Today I attended the Massachusetts Conference for Women. 10,000 powerful and connected women all in the same place at the same time.
I was grateful for all of it. To spend an entire day thoroughly engaged. Inspired. Ready. And curious.
Multiple times during the conference – in keynotes, breakout sessions, and hallway conversations – I kept picking up on this buzz about how successful women are profiled.
When sources (magazines, radio, television, digital content providers) profile a man’s work, they tend to stick to the work. When women are profiled their marital and maternal status almost always arises from the get-go.
I was surprised that all of these conversations seemed to be trying to figure out why the profiles of our most successful and admired women, don’t read like the profiles of our successful and admired men.
And, unfortunately, the answer there is sad and simple: because in the workplace (as in many other places) women are still not treated as equals.
And while the answer upsets me, I think we could ALL do well to expand the question.
Why are we still acting as if we have multiple selves?
We’ve conned entire generations to buy into this idea that there MUST, at all times, be a distinct and clear line between personal and professional. Heaven forbid the two should ever meet.
I think this may be one of the great divides that got us so deep into workplace inequality in the first place.
Every successful person I’ve ever come in contact with has attributed their success to connection. To their connection to their own creativity. To their capacity for risk. To their ability to lean, trust, and confide in those closest to them. Even to their connection to their hangups and bangups, and their propensity for crawling (then walking, running, and eventually sprinting) their way back up.
I don’t believe there’s a good business person alive who would deny the significance of connection.
And yet, when we talk about “connections” at work, much too often we’re referring to LinkedIn or the contacts in our digital address books.
Truth is – those deeper connections. The ones with the people, places, and creatures who help us find and connect with our best (our highest) selves – we carry those wherever we go…including to work.
And so, maybe when admired people (women and men) are being profiled – when they’re being sought after for advice and asked to share their stories- less attention should be devoted to marital status and number of dependents, and much more attention should be placed on the importance of their connections.
Let’s focus on the what and the who they are connected to, and how those connections continue to help them see, do, and reach their greatest good.
Of course those lovely partners and dear children may still show up (they would for me), but this way they’d appear in the context of vital, positive connections. And maybe that could keep everyone – the successful people being profiled AND the most important people in their lives, from being treated like sideshows.
(PS – I think this profile of Beyoncé from 2011 stays pretty focused on connection in a pretty powerful way…and the performance kicks ass.)