Career advice from Carol Vernon, certified executive coach, principal of Communication Matters.
How does the conversation about women and leadership, ignited by Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, apply to the association community?
Things like pay equity and the need for women to be equally represented in senior staff and volunteer leadership positions affect our community. For instance, according to a recent Associations Now blog post, female CEOs at small associations earn 66 percent of what their male counterparts do. And although executive pay becomes more equal as budget sizes increase, in no category does a female CEO earn as much as a male CEO does.
What are some ways women can lean in?
It’s key for us to clarify what we want from our work and personal lives. Regardless of what we choose, we need to leverage our strengths, get help from others in the areas we’re not strong in, and intentionally and regularly seek out opportunities.
We also need to be sure we are communicating what we want for ourselves. If we want a senior leadership role, we need to communicate it through our words, nonverbal language, and day-to-day actions. We need to be aware of the signals we send when we don’t speak up, when we don’t learn new things, when we don’t mentor and encourage others.
What resources do you recommend?
One of the most important things we can do is seek out mentors or role models—both men and women—who are doing what we aspire to do. In addition, be sure to identify ways you can mentor and support other women.
Books are also a great resource. Two of my favorites are Women and the Leadership Q: Revealing the Four Paths to Influence and Power and It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor: Free Yourself From the Hidden Behaviors Sabotaging Your Career Success.