As I was preparing to launch my new website I was thinking how much I used to hate change.  The funny thing is that as I get older I expect to be more set in my ways, not less. But that’s not what’s actually what’s happening.  I’m more flexible and more easy going (although I’m not sure my kids would agree), and I’m not as resistant to change as I used to be.

It’s kind of nice, now that I think about it.  But as I think back to how I became such a happy-go-lucky person (okay, maybe that’s a bit much), the biggest part of the process was finding out what my specific needs were based on my own personality type. Let me explain.

I do a lot of work with the Myers-Briggs personality profiling tool, and I know that my own personality profile is ISTJ*. So I asked myself what I needed so that change wouldn’t be so hard or upsetting.  Here’s what I came up with, and perhaps you can relate.

Time to think: as an Introvert, I like to process information inside my head, in quiet, and then ask questions or make comments later.  Unlike my Extravert friends, I dont like to process things on the fly and think out loud.  And just because I don’t come up with my questions right away doesn’t mean I don’t have any.  So reserving the right to come back and ask questions later takes the pressure off of me at that specific moment.

Detail, detail, detail:  I am a detail person (Sensing) and I like to be able to see all of the little pieces, no matter how small, which I then put together to see the bigger picture. But what I quickly learned about dealing with change is that often times people don’t have all the details, or may not be at liberty to share them.  If they’re not detail people then they’re probably happy just communicating the big picture because that’s what they naturally see and they don’t worry so much about the detail.  But I just patiently ask my questions until I get what I need to put the picture together for myself.  I just try to remember to keep my questions positive, and not fire them out like a machine gun.  Especially with big-picture people, I don’t want to be perceived as being negative when really all I want is some more information.

Where’s the Logic?:  For me, logic is the trump card that drives many of my decisions (Thinking).  Depending on your vantage point, not all change seems logical.  I found this particularly difficult when I was on the lower rungs of the organization because of course I wasn’t often involved in the decision process so I wasn’t privy to all the reasoning. The big ‘ah ha’ for me was that if I thought the change “made sense,” then I was quick to buy in.  But when I didn’t see the logic in it, that was when I tended to dig my heals in.  The remedy: ask more questions and try to understand the change from their perspective and not merely my own.

Planning is my best friend:  Seinfeld had the Soup Nazi, I used to be the time tyrant.  I’m still the plan-the-work-and-work-the-plan type (Judging), but back then, when change didn’t follow a precise schedule or pattern, I would get frustrated.  This is the part of my personality that I’ve worked hard on over the years, especially when it comes to change and being more flexible.  I think I’ve learned much of this from my husband who will only plan in advance on threat of death.  After 20 years I think we’ve found a happy medium, but mostly because what I call flexibility is really me planning for him to change his mind.

So, as you can see, I’ve really tailored my own change-management approach to be in tune with my personality preferences.  I’m not as upset by changes that come along either at work or anywhere else because if I don’t get everything I need, then I know what to ask for.  And with the unrelenting pace of change, this has been a good thing.

ISTJ = Introvert, Sensing, Thinking, Judging.  The opposite would be ENFP = Extravert, iNtuition, Feeling, Perceiving.  

Eagle Vision Blog

Why balancing home and work isn’t working

Caring Competence RocksLet’s face it.  We’ve been battling the “how do you do it all?” question for a very long time.  I suspect that I’m not the only one out there who has to admit that, quite frankly, I don’t do it all.  My kids have eaten more than their share of takeout, I’ve hunted through the dirty laundry for the least-dirty item, and to this day I don’t eat anything that’s fallen on the floor unless I can specifically remember the last time I mopped it.

Sheryl Sandberg in her very popular book and subsequent movement, Lean In, talks about a world where half the companies are run by women and half the families are run by men.  Maybe if I had that kind of a life, or if I could afford all the household help I need, then maybe my floors would be a bit cleaner.  But they’re not, nor do I expect they ever will be.  And besides, that’s the wrong question anyway.

Balancing work and home doesn’t work because it’s impossible to balance those two things.  As a career women I want to dedicate a ton of time and energy to my career.  I know I have to put the hours in if I want to get the results out.  But that means fewer hours than I’d like to spend at home and with my family.

The same is true the other way around.  If I want to be that amazing super-Mom, then that leaves less time for community work or any other passion I might choose to explore.  I can’t give my full time and attention to these two major components of my life, no matter how much I’d like to.  So this is an issue of choice, not balance.

If figuring out how to balance work and family is the wrong question, then what is the right question?

The right question is, “How do I balance competence with caring?”

Say what?

Women leaders must balance the need to demonstrate competence, with the expectation that they be caring.  The root cause of this issue is the double bind.  Let me explain.

The double bind is the very real phenomenon where women and men are judged very differently for exhibiting the exact same behaviours.  For example, good leaders will be decisive, assertive and confident.  These are typically considered masculine characteristics.  Women are expected to be caring, collaborative and nurturing.  These are typically considered feminine characteristics.  When people behave in a way that someone perceives as inconsistent with expectations, that’s where the trouble begins.

Women face a no-win situation where they are considered inadequate if they display feminine leadership skills, and unfeminine if they display masculine leadership skills.  That’s the double bind.

The solution to this issue is multi-faceted.  First, women need to be aware that this is happening because it often  happens at a subconscious level.  Second, women need to be able to recognize when it’s happening and call it out so that everyone realizes it’s happening.  We can only fix it if everyone is aware of it.  Third, women need to have a strategy to avoid or reduce the negative impact this may have on them when it does happen.

So, what’s a girl to do?

Be assertive, but not overbearing.  Be friendly, but not submissive.

When we want to assert ourselves, we need to find ways to do it so we don’t come across as aggressive.  It pains me to have to say this, but we’re still at a point where we need to find ways not to p**s people off.  This is easier said than done, and it’s just not fair that we still have to do this.  But perception is reality, and if we want to have a successful leadership career, we must manage perceptions.  

Sometimes we’re direct communicators, and our tone of voice can be perceived as aggressive or rude.  Sometimes we’re unafraid to disagree with authority, and we can be perceived as pushy or insubordinate.  Sometimes we’re confident that our way is the best way, and we can be perceived as stubborn or dictatorial.  Men, in these same situations, are not perceived the same way.

The right question is “How do we balance assertiveness and friendliness.”  This question takes us deeper into the specifics of figuring out how we balance our competence and our caring.

You can give someone direct feedback or express a different opinion in a friendly way by smiling while you’re saying it.  Okay, I admit it.  I’m another one of those people who will tell women that they have to smile more often, but believe me, it works!  When you smile while you’re speaking it also changes the tone of your voice.  You’ll be perceived as less of a threat, and there’s less of a disconnect between your leadership style and your femininity.

And that’s the key.  Your goal is to reduce the feminine/masculine incongruence that others perceive.

But wait.  Don’t err too far on the friendly side and appear to be submissive.  Apologizing or belittling your opinions (two things we women are prone to do) doesn’t soften your message or make you appear less aggressive; it makes you appear weak.  Instead, communicate your ideas and opinions in a concise manner using plain and powerful language.  Don’t start with “This might not be right, but…” or “Sorry to interrupt, but…”  Instead, say things like, “An alternate way to look at this is…” or “Here are my  thoughts on the situation.”

There are other things to pay attention to when balancing competence and caring.  Stay tuned for future posts about those ones.  Or if you don’t want to wait, pick up a copy of my book, The Ruby Report: How Organizations Can Profit By Promoting Women Leaders.  

The Ruby Report is now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions.  Visit my Amazon Author’s Page where you can see other books I’ve written, as well as read a free preview of The Ruby Report.

Until next time, happy leading.

 

How to avoid the worst decision of your leadership career

Businesswoman standing on a ladder looking through binoculars

When you look out onto the horizon of your career, what do you see?

Do you see a great leadership career filled with opportunities that are yours for the taking?  Do you see projects that will test your abilities and develop your skills as you grow into the great leader you know you were meant to be?

I hope this is the path you see ahead of you, because for many women, it is not.  Instead, what they see is a path filled with obstacles that seem insurmountable and that appear to be completely outside of their control.  It’s as if some invisible force is holding them back and no matter what they do, there is always something or someone standing in their way.

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If it’s not about accommodating the women, then what is it?

Happy PeopleFixing the glass ceiling isn’t about accommodating women. It’s about engaging the workforce.

There are many schools of thought when it comes to the glass ceiling.  I’ve encountered opinions that vary from “you go girl!” to “pick a new battle… that one’s been won” to “we’ve given you equality and now you want favour?”  What I find interesting is the view that the gender diversity issue is something that caters to women at the expense of men.  People have said that when parents choose to have children, they shouldn’t expect the government or their companies to have to look after them.

While I agree with that last statement, that viewpoint tells me that people still have an antiquated and limited view of what it means to have women in the workforce.  It tells me that some people are still living in the past and haven’t adjusted their thinking to the new realities of the world we live in today.

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How to handle hidden and unfair bias

cat with rind on headPowerful women are often in the news, but the topic of interest seems to be their image instead of their message.  It’s tiring listening to it, and for the women themselves, I can only imagine how annoying it must be.

That’s overt judgement, but what about the stuff that happens under the surface and behind the scenes?  Are you aware that as a woman leader you’re often the victim of hidden prejudice?  Are you aware as a man that you may be making these judgements and you don’t even realize it?

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What games did you play as a child?

Boy sleeping with toys lined up in a rowThis ‘what games’ question is one of my favourites to ask when people are stuck trying to figure out their natural gifts and talents.  You see, as children we typically know who we are and what we want to do.  We haven’t yet (hopefully) been molded and cajoled by the well-intentioned people in our lives into being what they think we should be and into doing what they think we should do.

Our underlying personality patterns are part of the hardwiring of our brains.  As kids, these traits can show up at a very early age.  You don’t need to be a parent to notice that some kids are just able to talk non-stop about anything and everything, and other children are more quiet and barely say a peep.

These can be clues as to whether a child has a preference for introversion or extraversion, and can be critical pieces of information when it comes to successful parenting.

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Discrimination against Introverts? Nahhhhhh….

2352128932_270dccd13f_o

In a LinkedIn group that I belong to, the question was raised about whether there is discrimination against Introverts.

Well, many people would agree, Introverts and Extraverts alike, that the North American culture prizes Extraversion.  Charisma, magnetism, sociability, and gregariousness are preferred personality characteristics in our western culture.

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The future starts at an early age

The Confidence Gap book cover; author Russ Harris

I recently finished reading the book, The Confidence Gap, by Russ Harris, again.  Its advice needs to be shared with all women, girls and parents.

Rule 1: The actions of confidence come first; the feelings of confidence come later.

In 2013, we’re trying to figure out how to make a dent in the problem of the low numbers of women in corporate senior leadership positions. One theory of how to fix the problem is to increase the level of confidence in women, and especially in young girls.  The theory is that the more confidence we have, the more likely we are to compete, take necessary risks, and build skills and careers that are prone to advancement.

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Introverts! Rise Up!

Chilton and OLearyWhen I saw the interview of the two Dragon’s Den celebrities talking about Introverts in business, I was both thrilled and disappointed.

Thrilled because the discussion of personality preferences is really quite main stream these days.  Disappointed because the short clip eluded to Introverts needing Extraverts to sell their wares.

In light of David Chilton and Kevin O’Leary opening the door to strengths and weaknesses that each person brings to the table, remember that we can all be successful in any endeavour that we have enough passion for.  But we may not all do things the same way, and one isn’t necessarily better than the other.

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Caught between a rock and a hard place

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 7.37.43 PM

Women seem to be caught between a rock and hard place.  And that place is called the double-bind.

Unfortunately, we’re stuck in the middle between two beliefs.

One belief is that effective leadership traits are masculine in nature; think command-and-control.  The second belief is that feminine characteristics are not effective leadership traits; think collaborate-and-communicate.

The dilemma then becomes how a woman can be perceived as an effective leader, and still an effective woman.  Not that this should be a problem, but it is.  When we behave in line with expectations of a woman, we’re viewed as an ineffective leader.  When we behave in line with effective leadership traits, we’re judged harshly because it’s misaligned with expectations of a woman.

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Confessions of an Introvert

Photo credit: http://www.maniacworld.com

Photo credit: http://www.maniacworld.com

Have you ever felt alone in a crowd? Have you longed to have some quiet time to‘just think.’  Do people who talk non-stop cause your ears to ring and your head to spin?

If you can relate to these, then maybe you’re an Introvert, like me.

I didn’t always know I was an Introvert.  I used to just think I was shy and confused, and yes, even dumb.

But when I discovered the world of Myers-Briggs, and what it REALLY meant to be Introverted, I felt as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I could really begin to enjoy being me.

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One size doesn’t fit all

Rock ClimbingLeaders come in all shapes and sizes, and all personality types.  And leadership development comes in all flavours as well.  I recently read an article about Wal-Mart using military-style tactics when training their leaders.   The article talked about a 16-week boot-camp-type experience designed to “overwhelm” and “frustrate” and it “breaks you down so it can build you back up again.”

When I think of these adventure-type training experiences, I wonder to myself, how many Introverts are there out there who, like me, detest these Extravert-type events?  Is it just me who doesn’t like to be forced to climb rocks, go whitewater rafting or fall into the arms of my teammates below?

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Get the book or miss the boat!

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 2.14.31 PM

Photo credit: www.ted.com

As I bring my series on The Sandberg Saga to a close, Part 5 recaps what I believe caused the ‘Lean In’ firestorm to ignite, and it gives my reasons for why you MUST read this book.

Okay, if you don’t want to read the book, then at least watch the 2010 TEDTalk: Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders.  This is where Sandberg seems to have started this journey.

In my estimation, we jumped all over Sheryl Sandberg and her new book because she doesn’t fit the typical masculine definition of leadership.  I believe much of the trouble was about her and not about her book.  Here’s a smart and talented woman who went to the right school, met the right people, married the right guy (second time), and wrote a book to help women be successful in their careers.  Do we think she has the right to give us advice?  Some people do, and some people don’t.  And those who didn’t agree with her advice, or simply felt she didn’t have the right to give it, they stated their case loud and clear.  Just as Sandberg predicted they would.Maybe some people don’t like the messenger, but here’s why she has a message that is not to be ignored.

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Do as I say, not as I do?

Lean-In-Page-8Part 4 in the Sandberg Saga comes from the perspective of a person I met the day I bought my copy of the book.  As I continue to share my thoughts on why Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In caused such an uproar in the media and the leadership community, this piece is based on that idea that we don’t like it when people come from a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude.  At least one woman I met feels that this is an undercurrent in Sandberg’s book.

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Did Sandberg Lean in or Luck out?

Photo credit: Photographer: Louis Lanzano/Bloomberg

Photo credit: Photographer: Louis Lanzano/Bloomberg

PART 3 in the Sandberg Saga explores the backlash witnessed toward Sheryl Sandberg and her new book LEAN IN, from the view that Sheryl didn’t lean in to her career as much as she lucked out.

Sandberg seems to have come from a privileged background.  This assessment is subjective of course, but she herself claims to realize that she has “vast resources” at her disposal.  By simply admitting that one thing, she puts herself outside of the realm where the average woman can relate to her.  I know I’m pretty average, and I certainly can’t relate to “vast” resources.

If we can’t relate to her as a person, how are we supposed to believe that she can relate to us?  And if we don’t think she can relate to us, how can we relate to her message?  And how many people take that a step further and look for reasons to justify why Sandberg was successful and they are not.  After all, aren’t we two totally different people?  And as I’ve said before, I feel like she and I come from two different planets.

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Has Sandberg taken us back in time?

Businesswoman.Part 2 of the Sandberg Saga focuses on Sheryl Sandberg putting the blame back on women as a reason for the backlash both she and her book have received.

It seems that we have tried for many years to shift the gender issue from one of ‘fixing the women’ to one of ‘fixing the company’ and Sheryl has taken a stand of re-focusing on the individual.  It feels to me like we’ve gone back in time, and I suspect many others share my view.

When I was selecting a topic for my major research paper for a Masters degree in Leadership, I phoned the people at  Catalyst Inc.  Catalyst is a research-driven organization with a mission to expand opportunities for women and business.  I spoke to one of their senior researchers and asked where they were focusing their research and asked for some advice on selecting my topic.  That day I was told that the ‘fix-the-women’ side of the gender coin had received plenty of research, and it was time to focus on the ‘fix-the-company’ side.  That simple comment helped me decide to focus my research on what companies need to do to get more women in the leadership pipeline. (Click here to access my research paper)

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The Sandberg Saga

Photo Credit:  www.sfgate.com  Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg Photo: Knopf

Photo Credit: www.sfgate.com Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg
Photo: Knopf

Well, time to weigh in on the firestorm that seems to have hit Sheryl Sandberg and her new book, LEAN IN. Over the next few blog posts, I’ll share my thoughts on what I think has happened, and why I think it happened.

If you’re someone who hates to wait until the end of the story to find out the final ah-ha, then let me begin with the end. I think the Sandberg saga is a perfect illustration of gender discrimination alive and well. While Sheryl’s book is talking about it, we are doing it.

The outside of the book shows a beautiful woman with perfect hair and perfect teeth. The inside of the book reveals a woman with a privileged education and powerful friends. And we hate her for it.

Our natural inkling seems to be to take these two views of Sheryl that don’t fit together in our subconscious, and tear them apart. After all, the firestorm started in the media started before the book was even released. So is it about the book, or is it about Sheryl?

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Iron Sharpens Iron; Thatcher’s Legacy

Photo credit: Norman Parkinson/Sygma/Corbis www.dailymail.co.uk

Photo credit: Norman Parkinson/Sygma/Corbis www.dailymail.co.uk

What can we learn from a woman who was loved by many, hated by many, and ousted by her own people?   Integrity and Persistence are critical to successful leadership.  Few can argue against the fact that Thatcher was effective as she executed her vision of making Britain as great as it once was.

“Of course it’s the same old story. Truth usually is the same old story.”– Margaret Thatcher

You can’t lie your way through leadership, although evidence points to many in business who believe to the contrary.  The simple truth is always, well, simple.  The simple is easier to manage than the complex.  When you know what you stand for, then stand.  It’s a way to gain respect and power and rally the troops to get the job done.

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I wish I lived in Sheryl’s world

Sandberg interview

Photo Credit: www.businessinsider.com

I recently came across this interview on the Internet.  Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook, talks about how she and her husband split the housework and childcare duties 50/50.  (Check out the interview here)  Wow!  Even the title of the article calls this the ‘impossible.’  I found it a bit troublesome, however, as I listened to her talk about her life, and give advice to others.  I sure didn’t feel like I lived in the same world that she does.

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What have you learned for me lately?

Dawn stretching calfThis summer my family was inspired by a friend who was competing in the Olympics in London.  We started running a few miles every day, and by the time my vacation was over, I was hooked.  This running thing was kind of fun.

I’m far from a natural athlete, but how hard can it be to run?  Even after a couple weeks, I was still feeling aches and pains and gasping for air by the end of my run.  If I was going to keep up this running thing, I was going to have to find a way to make it easier.

So with summer vacation behind me, I decided to join the Running Room (RR).  I’d heard of them before, and I’d read tons on the Internet.  If you want to learn how to be a runner, then the RR is the place to go.

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Warren Buffett replaces diamonds as girl’s best friend

If ever there was any doubt that women are good for business,  billionaire investment guru Warren Buffett has put the question to rest.  In a recent article in The Telegraph, Buffett is quoted as saying,”[It is] one of the things that make me so optimistic about the future.”  What is IT?  ‘It’ is the trend that women will have the same chance to succeed as men.  He calls this potential as ‘key to a bright economic future.’

It will be interesting to see what happens to popular opinion now that Buffett has claimed that women will save the US economy.  Just because he says it, doesn’t mean that everyone will embrace his opinion and open up their previously tightly closed arms.  But if there is anything that should give us cause to celebrate, this is it!

But just as many will criticize Buffett as will praise him.  After all, he didn’t get to be the third richest person on the planet by making everyone happy.

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Is Sir Richard putting his money where his mouth is?

image credit: Big Think

I was impressed when I read the Entrepreneur.com article by Richard Branson who expressed his opinion that the world needs more women in the boardroom.  Although the article was short, listed well-known statistics, and had limited information about Richard’s company specifically, it was encouraging to see someone as successful as Richard attaching his name to an important issue.

Curious about what Virgin Airlines was doing with this trendsetter at the helm, I went in search of proof that this was a man who put his money where his mouth is.

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Follow the Leader… Not Just a Child’s Game

Tina and DawnMy sister-in-law, Tina, who is a very close friend of Jenna Martin, decided to join in the Frail Family Olympics. Tina is someone who has struggled with her weight for a very long time, and being a long haul truck driver doesn’t make her trials any easier. With the excitement, Tina decided to come along on our run.

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Never let them see you puke!

 

This is the third instalment in the Family Olympic saga. We decided to watch the Canadian women’s soccer team play for the Bronze medal so we didn’t start our run until just before noon. It was about 32 degrees, no breeze, and no shade on the rural Nova Scotia road that served as our running track. About half way, my body decided to show me what it thought about me running in the heat. My stomach started doing Olympic-style somersaults.

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How often do you lead from behind?

The family Olympics continues and while I’m clear that I’ll never make a great runner, I am also clear that unusual circumstances bring out leadership qualities and talents.

As my boys ran ahead together, my husband stayed with me. What I noticed was that Hubby would often run behind me, letting me get well ahead, and then he would put in a good fast sprint so he would get a bit of workout too. He’d stay with me for a while, we’d chat a bit, and he’d fall back again. What I found interesting was that when he was behind me, I felt as though I was in the lead. I know I wasn’t really, especially with my boys so far ahead that I couldn’t even see them any more. But that didn’t matter. I felt motivated because I felt like I was making some progress.

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Inspired by a Champion

Jenna Martin runs the first heat off the 2012 Olympics 400m women's race on August 3rd. She advanced on to the semi-finals.For many of us, the Olympics seem so surreal and so far away. But for my family, the London Olympics are very real indeed. Jenna Martin, 400 metre runner, is a family friend, and the sister of my son’s summer-vacation playmate. To see someone compete in the Olympics that you remember as a small child, is quite spectacular indeed.

While watching Jenna’s success, we were inspired to have our own family summer Olympics. My husband, three of our sons, and myself, all participated our own 5.4 km marathon. Ok, I know that isn’t officially considered a marathon distance, but since I’m not a runner and about as athletic as Frosty the Snowman, a run half that distance is a marathon in my mind.

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The more we change, the more we stay the same

Girl with logI remember my early career aspirations and the belief that I could do anything I wanted to do and I could be anything I wanted to be. One thing that would spur me on faster than anything else was to tell me I couldn’t do something because I was a woman. In fact, that’s probably how my passion for advocating for the advancement of women began.

I can remember it as though it were yesterday. I was eight years old and visiting my grandparents. My grandfather returned late in the afternoon one day after cutting firewood. As soon as I heard his truck pull in the driveway I rushed to put on my shoes so I could go help him unload the wood. By the time he parked his truck in the back yard, I was already there waiting excitedly to lend a helping hand. When he realized what I had on my mind, he told me I couldn’t help him because I was a girl.

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Youngest Fortune 500 CEO… What say you about Marissa Mayer?

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo

 

I’m sure that women around the world cheered when Marissa Mayer was appointed CEO of Yahoo. Add one to the short list of women at the top. But what does this appointment mean to women like you and me, and will this help us in the long run?  I’m sure a lot of people will be watching her closely and scrutinizing her every move, including me.  Yes, I’ll even be paying attention to what she’s wearing, but hopefully I won’t read about it in the headlines.

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