There’s a big difference between being smart and being wise, and also being intelligent, frankly, says futurist Edie Weiner.
"Men don’t necessarily visualize women as being at the top. Their mental image of the leadership of their organization is often a clone of themselves," explains former IOSCO chairperson Jane Diplock.
Throughout the developing world, "and increasingly in Africa and Asia in particular," the single largest occupation for women is agriculture. Yet although they're doing much of the work, women and girls (who make up the majority of poor people on the planet) are restricted from actually owning the land they work. That's where Landesa comes in. Formerly the Rural Development Institute, Landesa is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping the world's poor obtain land property. Tim Hanstad, Landesa's president and CEO, discusses the importance of empowering women.
Tara Sophia Mohr explains how we can empower girls to silence their inner critic.
What's the Big Idea?
The cooperative model is an alternative way of doing business that aims to share the wealth equitably among members rather than shareholders, and it's gaining traction thanks to the exemplary way many coops have weathered the turbulent global economic climate.
With assets of over $190 billion, Desjardins is the largest financial cooperative in Canada and one of the most successful in the world. Just four years ago, in 2008, in the midst of the crisis, Monique Leroux managed to get herself elected (yes, elected) as the first female CEO in the organization’s history.
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She believes it was the combination of speaking with conviction from her heart and head that won her the job (Romney and Obama: take note). “I made sure to come with values and convictions,” she says. “So it was not just to talk about financial objectives, but also what I wanted to achieve with the people at Desjardins Groups.”
What's the Significance?
One of those objectives was helping raise more women to power with her. "It's quite important to have more [women] on boards," she told Big Think in a recent interview, "but a significant impact will be first to work to have more [women] in senior management positions. That's a context where the CEO has a more direct influence." And the more women who land in senior positions, the larger the talent pool you have for candidates to go on to become board members or executives.
Leroux's strategy for bringing about change was directly and aggressively reaching out to other women herself through coaching programs and initiatives, rather than just sitting back and hoping that the situation would work itself out. Equal representations starts at the top, she says, requires a serious commitment from those in power, male or female. That means taking active steps to evolve new protocols and ways of doing things when it comes to recruitment and promotion.
"Personally, as a Chairperson of Desjardins Group and CEO of our organization, I’m very committed to have better representation... If you don’t have that commitment, it will not happen. There will be a lot of issues, problems -- anti-selection, if I may say it that way --that will eliminate some very good candidates to go to the top positions."
Of course, Leroux has seen plenty of good candidates eliminated that way, but she's also positive about the ability of individual women to fight their way to the top. She's used to being the only woman in the room -- whether that's the classroom, the boardroom, or her old office at an accounting firm -- and she sees it as a privilege, not just a challenge. Reflecting on her career, she recalls, "I was often very anxious to get the right advice at the right time, but overall I felt that being the only woman in a group of men was a neat opportunity." It's always a question of ambition and attitude, she says, and perhaps she's right. Today, more than sixty percent of the senior managers at Dejardins are women.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com/Everett Collection.
There’s definitely a misperception that women and girls don’t play games. In fact, 40 percent of gamers are women, and 94 percent of girls under the age of 18 play games regularly, play computer and video games regularly.
Mercedes Rosalba Aráoz Fernández has observed that women leaders, herself included, tend to collaborate more openly and distribute power more liberally than males do. The not-very-surprising result, she says, is a more contented workforce or constituency, and better outcomes.
One of the things I didn’t want to do when I wrote my book, No Excuses, was to tell women to have another one of those books that says what’s wrong with women: women can’t, women don’t, women shouldn’t. I think we have way too many of those.
I'm a practical activist. I'm very positive. I'm very optimistic. I think this is women’s moment. We can do so many things. We have so much power in our hands right now if we can see it and seize it and use it and that’s really my point. It’s that this is that kind of a moment and so I wanted to give women some very practical power tools.
Now in order to get there and to use these power tools what I've found when I talked with women because what really got me started on this obsession that I have now about women’s relationship with power is that I realized that women have been stuck at 18% of top leadership positions. That’s in politics. That’s in the workplace across all sectors of employment for at least 20 years, sometimes more and that’s despite the fact that here in the U.S. at least we have changed the laws. We have opened many doors. We’ve seen a women-first almost everything.
The problem really isn’t just that all of the child rearing responsibilities are still put on women’s shoulders, but what I found was that women have an outdated notion of what power means and I talked to women all over the country. I looked at the research and I frankly I had to look at my own heart and my own journey to leadership and some of the things that I had learned along the way and some of the ways I had not yet learned how to embrace my own power. This was not an easy exploration for me. I can tell you that. But what I found was that we women tend to think of power in a really outdated way. It’s a traditional way of thinking about power. It means that somebody can make you do something. It means that you don’t have control over your own life and it also implies a finite pie, as in if I take a slice there is less for you.
So therefore, it feels oppressive. It makes you feel powerless. Once I can get women to change how they’re thinking about power from that oppressive way to the most expansive idea of power over I just would see faces relax and women say, "Oh yeah, give me that, I want that kind of power because the power to is the ability to make life better for yourself, your kids, your community, your world, your country." It’s the ability to innovate, to think of new and better ways of doing things and I think women sort of inherently know that power isn’t a finite pie, that in fact the more there is the more there is.
If I help you get more powerful it doesn’t mean there is less power for me. It means there is more capability to do these good things in the world and therefore, power to makes you feel powerful and power to is what enables us to be leaders, to take on leadership roles. I think power to is real, authentic leadership and leadership that can transform how things are done in this world.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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Vivek Wadhwa points out the lack of women in the technology sector and discusses the negative public backlash to his coverage of the issue. Wadwha is a fellow at Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University, director of research at Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke, and distinguished fellow at Singularity University.
This video is part of a series on female genius, in proud collaboration with 92Y's 7 Days of Genius Festival.
"Sometimes you have to learn when not to be too much of a lady," says Joy Hirsch. "So if you have to kick a**, just go do it." Director of the Brain Function Laboratory at Yale University, Hirsch knows the challenges that women face in professional life. Often valued for more traditional qualities like the ability to teach or mentor, women aren't always first thought of as leaders; but of course they are, and always have been. The challenge ahead of us, as Hirsch says, is to "allow ambitious, talented women to contribute as best they can."