Leigh Gallagher has been the Assistant Managing Editor at Fortune since 2007. She oversees some of Fortune’s most recognizable franchises, including 40 Under 40 and Best Companies to Work For. She’s an experienced business news commentator who has appeared in a variety of television programs. She is also a regular guest on Marketplace on NPR. Before joining Fortune, she was an editor at SmartMoney Magazine and a reporter for Forbes. She also co-chairs Fortune Most Powerful Women/State Department Global Women's Mentoring Partnership. Gallagher graduated from Cornell University with a degree in English.
Leigh Gallagher: There are forces at work against women, but I also think that women can counteract those forces with just a little bit of changes to their behavior. And myself included, could I go back ten years ago I would have done things a little bit differently, maybe being more forceful, asking for more things, not expecting that they would come to me if I deserved them, and just putting my neck on the line a little bit more. That’s maybe me, that’s maybe my personality. Things have worked out for me so far, but there’s a fine line -- what is a personality thing and what is what you’ve kind of been taught by society as what is the polite, right way to do and behave.
My advice for young women today and things I wish I would have known or done differently . . . there’s a lot. But I would start with:
1. Just be aggressive. Even if you think you’re being aggressive, you’re probably not. And whether that’s, you know, emailing someone again who hasn’t emailed you back, picking up the phone and calling them again if they haven’t called you back, who cares? Just do it. If you don’t kind of push, nobody will hear you.
2. Ask for things. Ask for things from your boss. Ask for things from your people around you. Ask for raises, ask for promotions, ask for more responsibility. Nobody’s necessarily looking out for you and going to kind of take you and lift you up. You have to do it yourself.
3. Jump on opportunities. Don’t worry so much about getting everything on your list done. I read a fabulous book called Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, and it’s sort of 101 things that you can do to change your behavior, and it’s really—it came out a long, long time ago. It was a huge bestseller. One of the things it said, you know, was that women are achievers and men are careerists. So a woman is more likely to sit there all day, sit at her desk, even if it means having lunch at her desk, and just make sure she checks off everything on her to-do list, whereas a guy is more likely to, like, get up, go around the office, go see somebody, go have lunch, come back, and just kind of, you know, focus more on the bigger picture. I think there’s a lot of truth to that.
Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd