Post by Jane K. Stimmler, contributing Women on Business writer
Recently it was announced that Jill Abramson will be the next Executive Editor of The New York Times. Ms. Abramson is the first woman to lead the organization and another example of a woman breaking through the barriers to obtain a top job. She is to be congratulated on what is clearly a victory in the gender equality wars.
However, while there are more women in prominent positions than there were a few decades ago, let’s not be lulled into thinking things have truly changed or that there has been a major shift of power. Though women are about 50% of the population and the workforce, and in spite of the fact that more and more women have been graduating from colleges and universities with undergraduate as well as advanced degrees, the statistics show that, by and large, men continue to have the lion’s share of the power positions in nearly all sectors.
It is truly discouraging that women cannot seem to make more progress in reaching gender equality and I have to believe that the only way we’re going to do it is by stepping out of our comfort zones and taking more risks. It’s a little like that adage “you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.”
Women are not traditionally big risk-takers, and maybe that’s exactly what holds us back. We would rather not self-promote because we’re fearful of being seen as bragging. We find office politics distasteful so we don’t get involved. We’re afraid of seeming pushy so we don’t speak up and ask for that promotion. We want to be liked so we don’t challenge a colleague who takes credit for our idea. And so on with various behaviors that avoid failure – but also short-circuit our success.
There are smart, calculated risks, and dumb actions that can doom a career. It’s important to differentiate and think it through carefully. But I’ve come to the conclusion that it is unlikely the status quo is going to change significantly unless women are willing to stretch a bit, instead of playing it safe. We need to be more assertive in getting the success we want – individually and collectively. We need to encourage ourselves and others to get out there, take a few chances and try for more. It’s the only way we’re going to change the paradigm.
What do you think? Please share!
Well said!! Your 4th paragraph describes me exactly. I am currently in a place in my career where I am not “fulfilled” anymore and was starting to think that I needed to change careers completely. However, recently I finally stood up for myself and asked for what I needed to be successfull. Instead of being seen as pushy or whiney, I’ve noticed more respect. And the best part, I’ve got the jump back in my step!! Although uncomfortable, looking out for Number One works!
Jane Stimmler says
That’s great. And hopefully, the more you step up, the more comfortable it will be for you!
I wholeheartedly agree with your comments, I came second on an Assistant Professor position with feedback saying that I seemed ‘too nice’ and ‘not tough enough to tackle the position’. Discouraging, but also useful for some important self-evaluation.