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Power Players – Extended Version

They offer a roadmap to get more women to the top

(page 3 of 6)

Liang: In healthcare here in Hawaii, in the hospital side, I would say roughly 75 percent of the employees are women, and in the No. 2 spot more than 50 percent are women, but at the top level, about 20 percent are women who have become the CEO of hospitals in Hawaii and Hawaii is a little bit better than nationally. Nationally, maybe 10 percent of hospital CEOs are women. So, you definitely have an issue where there are 75 percent women all the way to the No. 2 position. There is something about getting to the next level, which about leadership attributes traits that are not necessarily the hard skills, but some of the soft skills: presence; being able to build community relationships; in healthcare, it’s working with medical groups, which tend to have male leaders, and the specialists tend to be male still today.

Enay: What about in tourism, Shari?

Chang: Obviously in the workforce, women dominate, but in the upper-level positions, other than the family-owned companies, you don’t see women at the very top very often. It hasn’t gotten there yet.

Enay: Would you folks agree that the glass ceiling does or does not exist?

Lau: I don’t think there is any question that it still exists. (General agreement.) And, particularly, at about age 35, because it’s right when women want to have families and, oftentimes, they may just take themselves voluntarily off of progression, or sometimes it just happens naturally because you just can’t spend the time that you need to spend to really do a great job and be able to advance.

Mailer: It’s true that the glass ceiling is still there, but I choose not to care about the glass ceiling, because if you do and you think that it’s there, all of a sudden it’s there. So, as women, we are all sitting in places where we can expose other women to opportunities and I think one of the best places to do that is when an organization is in crisis or has one of its biggest challenges and to put a young woman or four or five of them on the team to actually work out the crisis or work out the challenge, and have one of them lead it. That’s a huge up for any of the women involved because they get known as the go-to people for solving the problems of the organization and we have a lot of opportunities especially in this environment to put women in those kinds of experiences where they’re seen as the problem-solver or the opportunistic person who has actually taken the company to a next level.

Pacarro: In some ways, the glass ceiling is because of life choices and it’s not necessarily opportunity. So, I think, as we become better at picking mates, then our duties as mother .... (Interjections and laughter: “Someone who cooks.” “You can go out to eat.”

Lau: I have the husband who goes to McDonald’s. He is not a great cook, but he goes to McDonald’s. He tells me, “Don’t worry about it, the kids will be fine.” They’re still living. (Laughter.)

Bronster: Each of us has been very lucky. Each of us has had opportunities, whether thrust upon us or you’ve reached out and gotten, but I think that to deny that the glass ceiling exists is a little bit of a disservice to the women who are struggling, those young women who say, “How can I be one of the those three or four top women?” It’s a very difficult thing for them to address and I think giving them tools to work with is really important. I’m saying: Yes, it does exist, but it’s not impossible.

Mailer: It’s glass; you can see through it.

Pacarro: You can and it’s very clear to envision it and even break it, so I don’t like to think of it as an obstacle. I would like to see it as, “OK how do we get through it. How do we get through and around it, rather than feel it is impenetrable.”

Enay: Do you think women have to work harder than men to get to the top seat?

Inouye: I was told specifically in a job, and I won’t tell you where it was, by my immediate supervisor, that in order to get ahead. “You’ll have to work twice as hard as anybody in this office.” I looked around: “That’s not going to be too hard.” (Laughter.) Many years have past and I ran into one of these guys I worked with and he says, “Kathy, do you remember the kinds of things we used to tell you?” I said, “Yes, I did.” He says, “You know what they call that today? They call it sexual harassment. I remember the challenges we used to give you and you would just do it.” But I would say that for anyone, male or female, to get ahead you have to work hard to be recognized.

Liang: Absolutely, and I think there are more critics and, for some reason, more criticism of women, so women often get feedback about behaviors, how you use your power, or how you show up emotionally at work. They’re can be criticism, whereas for men there is more of a free pass. That’s just part of reality. The second thing I would say is I’m not pessimistic about that. Partly, you have to have the capacity to go with it and take it in stride, with some humility and laughter about the situation. How many times has somebody come in and thought I was the secretary and handed me things to copy? Or say they’re here to meet with me. And I just look at them and let them suffer a little bit. (Laughter.)

Chang: I would go to the copier machine.

Liang: Yes. I would say, “I’m happy to take that for you. Let me introduce myself.” And then they’re just appalled. It’s part of that re-education. You go with it rather than get upset or angry about it.
Enay: Any specific tips on how we can shatter the glass ceiling?

Mailer: I’ve got one and it’s back to education. If the glass ceiling – any ceiling –  starts for a human being, it starts way back in middle school when people start defining for you, your life. And you listen to them because you’re very vulnerable in middle school. So both women and men get labeled at that point and I think that it’s really important for teachers and adults around kids at that age to show them all the possibilities and not make it gender specific. Get them to understand that there is no one role for anyone. It’s whatever they have a taste for.

Chang: It even happens in upper education. I could give you a very personal example that happened to my daughter in college. She was a double major and one major was computer science. She wasn’t doing as well in computer science as her other major, so the dean, who happened to be a woman, called her and said, “I think you should drop your computer science major.” I was just furious. There are only two women in the major at the time, so I sent my daughter an article that said if more women don’t become engineers and go into computer science, it’s going to be a very weird industry. I told her, “I don’t care about your grade point, I care about your passion. If your passion is there, continue with it,” and she did. She ended up getting a contract before she graduated, has been with them 10 years now, and is very successful with them. I felt like going back to that dean and saying, “Don’t you stereotype women in these industries just because there are only two in that major right now.” It was very disturbing, because I just didn’t believe at the college level it would still be there, but it was.

Inouye: Tell the student, whomever it is, to take that as a challenge.

Chang: Exactly.

Inouye: When I was going to college I had a challenge from one of my business professors and I can’t believe what he said. The first day in class he looked at me and said, “I know your type. You’re going to graduate from college and get married, your boyfriend probably does all the driving and you’ll probably never get a professional job.” I had the only “A.”

Mailer: Are you serious?

Inouye: Yes.

Lau: He actually said that?

Inouye: I went to college a long time ago. They can’t say those things now. Anytime I have a challenge – I think anytime anyone is challenged – they should take it on as a challenge and try to conquer it and try to solve the problem instead.

Lau: My daughter has been out working for two years now and she tells me some of the stories and they’re still going on. (Others voice agreement.)

Pacarro: And I think that, in terms of advice to women and men as well, you have to take on challenges and take risks. You have to take it when someone comes in with negative sense towards you. It’s like, “Bring it on. I’ll prove you wrong.” I bet all of us had situations in our careers where someone doubted you and what did you do? You didn’t wallow in it and say, “You’re right, I can’t do that.” You stood up and you said, “OK, I’m going to take this on as a challenge and I’m going to prove them wrong.” I had that happen when I first started at the company I’m at now, which is a long time ago, but the first person – it was not the person who you love so much who passed away – another person who was interviewing me said. “Why would you ever want to be a financial advisor? We’re never had a successful female one and we never will have one. You shouldn’t even waste your time.”

Mailer: And your answer?

Pacarro: “I’ll be your first.” (Laughter).

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