WomensMedia CEO Nancy Clark had the honor and pleasure of briefly interviewing former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright regarding the career-advancement challenges facing women. Here is a transcript of their discussion.
Nancy Clark: Some 35,000 professional women visit WomensMedia each month. One of their greatest concerns is the frustration of not reaching the upper levels of corporations. Looking at the statistics, it appears gender is making a difference — 16% of upper management is female (46.5% of workforce is female). What advice and insights do you have for women?
Madeleine Albright: I tell women to act in a more confident manner. You need to learn to interrupt. Ask questions when they occur to you and don’t wait to ask. Also, you don’t need to ask permission to ask a question. Be a risk taker; business appreciates risk takers. This trait is desirable in prospective leaders.
I want to emphasize: Don’t be a woman with a chip on her shoulder. I see many women with this attitude. They don’t accomplish as much as they could. Others don't want to assist them with their concerns.
Nancy Clark: Do you see business starting to appreciate the talents women can add?
Madeleine Albright: Yes, I see relational leadership skills beginning to be highly valued by business. Sometimes being a woman is an advantage in business. Women are excellent multitaskers, and as such are well suited to new business demands. When my daughters had children, they perfected this talent and could appreciate how I’ve used it in my life. Multitasking is necessary for raising children and now is very important in the way business needs to be conducted.
Nancy Clark: My reason for taking action is the realization that decades after the start of the women’s movement, recent MBA female graduates are still saying, “If I just put my head down and work through lunch, work even harder, then I’ll be recognized.” Repeating these same actions and expecting new results is alarming to me.
Madeleine Albright: Yes, I read that same Catalyst survey and agree that if women continue to keep their heads down working away, instead of speaking up, they won’t get noticed.
Madeleine Korbel Albright was nominated by President Bill Clinton on December 5, 1996, unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and sworn in as the 64th Secretary of State on January 23, 1997. Secretary Albright was the first female secretary of state and, at that time, the highest ranking woman ever to serve in the U.S. government. Secretary Albright has three daughters.