Jack Welch got himself into hot water when he recently presented to a group of executive women. He said everybody should advance based on their performance and results. This statement raised eyebrows and animosity in the female audience: How about unconscious bias, many asked.
About five years ago, I was the recipient of an award for being one of the most successful female business owners in South Florida. I was on a panel with my fellow winners and we encountered some tense moments when issues around life-work balance and gender issues in the workforce came up. Out of a panel of seven ladies, I was asked how I dealt with life-work balance, my answer being that I denied it even existed for the busy and successful businesswoman. I called it a myth at the time—I had even written on the subject in my work years before this particular award ceremony. In addition to the friction caused by my answer, it also became clear that some of the women on the panel claimed that their careers were shortchanged because of men in the workplace. I disagreed on this subject as well. I also made a point that women’s careers may be just as affected by other women in the workplace. After the public event finished, some of the panelists approached me to tell me that they agreed with my perspective but couldn't say so in public. Indeed, they always worked hard, produced at a high level, made themselves ultra-competitive, and differentiated themselves from the rest by focusing on their work and producing the best results. They could not openly say so, however, because of the setting that we were in.