by Maria Pinelli EY Global Vice Chair, Strategic Growth Markets
“Leaning in” might be all the rage – but “hanging in” is just as important to make sure women gather momentum in the workplace. At a meeting of the Global Women in Business Advisory Council last week in Palm Springs, CA, members discussed ways to build critical mass for stronger female participation in the workplace. Three suggestions from this group of top women in business who want to see more women beside them:
Don’t leave the workforce at the tipping point – urged Adele Oliva, a partner at Quaker Partners, referring to a noted trend where women stop advancing up the corporate ladder. They “self-select” to take themselves off the fast track by not connecting with senior management in their organizations. And don’t retire too early. Studies show women are retiring earlier than men, leaving less female role models for those coming up the ranks.
It may be lonely at the top, but that shouldn’t be a turn-off to striving for the corner office. Diane Foreman, CEO of the Emerald Group, finds it’s important to build social networks outside the workplace, because “leaders lead, and have to make the hard decisions, which might not get you liked.” Seema Kahn, co-founder of DAF Advisory, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, notes that “In the sea of men, women need to know they are not alone.” Moira Forbes, founder of Forbes Women, reminded the women in the audience that “one of the most powerful tools we have are those sitting on your left and right.”
Keep the ladders down. “Women need to support and invest in each other in many ways – networks, role models, advocates, actual capital funding for those starting out,” finds Maria Pinelli, EY Global Vice Chair, Strategic growth Markets. “We need to paint the full picture to show women what’s possible in corporate life – ways to juggle, ways to succeed, ways to expand of your thinking of family and career,” suggests Kate Barton, EY’s Americas Vice Chair, Tax Services. And adding one woman on a corporate board usually leads to more, notes Deborah Soon, Senior VP, Catalyst, debunking the myth that “women step on other women’s eyeballs to get to the top.”