Unlock your potential and shape your future.
Those were the watchwords that participants at the May 4–5 Women’s Leadership Workshop heard from the Kellogg School faculty and students who coordinated the event.
They also heard some unvarnished truths about the challenges typically confronting women professionals today.
Professor Victoria Medvec, director of the Kellogg School’s Center for Executive Women, reported being unsurprised by recent research suggesting that, for women, reducing the gender gap in workplace compensation might be as simple as asking for a raise.
Her own research and experience support the puzzling reality that, while women continue to earn accolades for brokering skills on behalf of their organizations, they just don’t negotiate for themselves.
“I want to be clear,” said Medvec, the Adeline Barry Davee Professor of Management and Organizations, during her May 4 workshop session. “This is not because women can’t negotiate.”
Medvec’s module, titled, “Negotiating for Yourself: The Need to Ask and Ask Effectively,” kicked off the two-day leadership event, which was organized by Kellogg students in conjunction with the Women’s Business Association and the Kellogg Admissions Office. The workshop, held at the James L. Allen Center and including networking opportunities as well as several leadership classes, was intended for young, high-potential women interested in developing themselves as leaders, as well as for women in professions in which a master’s of business administration is not required or typical.
The socialization of girls into passive young women, said Medvec, begins in the home, where even today girls are more frequently charged with indoor chores like doing the dishes and setting the table, while their male peers are sent outside to mow the lawn, wash the car or clear the snow from the driveway. “When those boys get outside, they’re suddenly thrust into an external labor market,” Medvec said. “A neighbor will come up and ask, ‘Will you shovel my driveway? Will you wash my car?’”
As a result, girls simply do not gain the same critical, early training in negotiating pay for their work. “It’s unusual for someone to ask, ‘Will you come set my table?’” said Medvec.
The good news, she said, is that it’s never too late to start personal negotiating. Throughout the workshop, she highlighted several proven strategies for successful negotiation, with particular emphasis on how to build and preserve professional relationships when delicate subjects — promotions, raises, extended vacations — are under discussion.
“The key to my success in a negotiation is not what I do at the table,” Medvec said. “It’s what I do before I get there.”
Following Medvec’s session was another led by Amy Cuddy, the Kellogg School’s Donald P. Jacobs Scholar in Management and Organizations. In “Building Social Capital: Leveraging and Expanding Your Social Networks, Cuddy discussed the power of social context to shape individual actions.
“We as Americans are sort of hung up on the idea that some people can be leaders and others can’t,” said Cuddy, an associate professor. Pointing to various landmark studies in social psychology — including Stanley Milgram’s 1963 study on obedience to authority — Cuddy concluded, “People’s personalities don’t vary all that much.” With the right outlook and training, she said, anyone can make herself into a leader.
Cuddy also explored the effects of the Internet and other resources on the role of the social network. “The increase in public information makes private or soft information a real competitive advantage,” she said.
Friday’s learning opportunities did not end with the workday. After a full slate of workshops and keynote addresses, attendees gathered at Chicago’s Vermilion restaurant, where they met with high-ranking representatives from HP, the event’s platinum sponsor, and sampled wine provided by E&J Gallo Winery, whose marketing director, Stephanie Gallo ’99, delivered a keynote address at the Allen Center on Saturday.
Said Zipporah Allen Sicat ’07, workshop co-chair: “The event represents the Kellogg School’s continuous support of the advancement of women in business. Kellogg was able to use its expertise in leadership development to serve women that are a few years beyond their undergraduate studies, but not quite ready to make the commitment to an MBA program.” She said that the workshop gave these attendees some indication of the leadership development that occurs during the Kellogg MBA experience.
Co-chair Elizabeth Mahler ’07 said that she and Sicat also gained valuable insights from the event. “Even after a full year of both of us honing our leadership skills, we were surprised at how much more we learned through the weekend sessions.”
Gallo began her Saturday address with a nod to Medvec, to whom the Kellogg alum said she owed the successful negotiation of her first post-Kellogg salary. “She had a tremendous influence on my career,” said Gallo, adding that the negotiation had been especially intimidating because she’d had to deal directly with the CEO of the company — her own father — who had once rejected her application to work in marketing at E&J Gallo, citing her lack of relevant experience.
Gallo also discussed the unique challenges she faces as a leader in her own family’s business. When outsiders walk into a boardroom and see that her surname matches the one on the company logo, Gallo said, many assume she owes her title to nepotism. “The skills I developed in sales and while at Kellogg earned me the respect of my colleagues,” she said. “The second I tell them I went to Kellogg, their body language changes and they start listening to me.”
Of the many qualities necessary for effective leadership, Gallo placed special emphasis on fearlessness and willingness to embrace and learn from failure:
“When we fail, we try again. We try harder. We try something new.”
Two workshops led by Kellogg professors rounded out Saturday’s activities. In “Practical Lessons in Communication: The Critical Importance of Effective Communication,” Clinical Professor of Management and Strategy Harry Kraemer offered participants strategies designed to improve their communication skills. Michelle Buck, clinical associate professor of management and organizations and the Kellogg School’s director of leadership initiatives, led “What’s Your Story: the Leader’s Journey,” which focused the ways effective leaders can build and contribute to a culture of learning in an organization.