Where’s the table? I want a seat

25 01 2011

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s recent Ted Talk – Why we have too few female leaders – has been circulating the web a lot recently, and for good reason.

I came across the video two weeks ago and Sheryl’s points really struck a chord with me, and I find it to be especially timely since tomorrow night’s Girl Geek Dinners Ottawa event features three women who will share their career journey to executive positions in their respective organizations.

I urge you to take the time to watch the video. Sheryl is an engaging speaker and her points resonate.

Sheryl’s advice to women:

Sit at the table
Don’t discount your worth, your opinion, your abilities.

Here’s the rub – success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively so for women, which means being assertive and going after your dream promotion doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be liked. Awesome.

Make your partner a real partner in work and in life
Make career success possible for yourself by sharing household and family responsibilities equally.

That said, it needs to just as acceptable for fathers to stay home with the baby as it is for women to pursue their careers. While women work for an equal voice at the boardroom table, what about the father who takes his child to a baby drop-in? Will the mothers there make him feel invited? Will they talk to him?

Don’t leave before you leave
Don’t check out (because of marriage, having children, etc.) before you need to.

I’ll admit I had that mindset three years ago when DH and I decided to start a family. While I wasn’t particularly happy in my career, I allowed myself to settle into it thinking I’d be off on maternity leave soon enough. What I didn’t expect were two miscarriages. I reached a point of having to acknowledge “who knows” when I’m going to actually have a baby. I can’t put my career on hold for a “maybe baby”.

And so I pursued new opportunities and was happier for it. DD came along eventually and I think pursuing my career goals have made me a happier, more well-rounded person. Which I believe makes me a better mother. 🙂

So grab a seat. While you’re at it, pull one up for a friend…

While there is certainly no reason why we can’t “Sit at the table” if we want to, it doesn’t help that women have a tendency to tear each other down instead of support one another. I’m not saying we all do this all the time. I’m saying that there are studies that support the fact that from the playground to the office, our gender isn’t very good at supporting one another. Thankfully this is changing but the issue needs to be recognized.

On Friday night, CBC Radio1 aired “It’s a Girl’s World – Part 3“, a documentary on how women tend to seek power at the expense of their own gender. Further, when it comes to workplace bullying, women target other women some 80% of the time. Bummer, right?

However, there is a groundswell effort to change this. And it starts with an awareness in ourselves of our own attitudes and perceptions. This self-confidence, this belief of our own worth as a gender, is something we need to teach our daughters. Not only that, we need to demonstrate it to our daughters to show we mean it.

Take a look at this video by CocktailDeeva which so eloquently expresses what she wants her daughter to know. I couldn’t agree more.

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6 responses

26 01 2011
Stef

Great post, Mel and excellent videos. Your thoughts and input on the first video were bang on for me. I have to admit that the second one had me fighting back the tears – a good message for our daughters and sons.

Stef

26 01 2011
melgallant

Thanks Stef! You raise a good point. The message of that second video is just as applicable to sons as it is to daughters. 🙂

26 01 2011
Alicia

This is awesome. Thanks for all the information. I am in a career right now that I am no longer motivated in. I have entrepreneurship and other passions on my mind. I am working towards a day that I can take a plunge. I love seeing all of these encouraging videos and first-hand experiences.

26 01 2011
melgallant

Hi Alicia,

I applaud you for pursuing an entrepreneurial path. Takes guts that’s for sure. I think more and more women are opting to go this route – they get to be their own boss while pursuing a passion, work the hours they want and circumvent a lot of the workplace issues mentioned above. Yay you!

26 01 2011
@AVV

Great post! I like the idea of pulling up a seat for a friend. To continue along that line of thinking a characteristic of a great leader is to take good people with them along the way. We should also consider not just taking a seat at “the” table…put creating the party and inviting people to our table.

MAKE THE TABLE and put out the seats 🙂

Thanks for this post its great!

26 01 2011
melgallant

That is the best line of thinking – create the party, make the table and put out the seats! Love it! 🙂

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