Confidence is required of today’s leaders who are charged with managing workplaces plagued with layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts.
Courageous leaders are needed to motivate employees and set goals to help companies move forward during these turbulent times.
Columbus State University hosts the 2012 Women’s Leadership Conference with this in mind. The conference is March 13-14 and the goal is to help attendees learn to be authentic, conscious, courageous leaders at work, at home and in their communities.
We interviewed three women who will be featured speakers at the conference, and they all said gaining confidence should be the number one priority for women leaders.
The author of “Necessary Roughness: New Rules for the Contact Sport of Life,” kicks off the conference the morning of March 13.
Women attending Donaldson’s program should be prepared to laugh while they learn.
Donaldson compares managing to coaching and the office to the football field. She believes many strategies that lead to winning games can lead to winning at work.
As her book title suggests, some roughness is required at work.
“Women have a tendency not to stand their ground,” Donaldson said. “Remember, there’s a penalty for unnecessary roughness. A bit of roughness is necessary.”
It would help to have a shorter memory, Donaldson says and stop dwelling on past decisions.
“When the whistle blows the play is over,” she says. “Shake it off and get on to the next play. Let it go.”
She says that strategy is especially important in maintaining a positive outlook in offices where people have been downsized and goals are constantly being changed.
“Some of you are doing three people’s jobs... and you are doing it for the same money as before. And yet, YOU need to be the happiest, most UP person in the room -- that’s your job.”
That’s difficult, Donaldson admits. Which is why every leader needs a strong home team cheering them on.
Remember, your family is on your side. They are your cheerleaders.
It’s also important to recruit fans. Mentoring young women at work and forming strong support networks helps.
“Volunteer to help move the ball down field,” she says.
The author of “The Female Advantage: Women’s Ways of Leadership,” wants women to know there’s power in what they see, observe and value. Her Tuesday afternoon session will focus on helping women understand how their vision translates into business savy.
She’ll draw examples from the research she’s done over 24 years of authoring books helping women succeed at work without acting like men.
She says learning to thrive in a 24/7 business world means learning to strike a good work-life balance.
Many women take pride in their ability to multitask but there’s a negative side to juggling multiple tasks.
“Multitasking can exhaust us,” she said. “Be clear about the costs.”
Sure, you can check your email while you watch your daughter play soccer but you might miss her score a goal.
Helgesen says a lot of women say they’re struggling with how to strike the right balance between their home life and their work life with so many advances in technology. She sees that as a major leadership challenge.
“Try to mitigate the burnout as much as possible. Leaders need to be really conscience and respectful of that.”
It’s difficult for leaders to show their employees that they’re appreciated in the face of pay cuts and furloughs but it’s not impossible.
“Most people who work, yes, they want to feel that their pay is there and their contributions are recognized,” she says. “It’s more important that people who lead or mange need make people want to come to work.”
How does a leader make someone want to come to work?
“You need to feel that your organization is transparent and fair,” she says.
She thinks honest and direct communication helps people navigate murky situations such as layoffs and job changes.
“There’s not enough recognition of how much stress high degrees of uncertainty puts on people. Organizations that get high degrees of productivity have announcements of policies,” she says.
Transparency, she says, works both ways. Employees need to be honest with their supervisors about what goals are achievable.
“Be clear about what your controlling and what you’re not. We all get the feeling that we can control more than we can,” she says. “It’s really important to go into situations not overpromising.”
Of course, everyone wants to feel they have control over their future. That’s a main reason Helgesen thinks women are choosing to leave corporate jobs to work for nonprofit agencies.
According to recent Harvard research, women are now leading more nonprofit agencies than men and surveys show more than 75 percent of women now working at high-level corporate jobs would be willing to take a pay cut to work for a nonprofit cause that was important to them on a personal level.
The research said 35 percent of current female leaders at nonprofits had left corporate jobs.
Helgesen thinks this trend will continue as younger workers insist that “making a difference” is more important than the number on the paycheck.
She believes the future for women in business is bright.
“I feel like there’s a real desire to attract and retain women. The real question is how.”
The founder and CEO of Womenetics, wants women to know how important they are to their company’s bottom lines. At the conference, she’ll talk about the powerful roles women play at work.
With more than 51 percent of the population being female and more than 58 percent of college graduates being female, it’s clear that “women as leaders are very, very important to the future of our economy and our country,” she says.
Unfortunately, only 3 percent of top fortune 500 companies have women CEOs.
That statistic indicates that change is needed at corporations, Marchant says.
“It just can’t be business as usual,” she says.
She wants companies to examine reasons women are departing the corporate world for the nonprofit world and to come up with ways to encourage women to stay.
“Women have taken on more responsibility and are working longer hours... They are challenged not only with this increased workload at work but women are also, for the most part, dealing with children and again parents,” she says.
She thinks companies that encourage flexible scheduling and encourage women to participate in high-level decision making will be most successful.
She’s encouraged by companies that have developed “sponsors” for young women who they want to be future leaders. Rather than just supporting mentorships between workers, some companies have developed “sponsorship” programs that identify future leaders and pair them with current leaders.
Marchant is also encouraged by the growing number of female owned small businesses but says women need access to more loans to really grow their businesses.
“Women are not getting access to capital the way men are. They are not properly funded they’re not putting the money in place,” she says.
“Women are not asking for enough. They are timid about asking and they take too long to get their business plans together and they lose time in the process,” she says.
Womenetics focuses on three primary areas where women’s influence and talents can provide the greatest opportunity for action -- as effective leaders in business, as successful business owners, and as agents of change around global issues that impact business’s bottom line.
“They see it but they don’t know how to address it.”
What: 2012 Women’s Leadership Conference
When: March 13-14. (Tuesday, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Wednesday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Where: Columbus State University’s Cunningham Center
Cost: $349 or $2500 for a table of eight
Barbara Kelley: Author and Expert on Women in Transition
Cathi Hight: Kaizen consultant and President of Hight Performance Group
Jacki Lowe: Vice President of West Region, Georgia Power
Elisabeth Marchant: Founder and CEO of Womenetics
Mimi Donaldson: Acclaimed author and speaker
Sally Helgesen: Internationally acclaimed author, speaker and consultant
Shannon Kelley: Author and Expert on Women in Transition
Karen Handel: Secretary of State of Georgia from 2007-2010
BY THE NUMBERS
$12 trillion of overall total global spending ($18.4 trillion) is controlled by women
$1.3 trillion is the total revenue generated by women
8.1 million is the total number of women-owned businesses
7.7 million is the total number employed by women-owned businesses
90% of buying decisions in a household are made by women
51.3% of private wealth is controlled by women
51% of the total US workforce is made up of women