Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Amy Schulman, named president of Pfizer Nutrition in 2010, increased revenue 15 percent, to $2.1 billion, over the following year, when the division was sold to Nestl for $11.85 billion.Q.
What are some patterns you’ve noticed over the years about women at work, and things they could be doing better to advance their careers?A.
One thing that happens at work is that women tend to hoard favors as if they were airline miles — you know, the hundreds of thousands of airplane miles that we’re saving for when we really need them. But “when we really need them” may never come. The trips are not going to happen, and we’ll be left with 800,000 airline miles.
There’s a parallel at work. You need to spend political capital — be unafraid to introduce people, compliment somebody when it’s deserved and stand up for something you really believe in, rather than just go with the flow. I don’t mean being a perennial troublemaker, but it’s about having conviction and courage. Spend that political capital you earn by being intellectually credible, by being a fighter for the people on your team when appropriate, and by arguing for principles that matter. Those are qualities that give you credit. If you’re waiting for the perfect moment to spend that capital, you’re going to be sidelined your whole career waiting to just kind of enter the ring.
Women can and should do a better job of helping one another to be in that transactional forum, and to get over the anxiety that we’re going to be found wanting on the wrong side of that equation. We’re undervaluing the role that we can play in the success of other people and the organization. So don’t be afraid to spend some of that political capital. You have to be well prepared, you have to be smart, you have to be on time, you have to be responsive, you have to be respectful, you have to have principles. But once you have all those things and you’ve built a track record, don’t wait for the perfect day.Q.
Other things you have observed?A.
There are some things around style that I’ve seen. I’m not a formal person, but I don’t find myself responding very well when there’s an assumption that there will be a connection by virtue of the fact that we share a gender. If somebody is trying to capitalize on the fact that I have said publicly that I support the advancement of women, and they use that as a proxy to gain access to me, I find that annoying.
The less subtle way of saying it is that trading on gender, in my mind, is impermissible as a man or a woman. Assuming that you’re entitled to something by virtue of your gender strikes me as not fair or right. Having said that, there are clearly implicit biases and assumptions that follow you by virtue of your gender and your race. Workplaces need to be aware of those and do something to counterbalance those as institutions. Leaders need to make sure that the organizations we create, run and drive are receptive to that diversity of voices, in both tone and substance.Q.
You spent two decades working in law firms before you joined Pfizer. Any observations about the challenges women face that are specific to law firms?A.
In my early years as a young lawyer, much of what you’re doing falls into the model of traditional female success, which is the “dutiful daughter.” It’s an expression from Adrienne Rich, and it means essentially “the good girl behind the scenes” — you’re not transgressing the roles that are expected of you. A good law associate is organized, methodical, writes things that other people sign, prepares draft arguments that other people deliver and is in a kind of perpetual apprenticeship role.
That’s often why law firms and other institutions say, “Gee, we have all these great women in the pipeline,” but then they don’t become partner. Part of that is about whether the women themselves are able to gracefully transition from being the dutiful daughter to a partner. But do the organizations reward and recognize the full range of behaviors?Q.
So women and the companies they work for both have to help with that transition?A.
It has to be both. One problem is that we say to women that you have to claim your voice. Don’t make statements that sound like questions. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Own the room. Speak with confidence. But to the extent that doesn’t come naturally, women, in an effort to do precisely what they’ve been told, sometimes will over-occupy the space.
Think of all the things that make for a great leader and a great colleague — collegiality, a certain amount of self-effacement, a commitment to the team and the organization — but then we’re also busy telling young women: Don’t put yourself second. Don’t subordinate yourself. Speak up. If you’re not heard, speak again. We give really mixed messages, and we don’t teach women exactly how to do that because it’s not very graceful when somebody’s trying to claim a room in a meeting.
What we have to do is teach strategies, because here’s the thing about unwritten languages: whoever owns the language wins the conversation. We need to teach women the difference between a native tongue and a language. But institutions, conversely, need to be slightly more forgiving if you don’t get the jargon right all the time. That’s where the sweet spot of inclusion comes in.Q.
You touched on the point of confidence earlier. Can you elaborate?A.
For many guys, this is simpler because they’re not as over-invested in the question of “Do I belong?” Everything is not a test. If you’re not viewing interactions as a litmus test for whether you belong, you’re going to act better. On the other hand, if you’re looking all the time for that kind of validation, you’re either going to be self-conscious or insecure, and neither of those is a recipe for success. What you want is the kind of inherent confidence that leads to grace. You want to be around people who are having fun and enjoying what they’re doing.
Source : http://www.nytimes.com/newsgraphics/2013/10/13/ipad/women-corner-office.html1125