By Sheila Lirio Marcelo (Founder & CEO, Care.com)
2012 has already proven to be a newsworthy year for women’s empowerment, from politics to business to social issues.
This year we will see the greatest number of female incumbents and nominees up for re-election in the Senate. Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, just oversaw the largest initial public offering for a company when the social media giant filed this month.
The New York Times recently reported on the boon of entrepreneurs, many of them female, who are leading a new renaissance in Silicon Valley.
And lastly, it would be impossible not to mention the overwhelming display of female power in social media that helped to reverse the recent decision by the Susan G. Komen Foundation to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood.
And it’s only February!
As a working mother, female entrepreneur and CEO of the largest and fastest growing company helping families find and connect with trusted care providers, I couldn’t be more excited about the prospect of women in the workplace.
And I write this, despite clear evidence that inequity still exists.
Women now hold more than half of the entry-level jobs at American blue-chip companies. But according to the research company Catalyst, the numbers only go down as the ladder goes up: women are 37% of the middle managers, 28% of the senior managers and only 14% of executive-committee members. And it’s worse for women in technology.
My company has raised $61M in outside financing, which puts me in a pretty small club – only 8% of outside financing in the technology sector goes to women.
I’m sharing this data with you not to depress you, but rather because I believe that we’re at the beginning of a paradigm shift. Here’s my optimistic vision for the future: VC funding toward women will double in the next five years and we will see an increase in female CEOs and Board members of Fortune 500 companies. I see a global economy powered by women who enter and rise in the workforce to create sustainable growth in their communities and nations.
No doubt others will want to join me in embracing the vision – but how do we make it a reality? It won’t happen if we continue on our current path. True growth, true change will only come about with a commitment to fundamentally changing the way we interact with each, our preconceived attitudes, and the way we judge each other.
Collaboration is the hallmark of women’s leadership style. It’s the oft-heralded value add that estrogen brings to the workplace. How often have you heard that? So much so that it has become conventional wisdom. However, women need to come to terms with the evil twin of this quality: Competition with each other.
We’ve even heard of a coined phrase called “Frienemies”? Rather than offering support and sponsorship, working women are also known to feed office politics with over complication and analysis. I’ve certainly observed it in many work environments. Have you?
On the other hand, women who are at home provide an interesting contrast: They are ready and willing to offer other moms help with pick-ups, emergencies and advice. How can this generosity extend to the workplace?
Women have to overcome the insecurities that appear when there is a perception of somehow falling behind others. We have to realize that there’s room for everyone at the table and that we all won’t take the same path to get there.
Women have to start advocating for themselves and vocalizing their ambitions. Most believe that if they work hard, others will notice, but that’s not always the case. So we must lift as we climb, bring others along with us and collect talented people as we rise.
I’m all for advancement, but how fun is it – not to mention how unsustainable – if I’ve reached the top without a network or a friend? It can be very lonely.
I’m the first to believe in competition and all that it inspires in innovation. But I fear that there is a true dearth of collaboration in the workplace, and across the business sector, among women.
I’m going to be talking and sharing my thoughts on how we can collaborate and help each other advance our careers at the Women 2.0 conference on February 14, 2012.
I would love to hear what you think about collaboration among your female colleagues. Have you found that it’s lacking in your workplace? And if you do have it in spades, what can you share for others to learn from?
This post was originally posted at Huffington Post.
About the guest blogger: Sheila Lirio Marcelo is the Founder and CEO of Care.com, the largest and fastest growing service used by families to find high-quality caregivers, from childcare to senior care to household services. Prior to Care.com, Sheila served as an executive at successful Internet companies Upromise, a service helping families save for college, and TheLadders.com, an executive job search engine. Follow her on Twitter at @smarcelo.