I had a very senior meeting with folks from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center on some pretty important procurement matters. We had the meeting on the phone by teleconference. I was in a great mood because I was wearing this brand new pink leather jacket that I just brought 40% off with an additional 30% off coupon. After a bunch of ooh’s and aah’s, I realized that all the girls were in DC and all the boys were in Huntsville. It also occurred to me that the girls just spent the first five minutes of the conference call talking about fashion versatility and fiscal prudence. So, I apologized to the boys of Alabama and started the meeting.
But, maybe Women’s History Month is a good time to stop apologizing for being a woman.
In an interview by InfoWorld, Carly Fiorina, who served as CEO of Hewlett-Packard from 1999 to 2005, and was the first woman to run a Fortune 20 company, was asked to give advice to other women who are in male-dominated fields. She said, “…Don’t carry other people’s prejudices as your burden. Don’t sell your soul in the process.” So, women need not be ashamed for acting like and being like … a girl. Often, we girls hear about major decisions being made on the golf course, or in cigar-smoke filled rooms. And maybe I sold my soul a bit on this, but I did it like a girl wearing pink golf shoes and gloves, hitting pink balls and smoking Sugar Daddy flavored cigars.
In an article Leadership Qualities That Distinguishes Women for the Financial Executive Magazine Herbert Greenberg and Patrick Sweeney talk about women bringing “distinct personality and motivational strengths to leadership roles – and doing so in a style that is more conducive to today’s diverse workplace.” The article discusses women’s willingness to take risks, be inclusive and team-oriented, their ability to rebound and learn from setbacks, and their distinct persuasive style. I recall my grandmother’s distinct leadership style in persuading us to do what she asked. As a last resort she would say, “Don’t let me have to take my shoe off!” That worked every time. I was asked once, how I was able to be so persuasive in advancing some key strategic initiatives. My honest answer was that … I took my shoe off.
There’s a great need in the world of IT for the leadership style of women. Most CIO’s today know the importance that IT has in initiating change in organizations, bringing people together, and increasing the effectiveness of the modern workforce. There’s also an increasing need to make IT more understandable and have clear communication in non-IT jargon. The leadership traits that are stereotypically associated with women would benefit the IT field.
In a TEDWomen talk, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, gives some pithy advice to women in her talk Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders. But, she ends the talk with a question. She asks, wouldn’t it be a better world if half the countries and half the companies were run by those who represent nearly half the population, women?
I end this blog to help us girls feel empowered, establish our own place in history, and be proud of our strength with the words of the profound urban poet James Brown. He posits that it’s a man’s world, however:
This is a man’s world, this is a man’s world
But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl
Linda Cureton, CIO NASA