I need a list.
That’s what I thought after reading an interview with BBC World News America anchor Katty Kay, who was talking about the need for women to show more confidence, especially in business. In this excerpt, Kay is talking about Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund.
"[Lagarde] got so fed up of men coming up to her and saying, 'You know we’d love to have more women at the top of companies,' or 'We’d love to have more women running things, but we just can’t find the good candidates.' This annoyed her so much that she wrote down a list of 10 really good women, qualified women, and put it in her purse. Every time a man came up to her and said, 'It's such a shame we can’t find a qualified woman,' out would come the list."
More lists like that, and more than a measly 4.6 percent of the Fortune 500 would have women CEOs. More lists like that, and we’d have more women running influential companies of all stripes, not just public ones. More lists like that, and more than 17 percent of the members of Fortune 500 boards would be women. Mitt Romney may have had "binders full of women" but if those women don’t make it out of the binders and onto payroll, it makes little difference. If I want to see more women in great jobs--and I do--I need a list.
I’m not the only one who needs a list, though. In every industry, there are the good people, there are the decent people, and there are the nutballs. You may not be particularly concerned about creating opportunities for women or any other group of people. That's your prerogative. But no matter what your industry or priorities, you've got to admit that if the good and decent people don't stick together, the nutballs are going to run the world.
Lagarde's list is her way of doing two things: suggesting outstanding women for positions of power, and weeding out the bozos. You can be certain that every woman on her list has impeccable credentials, expertise, and integrity. After all, Lagarde's putting her own professional reputation on the line by recommending them.
You've probably already got a list of great people who are capable of more than they're doing in their current positions. Most likely, you think of this as the "people I'd like to hire" list. But here's the rub: Are you recommending those outstanding people for other jobs? Maybe not. Maybe, if you help them find good positions, it'll be harder to hire them yourself when you're ready.
But look at it this way: It will be years--if ever--before you can hire some of these people. Why not help them get some great experience in the interim? Why not help get them into an environment, and give them a motivation, to scout for you? Why not earn a reputation as a connector and all-around helpful person?
I've often joked that there are three forms of currency. In order of importance, they are sleep, introductions, and actual money. (Sleep may not seem like currency, but when your spouse runs an extra errand, keeping you from having to work into the wee hours, you and your spouse are trading in sleep.)
Chances are, you could be trading in introductions a lot more than you do. You'll be helping good people get the opportunities they need to develop their skills. You'll be strengthening your industry and increasing the odds that the good and decent people will want to stay in it. And you just might end up with some really excellent hires.