Let’s face it, sometimes being a CEO is a lonely job. Being a woman and a CEO, well, it can be very lonely at times.
A year ago, I was under a tremendous amount of work pressure and my husband suggested that some of my challenges may be specific to being a woman leader. So I did something about it.
I asked two other women association CEOs to consider being part of a networking/support group. Selecting the two women was very easy, as there were two women that easily came to mind. I admired them both and knew some of our common challenges, but that we also have different leadership styles and personalities. With that combination, I knew had something to learn from them and it may have been just what I needed to get me through my rough time.
It was one of the best decisions I have made. I believe in the power of women and far too often, we don’t support one another enough professionally. These two amazing women have grown to be my “go to” circle for advice, wins, challenges and friendship. I could not have anticipated the tremendous value that I would gain by taking a risk and being vulnerable and trusting them with my insecurities, fears, wishes and successes. They didn’t just get me through my rough patch, but inspired me to be better and keep stretching.
Maybe its just me, but the conversations about women in leadership have been getting a lot more coverage. Whether its the “Lean In” conversation, or even the blunder made during the last presidential election of the “binder of women” — I feel that women are speaking out more. But not necessarily with a collective voice.
But not all women are the same, neither are our leadership styles. Just the general perceptions of women in leadership seems to generalize women and the way they lead and view the world.
I remember being a teen and writing a paper for school based on an article “He said, She Said.” Essentially one of the examples captures the spirit of the article. The one that I remember the most is, if you looked at a man’s desk and it was messy, the perception was that he must be a busy man. But if you looked at a woman’s desk, the perception was “wow, she must be disorganized.”
Unfortunately, that article’s messages and common themes are still prevalent today. Men and women are viewed and judged differently.
The challenge is that as women we can be our own worst enemy. If we could stop judging one another and start supporting one another personally and professionally…if we learn that the proverbial glass ceiling can be shattered by a mere change of perception, we can start changing ourselves and the world.
In the interim, I will use the power of my circle of women to help me to be better at trusting other women, supporting them and celebrating our differences. To my 3W colleagues, you know who you are, thank you for being my mentors, teachers and friends. I am better for having the power of women behind me, beside me and in front of me, paving the way. You have helped me recognize the power of women.