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The new way to break the glass ceiling

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Women leaders in Generations X and Y don’t go it alone or count on legal remedies to break the glass ceiling. They are highly interdependent.

This distinguishes them from their predecessors. Former CEOs Carly Fiorina of Hewlett-Packard and Meg Whitman of eBay rose to the top of the computer world in the 1990s but still only know each other “kinda sorta,” according to Whitman.

Back in the day, she and Fiorina didn’t socialize. Period.

“With us, it was heads down,” Whitman says.

Today’s high-watt Silicon Valley women, by contrast, make heavy use of social networking to get ahead. They have 1,000-plus friends on Facebook and host soirees. They swap information constantly on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Lorna Borenstein, president of online real estate service Move, once worked at H-P, Yahoo and eBay. She landed her current job by meeting an investor at a party.

“By socializing,” says Borenstein, “we’re putting ourselves in the pathway of opportunities.”

Part of what’s different is that these women insist on having families and careers at the same time. “We’re not willing to give up the joys of either,” says Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, Google’s chief of Asia-Pacific and Latin American operations.

One mother of four, a Google vice president, does no work between 6 and 9 p.m. No reading, no e-mail, nothing. That’s her family time.

For this, women executives need a hand. Most outsource all forms of housework. All are part of large, dynamic networks of peers “deeply empathetic to helping each other succeed,” according to a board member. Another Google executive, Marissa Mayer, called one of her subordinates and warned her against becoming emotional at meetings.

Many of these women have successful spouses in related businesses. Many have fathers who were doctors. All rely on “certain men taking certain risks on certain women,” adds the head of a tech startup.

— Adapted from “The New Valley Girls,” Patricia Sellers, Fortune.

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