Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Corporate Goddesses and Other Mentors

By Betsy Ashton

I know I'm supposed to be writing about horrible bosses I worked for and hated. I can't do that. What I can do is write about why more women don't climb high enough in the corporate structure. It's about mentoring, white guys in ties and corporate goddesses in stilettos.

Sheryl Sandburg made big bucks with Lean In where she writes about why women are and aren't promoted in corporate America today. Sure, she made it to the top. She had good mentors along the way. Heavens knows, she dropped enough names. She wasn't afraid to try to have it all, to lean in and ask for promotions and challenges, to balance work and life from a position of advantage. Well educated and in an industry that recognizes potential over experience. Sure, she made her way to the top. I'm not taking anything away from her. I applaud her, but what she writes about is out of reach for most of us.

Jane Rosen, author of My Life as a Corporate Goddess, offers a witty, pointed look at the difference between men and women in offices with great views. She's been there. She's done that. In this book, originally published in 2008 and now out for Kindle, she uses satire to make her points. (Don't you just love the cover? I'd buy the book based on that even if I didn't know what was inside.)

One of her points is about the proliferation of white guys in ties. Power ties. $200 nooses around the neck. There are so many of them. They're everywhere. But let a woman walk into a room wearing stilettos and men's eyes follow her, maybe even drool. But promote her to sit at the table, most likely not.

Rosen writes of the need for women who made it to mentor those on the way up. Mentoring starts at home where parents should encourage children of both sexes to do their best, set goals and achieve them. Mentoring continues through school and college, where teachers, counselors and professors should guide boys and girls, not tell them some jobs are closed to them. Mentoring becomes critical in the workplace.

Note in Sheryl Sandburg's book, she tells readers not to ask her to mentor them because she doesn't know them. Fair enough, but does she really mentor women she knows? Rosen has done that all her life, whether it was in public broadcasting (Yes, you'll find an Emmy on her bookshelf) to working for top management at NCR, she's had women assistants whom she taught to excel.

Okay, time to confess. I met Jane in 1996. She was fresh off a divorce, a single mother with a great young teenage son, returning to her home town (Dayton, OH) after a whirlwind career working in public broadcasting in Austin, TX. You figure out which show she produced to earn her Emmy. We became friends, still are. When she was thinking about writing about corporate goddesses, she interviewed a variety of different women in the workplace. She thought my story was one worth sharing.

I learned more from Jane than she did from me, I think. We both mentor women, she working with them to shape the marketing messages for their businesses. I work with newbie writers through social media and countless speaking engagements.

Jane and I both write. She's working to get two wonderful plays produced; I'm working to get my second Mad Max book published. There's always more room on the ladder to the top. Climb on, women. We'll be there to lend a hand, an ear and a tissue.

Yours in goddess-hood.


Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max Unintended Consequences. She is the current president of the state-wide Virginia Writers Club where she finds ample opportunity to mentor writers.


Margo Hoornstra said...

Betsy. As a woman whose 'former' life included a looonnnnngggg stint in the corporate world you speak of, and having to prove myself day after day after day after day, all I can say is Amen. (No pun intended, but there it is)

Jannine Gallant said...

Maybe one of these days it won't be such a struggle!

Leah St. James said...

I've never been in a position where I had to fight my way for promotions. I have had the privilege of working with some wonderful executive women though who demonstrated those behaviors you write about. My current boss has made it a goal to help me spread my wings beyond my traditional (administrative) role and to learn a whole new industry. I consider myself blessed.

Diane Burton said...

Great post, Betsy. One of the things I learned early on in this writing business is the overwhelming number of women who are so willing to help each other. Sharing what they know and/or learned the hard way, offering advice and support. I've been at book signings with other writers who have promoted my books as I promote theirs. "If you like sweet romance, try Margo's..." to which Margo has said, "If you like sci-fi, try Diane's." (Yes, our Margo.) We are so fortunate to have such supportive mentors.

Jane C. Rosen said...

Thank you, Betsy, for a wonderful post and for your lovely referral to my book. I am constantly amazed at the never ending mentoring circle ~ as I continue to mentor young men and women in marketing and PR. It also continues for those of us over 50. I have joined the LA Women in Film Mentoring Circle as a mentee and find myself being mentored by women my age and much younger, as I journey the inner roads of the script to film path. The generosity of spirit continues and we see so many more opportunities for mentoring now than we did 30 or so years ago. Thank you for giving it word space, mind space and heart space. And I can't wait to read your next book!! xoxo ~ Jane C. Rosen

Alicia Dean said...

Fantastic post. Wow, I'm impressed! I've been fortunate enough not to have had a position where I was overlooked or underpaid as opposed to a man. That must be a very frustrating thing to deal with. Thank you for sharing the interesting info!