BALOG COLUMN: Women, go take charge
If you missed Charlotte Beers' keynote speech Friday at the Women in Business Conference, you missed an inspiring, abbreviated take on her book, "I'd Rather Be In Charge."
Beers, who now calls Charleston home, was the first woman featured on the cover of Fortune magazine. She has been CEO of ad agencies Tatham-Laird & Kudner and Ogilvy & Mather; at the latter, she oversaw a $2 billion earnings increase in five years.
Harvard Business School still teaches "Charlotte Beers at Ogilvy" as a case study on leadership.
For the 370 people who attended the event sponsored by the Center For Women and the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, the speech was a rousing kickoff to the day, which also included speed networking sessions, dozens of vendors, and other messages from key women leaders.
Know, promote yourself
Two things that likely resonated particularly well among the group were Beers' urgings to women to know who you are and take credit for your work.
The first would seem to be an easy goal, but for a lot of women, it's not.
Being able to define what drives you, your key traits, (which is also how Beers came up with her book title) will help you figure out how to approach your job and how to be better at it.
The second is something that might be easily dismissed, and that's a big mistake.
So many women think their work will speak for itself, but Beers said that's just not the case, particularly when it's decision-making time on things like promotions.
Beers pointed out that when top leaders sit in a room and try to pick the next generation of leaders, they're not looking at who's the hardest worker. Potential leaders are evaluated based on their bosses' views of them.
Men know those things better about other men than they do about women, Beers said, so women have to take charge and tell people about their contributions.
Or, as she says in her book, the workplace is not a meritocracy.
Make no mistake, this was not the "ignore the good old boys network and somehow, magically, everything will be fine" message you might have heard from certain other women in charge. In fact, Beers specifically noted that power is not handed out via magic wands.
It's hard work, Beers said, learning to come to grips with what drives you, what defines you, and what you need to do to harness it. But the rewards can be great.
"You are unstoppable if you are born of knowledge of yourself," she said. That might mean asking why you're not invited to a key meeting, or just plain showing up.
It was, plain and simple, a call to action, to take charge of yourself and take charge of your career and your life. After all, how can you take advantage of the everyday opportunities to lead if you don't know who you are?
And her final thought was a fitting one as the group kicked off its first speed networking session of the day:
"We all have to be missionaries for one another."