Lean In: My A**
The media has done overtime covering Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. Usually abhorring discussion on genders in the workplace, this morning I felt compelled to share a glimpse into my own world as I am a woman that ‘leans in’ as a matter of principal in all of my roles that range from being a Publisher/CEO and Entrepreneur, to a Mother and a Friend.
One of my clients called me Friday AM and said to me that he really was incredulous at what I must endure. He was referring to the Colombia reception at Far Niente during PDAC Monday night when one of the guests had been overly zealous in commenting on my appearance. The client stated: “I really do not know how you do it.” And then proceeded to say something that I pondered this weekend – “It’s not what he did when you were facing him, it’s what he did when you turned around that shocked me.”
So what was I wearing? A conservative dark brown suit, not hot pants, not a mini dress; an outfit in fact that I had selected to insure that I did not get confused what is commonly referred to as a ‘booth bunny’. Of course, this is almost laughable as my age as it is double what is usually employed for such role, but with enough alcohol ‘some’* older echelons of male kingdom are unable to differentiate after a few drinks and the resource sector is particularly ferocious for what I affectionately refer to as acquisition plays past sundown. For this reason, I elect to go home by 9PM at industry events unless surrounded by work associates that I know and respect me. (*In my experience there are as many gracious and incredible people on both sides of the gender fence and this most certainly does not reflect everyone).
This is one of many rules I have as a woman to survive/thrive in business. Is this what she means by ‘leaning in’? I would edit this title to ‘bob & weave’ for success as ‘leaning in’ most assuredly wins one a title that starts with ‘b’ and rhymes with ‘rich’. Without reading the book, I would like to comment that I would be more interested in a book on how to endure working for Mark Zuckerberg and his family members, never mind a pile of 20-somethings with limited life experience and more money than sense. Yes, this would be interesting; however, she has taken on a topic which certainly takes courage — but I wonder if she caught her Art Director (no longer with me) photoshopping her chest size so that she will be taken more seriously?
I had an investor that commented to our table during a private luncheon this week on our tour of an Armenian property a couple of years ago. Recalling the scene where I was mistaken for an escort when I went to the front desk to see if the London investor was still alive after he had consumed two bottles of cognac the night
before at a strip club (I was seeing if he was capable of making it on the property tour, the bus was outside). As some of you may know, I have been known to get ‘cranky’ or ’emotional’ (sexist terms that are only gifted to professional women) when long series of associated crap occurs and apparently I had been entertaining in my post-mortem monologue on this incident…
This morning I lay in bed watching CNN discuss their focus on women in business today and the examples of unique challenges for a woman in this industry were endless in their examples as I was reflecting on my 20+ years of work experience. Attacked at conferences and in my global travels, I have been lucky and thwarted numerous attacks that range from knives to gunpoint; but certainly I have friends that have not been as lucky and have the scars to prove it. I’d love to talk about my experience in the ME, or even Malaysia, Peru or the long list of business trips in the entertainment, oil and gas, renewable energy and mining industries; but this isn’t about the past, it’s about the future.
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A well-known female broker told me one evening that she had exchanged her femininity in to be successful. “I would not even know where to start on being a woman again” she continued – “it was become one of the boys if I wanted to survive…”
Some would argue that this was her choice, but I will instead thank her for being one of the few ‘over the hill’ leading the charge women who were at the forefront of ‘leaning in’. Another example? In 1998 I was appointed to a VP position at a major entertainment company. The CEO leaned over his desk and said to me: “We have discussed this at length, and we are okay (insert pause as he took a deep breath) — with the fact that you are a woman.”
This was ’98, not ’78; and time stopped when he said this to me. Forced to bite my tongue that day because I needed the job or what? Set him straight or make a joke – was I really that offensive just because I wear lipstick?
I secured a life coach named Dr. Lise Janelle at the end of 2011 to deal with the issue of swearing and the edginess I had accrued in my own professional evolution. From a floral dressed tennis player at a southern Baptist college to joining rock bands on the road: if I didn’t swear, wear black and was able to yell at a road manager, I would not have risen in the ranks the way that I did. She instructs me to utilize my femininity for successful leadership in business and tells me that when I do this I flourish. It seems the battle scars along the way have helped me survive have also created a ceiling, not to mention a compromise to who I am. Let me add – this is not one-sided. Men are becoming emasculated and this affects their performance in work as they need to be who they are in order to achieve their life dreams too. Perhaps a few more confessions and conversations on this topic will tar the highway ahead for both our daughters and sons to not have to endure some of the growing pains of women in the work world. I know there are negative effects on both sides, and what really is the goal here? Greater work fulfillment for all of us?
So I will pass on reinforcing the ‘leaning in’ theme and instead will extract Sheryl Sandberg’s theme I do like, which is that we all have a lot more responsibility in our own success formula than perhaps we want to assume.
Tracy Weslosky is the CEO of InvestorIntel Corp., a company that publishes InvestorIntel.com. A leading source for investors, entrepreneurs and industry leaders alike, InvestorIntel is ... <Read more about Tracy Weslosky>