What women bring to the table: A lesson learned Revisted

Women face many challenges in male dominated companies.
Women face many challenges in male-dominated companies.

I am in San Francisco this week as my wife attends Dreamforce. I opted not to attend, as I have in the past. But I was reminded of this post about a great session I went to in 2016. 
I am in San Francisco this week to attend the Dreamforce conference. Unfortunately, yet fortunately, I am on the Expo only ticket, which means that I am not allowed in the main conference until Thursday. This is a fortunate event in that I had the chance to attend sessions hosted by #InsideView, a marketing service company that makes a home for us shunned “freebie” attendees. I thoroughly enjoyed their session last year and wrote several blog posts on what I learned. This time I hit the HR jackpot with the first session highlighting younger women in positions of authority in male-dominated companies.

Women on the Rise

The first session of the day was entitled Women on the Rise: The Next Generation of Sales and Marketing Leaders. Moderated by Tracy Eiler, the Chief Marketing Officer of InsideView, the session featured seven younger women who hold higher-level positions in tech companies, where they were often the first or only woman in predominately male companies. These companies included Teriminus, Zuora, Uber, Everstring, Gainsight, and Salesforce. Eiler wanted to know what made these women tick and why they had been so successful in male-dominated industries.
Eiler kicked off the questions with “What do CEO’s need to know to take advantage of the strength of women? The consensus answer was that the company needs to have a community culture that makes women feel comfortable in order to allow them to feel open to contributing. The company needs to have a benefits program that provides benefits to the community of women and thus allows single women and minority women to be able to contribute without a struggle.

Unconscious biases

Another question dealt with the unconscious biases that many men and women hold about women in the workplace. One such bias has to do with the performance appraisal process, where women who help other workers is generally rated lower than men who help others out. She is generally seen as caring but rated lower that caring men. On the other hand, women who do not help others out are seen as being self-centered and thus rated lower than men who are rated as being independent.

Fiercely independent

The group was asked what personality traits have they exhibited in their careers. The answers dealt with traits such as adaptability and assertiveness and being comfortable with both. One panelist said that her “superpower” was being a competent introvert in a world of extroverted men. Her introverted approach allowed her to thoughtful and reasonable amongst quick acting and impulsive men.

Watch your language

One of the panelists mentioned that she insisted that for her to accept the job offered her the “boys” culture needed to change. She said that companies need to be aware of the culture they are presenting. Using recruiting language where you are looking for rock stars and “ninjas” imply highly male-oriented cultures that may dissuade women from joining companies.

My question

One of the panelists brought up negotiation skills, which prompted me to ask the question “How do you feel about the legislation that has been passed back East that prohibits companies from asking about an employee’s salary history in order to make up for the premise that since women are poorer negotiators they will be hampered in salary negotiation?” That prompted a discussion of several minutes with the thought being, while noble the method was flawed and may actually backfire.
In all the discussion was an excellent one. It was good to see a panel of very capable employees holding positions of power regardless of their gender. Their companies are in good hands in the future and may get to the point of not thinking in terms of men versus women, rather deciding who is the most capable in the position.

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