Friday, January 16, 2009

when women address women's issues

Sometimes when you're speaking, a question is more than just a question...and you can speak volumes by just standing up. I was reminded of this yesterday while speaking to the Tech Council of Maryland about using social media as a professional networking tool. I encouraged the audience to share their questions upfront (see some video questions here), promising to answer them later in the session and on my other blog. One woman executive wanted us to address security issues and specifically "are you afraid of people stalking you?" My fellow panelist was a man who later touched back on that issue, saying "I'm not afraid of being stalked." So I jumped in to say, "I want to address that on behalf of women, because that very well may be an issue for them, if not for you." (My answer was encouraging of using available privacy and security controls on social media sites and even reporting bad behavior to the site management.) After the session, another colleague told me privately about her own experience of having been stalked...so the question, and the answer, helped more than the asker. Just a reminder to myself, as well as you, that women with speaking roles can help the audience by making sure their questions really do get addressed.

New Yahoo! CEO's first speech dissected

This morning's New York Times looks at Carol Bartz, newly appointed CEO of Yahoo!, and her first appearance before investors and reporters earlier this week, and immediately notes comparisons with her predecessor, who was male and soft-spoken. Terming her speech "decisive," the Times noted her direct style is a plus:
Ms. Bartz is likely to shake up Yahoo with a mix of candor and toughness, which many insiders say Yahoo has badly needed.
Even after she became a CEO at Autodesk, which makes design software, Bartz experienced subtle and not-so-subtle digs as a senior woman. The article notes a situation she faced that many women can relate to:
In an article she wrote for Forbes in 1997, Ms. Bartz recounted a meeting of technology executives, which included Bill Gates, with senators in Washington. “A senator turned to me and asked, ‘So how are we going to start the meeting?’ He thought I must be the moderator. It’s annoying. I don’t have time to change these guys, but when it’s ridiculous, I call them on it.”
And that happened when she was a CEO. I'll enjoy watching this no-nonsense style as Bartz moves forward. (Photo of Bartz at an employee meeting by yodelanecdotal from Flickr.)