Okay, I am six feet tall with a bent for practicality and rarely wear anything that could be categorized as heels. I do love well-designed shoes. And that is about as far as it goes. In fact, through my academic days in science I am quite sure I only wore a continuum of shoes from sneakers to duck boots.
Then I graduated to the management consulting world and endless weeks of the charcoal pant suit. I approached work with formality and excellence. I was working with mostly men, of course, and I loved it. I remember having conversations about how I did not even notice I was the only woman in the room. And I was certain it didn’t matter.
It didn’t – until it did. As I advanced into the executive suite I noticed that not only were the women in my field gone, but that numbers of women I had met through engineering, science, and technology had left their fields. They had all moved over or out.
So, there I was in my late 30s with two young children. I loved the intellectual stimulation of corporate strategy and was determined to make it work, and I also wanted to help carve a better path for everyone else. I joined two incredible groups of women in Houston: the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP) Executive Women’s Partnership and the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce (GHWCC).
I developed wonderful lifelong friendships. I was generously coached by women who had led before me. I learned how to make a difference for the younger women — and men! — who were on their way, and actively sponsor them into leadership roles. Remarkably, I realized I had entered a powerful culture of collaboration. Yes, we women in Houston go to great lengths to enable the success of other women and our entire community.
I became myself. I started wearing dresses (which, by the way, are indispensable for transitioning from downtown to the playground!) and lip gloss that actually popped a bit. I found that being a businesswoman is a lot easier than being a woman in business.
And better yet, I am now a leader in a company that does more than just talk about valuing women. We have high numbers of women in key roles at Pariveda Solutions, and I am thrilled to be one among many! It is well documented that ensuring visibility of women in valued leadership roles is critical to retaining female talent. There is a great synthesis on this topic in the recent Harvard Business Review, titled: To Succeed in Tech, Women Need More Visibility, by Shelley Correll and Lori Mackenzie (September 2016).
So, I am heading off to the GHWCC Women in the Fast Lane of STEAM Leadership & Style Show. We are recognizing women role models in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM), and raising funds to encourage third grade girls to pursue education and careers in these fields through GHWCC STEAM Town, USA. I am so looking forward to meeting the new group of girls that I will be teaching with my Pariveda colleagues after school once a month!
Oh, and the room will be filled with hundreds of amazing women leaders . . . in fabulous heels, of course!