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Women Who Rise to the Top

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Women Who Rise to the Top

Do you ever wonder how career women at the “O” (CEO, CFO, CIO, CTO) level of jobs in the US reach success and still manage their significant home and family responsibilities? Have they cloned themselves? Have they found a way to create more hours in a day or more days in a week? Or have they just done what most of us can do: maximize the leadership traits we already have within us?

To find out some of the skills that these top career women have that help them reach success, I have looked at the work of Diane Halpern and Fanny Cheung, both university professors and researchers in the field of women’s leadership. I’m happy to share my interview with Diane, which demonstrates that you can increase your own success by using the same strategies these women leaders use.

Joanne: In the study you and Fanny conducted with 62 women at the top of their professions, you found that women leaders seem to use a more relational leadership style which includes more open communication and the sharing of information. Can you tell us how that is good for business performance?

Diane: The women leaders in our study value team work. Leadership is about the group and not the individual. They attend more to interpersonal relationships and communication that are consistent with what is called a “transformational style of leadership.” Transformational leaders motivate and stimulate the team in a democratic and non-hierarchical system. There is more sharing of information. Research shows that transformational leadership is more effective at all levels of the organization. Research also finds that businesses with a larger number of women in top management have better financial performance.

Joanne: In your study, as well as in other studies of women leaders, you confirmed that these women considered themselves experts at multitasking. Can you tell us some of the ways these career women multitask and how they consider it a strategy for success?

Diane: The top women leaders have heavy responsibilities both at work and in the family. Since they are short on time, they have to manage their time carefully. One strategy to save time is to do multiple activities at the same time. Some tasks that are routine require less attention and can be combined with other tasks. Our study shows that there are overlapping work-family domains and, therefore, that tasks in these work and family domains can occupy the same time and space. For example, women leaders may read their work papers at home at the same time when the children are reading their story books; they may bring their families along on some business trips; they may bring food home after a business dinner so there is no need to cook when they get home. In this way, they manage to find more time to fulfill their multiple roles.

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Joanne Stern

Joanne Stern, PhD, is a psychotherapist with a private practice emphasizing counseling with families, parents, couples and teens. She’s a teacher, consultant, speaker, and expert guest on parenting and family topics, including communication, discipline, self-esteem, addictions, eating disorders, grief, and loss. Parenting Is a Contact Sport: 8 Ways to Stay Connected to Your Kids for Life is her first book. A mother and grandmother, she and her husband, Terry Hale, live in Aspen, Colorado.


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3:52PM PDT on Mar 23, 2012

yet, the ratio of women at the upper management echelons is still much lower than men

11:03AM PDT on Mar 23, 2012

The general tendencies for women to be more relational and multi-task really applies to all women, not C-suite women, in my opinion and experience working with them for over a decade. 50 women were interviewed in a similar study of the C-suite (Chief X Officers) for the book "Courageous Counsel." They found women who get ahead have a higher tolerance for risk than other women.

11:24PM PST on Mar 1, 2011


7:14AM PST on Jan 2, 2011

thank you!

12:46AM PST on Dec 13, 2010

Good Article

4:37AM PST on Dec 12, 2010

Useful article-thank you.

1:33PM PST on Dec 9, 2010

thanks for story. I"m sure these women had plenty of help- the kind you pay minimum wage for- to make their rise possible.

3:22AM PST on Dec 9, 2010

Thank you, I enjoyed reading this article.

10:34PM PST on Dec 8, 2010

thank you

9:19PM PST on Dec 8, 2010

Re: "Do you ever wonder how career women at the “O” (CEO, CFO, CIO, CTO) level of jobs in the US reach success and still manage their significant home and family responsibilities?"

Well, most of the ones I know (I know several) earn so much money that they hire cleaners / housekeepers / nannies / gardeners / etc. to do all the grunt work of family life, leaving what little free time they have leftover from their jobs to spend on their families. Money many not buy happiness, but it definitely helps make family and marital relationships more stress-free....

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Thank you for this greatly informative and well-written article.


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