Sallie Krawcheck, chair of the Ellevate Network, launched the professional women’s network Houston chapter at a lunch event held recently at the downtown JW Marriott. Ellevate is expanding its footprint to help engage, invest in and accelarate women's careers in the Houston area.
For women specifically in oil and gas, Pink Petro Founder, Katie Mehnert was also in attendance supporting the efforts to bring Ellevates’ launch to Houston. Pink Petro is a social channel focused on uniting, connecting, developing and growing women in the energy workforce.
Krawcheck, who was recently named in the top ten on Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People 2014”, says we are at a tipping point in female influence and those companies with diverse leadership are more likely to outperform companies with less diverse leadership ranks. Sallie is bullish on growing female influence saying that the “economic engagement of women is powerful”, but she is far from being a man basher. She took a swipe at the book, “Lean in: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg. She argued that while it brought good attention to the issue of female equality in the work place and society, it has sometimes pushed dialogue to an extreme. The conversation should be more about the power of diversity and having a healthy mix of perspectives at the company table that includes men and women with diverse backgrounds.
Sallie also shared career game changers for women and for that matter for men too. After all, she pointed out, it is about growing the economic pie to increase opportunity for women rather than taking something away from men. To grow this economic opportunity, women have to be more proactive in driving their own career success.
Career game changers
Networking: Sallie emphasized that women have to network because “who you know is what you know”. She acknowledges that everyone is busy, but they must make time for networking. Women have to invest in themselves by actively cultivating an internal and in particular an external network. Sallie recalled a time when she was laid off and understood the true value of an external network when the Christmas cards stopped coming in from former colleagues. That was a stark reminder to stay plugged into a network of people outside of your company.
Power of a sponsor and mentor: It is vital that women seek out a sponsor and a mentor. What’s the difference between the two? A mentor is a “sounding board” or someone you go to for advice and coaching. A mentor can be internal or external to the organization. A sponsor is someone in the organization with some influence who can “fight for you.” This is the person who will go to bat for you with senior leaders. Sallie laughed as she warned, “don’t go up to someone and ask them to be your sponsor as that would be weird.” Developing a relationship with a sponsor or mentor is more organic than that. Start your sponsor and mentor search by cultivating relationships and being aware of who is in your organization.
Know your worth. Sallie asked the group, “If you are a young female starting out, what is your biggest asset?” The answer is “yourself”. Women need to understand what skills they are bringing to the table and not be afraid to ask for a raise. Sallie noted that women are less likely to ask for a raise compared to men. Many women are apprehensive about that type of conversation and often undervalue their contributions and capabilities. Go ahead and ask for that raise, but do your homework. Be able to articulate accomplishments and how you add value to the bottom line.
Both Ellevate Network and Pink Petro focus the converation on engaging more women to fully contribute their talents and skills. Again, the focus at the end of the day isn’t solely on gender, rather it is about bringing more points of view to the table which is good for everyone.
Image from Ellevate Network