“Are we there yet?” No, that’s not a child’s voice coming from the backseat of the car.
Rather, it’s what a group of 100 women discussed recently at the Rochester Women’s Network 20th Annual Summit. The summit’s title was “Women in the Driver’s Seat: Navigating Pathways and Detours Along the Road to Success.”
The summit opened with a panel discussion on the leadership topic of “Are we there yet?” What is the “there” that women are seeking, you ask? Equality in accomplishment and recognition. The panel certainly agreed that more strides need to be made.
The panelists were from fields where women have traditionally been under-represented, especially in leadership roles: Dr. Elizabeth Murray, pediatrician at the University of Rochester Medical Center; Sandra Frankel, former elected executive supervisor for the Town of Brighton; Jessica Johnston, senior operational support analyst at Rochester Regional Health; and Jacqueline Mozrall, dean of the Saunders College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology. Jill Wesley, director of career services at the College at Brockport, moderated the panel. Here are my five takeaways from the conversation:
“Mentoring” takes a variety of forms
Sometimes corporations will set up formal mentoring programs, but they don’t work because people are mis-matched, or they’re not committed to take the time. Personally, I think the best mentoring happens organically and not in a formal way. It’s more about looking to people to be role models. As Murray noted, the people who meant the most to her had a certain spirit or she admired how they conducted their lives. For me, I admire leaders who in a moment of crisis are steady and calm. Those are the ones that you’re not afraid to knock on their office door to give them the bad news! You know that they won’t take your head off, and while they may not be happy, they’ll work with you to find a solution or fix the problem.
Frankel noted that “Sometimes a word to someone can really make a difference. You don’t know the impact that your words can have.”
Can you think of a time when someone unexpectedly patted you on the back, figuratively? Perhaps a boss praised you in front of others, and you had no idea that was coming. Or maybe a female leader (not your boss) stops you in the hall or even strikes up a conversation in the ladies room, with a “You did a great job on that presentation today.” Cherish those moments, and then pay it forward by giving unexpected praise or advice to a junior member of the staff.
Pay attention to what not to do
Haven’t we all learned from bosses some lessons on how not to act? When we feel we’ve been treated unfairly or rudely, that’s the leadership behavior we don’t want to emulate. Those lessons can be valuable. When I was the editor of the Star-Gazette in Elmira, N.Y., managing editor Mark Baldwin told me that his philosophy of telling an employee that his work wasn’t up to snuff was to do it in such a way that the person felt that he or she “saved face.” That stuck with me. It meant Mark would be respectful of the staffer, while at the same time he could point out what was wrong and what needed to be fixed.
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Nothing wrong with delaying a dream
Are you as tired as I am of the conversation about achieving balance between work life and home life? Balance doesn’t just apply to women with kids at home, it applies to everyone. The panelists pointed out that “you can have it all, just not all at once.” Instead, approach your life in stages. Rather than striving to become a senior VP by the time you’re 40, perhaps take a “slower and more enjoyable path,” as Johnston aptly put it, and set your sights on reaching that goal by the time you are 50.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a pay raise
“The worse thing that’s going to happen is they’re going to say no,” Murray noted.
Mozrall advised the women to seek data to justify their request. The U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics offers information on salary ranges for various positions. You can also ask your supervisor, “What is the median salary for people in my position?”
And remember you can negotiate for other benefits, such as time off, Johnston reminded the women.
I’m a member of the Rochester Women’s Network, a valuable organization that offers a variety of opportunities for professional and personal growth. Click here to find out about a free informational session on Nov. 30 where you can learn more about the group.