Monday, April 25, 2011

Women In the Workforce: Are We Reaching Our Full Potential?

According to a recent publication from Business Journal, McKinsey & Company, Unlocking the Full Potential of Women in the US Economy, women entering the workforce account for a quarter of current GDP, yet the full potential of women in the workforce has yet to be tapped. Why don't women reach full potential?

The article by Joanna Barsh talks about different forces that tend to hold women back. At the top of the list - a "leaky" talent pipeline; meaning, at each transition up the management ranks, more women are left behind. Women continue to be taken out of the running on the assumption that they can't handle certain jobs and that they carry the bulk of family obligations on the home front. The study also found that many women hold themselves back by waiting to be asked. These entrenched beliefs are often institutional as well as individual, making it difficult to change.

How do we change these Entrenched Beliefs for ourselves? A good place to start may be in the roles we play as women. Here are a few beacons of light that made my path to success in the office and at home visible:
  • As President of TranzAct Technologies and Founder of Women and Logistics I have learned the importance of clear communication. Women in the workforce cannot fail to speak up. Being direct and assertive will create an environment for others to feel this freedom as well.
  • As a mother and wife, it has been imperative to create a home environment where family obligations are split evenly among the family members. Our family helps each other complete tasks, rather than one individual carrying the many responsibilities that come along with raising a family. Equally balanced give and take relationships have enabled me to step up on the job, as well as keep the scales in life balanced.
  • During my first years in the workforce as a staff accountant, I took on jobs when others didn't; proving my ability to handle more than what was given to me. I made recommendations before being asked, leading to my advancement into Senior Management.
Changing the embedded mindsets of institutions has to start with women taking action in the roles we play everyday. More simple suggestions have been made on Nancy Clark's blog, Women's Lunch Talk. See her blogroll for great posts such as Women Need to Ask! In today's Economy it is clear that the US must make far better use of women in the workforce. Plugging the leaks in the talent pipeline can't happen if we don't take action; so together we need to speak up! Have you run into any of these obstacles? I'd like to hear about it in the comment field below.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Overcoming Obstacles: Results or Reasons?

We all run into obstacles in our life. How do you handle them? Do you spend time giving reasons why the obstacle prevented you from  reaching a desired outcome or do you overcome the obstacle to achieve results?

Which one do you prefer? I think most of us would prefer to be gaining results rather than giving reasons. Giving reasons why, or placing blame is just a way of defending yourself.  Most of the time others don’t hear (or want to hear) your reasons, but people are driven and inspired by those who can generate results.

Let’s look at an example of overcoming an obstacle we have all encountered:

Obstacle: You are late for an important meeting.

  • While walking into the meeting you let everyone know how your child missed their bus and you had to     drive them to school, then you hit every red light, only to be stopped by the crossing gates for a freight train. 

  • Before the meeting you take a second to gather yourself together, apologize for your tardiness as you take your seat, and then start the meeting.

The result most people want in this situation is for the meeting to take place. Giving all the reasons you were late just delays the meeting from starting; therefore, postponing the desired result.

Let’s look at some examples of famous people who have overcome obstacles in their life:

  • Michael Jordan did not make his high school basketball team, however later became the #1 basketball player in the world.
  • Beethoven lost most of his hearing at the age of 20 only to become one of the most well known composers in history.
  • The early works of Dr. Suess were rejected by 23 publishers, before he became one of children’s most loved writers.

So, most of us won’t become a Beethoven, Dr. Suess, nor Michael Jordan. However, any of the household names could have chosen to use their life’s obstacles as the reasons why they didn’t succeed. How we choose to look at a situation, and the choices we make after running into an obstacle, make all the difference.

Next time you encounter an obstacle, think of it as an opportunity. There may be  a silver lining in which you can make positive changes, or learn something new.

Perhaps the loss of your job will lead you to obtaining your dream career, or  a cancelled vacation may provide  you with the opportunity to accomplish some much needed home improvements.  Perceiving obstacles as challenges to overcome instead of the basis for our defense may help us mature and create the foundation for a road of ongoing successes.