We invited Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin, executive coach and CEO and founder of 40 Percent and Rising, to join us on our Facebook page for a Q&A earlier this spring. Read the roundup of our favorite questions that were asked—and stay tuned to see Elizabeth weigh in on some of these issues in her monthly columns on our site.
Q: I have an upcoming interview for a management position in my field of expertise but I have no previous management experience. How do I position myself to make up for the shortcoming?
A: Okay, so let me be frank: the studies show that most men apply for jobs for which they’re only 60% qualified, while women wait to apply for jobs until they’re 100% qualified. NO ONE knows how to be a manager until they’re a manager, and I would not view this as a shortcoming, but as a learning opportunity. The way to position this in an interview is by talking about how you welcome the chance to grow into a new leadership role, how you’re fast on your feet and how you’re ready to hit the ground running.
Q: What does the increasing number of female breadwinners mean for men?
A:It depends. I think for men who are staying at home, it means a necessary adjustment to changing gender roles. In terms of the workplace, it’s a great thing. A study came out recently, showing that the increasing number of women on corporate boards was leading to more ethical workplaces and a reduction in corporate scandals at those companies. Also, while concerns are occasionally raised that equal pay for women will necessarily result in a reduction in pay for men, the studies do not bear this out. In other words, when women rise, we all win.
Q: What is the one thing that helps you be more confident?
A: Surrounding myself with like-minded women who encourage me to be my best self. We become the company we keep.
Q: How would you suggest blocking out negativity when you can’t remove yourself from the situation?
A: Work-wise, this is about setting good boundaries at the office. If you’re in a particularly negative environment, the best advice I can give is to make sure that you are taking care of yourself outside of work, and that you’re also pursuing other new opportunities consistently. I’ve coached individuals in abusive environments, for instance, and the best advice I can give is that if abusive or highly negative behavior is tolerated inside the organization, you generally can’t expect to change it, and you’re better off looking for new opportunities as soon as possible. In the interim, set good boundaries and take care of yourself.
Q: Do you think women who work from home are at a disadvantage when it comes to promotion opportunities and proving their competence?
A: This very much depends on the company and on the industry. Generally speaking, the answer is unfortunately, that unless you’re working for a company that is expressly supporting flex-time arrangements, there’s often a bias, even unconsciously, against those who work from home, regardless of gender. Part of this, however, is about managing expectations and building good allies. If you have a boss who uplifts you and advocates on your behalf, regardless of the work arrangement, you’ll be in good stead.
Q: How do you navigate a straight relationship in which the woman earns more?
A: This is an issue faced by most women who are in relationships where they earn more than a male partner. My personal view is that resentments arise when we’re not effectively communicating our own needs and viewing the challenges our partners are facing with compassion. While we are in a time of great change for working women, we need to remember that our male partners are in an equal state of flux as the roles that they were conditioned to accept change as well. I will also add that virtually every partnership I’m aware of, where a female partner earns more, has benefitted tremendously from couples counseling, and I also regularly recommend the book Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life, for navigating tricky relationship conversations around making sure your needs are met as well as your partner’s.
Q: How do you find a good business mentor. Are there any particular organizations you can recommend?
A: A couple of ideas: first, you may have great mentors inside your organization already. Remember that some of the best mentors for women are also men who are allied and interested in helping women to rise. Second, don’t hesitate to reach out to women who inspire you who might seem out of reach. I’ve found that senior accomplished women often enjoy mentoring younger women who are seeking to rise through the ranks, and it’s always fun to tell the stories of your own mistakes so those below you in the chain of command can learn from them.
Q: Do you have any suggestions for someone who majored in one industry during undergrad and would like to move into another? Large student debt from my bachelors is also a major factor. I have tried my hand at two startups but have found it difficult to manage with student loans.
A: Whenever you’re seeking to transition from one industry to another, the key is to identify marketable skills that are transferable to the new industry. On your resume, you’re going to want to emphasize those skills, even if the job you’re coming from is different from the one you want. In particular, I’d think about how your background might be marketable in the new industry. Once you’re in the door doing something that lines up with past experience, it’s easier to leverage into a more expansive position in the new industry.
Q: What fields you would recommend for a woman to work in that would later on allow me to work from home. I am still a student and I am trying to plan for when I’ll have kids.
A: The issue of flextime is more dependent on company these days than industry. However, tech, in particular, is currently more flexible than some traditional industries (like banking and law) where it’s really tough for working moms to negotiate deals like the ones you’re describing. This area is changing rapidly at the moment, though, and it may be that by the time you’re out of school, we’ll see a lot more flextime capacity across the board. Richard Branson of Virgin has been leading a push here—if you check him out on Google+, you’ll find a number of leading articles about the importance of flextime and how to negotiate. 40 Percent and Rising also has a partnership with 1 Million for Work Flexibility, which offers resources to working women on how to negotiate for flextime.
A: How do you know when you need additional help at home? (Nanny, housecleaner, etc.?)
A: Most of the women I work with find that hiring household help radically improves the state of their relationships. It eliminates conflict, especially when you’re overworked and exhausted and no one wants to mop the floors. If you’re asking the question, it’s probably time.
Q: Hi, I would like to get some good advice on work life balance.
A: Boundaries are REALLY important. One of the most critical areas in which most of us need boundaries these days is technology. I usually advise the women I work with to turn off their phones for at least an hour each night (particularly over family dinners) and also for at least a half-hour before bed. There have been some recent articles about how technology and screen time can impact our sleep, and there is no question that we all feel more overwhelmed when we’re not rested. But generally speaking, disengaging for a period of time, at the same time every day, is a good way to start to set better balance in life. Also, make sure you’re not neglecting your own needs in terms of exercise, nourishing your body and getting outside.
Q: I have an interview tomorrow and I’d like them to cover some relocation expenses. How do I ask and when? Also, their insurance premiums are higher than mine, can I negotiate them in my pay and show them the increase?
A: I would not ask for relocation expenses until you have an offer on the table. Raising requests for benefits and perks before you’ve received an offer can nix you as a candidate. Once you know that they want you, that’s the moment to start negotiating. As for insurance premiums, those are usually dictated by the employer plan, but it never hurts to ask, again once an offer is on the table.
Q: What advice do you have on how to network with others to gain insight or information on a particular company?
A: LinkedIn is the best platform for online research and networking right now. I recommend to all of the women I work with that they have an extensive, resume-style LinkedIn profile, and that within 48 hours of any live networking event, they’re connecting with contacts made there on LinkedIn. I’ve had coaching clients who have gotten jobs through LinkedIn, learned salary info during an interview process through connections built there, and found out plenty of info to serve them during an interview process at a given company. Also, make sure you’ve got a great professional picture up, because it makes a world of difference in terms of online relatability.
Q: I am a high school teacher. If you were to speak to the girls in my class, what would you tell them?
A: I love this question. What I would tell them is to not squelch their light for any person or relationship. In my view, we all have inherent gifts, and when we sacrifice who we are for the sake of pleasing others, we deny the world our talents and our contributions. Your girls are going to achieve great things—they need to know that they will be loved for who they are, no matter what.