This guest post is by Dana Theus, principal of Magus Consulting. Learn more about her at www.ReclaimingLeadership.com.
Facebook’s COO recently gave a rousing commencement address to Barnard University — some headlines would say — passing the torch of equal pay to the younger generation. In her address, Sheryl Sandberg said: “Women became 50% of the college graduates in this country in 1981, 30 years ago. Thirty years is plenty of time for those graduates to have gotten to the top of their industries, but we are nowhere close to 50% of the jobs at the top.”
She’s right statistically, of course, but is she right? Is hope lost for the 40- and 50-something women still working so hard to help achieve the diversity in leadership that leads to better shareholder value?
I have to believe that hope is not lost, though I agree with Linda Tarr-Whelan, who says it’s unlikely women in the top spots in the Fortune 500 will reach the tipping point of 30% before I check out of the workforce. I have hope mostly because I know that women aren’t leaving the workforce, they’re just leaving corporate jobs to start their own companies.
In this brain drain from corporate America I see a huge opportunity. Entrepreneurial women going out on their own are learning great lessons in leadership and are burning with a desire to change the world. They’re learning business lessons about how to succeed with few resources, and they’re learning emotional lessons about what success means. They’re learning how to access power no one can give you and no one can take away. Corporate women are learning how the world works on a grand scale, how to lead teams and divisions of people effectively and what can be accomplished with lots of resources.
There must be an opportunity to bring this divide together to do what women do best — collaborate in transferring knowledge and insight to the benefit of us all. What would that look like? A conference? A thousand coffee meetings on the same day? (As a first step, I started a LinkedIn group for this purpose. Feel free to join.)
I do think the younger generations of women will save us, but I’m personally not willing to give up just yet. The research shows that women have the ability to transform our business climate and demonstrate new models of power and leadership. All we have to do is start doing it.