Not that long ago I attended a social function with a mix of friends, acquaintances and professional colleagues. Not so formal an event that it required cocktail attire, it was also not something as loose-hipped and free-flowing as a tailgate party.
At one stage as I was exiting a conversational grouping I felt the need, as people do, to provide an explanation as to why I was extricating myself from the conversation. So I opened my mouth and said “Excuse me; I need to find the little girl’s room.”
As soon as the words left my mouth I wanted to slap the shit out of myself.
Little girls’s room? Really? Did I truly just say that? Had I just infantilized and downgraded every woman present?
But then I got thinking. Perhaps, like many other things, we can take the social stigma associated with the phrase “little girl’s room” and use it to claim our power.
Look…most every man is terrified of the ladies room; to them it’s a mysterious wonderland filled with fainting couches, powder puffs, and baskets overflowing with free feminine hygiene products. Pondering the possibilities of what happens in this sanctum is as perplexing to them as the female reproductive system itself.
But maybe we have an opportunity to turn this enigmatic porcelain-and-tiled bastion into a venue of power. I say we take a stand – in office buildings and corporate offices around the globe – and begin hanging out in the ladies room. Let’s schedule meetings in there. Insist that a small conference table be set up in the lounge area; replacing the circa-1989 tweed couch that was provided as a resting spot for the menstruating gals.
We could rule the world if we insisted on conducting all our business in the ladies room. No boys allowed. Girls only.
The good old boys in the C-Suite won’t invite you to the annual golf outing? Screw ‘em; YOU get to hang out in the LADIES ROOM!
About the Author: With 25 years of HR Management experience, Robin Schooling, SPHR, has worked in a variety of industries. In 2013, after serving as VPHR with a Louisiana based organization, she left corporate HR to open up Silver Zebras, LLC, an HR Consulting firm. She blogs at HRSchoolhouse and you can follow her on twitter at @RobinSchooling where, on football weekends, you can read all her #whodat tweets.
Women, we have a vitally critical role that we must assert ourselves into now and for the long term foreseeable future. This role is hard to label and has many facets. We must take on this role. We must not shy away from it.
In the news there has an increase in the visibility of rapes and gang rapes, as well as sexual abuse. There are many stats regarding rape, one of the CNN articles I will link to later quotes a survey that 1 in 5 women are the victim of rape. As you start counting the women you know, you can start right here as one of the victims you know. But one in five says you know a lot more too. So we have a job to do. I found inspiration in this CNN article, Teach young men to treat women with respect.
But I want to push our roles as women further into the actionable details and broader in the scope.
- Our job is to teach boys to respect women.
- Our job is to continue to equalize the genders as partners on this planet.
- Our job is to teach women to be strong and build their self-esteem to help protect them.
- Our job is to encourage our brothers, uncles, male friends, fathers and spouses to be good role models for young men and boys. They can make a difference in the lives of boys that may feel the need to follow bad role models.
- Our job is to demand that coaches receive training on how to instill respect for women as part of their development of men.
- Our job is to demand that our military leaders receive training on how to instill respect for women as part of their development of men.
- Our job is to demand that their training is part of the exercise and education of our men.
- Our job is to make sure that men who evidently don’t really know what rape is, are not ever elected to public office.
- Our job is to educate our girls that being drunk can put you at risk of way too many things.
- Our job is to teach women to have each others back and to watch out for the ones that are treading into risky territory.
- Our job is to call out the males in our lives when they encourage the victimization image of women. (I am not talking about being prudish or Victorian about sexuality, that is counter-prod
- Our job is to be outraged and vocal about our outrage at any rape. It is actually a family discussion topic, if you have children that are teenagers. It can’t be swept under the rug, it must be discussed. It wasn’t long ago that we couldn’t discuss breast cancer, but we are now (or you better be).
Women, we have a job to do.
Our job is to help women build their own power and women’s power as a whole which will hopefully change perspectives and here is another great article from CNN, Women's Power: A story with sharp divide.
We as American voters just elected 20 women to the Senate, the largest number in history, but that just 20% of the seats. Not enough. I agree with the sentiment that it is sad that we are celebrating such a low number, but it is a start.
While I was preparing for this post I found a Facebook post from Mary Ellen Slayter that hit home and absolutely loved. It is about changing the perspective of women and empowering their image. It is about the different perspective of women in the fairy tales. It is much more light hearted then the rest of this post, but it is key. We must change the image of women at many levels. This is a great one for the early ages - Girls are Not Chicks Coloring Book.
We have a job to do and it is one of the most vital roles we can play.
About the author: Lois Melbourne, GPHR, is vice-chair to Peoplefluent, a leading social human capital management technology company. Co-founder of the global workforce planning and analytics solutions company Aquire, mom to one terrific young son and wife of co-founder Ross Melbourne, Lois maintains a strong personal commitment to career education and small business development and is a frequent speaker, author of industry articles, and an avid blogger and networker. Connect with her on Twitter as @loismelbourne.
Photo Credit: iStockphoto
What makes the difference in truly powerful leaders? How do they attract and keep loyal, committed followers? Where does their strength of conviction come from and how do we tap into it?
I believe it comes from within each of us, through a state of being I call alignment. So, what do I really mean by alignment?
Aligned individuals simply love what they do, they are good at it, and what they do and why they do it are almost always tied to a purpose greater than themselves. Once an individual is truly aligned around their purpose – and thus, they are indeed living their life on purpose – this is when and where true power is revealed and released. Their mind, body, emotions, and spirit are in harmony. There is simply no substitute for total alignment and congruency within a person or leader.
Think about it … when we see a person who truly walks their talk, whose life is a full and total manifestation of their beliefs, and whose profession is one that fully capitalizes and optimizes their gifts and talents – we see a person who is in their groove. One doesn't have to look too far for examples – they are the ones that would do their work for free and that come to work with a spring in their step. They are the ones that have a passion for their work, an intense desire to make a difference, and are centered and confident in the manner in which they choose to let this unfold. Their personal and professional goals are aligned and they remain committed to doing whatever it takes to fulfill their purpose.
It is my belief that this 'quest for alignment', like all things, is a journey not a destination. So, what are a few steps we can take to start moving toward greater alignment and authenticity of 'who we really are' as individual leaders? In this article, I am offering a few baby steps to help us start down the path of revealing who we really are and what we really want.
- Observe when we are really 'in the zone.' You know what I mean: when we are fulfilled, happy, and energized, when our heart is singing, we are in the zone and 'in the flow.' Pay attention to these moments. They are whispers revealing the 'real me'. We need to get to know this person; and give ourselves freedom to be who we are. Let all things flow from there. This can be such a revealing process. Pay attention to that little voice inside. It may come as a question in the middle of the night, or as crystal clear as a voice in the shower. The voice is our soul – it is our core and it is the pure essence of what and who we are meant to be. Heed it.
- Create time for solitude. There is nothing like quiet time to shut out the noise of our day to day lives. Often, when we are searching for 'something to fill a void,' we surround ourselves with people, things, and activities. We over schedule and over program our lives. This 'busyness' clutters the air waves. Stop. Be at home. Feed the birds. Read a novel. Watch a movie. Turn off the car radio. Be with YOU … just like with others, the more time we spend with ourselves, the better we will get to know ourselves. I have also found that keeping a journal is amazingly enlightening. This may be a stretch for some who are reading this article – that is ok. Even if you only write down only one or two thoughts you have – when you have them – it is amazing how they will grow and multiply in your mind's eye. It is a great way to reflect on your day, the lessons learned, the observations of yourself and others. It is like living it 'over' in some ways – which is incredibly powerful.
- Stay connected. This may appear contradictory to being alone; yet, it is not. We are all connected. We are all part of the same energy of this world. To really define ourselves and get to know ourselves, we do this in relation to others. As the cliché says: “if you really want to know yourself and all your idiosyncrasies – be in a relationship!” How
true this is. So, yes, we need both solitude and community to truly enlarge and embrace our sense of self. By staying present in the moment, some of our greatest teachers will be revealed. As the Buddhist proverb says, 'When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.' I have found this can be through the random encounters with taxi drivers, bartenders, passengers on subways, and even our children. Yet, we have to be present to win! This means we must put down our iPhones and Blackberries, and be awake to the happenings around us. Try it the next time you are in an airport terminal – it may surprise you.
- Trust your gut and have courage to follow it. Choices are the right and left turns on our lives' highway. If we truly listen to our 'gut' and our intuition they seldom lead us astray. Our challenge is to have the courage to listen to our gut. We often rationalize, justify, and 'sell' ourselves on what we think we need to do. Sure, there is a balance – this is called judgment. However, I will offer that in my life every single time I have not listened to my inner voice – my intuition – the decision has been far less than optimal for supporting my true and authentic self. Let go of expectations of others for your life. Many times we may have a 'hit' to do or be something other than what we are presently – and we fight it (or just flat out ignore it) because it is not what we think we should be doing. The trappings of our world are intoxicating. We often get 'drunk' on these. What I believe, however, is if we truly follow our heart's desire – we will be successful. All the other trappings will take care of themselves.
- Finally, be willing to play hard and possibly fall hard. Whether this is engaging in a yoga class, a lacrosse match or taking a monthly art class, we need to 'do stuff' we really love. This is our essence. We need to go for it with all the gusto we can muster. If we stumble or fall – that's ok. We are living life without fear of failure. Whew, what a concept. If only we could truly embrace the cliché: 'what would you do if you knew you could not fail' in every moment of every day.
We have the choice to grasp all the possibility within ourselves, and then act in a disciplined, concentrated and focused way. Whether we are leaders in our organizations, mothers and fathers raising our children, or simply making our way in the world, as Hawthorne offers: “No one man can, for any considerable time, wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which is the true one.” Once we find 'the true one face,' we reveal and embrace our fullest potential with simply 'the real me.' Therein lies the power of the authentic and fully aligned self.
So, is alignment the secret to authentic power? I actually believe authenticity and alignment are synonymous. I also believe there is undeniable power in the authentic congruency of mind, body, heart, and spirit. So, yes, I believe becoming 'aligned' with your core soul, and allowing this to manifest into the world through your choices, is the secret to living your life with powerful purpose and purposeful power.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: Kristin Kaufman formed Alignment, Inc. to help individuals, teams and leaders increase their overall contribution, bottom line effectiveness and personal fulfillment. Using a well-rounded ‘end to end’ alignment process, she helps some of the world’s leading organizations achieve measurable results and develop and inspire leadership capacity for ongoing transformation. Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken?, centered on her global experiences seeding her journey toward alignment, was published in 2011 to national acclaim. Kristin is on Twitter as @KristinKaufman.
Do you scare people?
Evidently, I do, on occasion. A male colleague once confided in me that when we first met, “you kind of scared me a little.” That stopped me short. Me, “scary”? I did a quick mental checklist:
- Frightening facial hair and/or markings? No.
- Tendency to growl or make other creepy noises? Nope.
- Verbal references to scary things like zombies, catastrophes, or impending doom? Nuh-uh.
So what gives?
Luckily for me, by the time my colleague shared this with me, we had established a good working relationship. I was able to follow up: “Scary, really? What do you mean?” It turns out that because I approach my work with a sense of purpose and gusto, I appeared formidable to him. My enthusiasm and ability to move a project forward was, to him, a bit intimidating at first.
I can live with that.
What I can’t live with is the way that our society often equates women who are comfortable in their power with fear. Articles like Why Successful Women Terrify Us show that both men and women have trepidations about the interplay of professional women, power and the workplace.
I don’t have a problem with being powerful as long as it’s used properly. It’s not power that’s scary; abuse of power is. Every day, you have the choice to decide: how will I use my power?
Will you use your powe
r to intimidate or to attract?
r to intimidate or to attract?
Fear-based motives produce interactions that are intimidating, which repels people. When you act with the intention to attract people – to invite them into conversation and action, you use the power of who you are to create positive, mutually beneficial work relationships.
The conversation with my colleague did allow for some reflection. Did I come on too strong in our first meetings? Most likely. Was I appropriately collaborative? Yes, but there’s always room for improvement. But I won’t apologize for being intense, upbeat and driven to action. That’s who I am. My colleague’s feedback was a gift: pay closer attention to the impact you’re having on people, Jen. At the same time, if I’m acting with integrity and positive intentions and that still scares someone, then that’s their problem and not mine. I won’t apologize for staying connected to my power.
How do you stay connected to your power?
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: For 20+ years, Jennifer V. Miller has been helping professionals “master the people equation” to maximize their personal influence. A former HR generalist and training manager, she now advises executives on how to create positive, productive workplace environments. She is the founder and Managing Partner of SkillSource and blogs at The People Equation. You can connect with Jennifer on Twitter as @JenniferVMiller.
Almost 80% of jobs are never advertised. As a recruiter, business mentor and career coach, I’ve spent over 16 years encouraging people to invest time and effort into building their networks.
‘Networking’ was traditionally viewed as a business related activity. Commonly the remit of senior executives in an organisation and, more often than not, male ones at that, networking wasn’t viewed as an integral part of life-working, or, rather of making life work.
Social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn have opened the doors and changed the networking landscape forever. It appears that individuals feel more confident connecting virtually than they do walking into a room full of strangers. As a busy working mum with a 4 year old to consider, I also value the fact that I don’t have to be somewhere fully groomed and alert at 7 a.m.! I can do my networking at my leisure, on an evening, with my son tucked up in bed.
So, why bother networking in the first place?
I’ve heard it said many times that your net worth is directly related to your network. Having an established network is the foundation for your success – be it career, business or life in general. Having an established network gives tremendous power to those who understand its value and then ‘work’ it.
How to build your network
Below are my four top tips for building a solid network – that works:
- Start with who is on your network already. This may sound pretty obvious. However, I find that many people get put off when faced with a blank sheet of paper. Once they start to list the people that they already know, other people often spring to mind – and the confidence to start approaching new people starts to grow.
- Start with the end in mind. Why do you want to network? Are you seeking a new job, looking to grow your business, or recruit? Do you want a support network? Define your objectives for networking. What kind of people do you need to network with to achieve your objectives? Knowing your goals and objectives is critical to your su
ccess. Also remember that you can have more than one network and may want to separate business and personal networks.
- Combine online and offline (traditional) networking. There are many social (online) networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., as well as blogging sites. Where you decide to network will be driven by what you want to achieve. There has been a tendency over the last few years to rely purely on online networking. This trend is beginning to turn. Online networking is only part of your networking strategy. Relationships formed in person and over a period of time will always be the strongest and deepest. So start thinking about how you can get out there and connect in person again.
- Remember the two ‘C’s. For both forms of networking, contribution and consistency are vital to success. In our busy, often reactive, lives and work, networking can get pushed to a back burner (particularly traditional networking if it makes you uncomfortable). However, in order to build great relationships you need to engage with your networks regularly. This means having a plan to ensure you attend networking groups regularly and are active online at social networking websites.
A final thought…..
Women are natural relationship-builders. We often overlook this strength as it comes so naturally to us. Networking is merely another label for what we do naturally. So, get out there and do what you do naturally and brilliantly – and network.
Photo credit iStock Photo
About the author: Clare Fenwick began her life in recruitment and career development as a legal recruiter at the tender age of 21. Further to playing an integral part in the launch and development of an executive search firm in London, she moved to the Channel Islands in 2000 and furthered her career as an executive search consultant to the offshore financial services industry.
Recently, Time magazine ran a feature article, Women, Money and Power, about the rise of the female breadwinner in America, and why this phenomenon is good for everyone involved.
While at first glance I thought the article was going to simply discuss powerful female earners supporting lower-wage earning men, in truth the main point was focused more on the options available to modern families who are not solely dependent on the male for financial support in the way that the traditional American family was. The article made a number of interesting points through several real-life examples, and made a strong case for the upsides of this economic shift.
What was even more interesting to me than the examples cited in the article was a related discussion that ensued on Facebook regarding the idea of the female breadwinner, particularly in the sense of what I initially thought the article was about – high income women supporting lower-income men.
There were several opinions expressed; it seems some women are quite comfortable with the idea of supporting a man who makes considerably less than them and choose not to limit their options in partners, while others have an expectation that a potential partner should be more or less of an equal contributor. There was even a discussion of the perceived pitfalls of relationships in which the man doesn’t enjoy the same level of “success” (either monetary or intellectual) as the woman, and how some
of those men have a difficult time relating to the career priorities and successes of the woman, dooming the relationship to failure.
I’ll admit that I’m personally in the camp of equal contributing partner. I’m very comfortable with the success I’ve achieved thus far in my career, and I’m proud of what I see the amazing women around me achieve. But I’m not comfortable with a complete role reversal in which the female takes over as the head of household and the primary financial supporter of the couple/family. If I’m working hard for my money, I’d like a partner who works just as hard and contributes a similar amount.
As a modern, successful woman, should I be more comfortable with the idea of supporting someone?
The statistics are telling. The percentage of women with college degrees in comparison to their male counterparts is increasing; the Time article cited that currently 60% of college students are women, and they now earn the majority of masters and doctorate degrees. With that, it stands to reason that more and more women are or will be rising to higher power and earning positions within companies around the country and the world. With this shift, will it become more necessary for a successful single woman to become comfortable with the idea of supporting a man who perhaps has not achieved the same level of success as her? Or is it reasonable to still expect and hope for a more equal partner?
What do you think?
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The days in which drug abuse was primarily associated with males are well and truly over. Nowadays, an increasing number of women are turning to recreational drugs and alcohol to relieve the pressures of everyday life. But these women aren’t the dregs of society, nor are they “on the streets” they are highly intelligent businesswomen in powerful positions with a lot of pressure on their shoulders.
A 2011 study from Cardiff University revealed that women with higher IQ’s were more likely to experiment with illegal substances during their thirties. As women have gained equality in society their positions within the workplace have become higher and more women are filling executive positions that were once dominated by male workers. The fact is, these jobs often carry immense pressure and women are turning to drugs and alcohol as a means of escape – often from the strains of working and family life combined.
Cocaine and Glamour
Cocaine is a particularly popular choice of drug for women, perhaps due to the fact it’s been glamorised. From Hollywood actresses to supermodels, it seems many female icons are indulging in the white powder. This is perhaps why middle-class women pick it as their drug of choice; it’s not seen as “dirty” like heroin and even marijuana, rather it’s seen as a drug taken by celebrities with a high social status and often comes with a high price tag.
Cocaine however, poses many health risks for its abusers and is a highly addictive drug. Some people go from success and power to ruin through drug use, much like the very recent death of the late Whitney Houston – a global superstar who lost everything through drug misuse.
Cocaine is a stimulant which produces a feeling of euphoria when snorted, smoked or injected. It’s incredibly addictive; many people chase the feeling of euphoria they get the first time they take the drug, with little success. Many users switch from snorting to smoking or injecting rather quickly as it provides a bigger “high” and larger problems.
Using illegal substances can bring about severe embarrassment and shame, particularly for women of success. Getting caught in possession of illegal substances can involve being arrested, fined and even imprisoned depending on the quantity found on the person. Aside from having to pay criminal solicitors fees to help bail them out, they also have to endure the embarrassment and shame from family members, friends and colleagues.
Alcohol and the Workplace
It’s not just illegal substances that women turn to; a very much legal and mainstream substance also poses health threats to businesswomen: alcohol. It’s readily accessible and socially acceptable to drink, after work drinks or having a few glasses of wine at home hardly raises eyebrows from family and friends. But even minimal levels of alcohol can pose health risks.
Drinking alcohol affects the quality of sleep that the consumer gets, this can cause them to be tired the next day and increase stress levels and fatigue even further. It can also lower the immune system, making drinkers more susceptible to contagious viruses this may result in them taking time off work and can make workloads unmanageable for businesswomen with lots of responsibilities.
Alternative Methods of De-Stressing
There are many alternative methods of de-stressing for busy women who are trying to juggle their work and home lives. Yoga is an incredibly popular form of exercise (especially among females) and is renowned for relieving tension. It has long term health benefits, rather than health risks, for those who practice it so it’s a far better choice of hobby than drug abuse!
Seeking therapy or talking about past issues can help females to combat drug abuse. Many women who seek solace in alcohol and drug misuse have experienced abuse or bullying at some time in their lives. Therapy has helped many people to ditch the drugs and put their problems behind them. Anyone woman who is drinking as a result of workplace bullying should speak to their employer or trade union to resolve the matter and prevent further compromising their health.
About the author: Stephanie Staszko enjoys writing posts based on recruitment for both candidates and recruiters alike. Previous topics covered include job seeking advice for the unemployed, unemployment statistics and hiring strategies. You can follow her on Twitter @StephStaz for more recruiting and job seeking posts or just drop by for a chat!
This is the sixth post in a series where Women of HR writers share their thoughts and reactions to a manifesto, Six Rules Women Must Break In Order to Succeed.
Do I agree with the authors of The Six Rules Women Must Break in Order to Succeed who believe,
In order to succeed at the highest levels in business, we need to rethink the conversations we are having in our heads and tell ourselves a new story. Women must think differently?
The stories we tell ourselves are powerful. When we believe certain thoughts, we always find evidence to prove our beliefs. For example, if I believe “to get ahead in my company you have to suck up and be just like the CEO,” I can find lots of examples of people who have gotten ahead that way. And then I tend to ignore all the other evidence and examples of people who are succeeding in their own way.
Part of the problem is that we want to ignore reality. Every place has politics. You see it in your place of worship, your kid’s schools and even in your Homeowner’s Association. Arguing with this reality directly violates Rule #4 – Be Politically Savvy. Women are quick to write off ‘office politics’ as an old-boys networking game and one they aren’t interested in playing. But the truth is, office politics is an area where women can excel and use their natural talents to their advantage.
Office politics is all about relationships, networks and communication. Those of us who are reality TV fans have watched how alliances often make it or break it on Survivor. The same is true in the office.
Instead of believing the thought “Office politics are manipulative,” think of some ways you can turn it around and come up with some beliefs you can support:
- Developing relationships with key people in my office is smart and efficient
- It’s helpful to let my boss know when I’ve succeeded
- Aligning myself with people who are interested in my success gives them the opportunity to help others
When you believe these stories, you’ll start finding evidence to prove them true. The mentor you want and need may suddenly appear, and now you’re poised to ask them to help you. Your powers of observation and intuition can operate on full alert at the office - without making you feel icky.
You can be authentic and sincere and succeed at office politics. Office politics won’t go away just because you ignore them. Just change the name of the game so you can win – or at least have more fun trying!
Photo credit iStockphoto
Do you know the old saying?
The one that says people come in and out of your life for a reason? That sometimes they come along to teach you something you needed to learn, or push you in a direction that you may not have chosen …and you are never quite the same afterwards?
Does that concept carry over to the workplace? Can we have that kind of influence over our co-workers?
What if you had the power to change someone’s life for the better?
Dawn Hrdlica-Burke recently blogged about this topic at hr insomniac in reference to that same focus of Oprah’s finale show. And it’s a topic that’s also been on my mind for some time now too.
I just completed an online eCornell course, “Building a Talent Management Culture.” Amongst the readings and discussions about talent management strategies was a great deal of focus on finding, mining and developing the talent within your company and then embedding that talent to your company and culture.
It got me thinking about the early days of my career, and how my direction could have been drastically different.
You see, my career goals never initially included being an HR professional. After college, I found myself working in an administrative position in the HR department at a company in a temporary capacity. This job was simply intended to help me get by until I found my “real job,” which would most certainly be in marketing (the focus of my Bachelor’s degree). The job was okay, but truth be told I could never see myself doing the work that my colleagues were doing; employee relations and dealing with other people’s problems day in and day out just didn’t seem like something that would get me out of bed in the morning.
But time went by and I still didn’t find that “real job,” so I ended up accepting a permanent position with the company. I was still hoping it would somehow lead to bigger and better things in marketing, maybe by applying for an internal posting. But that never quite seemed to happen, and it got to a point that some may have considered me to be a “disengaged” employee. I did what I had to do, and tried to do it as best as I could, but I still couldn’t see a future for me in HR.
The reality is, at that point in my career no one really ever sat with me to dig a little deeper and see where my passions lay. I made it known that my desire was in marketing, and that was generally accepted by those in my department, but yet still no one ever approached me to see if there might be a niche for me in a field and department in which I had already invested a fair amount of time. And honestly, had a marketing opportunity outside the company come up at that time, more than likely I would’ve taken it.
Then one day, a new supervisor came onto the scene and she did what no one else had. No disrespect intended towards my early colleagues; in all fairness I never did express a desire to grow in HR, b ut this supervisor took the extra step. Instead of just accepting that I didn’t want to grow in this field, she sat me down and told me she saw a lot of potential in me, and asked me what I wanted to do. If I could create my perfect job in HR, what would it look like? And guess what? She listened to me and made it happen. She gave me a chance to function in a role that encompassed parts of HR that I didn’t know much about, didn’t really even realize could be the focus of any job, much less my job, and little by little I started to love it.
Years later, I’m still at that same company and I’m functioning in a role with more influence and responsibility that I could have ever envisioned myself in back then, at least not in the HR field. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else. That supervisor is no longer with the company, but she gave me my start and connected me to supervisors and peers that have been an incredible influence on me personally and professionally. I owe the direction of my career to that one simple conversation.
As HR pros, we interact with many, many people every day. We have the power to influence people’s lives and careers for better or for worse. I ask you to never doubt the power and influence you have over the people around you – whether it be as a supervisor, mentor, HR pro or all three.
I’ve never forgotten the power one person had in changing my life and career for the better. I can only hope that I am able to pay it forward and can have that kind of influence on just one other person in the course of my career.
That type of power is priceless.
Photo credit iStockphoto
Tuesday night, I was perusing my Twitter stream and I started casually following Talent Culture’s #TChat. The dialogue was entertaining but things really got fired up when someone mentioned HR getting a “seat at the table.”
This phrase reminds me of my whining tween daughter pleading to escape the kid’s table and eat with the adults. Yet, I realize that interpretation may not be fair. Many HR organizations are under-appreciated and under-leveraged. Good people want to have as big an impact as they possibly can and HR folks battle some difficult stereotypes in having that impact. But what if there is something else at play? For some reason, Tuesday night, I had a new thought as I followed the chat.
Could it be that HR doesn’t have a seat at the table because women intimidate men?
As the supposed stronger sex, most of us would never admit that we feel threatened by a woman. Take the small dust-up a couple of months ago when Jennifer Wright posted an article at the Gloss, a site for the modern women, entitled, Smart Men Tell Us Why They Date Dumb Women. After reading an article in the New York Times about changing gender roles, Ms. Wright interviewed nine male friends to get their perspective on dating smart/successful women. These “alpha” males provided Ms. Wright with mostly self-serving explanations for their “preference.” Reading between the lines, the group feared abdicating control in the relationship. They appeared to be intimidated by accomplished women.
Who are they going to date? Women are more accomplished than ever. Today, females represent half our workforce. Census numbers released recently show that women now exceed men in gaining both bachelor and advanced degrees. Dumb women? Additionally, women-owned businesses contribute close to $3 trillion to the U.S. GDP, according to the Small Business Association. Yet, rather than embracing the positive strides these statistics represent, men are intent on keeping the male power structure in place.
Will there ever be a truce in the battle of the sexes? I recognize that we focus on the statistics above to celebrate women’s progress in a male-domineering culture, but it would be nice to end the fight over who is wearing the pants. Hell, I was recently surprised to find that there is an ongoing argument about which sex is funnier. Initiating the debate, men such as Jerry Lewis, John Belushi and, most notably, Christopher Hitchens, in a Vanity Fair article, claimed that women aren’t funny. Are these guys just pot-stirrers, keen-eyed social observers or another example of males attempting to maintain their superior status and revealing their unease with, what one author calls, the “Age of Female Empowerment?” None of these explanations would justify the attack, but if the latter one is most prominent, it may explain HR’s absence from the table.
Only 11 women hold CEO spots in America’s 500 largest companies. With men still ruling the executive suite and women employed in approximately 80% of HR positions, may HR still not truly have an equal “seat at the table” because women intimidate men? If men are insecure about entering into personal relationships with smart, accomplished women as various studies have concluded, will they not carry that insecurity into the workplace?
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