Reminders of the ongoing battle for women who wish to achieve remarkable career success make me wonder why more women aren't doing exactly that. According to author and Barnard College president Debora Spar, women today account for only 15.2 percent of the board members at Fortune 500 companies, 16 percent of partners at the largest law firms, and 19 percent of surgeons. Who knows? Maybe a smaller percentage of professional women wish to achieve that level of success, but it's clearly still a struggle for those who do.
Acting like one of the guys has traditionally been the path to promotion and success. For most women this unfortunately means leaving a huge part of themselves behind, including valuable traits such as compassion and empathy. I recall from my days in corporate that my female bosses constantly struggled between making choices from an emotional, compassionate place versus the logical, numbers-driven side of themselves. I've always argued that it's not an either/or, but rather a combination of the masculine and feminine that makes a powerful leader. That's why the bestseller, "Wonder Women: How Western Women Will Save the World," by Jessica Eaves Mathews and Phil Dyer hit home for me.
Mathews and Dyer argue that women don't have to be like men to have a fulfilling and successful career or to win in business. On a primal level, women are wired to desire cooperation and collaboration. They're naturally inclined toward caretaking and finding positive solutions that allow everyone to benefit, rather than one side winning at the expense of the other.
The authors take the position that, although women have been increasingly conditioned to ignore and reject feminine energy, for most women, this doesn't feel natural. In the end, many women begin to experience a serious dissonance between their work and home personas.
The solution? According to Mathews and Dyer women have to stop acting like guys and start leading like women.
So how do women develop their own unique leadership style? Based on history--and this may seem counterintuitive--one key to success is to hold on to those feminine qualities. In their book, Mathews and Dyer outline the 7 super powers needed for extraordinary success in life and business. Here are three steps toward mastering those super powers:
1. Compassion: Stop tearing each other down.
"She might be smart, but did you see what she was wearing?
Mathews and Dyer observe that many of women's most virulent critics are other women. "They criticize other women for being too feminine, not being feminine enough, choosing to have kids, choosing not to have kids, for having a nanny, for sending their kids to preschool, for not working hard enough, for the way they walk, talk, look and act," says Mathews.
This is a terribly unfair and demoralizing double standard. If a woman is ambitious and trying to have a successful career, she often gets labeled and criticized. And often this criticism comes from other women.
Instead, Mathews and Dyer encourage women to start having empathy and compassion for each other. They advocate for a change in the conversation that will begin to eliminate the double standard. As a woman you can:
2. Authenticity: Know thyself.
Authenticity is defined as being true to one's own personality, spirit, or character. Mathews and Dyer believe that being authentic is being true to yourself so that what you do includes significance, purpose, decisiveness, self-confidence, and balance.
Mathews and Dyer encourage every woman to know herself and demand that her career space aligns with her values and goals. The authors understand that it may seem scary or even like career suicide to stop conforming to the typical track embraced by colleagues. But they also believe that by having the courage to be authentic, you will create a better life for yourself and inspire change in others by example.
3. Optimism: Find your tribe.
Man or woman, you can't do it alone. The most successful people never go it alone. "One of the most powerful tools you can have in business is a tribe," says Dyer. "The right support network can bolster your enthusiasm and optimism quickly." Mathews and Dyer like to quote Jim Rohn, the founder of the self-help movement, who said, "you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Choose wisely."
If you start with these three super powers, Mathews and Dyer say you will be on your way to becoming a modern day, business super hero.