Posts

Women Leaders: Leadership Styles that Play Against Us

With an ever increasing focus on promoting more women leaders, it’s worth recognizing that certain styles are less effective in building the leadership brand for women in general.  Part of effecting change is having courageous conversations. Read on!

From the beginning of the Red Shoe Movement, we made sure our motto focused on “women supporting women for career success” so that we would take some of the narrative regarding women not supporting each other off the table. By keeping our eyes on mutual mentoring and mutual support, we hope to encourage many more women leaders in our organizations. This helps avoid any distractions caused by the ongoing social discourse that women don’t support each other as the reason for the dearth of women leaders.

Powerful leaders inspire with their vision

Powerful leaders inspire with their vision

For a long time, I thought my colleagues exaggerated when they talked about some of the women leaders they had the misfortune of working under. They described abrasive leadership styles that,  instead of  eliciting cooperation and loyalty, turned employees off. Then I ran into a person who fit every stereotype of the woman leader that I  fight so hard against and I decided we had to talk about this issue openly. Because, whether we like it or not, women leaders are still a minority, and, as such, the missteps of one tend to affect the brand of the entire group. And what I mean by brand is the brand “women leaders” or “female leaders” as a whole. Just ask African Americans, Latinos or Jews about the ripple effect that a bad apple has on the reputation of the group as a whole.

Women leaders with ineffective leadership styles

Although the styles I discuss on this post apply both to men and women, today I focus on the impact they have on my female colleagues.

Here’s what happened to convince me to talk about this issue. After weeks of volunteering my time to help a friend (let’s call her Mary) organize a fundraiser to benefit an organization she supports, we were getting nowhere. Every time we got a leading professional to donate his or her services  for an auction, the CEO of the organization (let’s call her Jen) would change things around without notifying anyone involved.  As the date of the event approached, my friend Mary and I started to receive daily calls and emails from our professional colleagues who so generously had accepted our plea for their free services. They didn’t understand why their services were not listed on the event’s website, why the amount of consulting hours being auctioned was different from what they had committed to, or why they had been taken out of the event altogether despite having confirmed their participation.

After one too many unilateral changes, I emailed Jen expressing how unprofessional this back and forth made us all look in the eyes of our contacts, only to receive in return a scolding letter on which she copied six other people from her organization. Needless to say, I was flabbergasted. I admit I should have called her to begin with, but my note to her was private. Her email to me was not.

The incident left me wondering, why some women leaders exhibit leadership styles that are obviously unproductive? Leadership styles that, rather than project power, play to the stereotype of “the woman who undermines the power of other women.”

Together we build the brand "women leaders"

Together we build the brand “women leaders”

But the better question might be: Should we confront these women leaders with their misbehavior, or should we avoid them and move on?

It’s no easy task to approach any powerful leader for a conversation about their leadership style shortcomings, but, in cases like the one in my example, not doing so carries an even greater risk –  The perpetuation of the undeserved stereotype that women are not suited to lead. That all women leaders miss the mark.

Just as Jen’s style was ineffective and was eventually responsible for her losing her job and her organization closing down, here are a few other leadership styles that leave everyone wanting:

  • Micromanagers. Women leaders who can’t step out of their manager role and are constantly micromanaging their team rather than providing a vision and allowing their teams to carry it out.
  • Queen Bee. These are the women leaders who feel there ‘s only room for one woman to shine in the organization and they systematically undermine other women, refuse to help them succeed, or are over critical of other women in the company.
  • Emulators of male leaders. Women who rather than leverage their female traits alongside their experience, knowledge and skills, lose all femininity on the way to their powerful position in order to fit in. By emulating a masculine style, they play well in the boys club but tend to leave the culture of their organizations  unchanged for women coming behind them.
Women leaders stand on the shoulders of previous leaders

Women leaders stand on the shoulders of previous leaders

How to approach women leaders for an honest conversation

This is certainly one of those million dollar questions. It’s never easy to approach someone to provide this type of feedback. So here are a two suggestions on how to set up a productive conversation.

1If you have a good relationship with the leader, you could send a note saying you have a few insights that may help her get more support for her vision/project/etc. Then ask if she’d like to hear your insights. Giving the person a chance to accept or refuse your suggestions is key to avoid overstepping and creating a bad situation for yourself. If she accepts a meeting, prepare your feedback carefully. Focus on objective performance and results rather than personality.

2If you’re not too close to the leader, identify who has her ear. (Who does she provide air cover to? Who does she agree with at important meetings? Etc.) It may be best to speak to that person first and get a sense of the most productive approach to take. That person may even suggest that he/she is the one to bring up the issue with the leader. For this to happen effectively, you have to trust the person who will carry your observations to the leader and make sure they won’t backfire.

Women leaders are joined together to protect brand

Women leaders are joined together to protect brand

Standing up for more great women leaders

The truth is that we are joined together in the guardianship of the brand “woman leader.” The success of one is the hope for all. By the same token, the failure of one impacts us all. So, as painful and difficult as it is, we must have these courageous conversations with our gender-mates when they are called for.

Needless to say these  feedback conversations should be held in private and conducted diplomatically in order to avoid eliciting a negative reaction.  Unfortunately,  avoiding the discomfort of having these conversations will only hold us back on our quest to see more great women leaders at the helms of our organizations.

Women traveling alone: 5 Tips from many years of traveling solo

In the last few years, there’s been a substantial increase of women traveling alone. It’s one of the most empowering experiences you can have. Ready to try it? Don’t miss these tips to make it a successful trip.

“The world is your oyster,” is an often quoted Shakespeare’s phrase. At some point, I’m sure someone said this to you. And if nobody ever did, I’m saying it to you now. The World Is Your Oyster. Yours for the taking. And this is the perfect time to explore that world.

I’ve been traveling solo for many, many years now and I absolutely love it. I recommend it to all my friends and colleagues and some of those who take my advice, become part of this large movement of women traveling alone.

In Amsterdam, while traveling solo doing a home exchange, I visited beautiful tulip fields.

In Amsterdam, while traveling solo doing a home exchange, I visited beautiful tulip fields.

It’s an experience unlike any other because first, you get to decide your destination and the kind of adventure you’d like to have. And then while you’re on the trip, you make every single decision throughout the day. There’s nobody to ask permission to do something you’d love to do. No need to go to places or engage in activities you don’t enjoy. So, you can get up early to join the hot air balloon tour or stay in bed all day.

You can spend the entire day visiting a museum or taking pictures of your favorite locations. You can eat when you want, what you want with whom you want. It’s your trip and you can even cry if you want to.

And if you’re horrified by the idea of making hundreds of decisions every day rather than letting someone else (perhaps your partner) make them for you… then, you my friend, really, really need to try this.

Here's a great read on Lateral Thinking to help you see issues from new perspectives
While traveling solo, I love to visit farmers markets and flower markets. You may find produce you've never seen before!

While traveling solo, I love to visit farmers markets and flower markets. You may find produce you’ve never seen before!

Women traveling alone discover who they are

It’s not an exaggeration to say that women traveling alone discover who they are and what they like. In some cases, even what they want to be when they grow up! Believe me I’ve met a few. It’s such a freeing experience to be on your own when most of the time we tend take care of the needs of others, whether our family, friends or colleagues.

To take a break of it all and go off somewhere alone near or far can be enlightening. And I emphasize near or far because you can have this experience by taking a bus and going one or two hours away from home to a location of your choosing for a short or a long trip. You can decide based on your budget what works best for you right now.

Tip for women traveling alone: Take a boat ride wherever you get a chance. It gives you an entirely different perspective of the place.

Tip for women traveling alone: Take a boat ride wherever you get a chance. It gives you an entirely different perspective of the place.

Some of the things I love to do when traveling solo

  • Staying at my own apartment or renting a bedroom in a woman’s house. I’ve been traveling with Airbnb before it was fashionable to do so. Sometimes I rather stay at someone’s house so I have a hostess who I can interact with and can give me tips of the area. I’ve become close friends with several of them.
  • Doing experiences with Airbnb. So now you can actually sign up to do a lot of things through their website. From learning how to cook, to having your own photo shoot, to visiting galleries with an artist. It’s another great way to meet like-minded people from all over the world, many of whom are precisely women traveling alone.
  • Talking to people who work wherever I go: hotels, restaurants, shops, galleries, taxi drivers. They have the real stories and insights of the place.
  • Starting my visit by seeing the city or town from the highest point, be that a church tower, the top of the highest building or hill. It gives me a great perspective of the lay of the land.
  • Visiting museums one or two hours at a time. I rather return to a museum than stay for a very long time in one.
  • Taking a boat trip whenever there’s water!
  • Discovering local food and learning how to make it. Going back to the same little bistro time and again so it feels like home. Here’s my favorite bistro that makes galettes from Britany in Paris!
  • Finding the best espresso drinks!
  • Learning to use the local public transportation system.
  • Sending postcards to friends and to myself. (Yep, I send postcards to myself from every place I visit so I can read them later and relive the best parts of the trip!)
    Drinking cappuccinos is one of my favorite things to do when traveling solo. I love to enjoy a cup while I write a postcard to a friend.

    Drinking cappuccinos is one of my favorite things to do when traveling solo.

     

    I love to enjoy a cup of espresso while I write a postcard to a friend.

Perhaps you should try a cruise ship with Captain Kate as a starter trip!

For women traveling alone being safe is key to enjoying the experience

Usually a big concern for women traveling alone is safety. And although this is true for anyone traveling solo, I have a few suggestions that work particularly well for my gender peers. Here you go:

1Keep your eyes on the road

This means, avoid being on your phone while you walk. Those who target women traveling alone are experts at pinpointing who’s a tourist, who’s confident, who is inexperienced. So by staying alert and present, you can spot them before they spot you. For this to work, you need to do your homework before you leave your hotel or apartment. Otherwise, when you need to spend a few minutes with your map or notes, just grab a cup of coffee to plan your next stop rather than walking around looking clueless. That way you know as much as possible about your direction, the train you should take, etc.

Tip for women traveling alone: nothing beats walking a town or city to get to know it really well. This is Nyhavn in Copenhagen

Tip for women traveling alone: nothing beats walking a town or city to get to know it really well. This is Nyhavn in Copenhagen.

2Check who’s in front of you

I’ve seen it happen many times. The person intent on robbing me is not behind me but in front. I suddenly realize they walk very slowly and turn their head sideways once in a while. When I stop walking, they stop. That’s my sign to either turn around and go back, look for another person to engage with immediately, or go into a store. You can always test this. If you stop and the person in front of you stops, slows down or pretends to be on the phone to make time until you start walking again, it’s a trap.

Since I discovered galettes (crepes made with buckwheat) I've become obsessed with repeating a particular flavor combination I love! The best place yet? "La petit bretonne" in Paris!

Since I discovered galettes (crepes made with buckwheat) I’ve become obsessed with repeating a particular flavor combination I love! The best place yet? “La petit bretonne” in Paris!

3Distribute your money and valuables

I carry a small, light backpack when I travel solo. In the backpack I’ll put in any accessories I might need. Umbrella, gloves, lipstick, sanitizer, etc. I put anything of value in my front pockets. Money, ID, keys, phone… I always assume that I may get mugged. Look, when you’re a tourist, you will be in areas known for pickpockets. So try to protect yourself as best as you can.

4When in doubt ask a woman

This one may sound obvious but it’s worth keeping in mind. Wherever I go, I ask a million questions a day. For many reasons: I need directions, I want a recommendation for a good place to eat nearby, I’d like to know where I can buy something, you get the point.  But no matter how many times a day I need help, I’ll either go into a store, or I’ll ask a woman in the street. Why? Because it’s less likely that she’ll turn me into a mark when she realizes I’m a tourist.

Keep your eyes on the road. Be present. When traveling solo, it's not only the best way to enjoy the trip but the safest!

Keep your eyes on the road. Be present. When traveling solo, it’s not only the best way to enjoy the trip but the safest!

5Don’t fall for these two (or any others!)

You’re sitting at a bench and someone bends over in front of you. Pretending to pick something off the floor they give you a “gold” ring. “You dropped this,” they say. And you look at the ring and you say, “No, it’s not mine.” So then they try it on and they tell you it doesn’t fit them but they are sure it will fit you, and you should keep it. You try it on, it fits, and you can’t believe your good luck. Until they say: “Well, maybe you could give me an euro,” or a dollar, or whatever. Just get up and leave. It’s an old trick and I did fall for it a while back.

You’re in a touristy area and a person pretending to be deaf and mute approaches you with a paper to sign some kind of petition. It’s a list of people’s names and signatures and you read the title and you think, “What’s the harm?” You sign and then they show you a little corner of the paper where they wrote: “Minimum donation X” and you know you’ve been had. So at that point you can leave.

Or, if you’re a sucker like me, you give them the minimum donation and swear this is the last time they’ll get you. You, a New Yorker raised in Buenos Aires!

There’s no time like today to discover the world and a little bit about yourself in the process. Try it. I promise that traveling solo will put you in touch with a side of you that will amaze you!

Be A Great Leader: Recognize Women in Your Network & See them Flourish

When I heard my name being called back to the stage after my presentation “Be A Great Leader,” I was confused. “Is she talking about me?” I asked one of the organizers sitting at my table. To my surprise, she was!

The “Be A Great Leader” event

I had just finished doing the keynote at the “Be A Great Leader” event organized by the Latino Networks Coalition (LNC,) a professional association that groups the Latino Business Resource Groups of most major global corporations based in the New York City area. A couple of LNC leaders went on stage right after me to recap the event and do the closing remarks. The final presenter talked about an award they were giving to a woman for her leadership in business and diversity and inclusion.  And then she called my name.

After her keynote at the Be A Great Leader event, the LNC team gave Mariela Dabbah an award recognizing her leadership

After her keynote at the Be A Great Leader event, LNC honored Mariela Dabbah for her leadership. From L to R: Jessica Asencio, Claudia Vazquez, Christian Narvaez, Roberto Peralta, Alicia García, Lisa Concepción, Jaime Fuertes, Hedda Bonaparte.

It’s not out of false modesty that I tell you I was completely surprised and moved. This was not like any other award and it made me think about the value of being seen by your colleagues. Let me explain.

I’ve known and collaborated with LNC members and the global companies they work for, for years. They’ve witnessed my career trajectory and have been impacted by my work as I’ve been impacted by theirs. And although it’s not the first time I received an award, I found it particularly inspiring that my peers would appreciate the value of what I do. In addition, I had been hired to do this presentation and the fact that they felt I still deserved an award on top of my speaker’s fee, made it much more valuable to me.

Receiving public recognition always reminds us that what we do affects others, and it motivates us to continue working hard. It says, “we see you, we see your effort.” And I hardly doubt that I’m the only one who feels this way.

The theme of the event was based on this post.
The leadership event took place at the Prudential Tower in Newark, NJ.

The leadership event took place at the Prudential Tower in Newark, NJ.

Some great leaders lead from behind

So, if I can get so emotional about being recognized by my peers, imagine how the great number of women who lead from behind and are seldom recognized feel? Those who don’t have access to public stages from which to showcase their efforts. Or those who impact their local community. Or the women who have been making things happen for so long that their work has become invisible and it’s being taken for granted. Are you giving them the recognition they deserve? Most likely the answer is no.

Part of being a great leader is to help develop and inspire others to be great leaders themselves. And advocating for women who deserve recognition to actually get it, is a sure way to encourage them to continue on their leadership journey.

The issue here is not building up people’s egos. It’s about the benefits public recognition brings with it. Specifically, exposure, validation, credibility, brand, and reputation building.

The more of all these things you have, the better the opportunities that come your way. So very concretely, when we don’t offer women the recognition they deserve, we negatively impact their careers. Not only because we deny them the chance to gain more exposure and validation but also because lack of recognition of one’s contributions eventually leads to frustration and disengagement. And I talk about women here, and particularly women of color, because they are frequently absent from top lists and awards.

Now, through the course of the year, businesses and professional organizations have many chances to recognize people in their ecosystems: their employees, partners, suppliers, clients, etc. Think about how much more committed and energized all your female (and male) stakeholders would be if they were recognized for their efforts, their influence, and their leadership?

Read about how powerful women lead in many different ways.
As great leaders its our job to recognize women.

As great leaders its our job to recognize women.

Be a great leader by recognizing women

Here is how you can play a pivotal role in increasing the inclusiveness of awards and recognitions being doled out:

  • Nominate women in your network for all sorts of leadership and professional awards and lists
  • Advocate for women’s nominations when you notice an uneven number of women applicants to any award or recognition opportunity
  • Be the first one to give women credit in public when credit is due
  • Elevate women’s achievements by providing larger platforms to showcase them
  • Question editors and creators of “Best” and “Top” lists that are disproportionately male
  • Offer to help editors or creators of such lists to diversify their networks in order to identify deserving women they’ve missed in the past

Most of all look closely at the people in your network who do amazing work and generally go unrecognized. A heartfelt “thank you” goes a long way to making them feel valued.

#WomensMarch: When Words Create Realities You Can’t Ignore

If you didn’t know there was a #WomensMarch in Washington DC and in major cities across the country and the world January 21, it’s time to get out of your head.

A powerful #WomensMarch with massive number of people marched peacefully in NYC on January 21, 2017

A powerful #WomensMarch with massive number of people marched peacefully in NYC on January 21, 2017

After the election of Donald Trump as President, many Americans and people around the world have been in shock. I have to admit I’ve been one of them. Wondering what’s going to happen to the rights of women and minorities once this man who has insulted just about everyone assumes office. Wondering if I could avoid the media for the next four years to avoid hearing yet another distortion of reality. As many people,  I didn’t even pay much attention to the #WomensMarch organization until the very last possible minute.

Words matter. Love is always a powerful word when hate speech threatens tolerance.

Words matter. Love is always a powerful word when hate speech threatens tolerance.

All that stops today. I’m an immigrant, I’m an American, I’m a woman. I’m a Latina. I’m a leader. So today I marched in the #WomensMarch in New York not to chant that Trump is not my President. Because he is. Right now he’s the President of all Americans.

Why I marched at the #WomensMarch in NYC

I marched in #WomensMarch NYC to show I care about words.

I marched in #WomensMarch NYC to show I care about words.

I marched in the #WomensMarch in New York City to show I care about words. That the words Mr. Trump said during the long presidential campaign meant something. That words create realities out of fake news and have the power to incite hate, fear and division. I marched to show that I care about open and implicit threats against Muslims, Mexicans, women, people with disabilities, and others. That this country hasn’t spent decades promoting tolerance around the world and at home to suddenly start advocating for the exact opposite.

And I marched because what we all saw and heard in the months leading to this election warrants vigilance on the part of the American people. It warrants that we all have our representatives on speed dial so that the moment we see something that goes against our values and beliefs we let them know. “This is what democracy looks like,” as many marchers were chanting today. Only by staying on top of sensitive issues and letting our voices heard in a consistent basis will we keep our democracy working for all of us in the long run. I marched to show that we can use words to help heal the divisions and the fear that has become evident as of late. That we can create a future that works for all of us.

If you care about Diversity and Inclusion, don't sit out this conversation.

If you care about Diversity and Inclusion, don’t sit out this conversation.

What to do after #WomensMarch

For those who sat this election out, it’s time to jump in. Find something you can do to be the change you seek. For those who voted for Mr. Trump believing he was the solution to all you think is wrong about our country, stay alert. Hold your candidate’s feet to the fire. Demand that he makes good on his promises.  For those who are feeling disempowered and think there’s little you can do, think local. Get involved in your local government. You can exercise immense influence in your local and state politics and stop your legislature from passing unfair laws that then move across the country.

Read about recognizing a hostile work environment here.

For anyone who cares about an inclusive world where America’s diversity is at the core of it’s global advantage, this #WomensMarch is just the beginning. We are in the process of redefining who we are and who we want to be. Don’t sit that conversation out. Your words can make a world of difference. Let them be heard.

Here are 10 actions you can do in 100 days to keep the conversation going.
Inclusive families are part of the fabric of our beautiful country. They marched to show they care about everyone's rights.

Inclusive families are part of the fabric of our beautiful country. They marched to show they care about everyone’s rights.

Sergio Kaufman of Accenture, leading the way in female leadership

For a CEO, Sergio Kaufman is as easy going as it gets. He’s an Industrial Engineer by training but he’s definitely a people person.  A champion of inclusion and diversity and a strong believer in female leadership. It’s leaders like him that move the needle faster in gender equality in large organizations. Find out why he’s so successful.

RSM Hall of Fame

RSM Hall of Fame

Leveraging 100% of the talent pool is Sergio Kaufman’s goal. And to that effect he’s been instrumental in designing and supporting policies that make it easier for everyone at his company, Accenture, to progress in their careers. And given that Accenture is a consulting firm that works with many large corporations around the world, their success serves as a model for the rest of the world.

At a recent presentation in front of a conservative audience of mostly male executives, Sergio Kaufman talked about men as the weaker sex. Needless to say his comments made more than a few people uncomfortable. But Sergio says he likes to shock. To disrupt. To get people to discuss the important issues. And today, he sits with us to talk about what it takes to promote female leadership, the advantages of gender equality, and a lot more. Meet Sergio Kaufman, one of the leaders in the Red Shoe Movement Hall of Fame.

Sergio Kaufman, Country Managing Director & Leader of Hispanic South America

Sergio Kaufman, CEO, Hispanic South America, Accenture

Sergio Kaufman, CEO, Hispanic South America, Accenture

What are the traits of an effective leader?

An effective leader has two interesting variables. The old model of leadership was based on power (I tell you what you have to do) and knowledge (even when your boss was a complicated person, you respected him/her because he/she was knowledgeable.) Today, knowledge changes every 6 months so it’s difficult for leadership to be based on knowledge. And power has been transformed into influence. The new organizations clearly have much more respect for an influential leader than for a powerful leader. And that has an interesting effect.

If I work with people based on power, the day I leave my job, everything returns to the previous situation because once the leader changes, the power changes. If I work with influence the change is much more permanent and effective. That “old knowledge” changes into “values” that are much more permanent than knowledge that changes all the time. We went from a leadership based on power and knowledge to one based on influence and values.

And why do I mention this in connection to gender issues? Because the first two attributes I mentioned are much more frequently adopted by men, while influence management is much evenly distributed between genders. I would even say that in public life, there are more examples of influential women and powerful men. It is a different leadership model that allows for a completely different dynamic in business. It encourages and it will continue to encourage the inclusion of women in decision-making positions and positions of increasing responsibility.

The second point is the issue of diversity. Very likely, many of the attributes of empathy required for an inclusive leadership are also more balanced in women.

Read more about Integrated Talent Management in this interview with Marcelo Fumasoni of Novartis.
Accelerating female leadership is one of the areas where Sergio Kaufman, Country Managing Director and Leader of Hispanic South America, Accenture, excels

Accelerating female leadership is one of the areas where Sergio Kaufman, Country Managing Director and Leader of Hispanic South America, Accenture, excels

Given that you are a man who firmly believes in gender equality, what is happening in terms of female leadership at executive levels in the region of Accenture you lead?

Diversity is an operational necessity. We operate in a large region with about 10,400 people. We interact with the world, with diversity. Trying to manage a diverse organization connected to the world with a scheme where I think I can choose people, train them, and expect for them to all fit into identical little bottles of talent, leads to a serious loss of richness. That richness is our innovation. So it’s about having diversity in all aspects. We have people who think differently to solve different problems. And definitely leveling the playing field for women is part of the success we are having in terms of talent development and innovation. When you level the playing field male and female leadership emerges equally. 

Sergio Kaufman surrounded by his diverse talent

Sergio Kaufman surrounded by his diverse talent

Sergio Kaufman’s suggestions to involve more male leaders in promoting female leadership

What is the best way to involve more male leaders on the issue of female leadership in Latin America?

It’s a virtuous circle and when you see it in others you become someone who sees the result. What the Red Shoe Movement does in disseminating this information is useful and I think it is also useful for companies that have gender equity initiatives to tell their story. My role in this is to share transparently our experience. One could say that Accenture has an advantage because it has active policies for women and diversity in general. And that if we share them openly we lose the market advantage that attracts distinct talent. I think sharing these stories helps improve society as a whole and also it helps position the organization. I think you have to compete to make things better and not hide what you think you’re doing well and that is working for you.

Sergio Kaufman, Country Managing Director and Leader of Hispanic South America, Accenture, is a strong proponent of verbalizing the inclusion and diversity priorities of an organization.

Sergio Kaufman, Country Managing Director and Leader of Hispanic South America, Accenture, is a strong proponent of verbalizing the inclusion and diversity priorities of an organization.

More on talent strategy in this interview with Arturo Poire of Erickson.

What are some practices that you think inadvertently affect women negatively?

There’s a behavior that many men see as something positive. It is looking after women, taking care of them, protecting them. So you tend to protect your female team players more than your male talent. And it seems like a good thing to do until that additional protection ends up, inadvertently, being a problem.

For example, say I have a fantastic project that can speed up a career trajectory, but is in another country. And I say, “I’m not going to offer it to this woman because I am going to complicate her life. So I give it to a man. The appropriate thing to do would be to tell the woman, “Look, I have this opportunity, you’re the right person for it. I will support you. We will figure out together how to manage the travel required. Do you want to take it?” Sometimes we don’t offer opportunities to women not out of selfishness but because we think we are offering something that is not fair to her. And actually, the best thing to do is to offer every opportunity and let women choose. In addition, when you offer the opportunity you must support the person appropriately. Sometimes one tends to give men more straightforward career advice and to be more careful with women.

Sergio Kaufman tries virtual reality technology

Sergio Kaufman tries virtual reality technology

Pursuing female leadership

What advice would you give to a woman interested in career growth who is forced to turn down opportunities due to lack of flexible policies in her organization? 

There are three choices: you can change the organization, you can sacrifice your expectations, or you can move to a different organization. But first I’d try to change the organization by being very outspoken about what’s not working. Be vocal in a positive way. I believe in saying things assertively with good manners.

But don’t give up on shedding light on any problems you notice in the organization.

Go and talk to your bosses and let them know they are not giving you the opportunities you seek. That is what helps change organizations. Because if you leave you end up contributing to the self-fulfilled prophecy. The organization is left with the idea that women have family concerns and that’s why they leave. So you as a woman end up reinforcing that stereotype.

Leaders like Sergio Kaufman are key to moving the needle in gender equity in large organizations

Leaders like Sergio Kaufman are key to moving the needle in gender equity in large organizations

In a recent conference you talked about an article in “The Economist which talked about men as the weaker sex. Why do you think future employment presents a challenge to men?

The new economy is ripe for female leadership. According to this article, we should start worrying about men's future job opportunities.

The new economy is ripe for female leadership. According to this article, we should start worrying about men’s future job opportunities.

First, the evidence is academic. You look at any university in the world except in a few careers and men are outnumbered in quantity, they take longer to graduate, and have lower grade averages than women. These are important facts to consider. And it’s true, demographic waves move slowly but the effects are already starting to be felt. In addition, in the past many jobs required physical skills, something in which men had an edge, but with technology, that becomes less important. Those are two strong trends. There is still a difference in careers like economics, engineering, and technology where there are smaller percentages of women. Our challenge is to encourage more women to enter those fields.

There is a McKinsey study that says that in itself, the fact that there is a greater proportion of women than men graduating college is not enough to move the needle at the highest positions of decision-making. That the needle moves when this becomes a top priority in an organization. Your thoughts?

I fully agree that gender diversity has to be an explicit priority. I believe in what is verbalized and that the organization has to express how important diverse talent is. When you tell the women in your company, “I hope that the future leadership of the company emerges amongst you and I will actively look at that,” it changes attitudes and expectations.

You can follow Sergio Kaufman on Twitter.