I subscribed to Fortune Magazine in 1998. Being a woman in business, I keenly and closely watched the Most Powerful Women (MPW) list, as well as success stories and all relevant advice for women in business. The recent list just blew me away! Women are having a stronger impact on our world, more than ever before: more CEO’s, more industries, and more power. Just as recently as 2009, the women ranking in the “Worlds Most Influential People” were a mere handful, topped by Angel Merkel (no.15) and Hilary Clinton (no. 17) – both career politicians. Last year saw seven more world’s most powerful woman front runners, Angela Merkel at no.5, Janet Yellen, the chair of the federal reserve at no. 6, Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil at no. 31, Park Guen-Hye, President of South Korea at 46th place to round off the top 50 most powerful people in the world.
The original 1998 list of MPW mostly included members that came from industries with a premium on creativity: advertising, media and entertainment. The most recent list features a more diverse range of leaders: Mary Barra (CEO of GM), Indira Nooyi (CEO and Chairman of PepsiCo), Ginny Rometty (CEO, Chairman and President of IBM), Marillyn Hewson (CEO, Chairman & President of Lockheed Martin), Ellen Kullman (CEO& Chairman of DuPont) top the list. Then of course our heavy hitters: Angela Merkel, Christine Laguard, Janet Yellen and Hilary Clinton.
Amidst the recent domestic violence faced by NFL athletes, even the NFL buckled and hired three women to address and manage the recent scandals in the family oriented sports organization. These women are absolute rule breakers, shattering stereotypes and in many cases pioneers; they lead not only in business but also help redefine women’s roles in the industry. They empower the younger generation of women to step up.
I remember starting out in the diamond industry. I was totally isolated in an industry that was predominantly owned and run by Orthodox Jews. I remember waiting, all nerves, at a door of an elevator. When the doors opened and I saw the blank stares from the chauvinistic men in attendance, I knew I couldn’t get in. They thrived on their rules and women were absolutely not part of their game. Perhaps if I were to concede to a role of a secretary…otherwise, this was a boys’ only club.
Looking back I want to give some advice to all women who are just starting their professional careers:
1. You are enough.
You will face inequality in business every single day, learn to expect this. Become professional. Be the first one in the morning and the last one to leave, take the fewest vacations and the least time away from the desk to go to the bathroom or have lunch. Be determined and brave, you will attain your goal.
2. Value your dignity.
Remember, this is a man’s world, (as James Brown soulfully reminds us “…but it wouldn’t be nothing, without a woman or a girl…”) and if you want to become a professional asset, never become a topic of gossips, rumors or scandals. I have worked with men my whole life, they talk about absolutely everything and nothing is off limits. Do not become a topic outside the office. Keep your woman’s prowess, seduction and flirtations out of your career. This has been the downfall of so many women, who assume that discretion is a mutual unspoken agreement. Work harder, work smarter and keep the business separate from your personal life. That is the only way to be recognized as an equal.
3. Hire competent help.
When it comes to parenting, hire a nanny. Don’t feel guilty. At least one day a week create time when you are with your family WITHOUT the telephone, internet – any distractions. Devote yourself to your family as much as you do your career. Check in and make sure everyone is happy and feels valued, from your parents to your spouse and children. This is the price to expect: the harder and more devoted you are to your career, the more resentful and expectant your family and friends will be. Do not look to them to value or validate your work. They won’t. In truth, they will see this time as a small compensation for you abdicating your stereotypical gender role as a home maker, and for all the time you are not around.
4. Never stop learning.
5. Be bigger than your frustrations, obstacles or glass ceilings.
Find the opportunities tangled up in the chaos. Arthur Schopenhauer put it best: “I have not yet spoken my last word about women. I believe that if a woman succeeds in withdrawing from the mass, or rather raising herself from above the mass, she grows ceaselessly and more than a man.” Short-term struggle for long-term satisfaction is more rewarding than instant gratification every time. I have been there, and you will get through.