What does it take for professional women to break through the glass ceiling? That question was at the center of a lively discussion among 65 women who participated the “Leap into Leadership” breakfast hosted by United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council on Leap Day.
- Shiyama Clunie, an Area Manager for AT&T’s External Affairs department
- Alison Davis, a Director at Royal Bank of Scotland, Unisys and several private companies
- Mary Huser, a Litigation Partner at Bingham McCutchen
- Amanda Wallis, a Managing Director with Bank of America Private Wealth Management
- Mary Huss, (moderator) Publisher of the San Francisco Business Times
Here are some of the gems that emerged from the panel discussion:
- End complacency. Women have become complacent compared to the corporate women of the past. The panel called for a return to the militancy of the first wave of women leaders in the workforce.
- Work smarter, not harder. Many women are already working as hard as they can and expecting it to get them ahead. It’s not about how hard you work – it’s about how effective you are. Advancing to the most senior levels does not mean more work – it means more power and influence and being able to decide how the work gets done.
- Be assertive. Attitude and professional posture (while retaining authenticity) are key to success. Women often ask for permission to contribute, and this must stop. It is not enough to ask questions in meetings, women need to share ideas and adopt a more assertive stance.
- Let go. The myth of the superwoman is destructive to the individual chasing this model as well as to the women around her. It’s impossible to do it all, the panelists said, so stop trying! Prioritize and let the rest go.
- Don’t go it alone. The most successful women (and men) have at least one cheerleader (a spouse, parent, or friend) who supports them every step of the way. Just as people need a team at work, everyone needs a team at home for support.
- Be your own cheerleader. The most important cheerleader is one’s self. Panelists urged the audience to silence their inner critics, saying that self-care is not selfish and that women should treat themselves with the same kindness and understanding that they extend to others.
And thank you to Reed Smith LLP for donating such a beautiful space for our conversation.