Categorized | Blog

Who the hell is Mike?

Over the past week I’ve met with two of my mentors to discuss strategies for attaining a new board appointment, which is one of my goals for 2010.  So it was of interest to me to receive an invitation through our network from a guy called Mike who was promoting an event that included talks on a range of topics.  The one that caught my attention was one one called: “Giving up control: – why women are leaving boardrooms or simply not making it there because they don’t want to conform, or to be told what to do.”  (now Mike is not his real name, but this isn’t about Mike – and I’ve since been advised this talk has been removed from the agenda, which is a good thing.)

But we all know that there are loads of Mikes out there who claim to be experts on why women aren’t making it into our boardrooms and who offer all sorts of advice like this.  So why do they think, as in this case, that more conformance will help us get ahead – isn’t that just encouraging group think and defeminisation by women as a means of getting ahead?

In my experience working in the advancement of women as leaders, our ability to relinquish control is not the primary reason women aren’t making it to the boardroom.  Its more likely that the 92% of male board directors who are currently in control (in the ASX200) don’t want to relinquish control or power.  Or, as the gentleman I chatted with at The Sydney Institute dinner last night explained to me, “it often just doesn’t cross his mind to add women to the 2 boards he sits on, because it’s only male directors he knows through his networks”.  Yes, women also have to get better at self-promotion, and connecting with the men who are in the roles so we can get onto short lists and preselections.  But when women hold only 8% of board positions, what control is there to give, Nigel?

Nor is conformance a sound strategy for women getting ahead: in fact this usually works against us.  InExecutive Women and the Myth of Having it All, Sylvia Ann Hewlett (whom most of us are familiar through her Onramps and Offramps research) surveyed perceptions of women who take on male behaviours in order to get ahead in their careers – and the results were clear.  When women try and behave like the men, they win no fans with either the men or the women they work with.  And what about all the great attributes women bring to leadership when they’re just allowed to be themselves – like their lateral thinking skills, more advanced social and community skills, and their greater EQ which is widely acknowledged as being more important than IQ when it comes to leading.

I’m just so sick of the Mikes of the world giving me their advice on what I should do. It’s time we stood up, gave the feedback that we don’t need this sort of advice, and got comfortable in advancing ourselves by being ourselves.  That, in my mind, is true leadership.


* indicates required

Join Me On Facebook

This message is only visible to admins.
PPCA Error: Due to Facebook API changes it is no longer possible to display a feed from a Facebook Page you are not an admin of. The Facebook feed below is not using a valid Access Token for this Facebook page and so has stopped updating.