Successful CEOs Get Women in the Game

Article excerpt


Harvard University President Lawrence Summers drew fire earlier this year for comments that suggested gender may play a role in why seemingly fewer women have succeeded in the fields of science and math. Summers' comments were almost an eerie foreshadowing of the resignation of Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina a month later, arguably the world's most visible and prominent female executive. Will some view this as proof positive that women can't succeed in a man's world?

As one of only a few women business school deans in the nation, it's not uncommon for me to be asked about the state of women in business. And while I'm inspired to read headlines trumpeting the latest successes of the Oprah Winfreys and Meg Whitmans of the world, this is tempered by the real-world challenges faced by established and up-and-coming women business executives to gain respect-whether in salary or leadership responsibilities-by their peers.

In 2005, it would appear the playing field for women in the workplace is still uneven. And as the next wave of MBA graduates prepare to reenter the workplace this month, senior executives may want to consider some simple truths about how to draw the best of the best (regardless of gender).

Develop your players. I was an NCAA basketball player at Oklahoma State. From the moment I arrived on campus, my ambition was to get game time. I wasn't discouraged that I was less experienced. Instead, I was hungry. My coach saw it, and she worked with me to guarantee I was ready when the time came. By the time I was a senior, I was prepared to lead. I helped pave the way for the next generation of players.

The same holds true in the work world. Good CEOs are scouting great players all the time -and the successful ones look beyond their own, mostly male network to find their successors and get them into the game. Even CEOs need time to adjust to the playing field, and boards need to be a source of support, not challenges, to a company's leader. Give them time to understand the corporate culture and then leverage creative differences to create innovation, not alienation. …