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Guest Column

Crossing the Corner Office Chasm
By Teresa Taylor
Jan 31, 2014 - 12:13:00 AM

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With women earning about 57% of the undergraduate degrees and 60% of the master's degrees in the United States whey are there so few of them in the corner office of our corporations or on the Board of Directors?

According to a study published by Catalyst in 2012, only 21% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. In addition women only hold 14% of executive officer positions, 17 % of board seats and are only 18% of our elected congressional officials.

Our culture is ready to increase women's role at the top, craving the unique perspective and diversity of thinking. In fact, research shows that companies run better with both women and men in leadership roles -- important to both our economy and community.

So why do women get the education, enter the workforce and cannot cross the chasm to the corner office? One reason is that on their way to the corner office they begin to search for the mythical "balance." They cannot find it because it does not exist--and they believe the only answer is to leave or step back in the journey. How do we help women realize that balance is just a myth, but leadership is possible with the right expectations, persistence and tools?

The following eight "life" and "work" tips will help women rethink their work success, while excelling at home and in the office. They are written from my personal and professional experiences and shared in my book, The Balance Myth: Rethinking Work-Life Success.

  • Stop searching for balance. One issue that holds women back is their search for balance. When it's not there, they get frustrated -- possibly turning down a promotion or leaving the workforce completely. By staying in the workforce, women can be successful in both their work and home life.
  • Make home life a priority. If there is something wrong at home, you need to work it out. Otherwise, it will always bother you at the office. You might change jobs, but your cornerstone is your home life -- an important grounding point.
  • Manage your time more efficiently. Be present in what you're doing, finish it and move on. I have my list of things to do, and I'll assign time slots to it. If I have one hour to work on a presentation at work or one hour to clean at home, I do the best I can for that one hour.
  • Combine your work and family schedules. I used to keep two different calendars -- one for home and one for work; but, I was missing work deadlines, my kids' activities and other events. So I combined the calendars, which caused me to start talking about my family at work and integrating my two lives. It's one life and one calendar! And, now, I don't miss a thing.
  • Stay in the moment. When you're at work in a meeting, be there. When you're at home, be there. If you're in a business meeting, don't be wishing to be somewhere else. Be present where you are, and don't feel guilty about where you're not.
  • It isn't just a job. Work at a place and on something that you are passionate about. Don't just take a "job". Then you aren't choosing between work and life -- it is your life.
  • Take the promotion. The only way that you are going to be able to effect change is to get yourself and other women in a place where you are making decisions and influencing change
  • Sponsor another women. It is lonely as you continue to move towards to corner office. Sponsor other women inside and outside of your company.

Women can be their own worst enemy in the workplace; but they can also be the inspiration for change -- that is, for their own change. And with this cultural shift, more companies in the United States will see a different view from the top, with more women executives leading the way.

Teresa Taylor

Teresa Taylor is a nationally recognized, Fortune 200 executive who brings integrity, focus, vision and agility to corporate leadership, while advising companies, government agencies and others on a successful business model. Her book, The Balance Myth: Rethinking Work-Life Success, is inspiring women to succeed professionally and personally.

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