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March 14 2013

Women and Leadership

By Mary Reynolds Kane, Senior Director, Experience Marketing

women in leadershipA lot has been said in the press lately about women in leadership. In this industry of mostly women, in a career of mostly women, I pay attention to these articles and you should to. No surprise to the meetings industry, women work really hard according to a study by the Ponemon Institute referenced in an article by Forbes.com.

“During a ten-minute experimental trial, female subjects worked 2.5 minutes compared to 2.1 minutes for male subjects without a privacy filter installed and 4.9 minutes versus 4.3 minutes for male subjects with a privacy filter installed.

When given the opportunity to walk away during an experimental waiting period 38 percent of female workers walked away compared to 52 percent of male workers.”

So if women are working harder with more stress, and contribute more to household earnings according to a new survey from the American Psychological Association covered in the The Wall Street Journal, how can they better position themselves to be a part of the increasing female presence in the C-Suite?

It is difficult for meeting planners and suppliers to do in this industry…We are always on the road, have a mile-long list of to-dos and are paranoid about perfection (as the audience validated when most of the room raised their hands during Morten Hansen’s presentation at PCMA Convening Leaders).

So, how do we manage career advancement without getting lost in our projects?

As I read this article on today.com about how women can be holding themselves back by continuing to use the skills they excelled at during school years, I realized I saw a lot of myself and my co-workers in the story. This article can easily be applied to our industry:

Skills to ignite strategic thinking

Influence and challenge – don’t just please authority figures - So many of our organizations are asking us to create the same event year after year. Are you challenging them as to why or are you just trying to get through the task list for this event so that you can get to the next? The only way you can truly be perceived as a leader is to be a risk-taker, to innovate intelligently, and to share your point of view in a way that moves your meeting, project, or client forward. 

Learn how to improvise – not just prepare - We think we do this daily, but are we only confident because we have thought up every scenario that could go wrong and prepared for it like prepping for the big test? When something happens onsite or in the midst of a project, how do you cope? To be a leader, you must be as good at improvising as you are at preparation.

Get uncomfortable - This one struck me since I try to live by it today, but didn’t always. As I moved up my own career ladder, I came to realize the reason I was moving up was because I was trying things that made me uncomfortable. Public speaking terrified me in my 20s – only in the last year, when my mentor kept pushing me – did I realize I needed to do this to advance. The minute that I am faced with an opportunity today that makes me feel sick, I know I have to do it.

Self-promote - 

Officially the worst thing you can do for many people I know, but the most essential. The people I see moving up are the ones that are telling people how great they are in the least offensive way. Really – if you don’t tell people that amazing idea for your conference was yours, who will? We shouldn’t be ashamed of our success. We are good at what we do.



Look inward - 
Stop listening to other people’s thoughts and regurgitating them. Yes, your boss says a lot of interesting things – but don’t you want to be the boss one day? You are brilliant – look inside for the ideas.

You control your destiny. Inspire people to follow you.

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