The World Needs Women Leaders

Maria Pinelli, Ernst & Young Global Vice Chair of Strategic Growth Markets, shares words of wisdom to galvanize female entrepreneurs into action.

The Story Exchange By The Story Exchange

Editor’s Note: Pinelli wrote this article for The Story Exchange. It has been edited for style purposes.

Credit: Ales Krivec, Stock Snap

Credit: Ales Krivec, Stock Snap

Fact: We need more women CEOs, CFOs and board members.

At the current rate of progress, the World Economic Forum says it will take until 2095 to achieve gender equality in the workplace. But we can’t wait 80 years — we need to speed up the clock now, in order to create real change.

When it comes to solutions, I often find myself reciting these brilliant pearls of wisdom from my colleagues and contemporaries:

  • Talk up the male professions. “I have two daughters, [who are] both in engineering school. Today, just 20 percent of engineering students are women, but that is five times the number of 30 years ago. If you tell young women there are only 20 percent in engineering or science, they’ll say, ‘That’s not for me.’ Instead, tell them there are five times more [than before], and then they’ll say, ‘I need to be on that bus.’”
    Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar Corporation
  • Give your daughters early encouragement. “My father who told me I was smart, talented and could do anything if I worked hard. It doesn’t matter if it’s true; it’s what every parent should tell their children if they want them to think they can someday run their own company.”
    Martha Stewart, founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.
  • Give women exposure to the boardroom. “We don’t mentor our women — we train them. We offer them associate directorships. They don’t have responsibility, but they sit at the board table and they go from the factory floor to the boardroom in just three years.”
    Diane Foreman, Founder, Chairman and CEO of the Emerald Group Ltd.
  • Don’t dial into preconceptions. “Someone calls me bossy. Well, I am the boss! I am there to do a job. I am capable and I am confident.”
    Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar Corporation
  • Leadership is not about you. Leadership is about others. “Transformative leadership helps women own their lives, own their families, and own their communities.”
    Dr. Jennifer Nkuene Riria, Group CEO of Kenya Women Holding
  • Know your stuff and work hard. “I was a former beauty queen, but I am also a trained accountant and came in top of my class. I was never taken as seriously as my male colleagues, but I had to fight, work three times as hard.”
    Johanna Mukoki, Group CEO of Travel with Flair

And, at the most recent Ernst & Young Women in Leadership Summit, held this past June in Monaco, delegates offered their thoughts on how to support other women trying to start up smart and rise to the top. Many encouraged fellow entrepreneurial and hard-working women to…

  • take action, and be bold!
  • find the right mentor (including men).
  • keep building your skill set — always be improving.
  • make sure you’re passionate about who you are, not what you have.
  • hire people who compensate for your weaknesses, and those who are smarter than you.
  • think globally, and develop cultural literacy.
  • work harder — and smarter — than anyone else.
  • be great at what you do (you can’t always fake it ’til you make it).
  • be authentic; people only want to be led by authentic leaders.
  • be resilient — don’t let setbacks derail you!

Beyond those items, one overall piece of advice I have for supporting women in the workplace is to watch out for the sharp elbows, to keep the ladder down, and to make sure you lend a supporting hand while you bring other women up!

Entrepreneurially Yours,
Maria

Related: Expanding Upon Success – a Q&A with Maria Pinelli

Posted: October 22, 2015

The Story ExchangeThe World Needs Women Leaders