The Difference Maker: Capacity-Building at Work

Two people assume Director-level roles with a similar scope and size of institution in the same year. They graduated from strong masters programs and they came up through the professional ranks in higher education in traditional ways. They are universally liked and have similar skill sets. They have good co-workers and get along with their supervisor. Six months into their new roles, one person is completely floundering and the other is flourishing. So what is the difference-maker in this situation?

Capacity.

It is your professional capacity to successfully add more work to your plate that is a key indicator of career progression.

At entry and mid-level roles there is always a lot of work to be accomplished. Student issues. After hours events. Crises management. However as you move up the ranks your supervisor will not monitor your workload or limit the scope of your projects nearly as much as when you were first starting out in the field.

Having an increased capacity means that you will never assume that something is going to be taken off your plate by your supervisor. Instead it is up to you to manage your current workload, delegate when appropriate, and add new responsibilities often while managing the same level of success in completing those duties.

Five years ago a colleague and I made a documentary about women in higher education. We interviewed Donna Carroll, the president of Dominican University. When I asked her what strengths she possessed that made her an ideal person to be a university president she responded instantly.

“I have always known,” she said, “that I have a very large capacity for getting work done.”

I was surprised by her answer. I thought she would say she was a skilled fundraiser or possessed a strong financial mind but instead of focusing on skills or tasks she focused on the process of working.

Since that day I have talked with others in our field about this concept of “capacity” and wondered if each person has a set-point (meaning that they either have a large capacity or they do not) or if there are actual capacity-building techniques could help a person increase the amount of work they can produce. After careful thought I have identified four key areas that I believe are capacity-building strategies:

1) Creating strong organizational process to manage your day: There are about a million different ways to organize your work–to-do lists, planners, electronic calendars, setting reminders on your phone, etc.—however people who have high levels of work capacity have consistent processes that guide their day, manage their time and signal when their goals for the day have been accomplished. This includes any personal appointments, family commitments or anything else that needs to get done during the course of a single day. People with high capacity may have set days or times for errands, volunteering in their home communities and working on special projects. They are rigid with adhering to those set times. They always make sure they are on-time to meetings, events and activities because they always have a plan B (and C and D) when life’s little surprises occur.

2) Recruit, hire, maintain and promote an exceptional team: In order for everyone to increase their capacity, a high-level team must be created or else you (and your other team members) will be constantly working to compensate for their lack of productivity. The most important thing we do in our jobs is recruit and hire the most talented people we can find. Take that responsibility seriously. Recruitment is a 365 day a year process—it’s not just when you happen to have an opening in your department. Keep lists of folks who excel in particular areas in your professional field and create relationships with them. When an opening becomes available you’ll have a well-developed list of people to consider and recruit.

Conversely, know when you have to counsel someone out of the role who is no longer helping the goals of the team and/or their abilities do not align with their current position. This is a painful process and the dignity of the person must be preserved at all costs however an unwillingness to address a toxic or non-functioning staff member can cause serious damage to even an otherwise strong team.

3) A commitment to wellness: Eating well, exercising, getting a consistent amount of sleep and being spiritually centered (whatever that may mean to you) impacts your capacity. Another important part of this is the phrase “on a consistent basis.” If these components of wellness are a part of your daily routine they will lead to long-term capacity-building. The ability to wake up well-rested, fuel your body with things that will maximize the functions of your brain and body, and focus on particular tasks are all benefits of a healthy lifestyle. A key indicator of increased capacity for work is stamina—the ability to continue your work past your typical stopping points.

4) A commitment to a blended life: Capacity is increased when you can kill two birds with one stone. Many folks in higher education have enthusiastically embraced this concept. When you take your partner and/or children to a program on campus, is it considered work time or family time? It’s both. When you work on an article for a professional journal on a Saturday is it work time or personal time? It is both. By re-framing your life to simply be just that—one blended life—then you can focus attention on all areas without feeling a need to compartmentalize them.

Some of these areas may take years to perfect but I believe they are good steps towards increasing your productivity both at home and in your professional life. If not consciously developed, I believe that a lack of capacity-building can stall your career progression and can impact your happiness.

What are some capacity-building techniques that you employ in your daily work?

Follow me on Twitter: @annmarieklotz

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So You Have a Mentor…Now What?

We talk a lot about mentorship in higher education but it almost always focuses on 1) why you should have a mentor, 2) how to find one or 3) the research that indicates mentorship has strong professional and personal benefits.

What we spend less time discussing is how to foster and sustain that relationship once it is established.

What if we focused more about how to BE a mentor and (equally important) a mentee?

A few things to consider…

1) What Do You Want from this Person? Guidance? Support? Advice? A (not so gentle) professional nudge? When I think about people who have felt disappointed with their mentor(s) it has been because they didn’t establish what they wanted from the person. They are mentors, not mind-readers. It’s important to state exactly what you are hoping to gain from the relationship.

A newly established mentee said to me this week “I want you to be my mentor because you will push me like no one else will.” So I asked a few clarifying questions like in what ways did he want me to push him? What are his immediate goals and how can I support and assist him in attaining those?

We know the importance of institutional fit and those same rules apply for selecting a mentor. There needs to be a shared investment in the relationship and an appreciation of what each person brings to the table. You can seek out a well-known Higher Education practitioner or professor to be your mentor but if the only thing that attracts you is their prestige then you will be sorely disappointed. Select mentor(s) who have the time, energy and investment in the relationship.

2) Mentorship is Great but Sponsorship is Better: Much of the recent buzz on this topic indicates that mentorship provides good support but sponsorship really helps you to thrive.
http://www.fastcompany.com/3016871/dialed/sponsors-are-the-new-mentors-and-they-really-need-you

So what’s the difference? A mentor tells you, “you should consider going through that door” and a sponsor will push the door open and nudge you through. They advocate for you when you are not in the room. In short, sponsors are invested in your own success in deeply personal ways. Are you looking for a mentor or a sponsor? Clarify your goals before making the ask.

3) Look for Ways to Establish a Two-Way Mentoring Street: So while I am happy to invest in the mentee I mentioned previously he recently said to me “You know, I could really help you re-organize and re-design your blog page.” He has skills that I do not possess and so by offering to help me we are establishing a relationship where we each benefit from the talents of each other. This give and take is the new way to look at mentorship and it is one that is sustainable and a total win-win for everyone involved.

4) Define How Your Relationship will Operate: Perhaps it is more organic, i.e., “I’ll call you when I need you” or maybe you need more structured time like a monthly phone check-in. There is no right or wrong way but it is important to clarify expectations from the start.

5) Create a Personal Board of Directors: No one person can give you everything you need. Diversify your group of trusted advisors based on the different areas of your professional portfolio. These can be folks at your experience level, above or below. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they have expertise in an area you want to grow in. Having a team approach allows you to gain multiple perspectives and find folks who have particular areas of strength.

@EdCabellon calls me when he wants to bounce ideas about the doctoral research process and in turn I call him when I need assistance in the area of social media and technology. I look to @VijayPendakur when I am seeking insight on issues of diversity and justice and I have @CissyPetty, @TBump and @JPKirchmeier on speed dial when I need career advancement advice. When I need someone to keep it real I look to @DSchmidtRogers. When I am looking for ways to impact the entry-level experience I have no shame in asking superstars like @RayTennison, @RachAho and @Dav_Velaz to help me. Who can support you in all of the areas of your professional life? What do you have to offer them in return?

6) Pay It Forward: Most people went into higher education at the encouragement of a mentor, advisor, supervisor, etc. People are retained in this field because they have created a strong network of colleagues and allies. Continue to give back the mentorship, sponsorship and support and our field (and in turn our students) win every time. Be generous with your time. You never know much a phone conversation, email exchange or in-person conversation can provide someone with exactly what they need.

What are your thoughts about mentorship in higher education? How can we do better at this?

Follow me on Twitter @annmarieklotz

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The Mayer Effect

I recently read this article about Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2013/08/marissa_mayer_controversy_what_the_negative_coverage_gets_wrong.html and I found it an unfortunate reminder that even women who make it to the “top” (depending on your own definition) are still plagued by issues of sexism and constant critique in ways that different from their male CEO counterparts.

Her feminine style and appreciation for fashion causes critics to describe her as a “princess” and her desire to seek perfection in every detail labels her as “robotic.” Yet, if she were to show up in pants and a sweatshirt she would be lambasted as unfeminine, childish or not ready for the role meanwhile the aforementioned attire is the daily uniform of Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook) and he is praised for his causal and authentic look.

An insistence on perfection is typically praised in the great minds of our day (the article references Steve Jobs as an example) but yet this very same quality looks different on Mayer. While I admire Mayer tremendously I don’t envy her uphill battle of trying to stick to the recipe that has made men successful all over the world meanwhile knowing that this formula doesn’t appear to work well for women.

Her confidence, belief in her decision-making process and insistence that the right people be at the table (and if they aren’t she will make structural changes—i.e. fire them) are emblematic of successful business people, however these qualities in Mayer irritate the very people who were calling for change in the sinking ship that was Yahoo.

What does this mean for how leadership is viewed in higher education? Plenty.

1) It is better to be respected than liked: There is often a strong emphasis placed on “likeability” in our field. Yes, it is important that people be willing to collaborate and work with you. My measuring stick of hiring new people is “Do they have the skills to do the job and do I want to take them to lunch?” If so, my gut says “hire them”—everything else is trainable. However, I believe it is important to be respected more than liked. Let the work ethic, innovation, production and newly-created initiatives be a stronger indicator of workplace success.

Mayer is successful at Yahoo because she understands this. Her largely unpopular decisions (like cutting the program that allowed many employees to work remotely) is having huge gains for her with the companies’ top talent. As the article states: “If [Mayer] hadn’t come in, all the smart people would have left.”

How often do we not hold folks accountable simply because they are “nice?” How often do we minimize the success of others because we don’t like their disposition or because they aren’t seen as part of the “in” crowd at work?

2) Consider if the critical feedback you hearing about people is really about their skills or more about who they are—gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.: Leadership looks different on Mayer because of her gender, and it looks different on President Obama because of his race. Both are critiqued in different ways because they represent different visual (as well as socialized and cultural) ideas about what leadership in their role should look like.

What does that mean for a woman who works with campus facilities or is a Vice President for Finance? Or a person of color who is a university President?

Our preconcieved notions of what a person in that type of role should look like, act, do, etc. contibutes to the backlash that trailblazers (like Mayer) often receive.

3) Consider if the problem is really a personal one or a structural one:

To advance as an administrator, the path is often described in 3 ways:
To move up, move out (change jobs, move around, etc.)
Obtain another advanced degree
Work more hours, volunteer for extra projects

What does this model mean for women who choose to have a family? How does this recipe for career success fit into the other areas of their life? For some women it simply doesn’t which is why we have a mass of women at mid-level who are unable or unwilling to move up because of the choices they may have to make that impact their personal obligations. Women’s career paths are not linear- they are circular-but fitting that circle in the box of higher education is a challenge for any women who seeks a senior leadership position.

When a woman like Mayer breaks through those barriers it looks and feels odd to people and she has been attacked in ways that a male peer with her same talents, skills and abilities would not.

The lesson we can learn from Marissa Mayer’s story is that it isn’t simply good enough to have females in executive-level positions. Structural and environmental shifts must occur by people who are truly invested in seeing a variety of diverse leaders in our organizations. Without this change, women may continue to opt out of seeking these opportunities or if they do actually obtain the corner office someday their tenure in these roles may be short.

I’m pulling for you Marissa, and women everywhere who seek to not be defined by their gender expectations but rather by their ability to get the job done in their own unique way.

What do you think about how women’s leadership styles are perceived in higher education??

Follow me on Twitter: @annmarieklotz

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Approach and Practice: Networking 101

Last week I received this tweet:

tweet

Many folks either love or hate networking. I have rarely met people who have ambiguous feelings on the topic. The ones who enjoy it are often self-proclaimed social butterfly’s, “Woo’s” or extroverts.

The ones who are not particularly fond of this may view it as fake, unimportant or might not simply feel comfortable approaching new people for the sole purpose of building their professional network.

No matter where you fall on the spectrum of comfort with networking most can agree that it can serve a purpose. The three ways I have found it most useful are:

1)Resource-sharing: As you move up you will often be asked to “make XYZ happen” or “create this _________ (fill in the blank-program, policy, resource, etc.).

Ummm, OK. Where to start? Begin with your own intellect and experiences and sprinkle liberally with the knowledge of others. Reaching out to my network for ideas, a second opinion or simply having another set of (fresh) eyes on a proposal has made all the difference in my experience.

2) Building a colleague base at, below and above your current professional role: In my current role I have no direct peer who is doing exactly what I am doing (unlike previous roles I have had). Making connections with other people who lead Residence Life staffs has been incredibly useful.

My peers and I often marvel to each other “How come no one tells you that leadership at this level is so hard??” Having other colleagues who are similarly situated in their career builds a strong sense of community across folks at the same level. There are days where having a quick conversation with folks like Torry Brouillard-Bruce (University of the Pacific), Carolyn Golz (Lake Forest College) or Romando Nash (University of Southern California) reaffirm, refocus and restore your belief in your work and yourself!

Building a network with people at less-experienced levels is valuable because it reminds you of the needs of the people you supervise and helps you to understand how your actions, goals and vision may be interpreted. Hearing about the professional journeys of people like Amy Boyle (Loyola University,-New Orleans), Shamika Johnson (Miami University), Matt Bloomingdale (Georgia Tech) and Terrance Smith (Purdue University) has been such a gift to me because it provides an outside perspective on the role of staff dynamics, how change is interpreted and what motivates employees on days when this information is needed most.

As always, we can learn much-needed lessons from people above our current professional level. They can share their perspective from their many years of experience and help you to anticipate and recognize potential pitfalls. I always walk away from conversations with folks like Cissy Petty (Loyola University-New Orleans) Norb Dunkel (University of Florida), Sumi Pendakur (Harvey Mudd College), and Beth McCuskey (Purdue University) feeling stronger, more confident and armed with new strategies to approach my work.

The common thread with everyone I mentioned above is that I have never worked with any of these exceptional professionals. We were first connected through social media, our work with professional associations or have been introduced through a mutual shared connection. My world and my work has been enriched though each of these relationships.

3) Professional development collaborations: I have written articles with people who live 3,000 miles away who I have never met (except via social media), and presented program sessions with colleagues I only met briefly at conferences.

While I do enjoy working with folks who are familiar with my writing and presentation style, it is a great challenge and opportunity to collaborate with a new person and potentially create a useful tool, resource and/or presentation.

I am grateful for these experiences because when I changed jobs and moved across the country I had already built a few relationships with folks who now lived in the same part of the country. It made my transition easier and it felt good to already know a few people in my new region.

A week after I accepted the offer at my current institution my new NASPA region called to offer me a leadership role with their annual conference. Turns out those new connections I had made through networking had advocated for me to serve in that position. Networking is about giving and receiving and I will be sure to repay the generosity bestowed upon me. “Pay it forward” it the key to networking.

OK, so now you have a few reasons as to why networking is important but how do you actually do it? A few tips for your consideration:

Create a plan for each conference you attend: My staff will confirm that I always ask them “What is your plan for this conference?” This means, 1-what coffee dates have you set-up to connect with new people, 2-what sessions do you want to attend both because of the content and the presenter and finally 3-what are your goals for learning, networking and bringing back info to campus?

If you can see a full list of presenters and/or attendees prior to the start of a professional conference you can reach out to structure your schedule in a way that allows you to meet all of your goals. I typically divide my conference time between sessions, volunteer hours for the association (where you can meet all sorts of new people) and pre-scheduled coffee dates with folks who I have asked to connect with or they have asked to connect with me. At a four-day conference you can easily fit in 6-8 of these kinds of meetings.

Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up: I email and/or send a note to every person who gives me their business card throughout the year (on-campus, at a conference, etc). I typically send another piece of communication three months after the initial meeting to say hello and re-connect. That way (the next time you see each other) the conversation has been continuing throughout the year and it feels more authentic than simply the once a year “meet and greet.”

Reach out to connect with people individually: Whether on your own campus or through a professional association don’t be shy about reaching out to someone you want to connect with. I wrote about this experience a couple of years ago and my professional relationship with this woman has absolutely continue up and enriched my life. https://annmarieklotz.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/why-don%E2%80%99t-we-ask/

Take a chance-it just might change your life 🙂

Start locally, then act globally: At my previous university I got connected with our on-campus women’s network for faculty and staff members. I met terrific new colleagues–many of whom grew to be good friends! This helps to build your confidence to network outside of your institution.

Remember that the keys to networking are approachability/friendliness (say hello, smile, shake their hand), courage (approach folks you may not know to simply introduce yourself) and commonality (try to find a common thread, mutual acquaintance, etc.) during the initial conversation.

OK, let’s practice!

When you see someone across the room who you want to meet consider doing one of two things:

1) Find someone who know that person and ask if they would be so kind as to introduce you: Simply say “I believe you know (fill in the name) and I have really been hoping to meet him/her. Would you feel comfortable making the introduction?”

2) Gather your courage and make the introduction yourself: As long as the person you seek to meet is standing in a group (i.e. not with just one other person) you should feel free to approach him/her. Example intro: “Hello, I’m sorry to interrupt but my name is Ann Marie and I just wanted to say hello and introduce myself. I attended your program session on assessment at the NASPA conference and I really appreciated your information—we are hoping to implement something similar at my school.” This is one of many friendly, brief introductions that establishes a common experience.

Networking may seem daunting but it is all about approach and practice! What tips do you have to sharpen your networking skills?

Follow me on Twitter: @annmarieklotz

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The Things We Do Not Say…and Why It Hurts Our Profession.

This week I took a phone call with a younger professional about her job search. She was feeling frustrated about her lack of success in getting interviews and asked if we could chat about what she could do better to showcase her candidacy.

She sent me her resume to review and it honestly needed an incredible amount of work. It lacked depth and it painted an incomplete picture of her professional experiences.

In chatting with her about it I was extremely honest about its deficiencies. I told her that her years of experience and all of her good work were not reflected on her resume. Your resume and cover letter are ways to tell your story and showcase your unique brand of professionalism, I shared with her. We went line by line and brainstormed examples of how it could be stronger.

She had several people review her resume before it got to me and she had not received this kind of critical feedback prior. Now, I do not claim to be an expert on resumes but any seasoned practitioner could have made these recommendations to her. But they didn’t. Why is that?

We must become more comfortable with providing folks with critical feedback or else we are filling the higher education pipeline with people who think their work is perfect, their attitude is superb and they have no room for growth.

I also conducted a phone interview with her and three things were immediately evident:

1) Lack of Professional Confidence: She appeared nervous, fumbled over words, and she did not fully answer the questions. This woman has many incredible talents but when asked “What unique strengths would you bring to this team?” she hesitated and struggled to answer.

If we can’t sell our own positive contributions how can we expect an institution to feel confident about hiring us? We must get better at affirming the strengths of our teams and telling the story of our successes (individually and departmentally) broadly.

2) Self-awareness as it Relates to Areas of Improvement: I’m impatient. I hate reflecting. I have a low tolerance for long meetings. I need to work on my assessment skills. These are all areas that I am keenly aware of regarding my own limitations.

Yet when we ask these very questions of entry level folks I have heard everything from “I don’t know how to delegate” to “I work too hard” to “I prefer to celebrate the success of a team over my own accomplishments.” This is not really what the question is asking. What the interviewer is really trying to know is: what areas do you repeatedly receive critical feedback in and how can your potential future supervisor help you?

Let’s teach professionals that it’s OK, no it’s actually REQUIRED, to critically look at yourself and know where your weaknesses are. I would rather hire a perfectly imperfect person with strong self-awareness than a person who has no understanding of their areas to improve.

3) How to Professionally Package Yourself: This includes but is not limited to:

The 90 second “elevator speech” about “who you are and why you want to work at XYZ institution?” Many folks seem to struggle with articulating WHY this school, WHY this department and WHY this particular job. Know the talking points that you want to share. Deliver them with confidence. This kind of “polish” shows that you are prepared and have thought about why this could be a mutually beneficial fit.

How to properly request information prior to and after the interview: If I get another email that starts with “Hey”… :)All communication that you have with your potential future employer is indicative of your professional communication style. Dazzle them with your skills.

The importance of follow-up and thank you notes: It matters. Generosity and gratitude win every single time.

Afterwards, I asked her how she felt about her answers and then I shared my candid feedback. She seemed surprised but grateful for the critique. The worst feeling is to not know WHY you may not be getting called. Talking through the possibilities and ways to improve seemed to be helpful.

It was a difficult but meaningful conversation. If we are going to cultivate a new generation of professionals who are professionally equipped to handle the challenges that mid and senior level leadership will undoubtedly bring it is incumbent on us to deliver this kind of feedback early and often.

To eliminate this from the professional development experiences of our employees does them an incredible disservice. To not provide this to them hurts them in the short and long term. It doesn’t model for them how to provide constructive feedback to students and student staff. It becomes cyclical as they move up. Our staff deserve better. Our students deserve much better.

The last thing I said to this woman is to not leave this phone call feeling badly for what she didn’t know but to feel relieved that now she did. I also learned a valuable lesson from her today. I can and must do better to ensure our younger professionals are ready for the realities of future leadership.

I am committed to making this a priority…are you in, too?

Follow me on Twitter: @annmarieklotz

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Enjoy the Journey

The first part of this year has contained some of the most challenging moments of my life. As I recently said to a friend “the second half of 2013 has GOT to be better!”

In order to start the last six months off right I decided to do something I have never done before–I took a vacation by myself. There were no friends or family to help pick the location or plan the itinerary, I simply decided to get away for a few days.

I ran a race while on vacation and (as always) I use those miles as a chance to reflect on where I am, what I want and what I hope to be.

I thought about how sometimes when you are running on flat pavement it seems so hard to go another step. Your feet ache, your lungs hurt and you want to stop going. Then suddenly you are on a slight incline and you can feel your calves start to burn. Suddenly the straightaways seem much more manageable, even desirable, because you are now experiencing the pain of the incline.

Then there are the times when you are on a really steep hill–huffing and puffing and praying for the road to go back to the slight incline that plagued you only minutes before.

In short, running teaches us the depths of what we can handle.

Sometimes the things we think are so difficult are actually the flat pavement moments in life. As we experience more challenges (like the inclines) we feel the intensity heighten and we think that we can’t possibly handle anymore discomfort. That’s when the steep hills come and challenge everything you think, believe and know.

It is in the steep hills that we often have moments of extreme doubt.

We think we cannot go a step further. The pain seems too great. But what I now know–both in running and in life–is that the exact moment that we conquer the steep hills is when we feel our strongest. The steep hills entice us to quit, give up and question our own worth. The moment we make the decision to push on despite the pain and doubt we win–every time.

Making the conscious decision to keep going is the bravest act we can do.

As we head into the second half of this year, I will take these lessons with me knowing that every steep hill has a lesson to teach and that there is no hill that I can’t overcome. And that is what they mean when they say to “enjoy the journey”–even the painful parts!

Here is to the next six months and to all of us having the strength to get through the flat pavement, slight inclines and steep hills that the next 180 days or so have in store for each of us.

What have you learned about yourself from the “steep hill” moments of life?

Follow me on Twitter: @annmarieklotz

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From the Boardroom to the Board of Trustees: Understanding the Gender Gap

In a recent article entitled “Dysfunction in the Boardroom” it talked about the challenges women face when trying to get on a corporate board as well as the obstacles they encountered once they had been asked to serve in this capacity. (http://hbr.org/2013/06/dysfunction-in-the-boardroom/ar/1)

In 2012, only 16.6% of Fortune 500 board seats were held by women (Harvard Business Review, 2013) prompting some to ask why this number hasn’t been budging over the last six years. There is a lack of research on this area (anyone need a dissertation topic??) and a veil of secrecy around the gender dynamics of corporate boards in general.

What happens in the corporate sector has implications for those of us who work in higher education. It impacts our own ability to make inroads professionally and also shapes how our current and future students may be received in the workplace—which is enough of a reason for me to pay closer attention.

So who are these women who have made it despite the low numbers and perceived bias issues associated with being considered to serve on a board? “In comparison with male directors, fewer female directors were married and had children. A larger percentage of the women were divorced,” (pg. 90). Well that’s not new information. We are constantly bombarded with the concept of personal and professional tradeoffs for women. Until we understand that many womens careers are circular and not linear we will continue to professionally penalize those women who work in places that value traditional models of how works gets done.

But what I found most interesting is that 91% of the women—compared with 70% of the men—reported that they “enjoyed having power and influence,” (pg. 90). Are the tides turning? Are women finally admitting that successful people can own their power and influence (and hopefully use it for good)? This is a fascinating statistic and gives me hope that we can teach that power and influence are not inherently bad things–sharing power and using influence to advance causes that support the life and work of others are actually very good things.

Another great tidbit from this article is that career aspirations and ambition rose for older women compared to men. “Such ambition at a time of life when most professionals are winding down their careers (60s and 70s) suggests that women, whose opportunities have consistently been more restricted, may wish to extend the length of their careers with an eye to finally attaining the most coveted roles,” (pg. 90). This has implications for understanding how and when women may attain top positions (if they so desire) while still navigating the traditional work and family negotiation throughout their career.

87% of the women in this this study reported gender-related hurdles–what do you think the percentage would be for higher education? Here are the four primary obstacles that they commonly face (pg. 94):
1) Not being heard and listened to: “I have to yell for them to hear me”
2) Not being accepted as an equal or part of the “in” group: “I’m constantly not included in informal gatherings…by male board members.”
3) Establishing credibility: “As a woman you have a longer road to build credibility.”
4) Stereotyped expectations of women’s behavior: “I’m always seen as the voice of women.”

Do these challenges resonate from themes that we hear from students, faculty and staff about our own institutions?

What does this all mean for higher education? So much. Some thoughts to consider.
1) Create ways to promote skill development for women who may be nearing retirement age: Empower them to consider roles that they may have been denied ten years before. No one said it was fair but it might open the door a bit wider.

2) Create ways to disrupt old ideas about who (and at what age) is qualified to be promoted: Longevity does not equal talent. Can an entry-level person be 40 years old? Sure. So why couldn’t a Vice President be 30? The corporate sector is much better than higher education about recognizing and promoting talent regardless of age. When we shift the culture away from strict notions of what “paying your dues” has to looks like, a new model of leadership may emerge from it.

3) Continue to create on-campus affinity groups for underrepresented employees: In the 1990’s the (then) 13 female United States Senators came together for dinner once a month. It was a way for them to connect, seek advice, and develop alliances to promote commonly supported causes. Some universities are starting to embrace this model for women, people of color, LGBT staff and faculty.

What are your thoughts on this article? What can we learn about the challenges in the corporate sector that can enhance our ability to hire and retain a talented and diverse workforce? What is your department or campus currently doing regarding improving campus climate?

Folow me on Twitter: @annmarieklotz

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