Bring it on! I am ready to go!

Oh, by the way, I do not have a plan so I do not know exactly where I am going with this yet. Thoughts? Ideas?

Until next time,
Gail

8 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Gail, Great post! I can certainly relate to that sense of wanting to characterize myself as a leader without the label of "woman." However, this morning, I looked at the news and saw a photo of Hillary Clinton stepping off a plane in Toyko and thought, "Wow, I am part of a network that includes Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright." I am a Wellesley alum and these women are prominent members of that "Old Girls Network." A network that I don't leverage nearly as much as I should. I'm linked to this network because I'm a woman and there's no shame in that. Our "social networks" ARE power networks. You'll probably derive more value from them then you could imagine. Traditional leadership networks are often social (or have a social component) that are critical to their strength. Think of Ivy League clubs, golf outings, alumni groups, peer groups. I've never saw a power network that didn't enjoy a cocktail hour. So, why don't we schedule some "Leadership Socials?" An opportunity to link our networks of power people. I'd be thrilled to invite Wellesley alums, Villanova alums and other people in my networks.

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  3. Erin,
    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I love your idea of "Leadership Socials". What if we had the concept of networking our networks? For example, you invite people from your network and I invite people from mine. We introduce them and now everyone's network has increased. But I think we have to do as Secretary of State Albright's group did and make sure we "power" the networks by asking for some actions. Thoughts?

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  4. networking our networks? Those folks over at LinkedIn probably have an idea or two about that. But do we really capitalize them to the fullest extent, as Erin suggests?

    I submit that many people try to do it, but control over one's network is such a personal thing that, while some would be willing to open their networks, others will be reticent and protectionist.

    Is it still necessary, in 2009, to define our networks by gender, rather than by affiliation, merit, or personal preference?

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  5. Gail,

    I love your suggestion to power the networks. I'm game. Let's make this happen.

    In related topics, 85Broads is relaunching in the Philadelphia area: https://secure.85broads.com/events

    85 Broads
    (www.85broads.com) is a network of over 18,000 trailblazing, visionary women who aspire to use their talent and leadership savvy to affect professional, educational, economic, and cultural change for all women globally. The "founding members" of 85 Broads were women who worked for Goldman Sachs at 85 Broad Street, the investment banking firm's NYC headquarters. Over the past decade, 85 Broads expanded its membership to include women who are students and alumnae of the world's leading colleges, universities, and graduate schools worldwide.

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  6. Stephen,
    I agree, networks should be defined as you say by affiliation, merit and personal preference, among others. But affiliations cut more than one way. For example, Mike and I are partners, in this context, the same. He is married and I am single, in this context different. He and I are both funny, in this context the same. Okay, I lied, he is WAY FUNNIER than me. He is male and I am female, in this context different. We need networks that address all our dimensions.

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  7. Erin,
    You save Mike some work. In a comment to another post I asked him if he would connect me to 85 Broads. You did the work. Thanks

    So we are both game but do you have any ideas on how we take the first step? I am struggling.

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