Apr/May 2014

You can’t help but become inspired when you read the profiles of the Women of M2M. I learned so much from many of these women. They are passionate and persistent. Their energy is infectious. Most of these women see what often times others don’t see. They do not talk about a male–dominated world. They don’t want to talk about gender bias. They see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty. They seamlessly manage crisis and change, and are turnaround experts.

Successful women leaders know how to play the game when they have to—and can anticipate the unexpected. They know what cards to play and keenly calculate the timing of each move they make like a chess grandmaster.

Many are well-organized, aligned, and well-balanced, juggling a career and motherhood. These leaders talk about embracing traditions and even adapt to changing times.

Yet, in order to clear a path for greater advancement, female business leaders need to tackle these most pressing paradoxes for which many of them are sending mixed messages that are uncomfortable realities that complicate an arguably positive picture of progress for women in business.

We hear time and time again, women are pushing the boundaries when faced with adverse circumstances and talk about confronting challenges. But the truism I discovered after months of interviews, most women, especially those who are not at the helm of their company, will not rock the boat when it comes to their careers. What’s more, many will not admit it, unless pressed, that corporate America can do more to advance women.

In fact, most women don’t want to talk about a lack of support within their own companies. Rather, they want to talk about what they want to achieve and how they can build a more robust community for upwardly mobile women. Sadly, that mantra kind of crumbles for many of the women on the list in 2014. As someone who has worked in this industry for 15 years, I have seen the paucity of women moving up the ranks, when you compare the growth of the technology industry as a whole.

I have to admit I’m not the only editor that has reported on this phenomenon. The Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fortune, and others, have also written lengthy articles noting that women should be transcending the ranks. In the U.S., while women might make up half of the U.S. workforce, only 25% represent the technology industry.

Part of the problem appears to be that female business leaders fail to build strong social networks for business. While women are known to be consummate relationship builders, they fail to use their own contacts to get themselves promoted within their own organizations or elsewhere. Despite the renewed feeling that many claim to get from sharing with each other, they won’t do it until it is sanctioned by their corporations.

In interviews with many women through my career, many admit most of their male counterparts have found it acceptable to create social environments to engage in developing business and exchange career favors. Heaven forbid if a woman should ask for reciprocation or some type of favor that would imply their social exchange would benefit other women even more in the very business they are helping to grow. One female executive told me that she thought even though networking would benefit her, she didn’t want her management to think it was a “girl’s” night out. It’s interesting to note unless at the pinnacle of her career, both genders found it difficult to recommend a woman for the list.

If this is an industry of consummate relationship builders why was making a recommendation so difficult? Even the women we recommended were not confident in themselves to appear in the list. Some women felt they hadn’t earned the respect of their male or female colleagues and didn’t want to appear on the list just yet. What’s more, when we invited some women to make time for the gathering of technology women to network and build the community, several could not justify the time with their management. And those that were top management couldn’t justify making the time. It’s easy to say we need more females involved in technology and that both genders need to be supportive, but the onus is on the industry to truly put forth the commitment. Make no mistake, there are some women who are true champions. These are true leaders in technology. We need more of you. All this illustrates to me is that we need more women to aspire to be leaders and to push the boundaries that others have not taken before. The future does look bright for M2M.

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