Winning ways for women executives
Businesswomen everywhere ask Gail Evans, the author of the best-selling Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman, the same question: do I have to play golf? Her answer is a resounding no. "So what if you play golf," she says, "they're making the deal in the locker room and you're never going to get in there." Evans says it's time to stop acting like "junior men" and start playing on the women's team. By supporting each other, women can pave the way for success. BookPage recently spoke to the (now retired) first female executive vice president at CNN about her new book, She Wins, You Win, and the girl's game that can make women more powerful in business.
Why do women think they have to play golf to be successful?
The trouble we have had as women is that somebody told us back in the '70s and '80s that the way to get ahead was to become junior men. The truth is, most very successful women are very feminine. I don't mean they wear frilly dresses, but you know their female side. They use their brains and the compassion they have as women to be successful.
How do I win when another woman wins?
When a woman fails at a big job, everyone knows it was a woman. It's not the chairman of that company that failed; it's the woman chairman of that company that failed. And there's almost always a female component. She didn't fail because she couldn't balance the budget. She failed because women aren't into finance. That reflects on every other woman. The next time they get ready to hire somebody for that position, the guys think, 'Well, we gave a woman the chance at that and she didn't do very well.' So ultimately that hurts you.
But when she's terrific and successful, they don't say it's because she's a woman. When woman are shining, the issue of "woman" is diminished. It's just who does the best job.
And to become more powerful women need to form teams?
My solution to this is that we need to help each other. I think of these teams as the idea that we're connected. The idea that I care about your success, that your success matters to me, that I understand the connection between your success and mine.
Women are natural relationship builders, so why don't we have the old girl's network figured out?
We've made it artificial. We know how to do this personally so well. I know women who couldn't walk into an office comfortably, but they can network with 43 people to find the best pediatrician. It's like we lose all those skills the minute we come to work.
And the one that kills me the most: "I'm looking for a mentor. Will you be my mentor?" Being a mentor is not about a formal job. These are natural things! To get into the system that the guys have, we're setting up these artificial structures when we know how to do it very well. We're trying to reinvent all these things and make them complicated.
Why is that?
Women think we have to make it on our own, that there's no integrity in getting help. I say it's not even good business to refuse to get help. If you've got connections, you're supposed to use them. I'm saying we have to start doing it together because one is not enough. One doesn't get you any power. It's when six move ahead that we have power, and then we can help each other when we're stuck.
You tell women to keep their mouths shut about other women at work. Why?
When you talk to a man you work with about another woman, the power of your words is five times that of another man. When you say something bad about her, be clear you're putting the nail in her coffin. And if you put the nail in her coffin, think of who's going to put the nail in yours. Watch your words carefully, and don't get caught in the romance of being the one he trusts. If she's not good, they're going to get rid of her. They don't need you to justify it. I'm not telling anyone to be dishonest; I'm just telling people that this is a trap you need to be very careful about.