What’s Keeping Women Back from Leadership Roles

Feb 17, 2015


Author – Rebecca Rosen, WiC Board Member and President of Sales Enabled

I was on a plane flying home from ITEXPO. I just participated in the panel: “A CMO and a CIO Walk into a Bar, How Do You Sell Them Both on Technology” with panelists from IBM and CIO.com. It was a whirlwind trip, flying from Los Angeles to Miami at the crack of dawn, and back the day after that – at dawn no less. Too exhausted to think, I resorted to flipping through channels on the airplane.

It’s on my flight, that I discovered Susan Colantuono’s Ted Talk “The Career Advice You Probably Didn’t Get.” With over 2 million views, perhaps you have seen the video yourself; if not, click here. In the video, she states that women represent 50% of middle management; yet, women make up less than 17% of executive positions.

With statistics like that, she asks, “Why are there so many women mired in the middle and what has to happen to take them to the top?”

It’s in her talk that she explains that middle managers must engage the greatness in others to achieve positive business outcomes, executive leaders, however, must understand where the organization is going, what its strategy is, what financial targets it has in place and know how their role aids in moving the organization forward.

So what’s keeping women back?

As we develop in our careers, we learn to exude confidence, develop personal brands, self-promote, grow our network and get mentors; this advice helps us reach and excel in middle management. Yet, as women, we don’t often learn how to improve our business, strategic and financial acumen. In fact, even our mentors, both men and women, don’t often advise women on understanding their relationship to business outcomes and as women we don’t often seek that advice.

So how can we start to change this paradigm?

We need to develop our business, strategic and financial acumen; As leaders, we have to make sure that our teams have a clear understanding of how their roles align to the strategic objectives of the business; We need to learn to communicate using the financial and business acumen we have developed; We need to determine if the “stuff” we are working on plays a meaningful role in the company’s objectives and make decisions based on that knowledge; As mentors we need to push our mentees to develop the skills that will lead them to leadership positions, regardless of gender; and As board members we need to make sure that the ratio of men to women is proportionate when we talk about succession planning. And when we hear comments like, “Well, she doesn’t have enough business experience,” ask the question, “What are we going to do about that?”

So what’s next for me?

I am off to apply for an executive MBA at Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg and all of the other prestigious business schools I can think of. Perhaps one of them will accept me on a full scholarship while I wax poetic about EBITDA and my contributions to the bottom line. In the meantime, I am going to communicate with my team about their contributions to the strategic initiatives of the organization. My twin girls are now empowered to make coffee and say “kick butt Mom” rather than cry when I leave on business trips. And my husband must do 50% of the work at home while I engage in revenue generating meetings with clients (make that 99% – he already does 50 – in addition to his own job). My dog, well his job is to lay on the floor and look adorable.

About The Author

Through her consultancy, Sales Enabled, Rebecca Rosen helps technology companies improve their direct and indirect channel conversion rates. Rosen also is a member of the 2014-15 Channel Partners Advisory Board, the Women in the Channel board, the CompTIA faculty and the National Speakers’ Association, as well as the author of the “Sales Enablement Blog” on Channel Partners Online.

Twitter: @rebeccamrosen
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/salesenabled