on. I’ve never had an executive search
person place me on a board. I just got
an email yesterday from two friends of
mine whom I know in the professional
world who asked me to consider going onto boards. So it’s networking,
For-profit versus non-profit board is
a personal decision. Whatever board
you go on, you want it to be something that is interesting to you. My
little rule of thumb, which is selfish, is
that I won’t consider a board in which
I don’t believe I’ll get as much from
them as they’ll get from me.
If you have the opportunity and
choice, going someplace where you
will continue to learn makes being on
a board not just prestigious, but will
also add to your professional resume.
Because, believe you me, boards take
What are some effective ways that
women can advocate for each other?
I happen to think it’s: Just do it. It
is not only emphasizing what other
women have said in a meeting, but if
someone tries to take the idea, don’t
make her fight that battle for credit
alone. Speak up and say, “Suzie just
said that, and I loved it when she said
it.” And it’s proposing women for
promotions and for jobs. I’ve seen a
woman, who’s supposedly supportive
of other women, say that we shouldn’t
give a woman a job because she just
had twins and so would be exhausted.
Let the woman make that choice, let
her have the opportunity given to her,
I just left a board because of one of
these situations. There was informa-
tion I’d been asking the board for
years and was told the information
was impossible to get, wasn’t worth
looking at. It became sort of a joke
with me that I would ask the question
at every board meeting. I showed up
about a year ago and a gentleman
asked the question, and the guys said
what a great question, we should re-
ally gather up that information, and
I quit that day. And at first I thought
I should protest and tell them why.
Then I thought they just don’t deserve
my time; I quit.
What advice do you have for young
women just starting out in finance and
other male-dominated industries?
Work hard. I get the question so often,
and I think underlying your question
is: In a male-dominated industry, does
it help me or hurt me to be a female,
and my answer to that is always yes.
There are times when it helps you and
there are times when it hurts you. And
the times when it helps you are when
it helps you stand out. When I was a
life insurance analyst and there were
ten life insurance analysts who were
all males, I stood out. And so that
could be a great thing. Sometimes
it could be not such a great thing, if
my recommendations were incorrect.
But, in general, it was a positive.
I wouldn’t have been on the cover
of Fortune magazine if I had been
a middle-aged white guy. I’m pretty
pragmatic about it.
Now, that being said, a friend of
mind said something I thought was
pretty insightful, which is if you look
for discrimination, you will find it. If
you make it part of your day to look
for it, it is there and it is everywhere,
and you will burn yourself out. I’ve
seen women do that. They were not
able to laugh off the guy who just
doesn’t get it, but instead got upset
at each slight and, sadly, it ended up
being her who left, not the guy.
In your book, you touch on a topic
that may be uncomfortable for some
women. Women-on-women bias. We
all know it’s there. It’s not just men
who hold these stereotypes. What do
you think we could do to overcome it?
We all hold them because we’re all
brought up in the same society. When
we think of the word “leader” or
“CEO” or “genius”, we all have a male
pop into mind. And for so long, when
women advocated for other women,
they were dismissed on it. So you
would try to do the right thing, and
the response would be “you ladies
are in it together.” This is not just my
perception; this is research-based.
So, one, we start out with the same
biases, and, two, we get smacked by
the patriarchy for advocating for other
women. Women being successful is
good for all of us. It’s good for compa-
nies, it’s good for the women, it’s good
for their families, it’s good for society.
AND THE WORK THAT I’VE LAID OUT IN
THE BOOK ON DIVERSITY SHOWS THAT
IT IS THE DIFFERENT CHARACTERISTICS
THAT WOMEN CAN BRING TO WORK,
OR ANY PEOPLE OF DIFFERENCE BRING
TO WORK, THAT DRIVES THE POWER OF
DIVERSITY, WHICH LEADS TO HIGHER
RETURNS SUCH AS COMPANY PERFOR-
MANCE, GREATER INNOVATION, ETC.