Without thinking about it too much, who comes to mind when you think of Powerful Women?
I'll give you a minute.
So, who came to mind for you?
At the top of my list were Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Oprah, Suze Orman, Ellen Degeneres, and maybe a musician or two (Lady Gaga, Madonna, Britney Spears). I'll admit Sarah Palin was an afterthought for me. And she always reminds me of Tina Fey.
Thinking that I might be biased because I'm a woman, I asked my husband the same question. Surprisingly, his answers were similar. He also debated whether the Queen of England was powerful or not, and I prodded him to skip her if he wasn't sure and to name off as many women as he could.
What if I were to ask you to name Powerful Women who were local to your city/state? For me, Jennifer Granholm (Michigan's governor) comes to mind. As does Michelle Hodges (President of Troy Chamber of Commerce), Stephanie Bergeron (president of Walsh College), Terry Barclay (President of Inforum Michigan), Rhonda Walker (WDIV reporter, whom I heard speaking at an event last week), and Beth Chappell (President and CEO of the Detroit Economic Club). I'm sure there are dozens of others but those come to mind for me.
Now what if I were to ask to name Powerful Men? Or, Powerful People? Chances are, your list would be filled with politicians, businessmen, entrepreneurs, etc. etc. You'd probably mention a few CEOs who are men, too. If you had to name any CEOs who are women, you'd probably be hard-pressed to name a few.
Maybe this exercise was really easy for you because you follow Powerful People on a regular basis. And if you're not interested in Powerful People at all, you're not reading this post (yes, I'm talking to you... oh wait, you ARE reading this...).
There's been a shift over the past few years with more women moving into leadership positions. This was definitely highlighted by the last presidential campaign. As women, we know that we're still under-represented in many industries and within leadership positions. I was at an Inforum Michigan event today where one of the speakers was (is) a powerful woman: Charlene Begley (president and CEO of GE Home & Business Solutions and a senior vice president for GE). She mentioned that in her current role, she typically travels Monday through Friday. She further explained that up until a few years ago, her job did not require her to travel this much.
A question was asked during the event about work/life balance, and about women moving into leadership positions. Often women will not ask for promotions or more challenging roles. Some women don't think they are competent enough - nor do they want the added responsibility - that may come with those roles. Still many others who may be the breadwinner for the family are still the primary caregiver. We will make choices about having a successful career, but when it comes to deciding whether to accelerate into senior leadership positions, the family wins out.
I'll admit in some ways, it is our responsibility as women to find a careful balance between career success and personal/family happiness. Too often you see women who have successful careers who end up divorced, or without children by choice because the timing is never right. Having a supportive spouse and an extended network of family members and friends to help with family care-giving helps. And from there, it's up to us to decide how far we want to go in our career.
In other ways, our careers may be limited by the culture of the company. I've seen the good ole boys network alive and well at past employers and know I'm not alone in this observation. Even though we want to move ahead and move into leadership, the opportunities never come to fruition. Certain women acknowledge this and move on to find success elsewhere. Others accept the culture and come to terms with the environment.
Ultimately, it's up to each person to decide for herself -- or himself -- how far they want to go in their career and the choices or changes that will need to be made to achieve those goals.
As for me, I find it inspirational but also necessary to look around and identify Powerful Women. They can share their learnings. They pave the road for so many women behind them. They serve as mentors -- some directly, and others indirectly.
So who else is a Powerful Woman to me? In addition to the above, I think the list should include those who are just starting out in their careers and already demonstrating a quest for knowledge, and pursuit for excellent in any task - large or small. Amber Kaipio @akaipio, is a marketing intern at Walsh College who exemplifies this.
It should also include women in the Detroit Social Media community who are experts at building relationships and networking. Shelli Gutholm @shelligutholm, Carrie Roeder @ideationista, and Jennifer Marsik Friess @JenMarsikFriess to name a few.
Plus it should include those who have great presence in any group - positive energy, and a genuine, likeable woman. The kind of women who immediately bring a smile to your face and make you feel special, whether you're meeting with them one-on-one or see them in passing at a huge networking event. Susan Gibson at Corp! Magazine, Lori Williams @loritwilliams, Patty Buccellato of Refined Images, Tember Shea of Inforum Michigan, are a few that come to mind for me.
What do you think? Who comes to mind for you as a "Powerful Woman"?