As the Alliance of Women in Workers’ Compensation heads into its fourth year, we remain steadfast in our mission of sharing ideas and building leaders in our industry. We are excited to share that our Ambassadors program has now expanded into 15 states, and the Alliance is sponsoring more than 50 regional and national events this year in support of the workers’ compensation industry.
In 2018, we are focusing on sharing ideas on alternative treatments for pain management, along with building leaders by driving success through strengthening the financial acuity of our members.
February and March events:
Details and registration information can be found on our events page: www.allianceofwomen.org/events.
Be sure to also mark your calendars for our WCI 2018 pre-conference seminar in August, featuring keynote speaker Jean Chatzky, financial editor for NBC’s Today Show—and join us on the west coast in October for a half-day workshop on pain management as part of WorkComp Central’s annual Comp Laude Awards and Gala.
As always, we are very grateful for the support of our corporate sponsors who continue to invest their time and financial resources to ensure the personal and professional growth of emerging leaders in our industry. Thank you!
Years ago the COO of my company came into my office and said, “I need you to do me a favor.”
By the look on his face I knew he was serious. I was running a fairly small marketing and communications department at the time, a job that I loved and that had allowed me to leave implementation project management, a role that had taught me a lot but wasn’t my passion.
He came straight to the point, not tap dancing around what he wanted even though he knew my reaction wouldn’t be met with immediate celebration.
He asked me to take on running the company’s account management team. Whoa – this was no small favor. Half of the clients were at risk, IT was behind on delivering client commitments, the company had perpetual layoffs, we had an ongoing travel freeze and associate morale was low. Not to mention he was asking a 26 year old to manage employees many years her senior.
I knew it was a great opportunity, but I also knew the strife that would result from it. Friends would become direct reports, relationships would change, and my learning curve was huge.
I never questioned whether I could handle the management of client relationships or the financial responsibilities of the job. I was fearful that I didn’t know the health systems that served as the core component of the programs we were providing, and that my clinical pharmacy knowledge was inadequate, especially since half of my direct reports and nearly all of my clients would be pharmacists. I was insecure in my technical knowledge and felt limited by what I didn’t know.
I would never have applied for the job had it been posted. But now, here was a terrific opportunity presented to me on a silver platter. I didn’t know at the time that I was approaching this opportunity in the same manner than many women do. I’ve since learned that studies have found that men will apply for a position when they meet 60% of the qualifications and women tend to wait until they meet 100% of the qualifications. I was fearful of what I didn’t know instead of looking at how I could leverage the skills I did have and the potential within me to close the gaps.
I was overlooking my strengths that had propelled my career at an early age. Strengths including organizational and project management, the ability to manage teams effectively, and a communications approach that fostered team building among different groups. All of these skills were far more important than technical knowledge of business systems which could be more easily attained.
After asking to think about it for a couple of days, and getting an offer letter in writing, I accepted the job.
It was a big risk, but it catapulted my career. It forced me to learn how to manage more effectively (indeed from making many mistakes and learning what NOT to do). This experience stretched me beyond my imagination, it toughened me up (you can only imagine the dissidents I had after my promotion), but it was the best thing for me for my longer term career success.
Did I have the requisite experience for that job when I took it? No, but the COO believed in my potential. He knew I would do whatever it took to learn the job and he supported me in the early months when I had more questions than answers.
I appreciate the day he asked me to do him that favor. It changed my career. It remains the toughest three years of my career journey thus far, but I learned a decade’s worth of lessons during that time period which I have carried with me throughout all future roles.
Over time, I have learned that every new position should have areas that are a stretch for you. It’s only when you step outside of your comfort zone that you experience the most growth, providing future opportunity to tackle bigger and better roles.
Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO of PepsiCO, said:
“Embrace tough assignments. Conventional wisdom suggests that it’s easier to take the path of least resistance by signing up for an easy job, doing it well, and moving on to something bigger. The problem with that theory is that nobody notices when you do an easy job well. It’s far better to challenge yourself by raising your hand for the toughest assignments and work to solve problems that no one else has been able to solve. That’s how you truly become a trusted leader inside an organization.”
I couldn’t agree more with this statement. I could have remained in my existing role where I was performing well, but I wouldn’t have experienced much advancement. It was only when I was willing to step outside of my comfort zone and take on a significantly more challenging role – a role where I’d be alleviating a problem area for my manager – that I began to achieve accelerated growth.
Thankfully, my calculated risk worked out. I performed well and I learned a lot. It served as a springboard for my next position. But even if I hadn’t succeeded, I still would have gained more learning moments than I would have in my previous position, and I could have catapulted that experience into my next career move.
In looking back at how I responded to that request for a favor, I only have one regret. I wish I would have realized back then that I could have negotiated for more before taking the job. Not just for a larger salary increase, but for the COO’s commitment to address some of the broken areas of the company impacting account management and the team’s ability to succeed. Eventually I was able to make the changes needed, but I had leverage at the time the job was offered to me and I didn’t use it effectively to accelerate the pace of change. That was a lesson I didn’t learn until many years later.
If there was a single phrase I could eradicate in the workplace, it would be this one: I could never work for a woman.
On the contrary, I’ve NEVER heard anyone say this: I could never work for a man.
If the latter statement were ever declared, people would mock the person. They’d think it was silly. I can hear the laughs now. Well, good luck, they would say, in getting very far in your career with that thinking. But yet, I’ve heard both men and women say they could never work for a woman. And, oftentimes, it’s considered a valid statement, with the person or persons launching into discussions on how the leader didn’t have this or that trait attributed to gender.
It’s disheartening that in 2015 there is still gender slandering, and that more of us, especially women, are not aghast.
As I was contemplating this statement, I did a simple Google search by typing in the phrase, “I could never work for a woman” and here are the top articles that came back in the search engine:
Wow, that’s quite a list, cumulating in the last one on the topic of “why women should never work!” To make it worse, not all of these articles were written by men. To think that women are perpetuating this sentiment is even more disheartening.
To be fair, as part of my research, I then tried reversing the query, typing in the phrase, “I could never work for a man” and there were no matching results remotely related to the topic! In fact, the top result referenced quotes by Confucius.
Seriously, men get articles tied to philosophers and women get a list of articles about how to cope with a female manager?
A 2013 Gallup study measured American workers’ preference in having a male or female boss. Among those who have a preference (roughly 60%), American workers prefer working for a male boss over a female boss by 12 percentage points. The preference manifests in both men and women. Perhaps surprisingly, women are even more likely to have a preference in having a male or female boss and when they do, they are more likely to choose working for a man. I’d like to imagine a future when studies like these aren’t even conducted, as American workers find no reason to correlate a gender preference quotient in management.
Results of yet another study, conducted in 2010 by the Workplace Bullying Institute, a national education and advocacy group, indicated that female bullies directed their hostilities toward other women 80% of the time — up 9% since 2007. Male bullies, by contrast, were generally equal-opportunity tormentors.
Workplace bullying should never be accepted, but why is it that women are so much more harder on other women? We’re not doing much to support our own success and we’d do so much better uniting instead of attacking. So what does this all mean? And what are we to do?
There are all types of managers. Some are effective and others need work. However, it doesn’t do us any good to correlate gender as the reason why a female manager may not be effective. Over the years, we have become more enlightened and no longer accept other derogatory statements. I believe we can change this one. Let’s leave gender out of the equation.
I am an avid reader. Fiction, non-fiction, management books, research studies, sports reports, news articles — well, you get the point.
I’m also very much in tune with women’s issues, particularly in the workplace, having read countless articles on the wage gap, the disparity between men and women in management positions, and differences in how men and women negotiate, among others. All issues that we need to collectively work to improve.
All of these studies clearly indicate there is much progress to be made and there are tangible things companies can do to help address these issues. But for a moment, let’s forget about what our companies may or may not be doing to help create more opportunities for women.
Instead, let’s focus on ourselves, with one simple question to ask: What are you doing to help and support women in achieving their career goals?
Institutional change is influenced by the voice of the masses, but change can begin with a single voice. Here are just two of many small things that we can all do to help other women achieve success in the workplace.
There are so many other ways we can help support women in our industry, and I’ll likely post more ideas in future articles, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are you doing to support women in their career goals?