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Jennifer Brown on the Challenges that Women in Business face

July 20, 2011

Jennifer Brown, President and CEO of Jennifer Brown Consulting (JBC) sat down with us at the 2010 Women in Leadership Summit to share her insights on the unique challenges that women in business face –here is what she had to say:

You are leading a session on women supporting other women, and there are some unique challenges associated with this topic. Tell me a little bit about them.

In every presentation that I have attended here and in my upcoming workshop, we are talking about the unique challenges and barriers that we face as women—in asking for support, identifying which kinds of support we need, and providing different kinds of support to others, depending on what we are able to give. It is definitely a hot topic because fundamentally we do things differently as women.  We are very familiar with how men navigate their careers and how they build their network, because as a corporate consultant and as many of these women who live and breathe in corporate America at this Summit know, we are very familiar with the male paradigm because it is all around us.

Yet when you are the only woman at the table and you feel isolated, especially the more senior you get, you have to ask yourself the question – am I using the blueprint that the men have used to build their networks and have enabled them to ascend to where they want to be, or do I need to build something different, parallel, but fundamentally with a different DNA, because women operate differently?

How can women support one another and what barriers exist out there?

It is so interesting–generationally, I notice women in their forties, fifties, and early sixties who are in the boardroom and who have achieved success, with what I call a “scarcity mentality”, which is I got here, it took everything I had to get here, I gave up enormously important things, I made lots of sacrifices, family-wise, work-life balance-wise, stress-wise, health-wise, all of the sort of collateral damage that professional women of this generation have sustained in achieving seniority. So when they are asked to give a leg up and extend the ladder and extend the hand up the ladder, it feels overwhelming and feels like how can I afford to?– I am just trying to survive.  I am just trying to maintain the toehold that I have achieved for myself against all odds. I think there is an assumption about younger generations, that they have had it easier; Gen Y women will be the first to say I belong at the table and I belong in those conversations, and I do deserve lunch with the CEO on my first day at work, and I do deserve that promotion quickly and I am not going make any apologies about it. When we consult ‘inter-generationally’, we explain that this is the history behind how each of our generations of women had to form in order to survive.  It sort of lets the air out of the balloon and it becomes a more constructive conversation.

But the onus is on older, more mature women, more successful women, to make the time.  I will find that men ask me for mentoring and help more often, and more specifically, than women do.  I would say that men are frequently more direct in what they ask me to do for them, and their follow-up is very detailed.  They are also comfortable asking others to do things for them–“return the favor”, so to speak.  They keep score.

But women are surprising me, too, and I think especially young women have learned to be more direct.  They are managing up very well, so that is the good news and we are going to see a change amongst this generation of women.

Well, if people want to learn more about you and about what you do, where can they find you?

You can reach me at info@jenniferbrownconsulting.com and at www.JenniferBrownConsulting.com.  Also please feel free to follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@jenniferbrown).  We are really committed to social media and to making sure that we are putting our thought leadership out there.  We would love to hear from you.

 

Dark haired woman watches from audience of conference event

Women in Leadership Institute

NOV. 1–4, 2022 | Orlando, Florida, or Virtual
A 4-day immersive learning experience designed to equip women leaders with actionable strategies to overcome the hurdles women often face in the workplace.

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