Last Friday, I attended an International Women’s Day event in Chicago sponsored by Accenture. Mrs. Danielle Brown, VP, Chief Information Officer, Brunswick Corporation, delivered a very powerful keynote speech. The title was “Rejecting the Box.” She talked about how her grandfather instilled in her a very strong sense of self and an expectation of equality. As a result, she rejected all of the stereotypes and pursued a career in technology, which has taken her all around the world. Danielle also talked about how the men who gave her opportunities also rejected the box. They did so because they knew they had to have different perspectives in order to build a world-class team.
Other speakers talked about the challenges women face once they reach senior levels within an organization. I was impressed by how candid they were. For example, they mentioned how they can say something in a meeting and get ignored. A man can then say the same thing and the other men in the room respond like it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. They also talked about how women suffer more from the “Imposter Syndrome” than men. A statistic that got my attention is women have a 27% turnover rate at those levels compared to 7% for men. Wow! Women reject the box to get into the room, but then leave it at a much higher rate.
The event made me reflect on my career because I experienced many of those same things. I succeeded because—once I got into the room—I was fortunate to have someone in the room teach me how to operate at that level. Indeed, it’s a different game once you get to the VP level and higher. If you don’t have someone who knows how to play it befriend and teach you how, you will not be successful.
I left the event with three key takeaways:
More women have to reject the box and those imposter thoughts.
More men also have to reject the box and open doors (i.e., sponsor) more women.
More men and women have to mentor women once they get into the room so that they stay there.
In closing, it is going to take more to close the gap. I’m very encouraged because I see leaders in the C-suite and in the boardroom who are committed to rejecting the box and building world-class executive teams and organizations.