Women and the Future of Global Leadership

Women and the Future of Global LeadershipI had the privilege of participating in a panel at the United Nations last week to talk about “Women and the Future of Global Leadership.” The event was hosted by IMPACT Leadership 21, a movement committed to transforming women’s global leadership at the highest level of influence in the 21st century.

Joining me in the discussion were a distinguished group of ladies, including Denise Evans, VP, Market Development of IBM Corporation; Michaela Walsh, Founder of Women’s World Banking and author of Founding a Movement; Liz Lyman, Managing Director of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ; and Michelle Patterson, President and CEO of Women Network/California Women’s Conference.

Each of these women embody the effort to shatter the glass ceiling that was placed before them and helped clear the path for future generations. As Janet Salazar, CEO and Founder of IMPACT Leadership 21 put it, “We are at a tipping point of global leadership transformation – and women are ready and equipped for the much-needed rebalance.” What follows are a few key learnings, for woman and men alike, to help move us in that direction:

Be who, and what, you want to be. “We can be our own worst enemies. Everyone asks ‘what do you want to be, what do you want to do,’ which leaves women feeling pressured into leadership positions. Not everyone should be or wants to be in that role, which emphasizes that you need to make a choice. Find what you’re good at and follow that career path. Don’t be held captive by other people’s expectations.” Liz Lyman

Be a learner. Women should embrace the mentality that there are no accidents, rather there is a reason why you are here. Embrace every situation and challenge them as a learning experience. One of the most important things in life is to be a learner, according to Michaela Walsh. “I’m a risk taker.”

We aren’t quite there yet, but we’re making progress. In 2013, only 23 CEOS of Fortune 500 companies were women. “This is a significant shift from 1899, when IBM was just hiring their first female employee. Inclusion is important to innovation and it is in our DNA. We’re in a global world. Do unto others as you would have done to you.” Denise Evans

You don’t have to choose one life or the other. This was an important point for me, and all women and men who are trying to obtain some semblance of balance in their lives. As I shared with the group, “Wearing several hats should not restrict you from obtaining your goals or the positions you are striving for. I am a spouse, I am a mom and I am a CEO.”

Be aware of how you present yourself. The women all agreed, stop saying, “I’m sorry.” Say yes more often and have a little more swagger.

As a parting note, on this eve of International Women’s Day … be proud of who you are and what you’ve achieved. You choose who you are and where you are going. Your destiny is in your hands. Embrace your role and make the most out of it, because you never know what path you’ll be helping to pave.