As a little girl growing up in the '80s, I imagined a future that included flying cars like in the Jetsons, having a personal computerized assistant like Max Headroom and the ability to push a button and get whatever I wanted, like food or toys.
The future was going to be so exciting! I was told I could be anything I wanted, even president of the United States. Just the thought of all the possibilities and opportunities would sometimes keep me up all night.
As an idealistic young woman, I was confident that, after the decades of accomplishments from women, we had proved that gender has no bearing on intelligence; women are just as smart and capable as men. And that meant we would have a seat at the helm of businesses, in boardrooms and even in the Oval Office.
Subscribe to our newsletter below
Frankly, I wasn’t even sure we still needed this "equality" conversation.
Well, it's almost 2020, and while I don’t have a flying car (yet), I do have Alexa and Siri to assist me and the Amazon Dash Button to order almost anything my heart desires.
But let’s look at the numbers when it comes to women in leadership:
- In government: While women make up 50.8% of the U.S. population, only 23.7% of today’s congressional members are women. Equal representation? I think not.
- In the C-suite: 33 CEOs on the Fortune 500 list are female; the highest it’s ever been! But that’s just 6.6%. Only one in 10 senior leader positions are held by a woman with a greater percentage of men being hired and promoted.
- In technology: Only 20% of technology jobs are held by women, and female-owned startups receive a mere 2% of all venture capital.
- In travel: At a leadership level, women are still underrepresented in the travel industry; respondents to Phocuswright’s 2018 gender study gave the industry a 2 rating (with 5 being excellent) on gender parity.
I feel honored to be in the leadership position I am in. But, as a general population, are we there yet as it relates gender equality?
I’d say, no.
To be clear, the success of women in business is not at the cost of men: It is about attracting, retaining, recognizing and promoting talent without a gender bias.
After all, promoting and valuing different points of view leads to better financial outcomes for companies.
So, what can you do?
Be involved: Ensure that your HR professionals are providing a diverse candidate pool, for all levels of employment, to find the most qualified person, regardless of gender.
Examine your executive team: What message is your company sending about gender equality? The hiring decisions you make today can very well impact the future makeup of the e-team.
The success of women in business is not at the cost of men.
Be informed: Never stop learning. Attend industry conferences, listen to podcasts and read. Two of my favorite books are Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois P. Frankel and How Women Rise by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith. Don’t have time? Listen to the audio versions on your commute to work.
Be selfish: Not in a bad way; focus on yourself in a good way. Find a coach, a champion, someone who has gotten to where you want to be. It doesn’t matter if they are a man or woman: What matters is that they are willing to share advice and provide guidance when needed.
And remember to "lift others as you rise" by mentoring someone yourself. You don’t need a formal program; reach out and make a difference in someone’s career.
Be connected: Build a support network: a group of individuals, services or technologies that allow you to keep killing it in your career and at home. Don’t sweat the small stuff, outsource it if you can. Free up that time for you and your loved ones.
Be enthusiastic: Don’t wait for International Women’s Day at your office to celebrate the contributions and achievements of the women in your company. Recognize them throughout the year.
Be bold: Don’t be afraid to seek clarity, be curious and ask tough questions. Being bold also means standing up for yourself and not settling.
When I was approached about joining Sabre, they were asking me to lead the “non-air” division. It was a great opportunity to grow the business and work with in an area I’m passionate about, but being the senior vice president of “non” - that bothered me.
So, I made this clear - words matter - and I accepted on the condition that we rename the team “Lodging, Ground and Sea.” Let that be a lesson to never settle on being “non”-anything.
Being bold means recognizing that there is no rule book in the sky that dictates how business should be done. Don’t be afraid to write your own rules.
Join the conversation
The Women's Leadership Initiative continues this November at The Phocuswright Conference in Florida.