THE BLOG

Women: We Are Still The Out Crowd

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Leslie Grossman Author of LINK OUT: How to Turn Your Network into a Chain of Lasting Connections; VISTAGE Chair, President, Leslie Grossman Leadership, Cofounder, Women's Leadership Exchange

Recent headlines remind me again that things are far from equal in the power suites of America. What's worse is so many men are not even aware of what they say or what they do publicly to exclude women. They subconsciously communicate - through both words and actions - to the world that women are not part of the inner circle. In some cases, they are quite blatant in telling the world that women should just shut up and "know our place."

That's exactly what happened to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi when she was told by the National Republican Congressional Committee that she needed to be put "in her place" for her views on Afghanistan. I'm sorry to say I remember being told that on various occasions when I was growing up, but I thought those days were far in the past. I was told in both direct and subtle messages that I needed to know "my place" in speaking out in a man's world. Leadership positions in the real world were not for women, so I was told. "Know your place" as a woman, and you will always be happy. At that time "your place" was being a homemaker, teacher, nurse, or secretary (not Secretary of State). I learned it in school, heard and read it in the media and experienced it by being excluded. Fortunately, for me, my father didn't agree and urged me on the path to be whatever I wanted to be. There were no role models in government or in business. I do remember noticing a sole woman in the Senate -- Margaret Chase Smith -- when I was a little girl. It was clear, however, that she got elected to her position to fill her husband's position after he died. Wow! What a message. Women can have power if their husband dies. Of course, we all know, none of the male senators probably listened to her anyway. But this is 2009 - the new millennium. Certainly those days are gone. Not apparently in the U.S. Congress.

That wasn't the only news item last week that noted the exclusion of women. The second one was precipitated by our own President Obama, who failed to invite any women to join him in a friendly basketball game on the White House court. This could just be the President's assumption that Washington women power players don't play basketball. I wonder if he would have invited any women to join him on the tennis court or the golf course, if that's what he was yearning for. But maybe the President just wanted to bond with the boys. I can't fault him for that. I wouldn't have invited him to go shopping with me. After all, isn't that what women do together? Go shopping. In fact, it would actually be very good for the economy if more of us were shopping. However, the actual truth is that women run, play tennis and golf, workout, and even play basketball. I don't want to make this a big deal. However, it continues to be a reminder, that there are times that the guys just don't want us around. They want to play sports together. They want to watch sports together. Sometimes they invite us to join them, but often we're left out, just like we're left out of the corner office and the boardroom.

So ladies, women and girls, this is yet another reason why we need to learn to work and play together nicely -- supporting each other to crawl up the ladder and succeed. We need to mentor each other, invite each other to go out on the golf course and discuss business, not just our family challenges. We need to work together to pull each other up the corporate ladder, and give business to each other. When we have a great relationship with someone high up, and you can make a relevant introduction to a female, just do it. Stop worrying that another woman might get ahead of you. If she does, congratulate her. We need more women at the top and if we expect the men to make that happen, stop dreaming right now. If we're not inclusive and supportive of each other, then we're just not going to ever be equal in the power suites of America. So starting today, let's stop complaining of being left out and move into action to create the new women's network -- the new in crowd.