By Dr. Tracey WilenGlobal Speaker, Media Contributor: Business,Technology, Women & Career Trends
After 21 years of marriage, attorney Mary Hart was blindsided by a divorce. She was raising three children, had no income, and had recently moved to a new city. “It would have been easy to fall apart,” she remembers, but she didn’t. Instead, she started her own law firm. She now employs eight other women, some of whom are also single mothers, and invests in real estate. “I never would have done any of that had I not gotten divorced,” she says. “What I thought was going to kill me ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to me.”
Ann Michael was working for a small pharmaceutical logistics company when she discovered she had breast cancer. “I remember sitting on the couch, not feeling very well, and thinking, ‘I’m tired of working for other people because there’s so much else I want to do,’” she says. She went to her boss with a plan: She’d offload some of her tasks and do the others as a consultant. “I wound up making the same amount of money working 20 hours a week, and using the other 20 hours to build a business,” Michael says. She now is president of publishing and media consulting firm Delta Think.
Kathryn Bowsher was out on maternity leave from the consulting firm she ran when she received a phone call about a company that needed a CEO with her precise skill set. After talking things over with her husband, Bowsher decided to take the job, started as a consultant for the new company when her daughter was four months old, and became its CEO four months later. “We increased the nanny’s hours, and adjusted our home responsibilities so I could spend more time at work, ”she says. “It was complicated at first, but we figured it out, and it’s been great. Life’s like that: You figure out what feels like the right thing to do in the moment, and work the rest out later.”
Jean Tully worked for a Fortune 500 hardware and software company for 30years, starting off as an engineer on a manufacturing site and branching out into several different areas of the company, moving into positions of greater and greater responsibility. In 2002, she took early retirement and launched a second career as owner of Creating Clarity, a consulting firm focusing on organizational development. Tully, who calls herself a “recovering engineer,” says, “Though I loved my experiences working for a technology corporation, I discovered what I’m really passionate about is learning and helping other people learn.” A recent experience project-managing the construction of a friend’s courtyard has her contemplating yet another career shift. “That project played to my strengths from both a design and an aesthetic perspective. I’m trying to figure out how to build aesthetics into the learning programs I run so I can have the same kind of wonderful experience I did working on that courtyard,” she says.
These four women represent a sampling of the winding, serendipitous paths many women take through their careers. Hart and Michael didn’t climb the corporate ladder in any traditional sense. Instead they turned adversity into opportunity, using it as a signal to redirect their working lives in a direction of greater freedom, control, and balance. Bowsher made a major career move at a time of personal transition, and achieved great success. Tully chose to stay active following her retirement from a major corporation by pursuing an encore career. None of them progressed in a straight line from an internship to the C-suite, but all of them defined success on their own terms.
In doing so, they’re like many women today. If a job doesn’t square with their values or is interfering with their ability to take care of the ones they love—and if they have the means to do so—many women feel free to strike out on their own, change industries, take time off, or negotiate new working conditions. In the complex social and economic terrain of the 21st century, where longevity and shifting gender roles are reshaping the family and the life course, employees of both genders may need to adopt this “female” approach to customizing careers and life.
Labyrinths, Not Ladders
Women’s career paths are rich, complex, and highly varied—in a word, labyrinthine. For most women, work and life are not isolated spheres but overlapping realms that profoundly influence one another. Women carefully consider how their career decisions will affect their families, friends, and coworkers as well as their own sense of balance, meaning, and purpose while assessing the impact of their life and values upon their work.
As a result, women’s career paths are flexible and tend not to follow predictable patterns. In one study, 58% of highly qualified women described their careers as“nonlinear”; in another, only half of women reported following traditional, upwardly mobile career paths, while the others had varied career trajectories. Rather than ladders, many women’s career tracks resemble “zigzags.” Many women opt to start their own businesses, become self-employed, change industries, take time off, work part-time, or pursue education or credentials during the course of their careers. Men, in contrast, have much more linear career paths. They are less likely to have interrupted careers, work part-time, or change industries than women, and are more likely to draw firm boundaries between their work and non work lives.
Women Have a New Definition of Success
Raising children and caring for family members are primary reasons why women have such fluid career paths. Forty-one percent of women, versus only 21% of men, have made changes in their career for family reasons, and 29% of women change jobs or careers to achieve greater work-family balance, compared with 14% of men.
But women have many other reasons for charting their own career courses. For instance, many women define success in terms of personal satisfaction rather than objective criteria like status and wealth. In one survey, 46% of women described success as “personal fulfillment or happiness.” This definition was the most popular choice, coming in ahead of recognition and financial considerations. Another study found that women preferred working with people they respected (82% chose this option), having the freedom to be themselves at work (79%), collaborating with others (61%), and giving back to the community (56%) to holding a powerful position. Even women who receive lower salaries after temporarily leaving the workforce report being happier with their more balanced lives.
Being brought up in a traditional Marwari Joint family had some pros and cons. Some of the cons were cousins who could snitch on you and comparison on academic performances (well, it didn’t help that I was the black sheep with my brother excelling in all academic pursuits). One of the biggest con was that all girls in that era were brought up to be very prim and proper. One of the main virtues was humility and not brag about your own achievements. For women, it was worse as we were suppose to underplay our performance in front of the boys. When I cleared my CAT exam and got into business school, well meaning relatives suggested that a girl highly educated would be difficult to marry off.
20 years down the line, some of those learning or conditioning is difficult to shake off. I have seen most of the women entrepreneurs playing down their worth as they are not confident about themselves or negotiating makes them feel queasy.
Whenever I changed my jobs or sat through my performance appraisal, I was very reluctant to discuss my achievements and negotiate my salary. The assumption was my boss would know what I have achieved and would be fair. But the world is hardly fair!
This experience continues. As a woman entrepreneur who runs a Diversity or Change Management program, it is always difficult to negotiate on the price you want to ask.
Few months ago, after we successfully concluded our annual Inclusive leadership conference – I Inspire, we received a call from a reputed MNC Banking firm. They wanted us to conduct a half day Unconscious Bias leadership session for their leaders. After a discussion, when it came to charges, they were taken aback that as women we should charge organisations to curate inclusive leadership session. My question is why not?
After much deliberation, the crux of the matter was that they were more keen to have a male facilitator conduct sessions for their leadership team as it mostly consisted of men. This is not the first time, where we have found HR team (predominant with women) preferring male facilitators and paying a hefty fees too!. They take offence when as women we try to negotiate for our price.
Women are termed as aggressive if they negotiate hard.
And our insecurity of losing the business or opportunity, many times we give in…sometimes too easily. Women are less likely than men to negotiate for themselves for several reasons.
First, we have been taught from an early age not to brag or promote our own interests and focus on the needs of others.
The classic example of being an obedient daughter or caring daughter in law. The messages girls receive—from parents, teachers, other children, the media, and society in general—can be so powerful that when we grow up we may not realise that we’ve internalized this behaviour. This impacts our willingness to recognise our true self worth or willingness to negotiate. Women tend to assume that they will be recognized and rewarded for working hard and doing a good job. Unlike men, they haven’t been taught that they can ask for more.
But in my experience, whenever I have asked for more, I always get it. It might take some time to establish your credentials and hence the merit of asking your price, but trust me it is gives great satisfaction when you are being paid your worth.
Last time when we dug our heels in for the price we wanted to ask for a project, my colleagues were afraid that we are losing on a big opportunity. But 3 months later, the client came back and gave the same project to us at the original price we asked for.
So the lesson out here is while nice girls don’t ask but kickass girls will. 🙂
Cheat Sheet to success:
Prepare: Recognize your worth by benchmarking yourself with others and see what is the industry average pay scale is.
Build Credibility: While it is important to work hard, it is equally important to market it smart. You will never be able to sell a great product if you don’t package and market it well.
Just Ask : At the max, they will say No! But they can say Yes too!!!
Kalla Nican, 12, an aspiring teacher in northern Senegal. (Photo: UNDP)
Kalla Niang, 12, is highly self-assured and energetic. She is busily preparing herself for high school, an opportunity that, until recently, would not have been available to her.
Kalla lives in the village of Darou Ngaraf in northern Senegal. Like many girls in rural Senegal, Kalla and her sisters are responsible for many daily chores, including drawing water from a communal well that is far away from their village.
“My sisters and I had to rise before dawn to fetch water, and we were very often late for school,” she said. “We always arrived very tired because drawing and carrying water is not easy.”
Lack of energy and time for an education were not the only concerns that Kalla and the other villagers faced by not having access to a reliable source of water. Drawing water from unregulated sources of water put them at risk of diarrhea and malaria.
Fortunately, however, a well programme implemented jointly by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Senegal, has been improving the opportunities and future prospects of people like Kalla throughout the country.
Launched in 2003, the Programme of Drinking Water and Sanitation for the Millennium – was designed to ensure a sustainable supply of drinking water for 2.3 million people in Senegal’s rural areas. It aims to raise households’ rate of access to clean drinking water from 64 percent in 2004 to 82 percent by 2015 – the deadline for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
By 2009, 74 percent of rural residents in Senegal had access to potable drinking water, thanks to programme initiatives such as the drilling of a well near Darou Ngaraf in September of that same year. The new well near Darou Ngaraf enabled over 4,000 people in 31 villages to pipe clean water into their homes.
If this trend continues, Senegal will be able to achieve the MDG target for drinking water by 2015.
“Women and children used to suffer the most,” remembered Aminata Guèye, president of a local association of well users. “We spent so much time drawing water and we often came down with water-related diseases….Now we plan to hook up other villages that do not yet have access to drinking clear, potable water.”
The programme allows villagers to have pipes laid down that connect their homes to the well for just a small fee, which they pay in addition to their regular monthly utilities fees. It also aims to provide three million more people with an independent system for disposing waste water, as well as establish latrines for schools, clinics, bus stops and weekly markets in rural communities.
For Kalla and her village, access to a clean and regular source of water is opening up new horizons. Village residents hope to gain access to micro-financing in order to set up communal agricultural fields for women farmers.
“The village is becoming greener and more beautiful every day,” she said. “We are going to plant vegetables like carrots, cabbages, potatoes and tomatoes, for our own consumption, and also to sell to other villages.”
One day, Kalla would like to become a teacher. For now, though, she is focused on providing bathroom facilities for her school, which is located just over one kilometer away from the village. She wants to make sure the school is equipped with running water, “this precious fluid” as she is fond of calling it.
“Each time I touch it, I touch life itself,” she said
When Brazilian graphic designer Carol Rossetti began posting colorful illustrations of women and their stories to Facebook, she had no idea how popular they would become. Thousands of shares show the appeal of Rosetti’s work. The message is clear: Rossetti’s empowering images are the kind you want to post everywhere as both a reminder and affirmation of women’s bodily autonomy.
Rosetti shows the world’s attempts to control women’s bodies, behavior and identities.
Rossetti’s illustrations touch upon an impressive range of intersectional topics, including body image, ageism, racism and sexism. Some characters are based on the experiences of friends or her own life, while others draw inspiration from the stories many women have shared across the Internet. Most of the situations are recognisable by women, they probably lived one lived some of them themselves.
It’s an inspiring show of global solidarity. The message of Rossetti’s art is clear in any language. Her images celebrate being true to oneself, respecting others and questioning what society tells us is acceptable or beautiful.
Check out some of Rossetti’s illustrations below.
All images are of Carol Rossetti. You can find more illustrations, as well as more languages, on her Facebook page
If you ask Private Banking/ Wealth Management leads whether they are perfectly happy about the bio-diversity in their team, a majority of them will complain. At an experienced level, there are surely lesser women doing this job.
This seems ironical. I have often heard my men colleagues say that women have a higher chance of getting a meeting and a higher chance of conversion. In general, women seem to have a higher chance of getting anything done because the other gender treats them preferentially. Intuitively then, women should have taken over and crowd pushed their men colleagues out of this business? We all know that this is not true.
Ceteris paribus, i.e. with a good boss & with manageable work pressure, women still feel on a daily basis, subtle discomfort in a job like this one. The job, by its very nature, entails soliciting relationships, regular face to face meetings, sometimes on a holiday, sometimes late and not all prospects turn out to be pleasant. To be fair to women, they often feel intimidated – even the stronger ones do. That edgy feeling is not easy to get rid of.
I have been a manager of people in the wealth management business and have been managing clients directly well over a decade now. I have been in uncomfortable situations, have seen my team members swim through similar situations. To young girls who want to make a career in this field, remember, there is ALWAYS, a way to get around this discomfort.
When I was very young, a relationship was handed over to me with the pretext that the client only warms up to women relationship managers. If someone said that to me today, I would react a little differently. Anyway, I was made to feel that I was given a great chance to meet a difficult client and convert him. We met a couple of times. The gentleman’s demeanour was extremely pleasant. He lived away from the main city and offered to meet me at a widely frequented restaurant in town and I was relieved. During the course of the meeting, he showed me pictures of his horses. Two beautiful black horses, new additions to his stud farm – gifted to him by some Maharaja. He kept showing me pictures of what seemed to be a gorgeous farmhouse. They reminded me of some Bollywood movies I had watched in my younger days. Then, out of the clear blue sky, he asked if I would like to come with him to his farmhouse over the weekend.
When I look back, I think I deserve a pat on my back for being able to calmly come back to office without making a scene. I was lucky to have met my senior leader out of turn that day because he wanted to chat up over some other agenda. He told my manager later that he asked me what was bothering me because I was looking a little pale. I blurted out the story and the client was promptly taken out of my books. I frankly don’t know what happened to him after that. I would not be surprised if he was downgraded.
On another occasion, a prospect and his weird friend insisted that my team member and I drink an alcoholic beverage at a restaurant. On declining, he whispered something to the attendant and two strange mocktails arrived at the table. I remember refusing to have it and his face turning red. I remember his telling my junior colleague that I was rude. I remember his stare. I remember his friend’s leer. I remember us walking out, excusing ourselves, sensing his car coming after our taxi. We reported to office the next day and kept the management informed. It haunted us for days.
The truth of the matter is, women need and deserve a little bit extra consideration at work. Managers can help. There needs to be free flowing dialogue & it has to be made clear that in case of need, the set up will back up the employee.
One however, needs to be very sure before raising an alarm. If in the course of the investigation, one is found guilty of acting out of bounds, that will pretty much be the suicide of one’s reputation.
I have always had supportive managers and in turn have been one. Remember, if one doesn’t have one, the choice to walk out is still one’s own. The chief message is – One need not take ANY nonsense. If you care about you, others will as well.
Saying NO is NOT losing. Saying NO is winning – because to my mind, feminism is not about declaring that women are equal to men. It is about knowing our differences, using our strengths and avoiding pitfalls due to our weaknesses.
By Carol Sankar, Business Consultant,Leadership & Pricing Expert.
CONFIDENCE! Some may perceive it as arrogance and a little pompous but, as someone who has studied his real estate portfolio, it is only confidence.
Arrogance, yes maybe a pinch. But Donald Trump has always been in a league of his own when it comes to leadership and brand innovation. I remember thinking as a child how arrogant of anyone to put your last name on everything you own: Trump Towers, Trump Casino, Trump Hotel, etc. However, I must admit, it works. Brand clarity that is associated with his level of confidence and excellence.
There are 3 things women in leadership can learn from Mr. Trump when it comes to mastering the market and elevating to the next level of success:
1. Be Seen: The power of Mr. Trump’s ability to lead in the polls is linked to his accessibility in the media. Just recently, he was quoted by Fox where he stated “I will speak anywhere, anytime, on any issue.” The measure of leveraging his media power has made us sensationalized to hear what he will say next to shock us all.
2. Stop Apologizing: Without intention, women begin apologizing on their journey with leadership. I recently wrote an article about women raising their hand in order to lead. You may not need to be as forward as Donald Trump, but you do not need to be apologetic on taking the lead and celebrating with a victory lap, even if you are by yourself.
3. Do not be afraid to lose: With all of his “off the wall” statements, Mr. Trump has lost endorsement deals, network partnerships and more. But he gained in the polls, which is attracting new partners on his journey, and even new fans. All are seeking the opportunity to maximize their platform through his media influence. Sometimes, you have to lose to gain.
4. Do not be afraid of saying it (AS A BONUS): People pleasing through holding back your real opinions will isolate you in the market.
Our jaws may be dropping now with his increased popularity, but if women can see past the outrageous statements at times, you will realize that where Mr. Trump may lack in foreign policy and political experience, he makes up in confidence. Therefore, he is the front-runner in an over-crowded GOP market.
“Speak up and let confidence put you in the lead”.