I’m reading a biography of Cleopatra and I’m learning some surprising facts about Egypt’s last queen. Cleopatra, who was known for her “wit” and…for being a “prankster,” outlived all of her brothers. In the book she is hailed as a “shrewd strategist and ingenious negotiator.” She was a woman who “reshaped the contours of the ancient world.”
Cleopatra’s story was a variation from the norm. She was one of the most powerful and fascinating women in history. And…her success was not an accident. She had a rich network of women before her to mentor, guide and support her.
Cleopatra could look to any number of female forebears who built temples, raised fleets, waged military campaigns, and, with their consorts, governed Egypt. Arguably she had more powerful female role models than any other queen in history. Whether this resulted from a general exhaustion on the part of the men in the family, as has been asserted, is unclear. There would have been every reason for the women to have been exhausted as well. But the standouts in the generations immediately preceding Cleopatra’s were–for vision, ambition, intellect, universally female.
Cleopatra had more support than most women today, two thousand years later.
COO of Facebook Puts a New Face on the “Womens Movement”
When people criticize the womens movement of the 60′s and 70′s is now women are expected to do it all. Get to the top of the corporate ladder, raise the kids, and keep herself together.
One woman who understands how to navigate a “man’s world” is Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. And she wants to help other women do the same. At first glance, the modern corporate world might not look like a “man’s world,” but it sure does after seeing Sheryl’s recent data.
- Out of 190 heads of state, nine are women.
- Only 13% of the members of parliament are women.
- In the corporate sector 15% of the executives at the top are women.
–note–>This percentage has not moved since 2002, and is now going in the wrong direction.
- In an industry that appears to be more female friendly–non-profit–only 20% of the executive at the top are women.
- According to a Columbia University study, success and likability are positively correlated for men, and negatively correlated for women.
- And lastly, 2/3 of male senior managers have children, while only 1/3 of female senior managers have children
In her Ted Talk, Sheryl shares a short story. She talks about the time she visited a venture firm in New York for a pitch. She was in a meeting and at one point she excused herself from a table full of men to go to the ladies room. She said the host of the meeting looked suddenly embarrassed–there was no womens bathroom on the floor. The office had been there for one year.
This means one of two things.
1. Either no woman before Sheryl had attended a meeting on that floor.
2. Meetings were only attended by women who didn’t drink liquids.
Probably the former.
The point Sheryl makes is women are “dropping out.” She attributes this to the messages women tell themselves, the messages women tell the women they work with, and the messages women tell their daughters. She also says we-as a society-put more pressure on men to succeed than women.
It’s obvious we need to do a better job of paying attention to the lack of women in leadership.
Power Players are groomed…
What I learned living in New York City–a town laden with young powerful people, many of whom came from wealthy families–is people are groomed for success. Success is rarely an accident. Successful people are supported, trained, and resourced.
More than anyone–today’s girls need this support.
You’ve heard this before but I’ll say it again– women need to do a better job of supporting each other in the corporate world. With so few positions at the top, the competition is cut throat. And women step on each other to get there. What we don’t realize is this is counter-productive.
What is scary is the data you saw at the beginning of this blog most likely will not change for decades. In considering today’s female workforce, the little girls who are watching their disenchanted working mother’s will also be discouraged from taking the same path.
Marissa the engineer
In a recent interview with Marissa Mayer–Vice President of Geographic and Location Services at Google–she talks about how Google culture has evolved to hire more female engineers.
Marissa recalls being interviewed at Google, and being the first woman engineer to be hired. She said:
Right away during my interview, [Google cofounders] Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin] said, “You know, we have seven engineers, and they’re all guys. But we’ve thought a lot about how we want to start our company, and we’ve read a lot of books, and we know that organizations work better when there is gender balance. So it’s important to us that we have a strong group of women, especially technical women, in the company.”
I am impressed with Marissa’s experience with Sergey and Larry (I don’t know them-just prefer to use first names). This stuff shouldn’t be hard, or complicated…it’s just about putting a little extra effort into supporting women in the workplace. And if we make initiatives–like Google did–and they lose momentum, give a gentle reminder. Marissa did it. Here‘s another excerpt from her interview:
There was one point in the early days when we had hired 16 men in a row into engineering, and Larry said, “You know what? If we get to 20, I’m not going to sign any more offer letters until you start producing an equal ratio of women.” That was the moment when we really started recruiting for technical women, helping to build programs around it, really putting a lot of effort into it.
That was a powerful move on behalf of Marissa–one that possibly threatened her job. More women can be taking risks by speaking out. We all know it’s in the best interest of women, girls, and the entire world. We need women running this world too.
*just for the record, my boyfriend Jacob watched this Ted Talk with me. Very refreshing that some guys get it.