As I write my first blog ever, I have to admit that I feel more like a follower than a leader. However, I am a leader when it comes to my commitment to developing women in business, particularly in the private career college sector. This is not to say that I’m not interested in hiring, training and motivating men in business; it’s just that my heart is in the development of women leaders.
In graduate school I taught a course that was titled “Social Control Mechanisms Throughout History.” The course dealt with the oppression of various minorities from the very beginnings of our country. Certainly, the oppression of women was a topic that the course material covered.
In education, more than any other business sector, women are more represented in management positions. However, there’s still a long way to go. As Sarah Epstein said in her blog last month, “It doesn’t take a particularly apt person to notice that the top executive positions in the career college sector of education are held primarily by males. It does, however, take highly motivated, conscientious individuals to make this observation and initiate change.”
To initiate this change, I believe women need to start with something very basic. I have met so many women who are concerned about their own careers and how they look that they don’t really spend the time and energy necessary to grow and develop the women around them. I have even seen, more than I care to say, women who are threatened by other women. I am fortunate to say that I have never worked for one of these women, although I’ve worked for two women in my career who did nothing but encourage me to be the best I could be!
I try to take it several steps further. My focus is on developing the women around me, and although my own career has prospered, my efforts have always been focused on developing others. In fact, if someone asked me what my primary management strength is, I would say developing women in business.
What I have to share is nothing new or groundbreaking, but you could take a second as a woman to ask yourself if you’re really developing the women around you, or at the very least helping them to grow. Start with the basics!
See women’s strengths, not their limitations. Make them proud to be who they are. Tell them why they are special.
Trust other women. Don’t play that petty game of second-guessing them or discussing their shortcomings with other women. Don’t do it. Don’t let it happen.
Here is a four-way test I apply to determine whether something needs to be said:
Respect women for where they have come from and for what they have done, and for the potential you see in them.
Be the example.
Be a good listener and let women know that you are truly interested in them. Let each individual know why you think they are important. Be available for genuine and open discussion, and women will share themselves with you.
You have to be authentic and do not lie to feed women’s egos. They will see through you. Women are smart!
You have to live by your rules and stand true to what you believe in, in all circumstances. You may expect women to follow your work rules, systems and beliefs, but accept them for their own philosophies and lifestyles outside of work. You are not their judge and jury.
Lastly, you have to be at peace with yourself. You don’t have to prove anything. Nothing turns me off more than a woman who tells me how great she is. Show me!
For me, nothing has been as satisfying as helping women achieve their goals and dreams! It may start with an office, or an office with a window; whatever it may be that motivates that woman to the next level. You never know, she may even want a corner office with windows on both sides. The company will have to determine if she’s worth it; however, I’ve already determined that helping women along the way is what I want to do. For me, it’s the ultimate satisfaction!