American women have been stuck holding 15 to 20% of the top jobs across all sectors for over a decade now: CEO's, law partners, members of Congress, on boards of directors. Tired of hearing that statistic? In 2014, do something about it.
Suggested New Year's Resolutions for 2014
1. See something, say something. It's not just for airports. When a colleague doesn't get the recognition, raise or promotion because the boss doesn't "see" her contribution, speak up. Afraid you'll be tagged a whiner? Then smile while you're saying, "Before you give Watson and Crick that big research grant, you ought to know that Rosalind Franklin really got that DNA theory started."
2. Get out of your lane. Many women modulate their voices and limit their range of influence. Even gifted, visible women leaders often confine their views on gender bias to safe audiences. To change the culture, wade into the mainstream and articulate why gender equity is a winner for everyone. Engaging men in the effort to recognize and advance talented women speeds progress.
3. Use the power of your purse. Only saints, geniuses and revolutionaries wield power without access to money. Earn, manage, invest and leverage money to make the changes you want to see. Negotiate. Bargain. Earn more and give more. Give to those who do good (charities and nonprofits) AND those who are advancing opportunity through the political system (PACs and political organizations). Women of wealth can do a great deal to even the power imbalance between men and woman by deploying their wealth purposefully. If time is money, then volunteers are pure gold.
4. Take yourself seriously. Vote. Many women spend years dedicated to family and volunteering in the community, all the while working to provide necessary income.
That may not leave time to become a public advocate, but there is time to become an informed, active citizen. Register to vote online, by mail or in person.
5. Bring others along. Who are you teaching to lead? Ask senior women at work, "What's your plan to multiply the number of women in management?" At the office, in Congress, on cable news, the participation of women changes the agenda, procedures, content and outcome of decisions. Gender difference has value, but the full value won't be evident until women at the top ensure that more talented women are coming up behind them.
6. Fill your binders. Nominate. Recruit. Every year, the President, 50 governors, state legislative leaders, mayors and other elected officials fill thousands of board and commission seats that determine public policy by appointing members of the public to serve. These posts are proving grounds and gateways to more prestigious appointed and elected opportunities. No surprise that women are still underrepresented. You always say your friends could run it better. Give them the chance. Nominate them.
7. Give credit. Share success. When you introduce an accomplished woman -- to one other person or an audience of 500 -- don't say she's an empathetic listener or the nicest person ever. Say what she's done and what you hope she'll do. "Sue's just finished groundbreaking research on early childhood brain development and we're hoping she'll take over pediatrics at the hospital next year." Sow seeds of advancement wherever you can.
8. Be generous to successful women. Why are so many of us critical of women who venture something and succeed? So what if Sheryl Sandberg had opportunities and advantages that aided and hastened her success. She made the most of them. Hillary Clinton could raise the money to run for the U.S. Senate because she had been First Lady. Yep, and she still had to go raise it and run the race. Too often, those who step up face a wave of too personal criticism from other women. Just stop.
9. Ask a woman to run for office. Research is clear. More than half the women who serve in state legislatures say they are there because someone they respected asked them to run. Men are comfortable nominating themselves, but women respond to a nudge. When they do run, women are as likely to win as men. Someone is waiting for your call.
10. Run for office. Serving in elective office is the most direct way to make progress on issues you care about. 2014 may be too soon to dive in, but campaigns across the country are live action tutorials on fundraising, organizing and voter communication. Get involved and learn. Nine or 10 states are likely to have women nominees for Governor this year. Some of those women will demonstrate grace and grit. Study them. Then, go be one.
What's on your to-do list to advance women's leadership in the new year?
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