Starting the ‘Change’ Conversation

“Every human has four endowments—self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom … The power to choose, to respond and to change.” —Stephen Covey

The Women Aspiring for Leadership panel in mid-discussion at MBA Reunion 2013. Alissa is in the middle, with Laura Bennett, WG'03, to her left and Helen Wong, WG'83, to her right.

The Women Aspiring for Leadership panel in mid-discussion at MBA Reunion 2013. Alissa is in the middle, with Laura Bennett, WG’03, to her left and Helen Wong, WG’83, to her right. Photo credit: Shira Yudkoff.

I just attended my 15-year Wharton reunion and had a truly wonderful weekend. It was so special to be back on campus and feel the energy of people wanting to create a better world. I had the honor of being one of three panelists for Women Aspiring for Leadership, moderated by Assistant Professor Matthew Bidwell. We had a packed room with more than 100 people—including a few guys.

When I was asked to be on the panel, like any true Wharton student, I started devouring everything on the topic—including the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, listening to online talks via TED and the Milken Institute Global Conference, reading articles by Warren Buffet, and talking to men and women to understand views on the topic from all angles.

I also had lots of examples from my coaching clients. I was amazed to learn that many “successful” people, including myself, weren’t aware of the statistics on women leaders in the workplace.

I’ll share a few of these facts from Lean In:

• The percentage of women at the top of corporate America has barely budged over the past decade.

• Women make approximately 77 cents for every $1 earned by men.

• Women only account for 21 of the Fortune 500 CEOs.

• Women hold 14 percent of executive officer positions, 17 percent of board seats and 18 percent of our elected congressional seats.

The point of this post is not just to raise awareness on this issue but to ask ourselves: How do individuals effect change when situations seems impossible or incredibly challenging?

Often before change is implemented, a situation seems impossible. For example, before a vaccine was discovered for polio, it was estimated that eradicating the disease would cost greater than $100 billion. Today, only about 200 cases occur globally, and the cost was closer to $100 million to reduce the threat of this disease.

Progress happens, even for seemingly impossible situations.

So whether it’s understanding the depth of the women-in-leadership issue, being up to speed on the facts on the changing nature of our food supply (i.e., GMOs and labeling food) or analyzing the numbers for your sales team, effective change happens when we start a conversation about it, raise awareness with facts, bring different groups into the discussion, add transparency to the process for accountability and make goals public for better results, among other best practices.

Think about what you are passionate about both in and out of the workplace and start a conversation. As leaders, it’s critical that we fully step into this role today and go after what we believe to improve the world.

Let us know below in the comments section: What conversation do you need to start to make progress and support positive change?

 

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