News from On High: What Leaders Learn by Being Only Woman at Top

jennifer-fitzgeraldIt’s true, double XX marks the spot in a sea of XY chromosomes in corporations across this country and the world. So says Jennifer Fitzgerald, founder and CEO of Policy Genius, who confides that in many meetings, she was more often than not the only woman in the room. And she learned a few key things from being the lone she-wolf. She learned how to be a better leader.Leading with objective evidence when communicating about performance is one strategy that might well diffuse the criticism that women are emotional (a negative) while men are passionate (a positive), according to Fitzgerald.So speak with authority about measurable results and concrete outcomes in numbers, percentages and quantifiable data. Don’t rely so much on the descriptors and subjective accolades. Avoid the “it was nice, it went well” amorphous summaries. Stick with the facts, ma’am.It’s also critical to know your stuff, she says. There is no arguing with being well-prepared as there is no defense like a good, fact-filled offense. Be confident in your abilities and in your solid evidence and proof. Be sure of yourself, what you know and how you know it, Fitzgerald says.Writing about the role of women in leadership roles in Forbes,  columnist Ashley Stahl concurs and reinforces many of those tips. She adds that while solo projects can indeed make your star shine in the corporation constellation,  so does collaboration. Be a team player.Humility may be a virtue, but self-doubt is a plague on your career climb and will not move you up as a leader in your field. Be confident and clear, about your need to invest in yourself and also your choices. Don’t ask for permission, Stahl says. And don’t be on the fence about decisions for long. “Make a choice, show up fully and see what feedback the universe gives you.”Doing just that were the women in the room for the 2016 MAKERS conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. recently. This was where 300 of the most inspiring and influential women in this country from top athletes to CEOs, techies and Hollywood types convened to declare #thetimeisnow for more women in leadership.And if you’re wondering what happens when you are not in the room and you and your work are the topics of conversation? Carla Harris, vice chairman, wealth management and managing director and client service adviser at Morgan Stanley, said this in Glamour: “All of the important decisions about your career will be made when you are not in the room…How do you want people to describe you when you are not in the room?.. The work does not speak. You have to put your work in context and the only way you can do it is through the relationships that you have.“So whether you are the only woman leader in the room or one of many, be clear in your communication, your objectives and collaborations in order to bring more women leaders into a future that is more gender balanced.