“Performance is it!” Of course it is, anyone who seeks a leadership position has to perform. But Jack Welch got caught in a buzz saw at the Wall Street Journal’s Women in the Economy summit not because he spoke an obvious truth but because he stated the obvious while overlooking the real issue.
Women don’t struggle to attain top positions because they under-perform. The data contradicts that point of view. Women are underrepresented at top levels because they lack visibility, aren’t sufficiently connected to the power centers in their organizations, and have difficulty setting the boundaries required to protect them from over-work.
These challenges are manageable– as I found when researching The Female Vision: Women’s Real Power at Work. And organizations have made huge strides in addressing them over the past few decades. How? By setting up precisely the kind of women’s leadership initiatives that Welch dismisses.
The great thing about the conference was watching the women push back by standing up for the programs that have helped them make progress. I’ve been participating in or monitoring women’s conferences for years. A decade or so ago, that wouldn’t have happened. Women were more likely to sit still for nonsense if it came from a star. That’s no longer the case- perhaps the best news of all.