I would like to share my thoughts with you.

Success Secrets Of The World’s Most Powerful Women

on July 19, 2014

When my great-grandmother was born in the early 1900s, women couldn’t vote in a national election. She was barely expected to finish high school, and the idea that she could attend college was pure fantasy—practically unheard of for a woman then. She was considered a pioneer at the time because she had the gall to divorce her husband. And later, when she took a job as a secretary she was quite literally propositioned daily and chased around the desk by male managers.

Those were the days when, with more women becoming typists and telephone operators, society was grappling with questions like: How do we protect these virtuous women from the uncontrollable nature of men in the office? And: How do we keep our husbands from running off with their secretaries?

We’ve come incredibly far incredibly fast. Even just 30 years ago, there’d be only one or two women in an MBA lecture class.

When Ertharin Cousin, the newly appointed executive director of the World Food Programme, graduated law school in 1982, a professor pulled her aside and told her she needed to look like a man because it was important she not let being a woman hurt her ability to represent a client. So for years she wore gray and black shapeless suits, bowties and little to no jewelry.

For her, progress was measured in color. She told me the first time she interviewed for a job in a bright red suit was when she truly felt like a confident woman who could bring herself to the job.

I’ve heard countless stories. Women trying to run businesses who had their heads patted by men who thought their efforts were “cute.” Women gunning for the c-suite who would walk into meetings and be asked to fetch coffee.

Those days are gone. Today we are expected to attend university. We are encouraged to pursue business, law or be our own bosses. We can wear red and be feminine and still get the job done. It’s an incredible sea change in just the last century.

But for all of our progress, we’re still worlds away from equal. While women have infiltrated the ranks of middle management, while some are becoming CEOs and world leaders, the percentage of those at the top remains miniscule. Only 4% of the world’s major corporations are led by women. Let me put that another way: Men still run 96% of our biggest companies. And most of their advisors are other men. On average, women are just 15% of executives and corporate officers.

Yet women represent half of the world’s population, thus are half of the world’s customers. Isn’t it just good business that they drive at least half of the decisions?

Now, not everyone wants to be CEO—I get that. It’s a lot of responsibility, and maybe that’s not your goal. But almost every working woman is still impacted by a lingering wage gap. In most developed countries, women still earn 80 to 85 cents for every dollar earned by men. Even when you compare men and women with the same education, in the same industry, even in the same job—women earn less. And the gap widens with age. A 20-something woman makes 90% of what a 20-something man makes. Not great—but not that bad either. Thirty years later, she’s making 75% as much as him.

We also know that women don’t get promoted as much or as quickly. A man must show that he’s capable of performing at the next level—that he has the potential. However, a woman must already be performing at that level in order to get promoted into it. So what you see is equal numbers of men and women at the bottom and as you move up the ladder, fewer and fewer women.

It’s not good for women or their companies to get left behind. Because here’s what happens when you’re no longer challenged: You’re bored. Your energy’s not as high. It’s hard to get motivated. If you find yourself with the choice to stay home with the kids vs. stay in a job that’s not stretching you…home starts looking pretty good.

It’s not fair, but for now it’s a reality that all too many face. You can be the change. You can manage your own career—by knowing what people make in your job and asking for it; by understanding the value of your product and charging it; by recognizing when it’s time to move up and fighting for it; by not only working hard and exceeding expectations, but letting people know about it.

You can also help cultivate the careers of other women—by not underpaying her, by putting her name in the hat, by offering advice when she needs it and by opening a door when she’s earned it.

My grandmother fought for a world in which women got a chance. That’s why we’re all here today. I want to give my daughter a world where women have a path—where they are rewarded for good work, where they are heard when they speak, where they have every opportunity to shape the decisions that shape our lives.


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