The following is an excerpt from Kirk Dando’s interview with successful entrepreneur Mellie Price, on the For You Leaders Leadership Podcast, where they talked about women in leadership and much more.
Leadership Advice for Women: Where to start?
Leadership advice for women is always a tough question for me. And if I’m honest, I’m in a personal evolution around the subject. If you asked me for the first 20 years of my career, I would suggest, to be yourself. Live all the attributes of leadership: Be authentic, do your best at all times, act with integrity, honor your work and be on time. However, these are extra important when you’re a woman. Because women are judged by a different measuring stick.
Historically, I’ve not been an activist about women leadership. I haven’t talked much about the inequities that come with being a woman in the business world. I held the belief that women should just do what they’re doing and they can compete in a man’s world. I was unwilling to recognize that it was a man’s world. Which is ironic, because in my life I have been politically active. I have strong opinions, so this is not coming from a rolled over, bulldozed woman.
I never experienced consciously being left behind, paid less or treated differently because I was a woman.
It wasn’t until I was a mom that I realized the biases that do exist.
I’ve become much more engaged in the last several years around this issue. I was starting companies, in my mid-20s, and one company, in particular, is a seasonal event company for gate tickets. We sold tickets for many of the largest festivals in the nation. When the festival comes around and it’s time to sell tickets, a big team of us go onsite and we handle the box office.
It’s an industry with people who don’t have the highest work ethic. I was dealing with a lot of people who called in sick and didn’t show up for a variety of reasons. What got lumped into that was women who had children. I would respond, “Really, they are sick for the third time in a row in three weeks?” And now I’m like, “Oh, wow, that does happen.”
As an entrepreneur, I’m just trying to get things done and built. You want dependability and the people who work hard. It was very easy to assume the worst of people who had very real-life situations. The practical reality is that it does get in the way.
I’m turning into somebody who passionately cares about advocating for things that help women stay in the office. I love some of these companies that are providing on-site daycare. We are going to pay for daycare anyway. If you are a career woman, you’re going pay for daycare or support in some way, shape, or form. Wouldn’t it would be lovely to let your kids ride to work and get to see them at lunch? Or pop in when you have a 20-minute break? It is such a game changer around the ability for women to stay in the workforce.
Women in Leadership: Where the numbers change
Young women come in the workforce. When they reach the age where we start having children, that’s where the numbers change. It’s not the beginning of the funnel. It’s the end of the funnel where we’re lacking.
What I would say to all these young women is figure out the support structures you need to be able to stay in the game. That’s where it’s most fulfilling as a human being. For both you as a woman and to you as a mom. So many women come into leadership, expecting in their mid-30s or mid-40s when their families have needs, they’re going to check out. They think they need to check out.
Don’t mentally check out before you even got into the game. There are many strong, incredibly capable, caring, and competent women leaders. If they check out in their 30s and 40s so they can do what’s a priority to them, whatever that is, there’s a gap. There is a huge gap right now in leaders that are For You. There’s a gap of people that really do care and want to pour into you. They care more about what they can put in and a lot of those leaders are women. There’s the gap.
What about Dad leaders?
The same challenges exist for men in different ways. As a leader with kids, you’ll experience the same thing. There will be an expectation that you need to sacrifice your relationship with your kids. It’s not intentional, but others will have the expectation the mother is taking care of that relationship.
In terms of leadership for up-and-coming companies, it’s critical to find more balance around that. What we are learning is people who have balance and have deep connections at home do better at work. The same exists for men as well.
Leadership Advice for Women: Share the same values
The other advice I would give women is to make sure they do business with men who share the same set of values. I hesitate to say work-life balance because at the end of the day I am an entrepreneur and I expect a pretty high frequency.
As an entrepreneur, there’s an expectation you cannot have both a life and a high-growth company. I fundamentally disagree with that. You can work long hours and hard days, weekend and week out, and still, have some balance in your life. I would say surrounding yourself not just with support for the things you can’t do, but surrounding yourself with support for the things that you can do. The same goes for men as well.
Listen to the whole interview on the For You Leaders Podcast.