Recently, I was interviewed by Mom Talk Radio about my new book Say Yes: A Woman’s Guide to Advancing Her Professional Purpose. The show host, whose name was Mary, asked why I wrote the book, and requested I share strategies to help women unlock their full potential.
In the last thirty seconds of the interview, she referenced my work with Maya Angelou. (I was her personal editor and the product line’s Editorial Director during her relationship with Hallmark.) “What did she teach you?” Mary asked. She couldn’t have known the true expanse of her question. My honest response: “What didn’t she teach me?” That’s not what I said, though, because there is no condensing five years of lessons, love, and laughter into thirty seconds.
Instead, I shared how Dr. Angelou consciously reinforced my inherent worth. She taught me, through both gracious encouragement and gentle correction, that I am worthy of wherever I find myself.
The opportunities that come my way? Worthy. A happy family? Worthy. Favor in the most challenging situations? Worthy. Dr. Angelou’s help, guidance, care? Worthy of that, too. “A woman’s worth” is certainly a topic worth exploring, considering how frequently I’ve heard confidence, or the lack of it, mentioned lately in conversations about women in leadership. Confidence. Part of me wonders why we’re still talking about this. The other part knows exactly why.
While corporate America has come a long way in its declared support of women leaders, very real barriers remain. We’ve all heard the data about the percent of women in the workforce vs. the percent of women in top leadership positions or on boards. The flexibility and balance dialogue is also heating up, with companies like Microsoft, Netflix, and Adobe expanding parental leave benefits. But while companies are expressing their support of women leaders and even changing policies to put some muscle behind their intent, inside corporate walls – day by day – the female professional’s battle to be heard, respected, and compensated equally rages on.
This article won’t fix that. But here’s what I want women to know: You are powerful. And capable. And yes, worthy. Below are just a few benefits women uniquely bring to leadership. Own them, and let each one put some pep in your step and an arch in your back!
1. “Web Thinking”
Helen Fisher, American anthropologist, human behavior researcher, and self-help author, claims that as women make decisions, we weigh more variables, consider more options, and see a wider array of possible solutions to any given problem. “Women tend to generalize, to synthesize, to take a broader, more holistic, more contextual perspective of any issue,” she states. Dr. Fisher calls this “web thinking.” Sally Helgesen, best-selling author of The Female Vision, has written and taught extensively about this topic. “Because women’s vision operates more like a radar, scanning the environment for relevant inputs, we identify patterns that men – who see more like a laser – often don’t see.” Sally reminds us that in an increasingly complex business environment, seeing “around the corners” is more valuable than ever.
Women, what you see matters. With awareness and intention, you can use what you see to impact the future.
Who has seen “the get-along” shirt? (That had to be a woman’s idea!) Women value teamwork. We seek the collective win. We are inherently interested in others’ needs and purposes, and work hard to ensure those needs are met when possible. Mike Michalowicz, President of Provendus Group, wrote, “No man is an island, and while I may have to remind myself of that every now and then, women embrace that concept more readily.” He advises all leaders to work with their teams by seeking out the experts to complete tasks you may struggle with. “Your company will function better as a team than as adversaries,” he says. Amen, Mike. What you said.
3. Motivation and Inspiration
Women are natural encouragers. We look for the good in others, and make it a point to acknowledge and celebrate wins. Those of us who mother understand how the more we shine a light on the good our children do, the more good they do! As leaders, we know human beings want to make a difference – and not only do we inspire others to give their best, but we also verbally express our appreciation for a job well done. The emerging workforce, led by millennials, thrives on specific and frequent feedback. Women, this coveted skill has you written all over it!
4. Entrepreneurial Mindset
In Forbes’ article, The Most Undervalued Leadership Traits of Women, Glenn Llopis notes how women leaders often find excitement by being extremely creative and resourceful when completing tasks and other duties and responsibilities. He claims that women are naturally more entrepreneurial than men. I would also suggest that, because women often balance many roles at once, creativity is essential to our sanity. If we didn’t find new and efficient ways to do things, we would go crazy. (Maybe it’s just me?) Glenn also says that women avoid falling too far behind on projects – knowing, if they do, it will disrupt their focus and momentum.
Did you know you’re an entrepreneur? Add that to your confidence bucket.
Women, you make the majority of purchasing decisions. You influence household expenditures. You are the ultimate super-consumer. You may need your company in order to provide for your family, but your company needs you, too. Don’t ever forget that. Work hard to be the best you possible, then go forth and be fierce.
You are worthy!
Tara Jaye Frank is VP of Multicultural Strategy for Hallmark Cards, Inc. and the author of Say Yes: A Woman’s Guide to Advancing Her Professional Purpose, written to help women from all cultural backgrounds chart a career course they can believe in and achieve. Follow her on Twitter @tarajfrank and Facebook at Facebook/tarajayefrank, or visit her at tarajayefrank.com.