As Women’s History Month comes to a close, I’ve enjoyed seeing women leaders become the hot topic in the media. It was a refreshing break from the typical media coverage women get which goes from which star gained, or lost, weight to who’s in rehab. We could really use a whole year of this. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, got the discussion going with her new book, Lean In. From Oprah to GMA to Mommy Bloggers, we’re all talking about the role of women in business and as Sandberg calls it, the gender imbalance. We’ve come a long way, baby, but we still have a long way to go. As I was researching my book, Success Secrets of a Million Dollar Party Girl, I discovered one of the answers to the imbalance in a study titled, Women and the Vision Thing. According to the Harvard Business Review women make great strategic thinkers, but we lack the skill of envisioning.
I didn’t need a Harvard study to tell me most women are not visionary thinkers. I know this because I’ve coached women entrepreneurs for 23 years and interview them weekly on my radio show. When I ask the question, “What is your vision?” women tend to stumble. The answer is typically a goal. Is there really an imbalance in the workplace or is it that women just don’t get the difference between a vision and a goal?
Three Reasons Why Women Don’t Get It:
1. Many Visionary Women Were Left Out Of Our History Books. When I think of vision, great leaders like Carnegie, Rockefeller, Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. come to mind. I would have loved to learn the story of Coco Chanel, a visionary entrepreneur in the late 1800’s, when I was in school but she was never in my history books. Try Googling visionary leaders; only a few women are listed. When we change the history books and provide more examples of visionary women business leaders, we’ll start to change the imbalance.
2. Women Suffer From Vision Guilt. Women’s role in society has always been as the nurturer. We’re supposed to take care of everyone else. Creating a bigger vision in business means taking time away from our family, which makes us feel selfish and guilty. The irony is that when we create a bigger vision, we solve bigger problems and serve more people. Sounds like something a nurturer wouldn’t feel too guilty about.
3. Women Are Taught Not To Toot Our Own Horn. Strong women who speak up are often seen as being that B word. We can be our own worst enemy, judging other aggressive women even more harshly. Sandberg says, “We’ve got to get women to sit at the table.” Sitting at the table is only effective if we open our mouths. It starts with teaching our daughters to speak up and not be so “ladylike.” Instead, teach your daughters to be more “leader-like.” Women fear being perceived as “pushy” and, as a result, hold back on sharing their gifts. Keeping quiet about our strengths, expertise and talents reinforces the glass ceiling. Start “Biz Bragging” about yourself and own it.
Join the discussion. Who are the women visionaries (or ‘Visionistas’) that influenced you?
Lynn Bardowski is an award-winning entrepreneur, best selling author, national speaker, mentor and radio show host. For insights on entrepreneurship, leadership and vision, read her book, listen to her radio show, follow her blog and “LIKE” her Facebook page. You may republish this article in full, as long as you list this paragraph and provide a link.