Thursday, August 26, 2010

Acting Courageously

Last Wednesday we held our second ATHENA Leadership Forum in Chicago - bringing together a great group of established and emerging women leaders. The forum topic was the ATHENA Leadership Model Principle ~ Courageous Acts. Leaders who are courageous speak the truth, test relationships and confront traditional thinking. They "stand up, stand firm and do the right thing". As we shared personal stories, we heard from women who are just beginning their professional careers as well as women who were pioneers in leadership in their profession.

This month we celebrate the courageous acts of women who fought and won for all of us the right to vote just 90 years ago. Women who 'stood up, stood firm and did the right thing'. Women who were courageous at great personal sacrifice.

Martha Mertz, founder of ATHENA International and author of "Becoming ATHENA" states that acting courageously gives us permission to 'own' our acts of courage. As she quoted Mary Anne Radmacher, 'Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, "I'll try again tomorrow".'

There are many stories of courage in today's world and I'd like to hear yours. Will you share a personal experience of courage? A time when you stood up for your beliefs in spite of criticism or opposition? When you confronted traditional thinking or followed your heart?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Why wouldn't you choose a girl?

I just finished reading the article 'The End of Men' by Hanna Rosin published in the July/August 2010 edition of 'the Atlantic' magazine. Rosin tells the story of biologist Ronald Ericsson who in the 1970s developed a method for choosing the sex of a baby. At that time most couples wanted to ensure that they would have a boy baby boy as girls were generally considered 'second class citizens'. Now, apparently at the approximately two dozen clinics that use Ericsson's process in America, more couples are choosing to have a girl instead of a boy. And according to Ericsson, in the 1970s, it was the man who made the decision as to the sex of the baby and now it is the woman who makes the decision.

What is causing this shift? The author discusses the the changes in our society that seem to indicate that women are becoming the dominant sex in the workforce, educational institutions and home. In fact, women now make up the majority of the workforce for the first time in US history. Women also make up 60 percent of students in institutions of higher education. Women are the decision makers for 85% of all household purchases. (To read the entire article, go to

Rosin suggests that the modern, postindustrial economy is more congenial to women than men and that this economy is indifferent to men's size and strength. Further, she states that social intelligence, open communication and the ability to sit still and focus are more valuable in today's work environment ~ all traits that are more natural to women than men. So if one is choosing the sex of a baby, it's reasonable to ask 'Why wouldn't you choose a girl?'. Current data indicates that a girl has a greater chance than a boy of being successful in today's workforce.

Rosin also discusses how men are generally portrayed in commercials. My husband and I have this discussion frequently...why are men always portrayed as 'clueless' in commercials. Women and children are smarter or know the right answer. Are we going overboard in suggesting in our media that men are not as smart as women?

I'd be interested in your thoughts and experiences on this topic. Are women becoming the dominant force in the workplace in your community? Are we going overboard in presenting women as smarter than men in the media? What are the implications to women leaders who work to help other women in their leadership journey? What are the implications to you?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Best Dressed Leaders

The Vanity Fair’s 2010 Best Dressed List is out and once again, I was not selected. Quite a disappointment since I do make sure to dress every day. Granted some days are better than others, but I’m generally neat and tidy…except in high humidity days when my hair is well, shall we say, less than perfect.

But the list got me to thinking about what it means to be ‘best dressed’….especially when I saw Lady Gaga listed as one of the best dressed. She certainly has some incredible and outrageous costumes, but ‘best dressed’? I’m used to seeing women on the list who wear Chanel and Prada…not feathers, masks and mirrors.

When I started working the ‘best dressed’ professional woman wore a navy blue suit, blue pumps, white hose and a white blouse with a rounded collar. We all looked alike and that seemed important because our view of what a professional woman looked like was in part based on how she was dressed.

But I love that Lady Gaga is on the Best Dressed List. Why? Because the door is now open for others to be on the list that may have never been considered. My paradigm has shifted in who I expect to see on the ‘Best Dressed’ list. And that made me think about leadership. We need to shift our personal paradigm to look beyond the ‘best dressed leadership list’ and see potential in those who don’t fit the leadership mold. We should be opening doors for women who may not own a navy blue suit but have the potential to do incredible things.

So what about you? Does your list include both ‘navy blue suits’ and ‘feathers and mirrors’?