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.

Related Posts

4 Responses to “Can entrepreneurial and corporate women help each other?”

  1. Hi Dana. This is such a great post and great idea.

    My favorite part…"They’re [entrepreneurs/ biz owners] 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."

    I so relate to this. This thought is just one of the reasons I chose to leave my corporate role and go out on my own.

    I will definitely be joining your Linkedin group.

    My Best,
    Mary

  2. Dana Theus says:

    Mary – Hi!

    Yes, those of us whose careers have straddled corporate and entrepreneurial life have a unique perspective on the benefits of both. I, like you, choose more freedom over my career and life. And what I've learned about freedom and power "on the outside" I'd love to find a way to take back to the corporate women slogging away in the system. By the same token there are many entrepreneurs who undervalue their ideas because they don't know what it's like to "think big" on a resource scale – in the way that corporate women do. I'd love them to get a shot of how big ideas can explode when resources properly.

    Thanks for joining the group and I look forward to our conversation over there too!

    Dana

  3. Mary,
    There is considerable synergy within the two groups to collaborate. With the improvement in outsourcing technologies, it is easy to expand and contract business by outsourcing certain roles on a project basis. Many of the outsourcing suppliers are women owned businesses. So there is leverage here to build companies without a huge initial workforce development initiative. And many of these roles are project driven which ties nicely into corporate work life and transition.

    I do believe that if the health insurance conundrum could be solved in the US that we would see much more small business development. We could possibly see a renaissance of creativity in the workplace and in the economy.

  4. In fact, there's another path for corporate women to ease into entrepreneurship: intrapreneurship. Develop or sponsor an innovative idea for your existing firm, and odds are you'll wind up running it. Also, take our free entrepreneurship quiz at http://www.theasoe.com and see if entrepreneurship is for you.
    John Heinrich, Chief Mentor
    American School of Entrepreneurship http://www.theasoe.com