Susan Smith Blakely

Needed:  More Women Lawyers in Leadership Positions

Today I am sharing with you excerpts from a recent blog from my friend John Keyser of Common Sense Leadership.  I reference John and his work in my new book, Best Friends at the Bar: Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2015), and I find him to be highly effective and thoughtful on the subject of leadership and a great advocate for women in positions of leadership.  Although John does not write specifically for women lawyers, he hits it straight into your ball park with this blog.

Here is some of what John Keyser has to say in his blog "We Need More Women in C-Suites":

How can it be 2015, and yet brilliant and talented women are still stuck in the pipeline? The “glass ceiling,” coined way back in 1979, is still impenetrable for many women. To a senior businessman like me, this is misguided and unacceptable.

A little background. I have held high-level executive positions in the corporate and not-for- profit worlds for 40 years. During this time I have worked with many highly effective leaders, many of whom are women. These women inspired others with their business smarts and their people skills, and that is leadership.

Yet, while a few of these highly skilled women made it to senior leadership positions, way too many were limited by that damned glass ceiling. And yet men at the top would never admit that. Why? In my mind, it’s because men tend to make assumptions about women. “Yes, she’s very capable, but her family responsibilities will prevent her from traveling as necessary, or as a women, she can’t handle our largest and most difficult clients.”

I hear these assumptions by men over and over again, unfounded assumptions, and I know that often these decisions are made without discussion with the women. These women are not even asked if they are in a position to take on stretch opportunities!

All too often, a man who is less qualified and has not earned the promotion or assignment will be given the job.  As Ilene Lang, former President of Catalyst, observed, a man is promoted based on his potential, while a woman has to earn that promotion over and over again.

Fact is, [w]omen in key positions help favorably effect organizational culture and that is key to how well a company does over time ... and is necessary to balance men's [leadership skills].  ...  As examples, women tend to be better communicators, better at relationships, caring about the team, seeking input in decision making and being more risk aware (not risk averse, risk aware). These are every bit as important as men’s boldness, confidence, decisiveness and comfort with risk taking.

Has progress been made? Yes, sure, up to the middle management level, but from there up it continues to be male dominated leadership.  We still face this hidden bias in our business world today!

Now is the time to be forward thinking leaders, be out in front of the change that is coming, and help it happen!

For more information about John Keyser and his program, go to john@johnkeysercoach.com.  Also check out his new book, Make Way For Women: Men and Women Leading Together Improve Culture and Profits.

 

 

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