Just in time the International Women’s Day, I was fortunate to attend and speak at the Women in Legal and Corporate Leadership Summit organized by Centerforce. The forum was dedicated to female leadership and the challenges faced by modern women leaders when it comes to career advancement, work-life balance, unconscious and conscious biases, and finding support from others.
A few takeaways:
Cross-generational diversity is an asset if the mentorship is mutual
The panel I participated in was focused on cross-generational diversity, which I find to be fascinating and relevant, especially when coupled with gender diversity. Over the course of my career, I’ve been fortunate to work for and manage attorneys and non-attorneys, male and female, from different generations and career paths. I’ve always felt that diversity can be an incredible asset to a team if negative stereotypes and unconscious biases are taken out of the picture.
Sadly, achieving a diverse work culture it’s easier said than done. Differences in upbringing, historical events that shaped us, media, and our own experiences often create walls between us and others. As much as we want to think of ourselves as being open and flexible, we subconsciously gravitate towards the familiar and the comfortable. Something more like ourselves.
What’s the solution? Embrace the differences, acknowledge the stereotypes, and mentor cross-generationally. Everyone has something to bring to the table. Use the opportunity to learn from them. Being open to hiring candidates from diverse backgrounds — including across different age groups — will enrich your organization.
You don’t need to be perfect to succeed
A common theme across all panels was the uneven societal expectations imposed on women. Despite positive shifts in our culture, modern female leaders are still too often the primary caregivers to their children, parents, or siblings, which often means that they have to choose between having a perfect career or being a perfect parent (or spouse, or sibling). And while this dynamic may not change any time soon, the least that we can do is stop expecting perfection from ourselves.
Recruit male allies through open dialogue and compassion
Another takeaway was the importance of dialogue and compassion. Female leaders exist in an ecosystem that is often dominated by men. And while we continue to fight for equal treatment, rights, pay, and opportunities, it is also important to understand the male upbringing and societal pressures that later translate into undesirable behavior, whether intended or unintended. Ultimately, equality comes from true partnership, and we need mutual compassion to get there.
Be the change that you want to see in the workplace
Out of all the takeaways, I personally think this one is the most important. Systemic biases, societal pressures, and a history of discrimination do not go away overnight. Now that more women and male allies occupy positions of power and influence it is essential to put the words into practice in our daily lives. Think of the job description that you put together for your next hire. Does it exclude anyone that it shouldn’t? Look at your candidate pool. Is there a chance that a “non-conventional” candidate could be the right fit? Would you take a risk on someone who doesn’t fit your idea of that perfect candidate?
I want to congratulate all of my fellow female leaders on the amazing strides that we’ve made. Now, let’s celebrate by giving ourselves a break from our imposter syndrome, insecurities, and perfectionism! Happy Women’s Day!