The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders

The Influence Effect

Women represent half of all professional jobs today, but only 4% of CEOs in the S&P 500 are held by women.

Surprisingly, that percentage hasn’t really changed much in the last ten years.

The authors of a new book, The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders, argue that what works for men on the job doesn’t work for women. I recently caught up with the authors (Kathryn Heath, Jill Flynn, Mary Davis Holt, Diana Faison) to share more about their extensive research and experience in the area of women in leadership.

 

Only 4% of CEO’s in the S&P 500 are women.

 

Women Lack Access to Sponsors

Give us an update about your research and work since writing the last book, Break Your Own Rules.  What have you been up to and learning?

We conducted original research to help us understand why women were so turned off by office politics and how we could help. We surveyed 134 senior executives in leading organizations, and the results revealed that women and men fundamentally disagree on the overall objective of politics.  Women said they use the tools of politics to “manage relationships,” whereas men use them to “win.” Women were far more likely to mention “creating impact and ideas,” while men were more than twice as likely to describe “carving a one-time advantage.”

Women are judged more harshly than men when engaging in office politics, and our lack of access to sponsors puts us at a disadvantage.

Also, women and men have differing approaches to power and influence. It’s collaboration vs. competition.

 

Study: Women are judged more harshly than men when engaging in office politics.

 

You start with a premise that what works for men on the job won’t work for women. Would you share an example?

Leading Women: Secrets to Leadership, Business and Life

Secrets to Leadership, Business and Life

Do women face a unique relationship with power?

Do successful women pay a “popularity penalty”?

How do women unlock their personal power?

Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and an expert in empowering women. She is the founder of Women Connect4Good, Inc., and for seven years she has interviewed influential women for online podcasts available on her website. Her new book Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business and Life is aimed at helping women maximize personal power and improve their self-esteem and business success.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with her about her research and findings about women’s leadership, influence, and power.

 

“I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.” –Helen Keller

 

Now Is the Time

Despite some of the statistics you cite about income and other inequalities, you have a strong optimism about “now” as a wonderful time for women. Why the optimism?

I’ve been working for women empowerment all of my professional life. When I went back to college, and then during my doctoral research, very few people were talking about women empowerment. I felt very lonely.

Now, everywhere I look, people are talking about empowering women: self-help books, networking and mentoring groups, even the media. And why not? Women buy 85% of goods and services; it’s time for our voices to be heard. And as women are getting better at working together, I see a movement in which we claim our power and help one another create a better world.

 

“When we do things even though we are afraid, we grow.” -@DrNancyOReilly

 

“Successful women pay a popularity penalty.” Would you explain that a bit more? What should a successful woman do?

When a woman is successful, she risks denigration by her competitors, the media and other women and men. Studies show the more successful a woman is, the less “likeable” she is perceived to be. Look at a Hillary Clinton, when she was the most popular woman in the world and running for president, she had to deal with comments about her dress, her hair, how old she looked. It constantly undermined her credibility. Lois Phillips, one of my Leading Women co-authors, describes how women can build their credibility at the beginning of a speech, which men rarely have to do. Their credibility is assumed just because they are at the podium.

 

“One woman can change anything; many women can change everything.” –Christine Karumba

 

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