Yesterday was a day for me to remember. It was International Women’s Day and the start of South by Southwest 2019. A year ago, I was couch surfing at a friend’s place in Austin attending SXSW 2018. It was at South by where I experienced a meetup on career development for women which led me to write a book. A year later my book, “Careerismo” has been published and is now available for women to read.
Careerismo is for women who are starting their careers. There were many characters involved and very real people who went into writing and sharing this book. This includes college graduates I have worked with during the past 15 years as a recruiter for many of the top MBA schools. I drew upon several experiences with those candidates when writing Careerismo.
It was when I started Women.MBA two years ago that I began to narrow my focus from diversity to women. I remember a watershed moment occurred when UCLA Anderson ended my contact because I was recruiting too many diversity candidates and they wanted more women. What’s ironic to me is that diversity in Higher Ed typically equals minorities. Why are women always labeled a minority? I get the underrepresented part; but, as I write in the book, “Women are the only majority who are treated like a minority.” And, with due respect to all minorities, I believe this status harms women’s careers. I will explain why in future coverage on this topic.
Other real life characters who inspired me to write this book were the twenty or so women at the career meet-up last year during South by Southwest. I dropped by this conference session on a bit of a whim during my last day of the event and I’m glad I did.
Over the course of a 90-minute round-table discussion many candid experiences were shared. During this time, “I kept hearing I don’t know how to get my career started from several young women who had gathered for the meetup.” It surprised me because I could tell most of the women in the room saying this were very capable and intelligent. The young women voicing this concern had either recently graduated or were about to graduate from college. And, because SXSW draws a geographically diverse audience, none of them participating in the meetup attended UT Austin.
These career starters were paired with other women who were mid-career. There’s no doubt the older women were a tremendous resource to the career starters. Because I was the only man in the room it soon also became apparent to me that older women helping younger women wasn’t really the problem. There is one caveat here. Career life at an industry conference is friendly and, apparently, much different than the workplace. In work settings, as I discovered doing research for this book, several successful women told me opportunities for women are limited. Therefore, in employment settings such as these; women view each other as adversaries, not allies. This means they are competitive and are less willing to help each other’s careers. I also learned from professional women I interviewed for the book that more men have actually helped them succeed in their careers than women.
I would never underestimate the value of “for women, by women,” especially on a day we recognize and celebrate all women. There are also signs of hope that women will increasingly help each other succeed in occupational pursuits. However, as it relates to careers, it is not exclusively a “for women, by women” world. You must involve men, like me, who believe in your potential and care about the success of your career. Men, along with women, are a missing piece to the solution of career for more women.
My path this past year has been a complex journey. It’s now one I plan to simplify. So, let’s get down to the basics. It all seems very simple. Bottom line, women makeup the majority of the educated workforce and they are underrepresented in careers. Women need more men, like me, involved in their careers. I am qualified to help and I believe the narrative needs to change. If you agree, you will have a leading role to play.
As the day we recognize women and I announce Careerismo ends, we begin a new day and journey. It will take all of our efforts. Let’s change the narrative and move the needle forward on progress for more women and their careers.