Leadership / 04.03.18
Seeing Beyond Gender: Creating, Encouraging and Being a Leader
When Lynne King Smith took the stage at INTIX 2018 in Baltimore, she came to inspire, just as a high school teacher named Mr. Risser inspired her to look beyond gender bias and help break the glass ceiling. In her presentation, “How to Create, Encourage or Be a Leader Who Sees Beyond Gender,” she shared the story of a math teacher who sat her down in front of a computer way back in 1981 and encouraged her to start learning code.
“He gave me a C++ programming book,” she recalls. “He said desktop computers are going to be really important in your lifetime. I spent a free period every day and copied code from the book. I was fascinated with how that worked.”
Who would have guessed that her fascination would one day lead to this: Lynne King Smith is the founder and CEO of TicketForce, an Arizona-based company that helped more than 200 partners sell $100-million in tickets in 2017.
“I’m not sure why Mr. Risser chose me that day, but what I do know is that he didn’t look at me and see a girl,” she told her audience. “He saw me as somebody who was curious and smart and capable.”
There were a lot of curious, smart and capable conference attendees in the Baltimore audience, and many were wondering why, even now, so few women have reached the pinnacle of leadership in the ticketing industry. King Smith confirmed their worst fears when she noted that out of approximately 30 ticketing companies, only three have a woman in the top job.
“We have a long way to go to see people in all of our industries take leadership roles,” she said. “We still see situations where all the general managers are men and all the people in the box office are women. We see that over and over and over again.”
If it seems that King Smith was just stating the obvious, she was, and deliberately so. “It's not a matter of just being pissed off or angry or saying I think this or that. I wanted to leave you with … a sense of how important our role is in empowering women. A first step is to be aware and mindful of the facts.”
King Smith suggests No Ceilings as a source for more information on the challenges women continue to face because of the gender gap.
Having listed a well-known litany of barriers that stand in the way of women in a male-dominated world, King Smith focused on what it would mean if the glass ceiling were smashed. “It's very clear that the more women we can get to participate fully and get equal pay for equal work, the faster our economy will grow.”
But, while getting more women into the workforce could raise the GDP significantly, King Smith says it’s not enough to have them settle for traditional gender roles. “Studies have shown that companies in the S&P 500 that are led by women perform better.”
And then, in a moment of prescience on a par with that of her former teacher, King Smith notes that for the first time in history, more women than men are graduating from colleges and universities. This, she says, combined with changing attitudes in the era of the millennial, holds great promise for the future.
“Millennials are collaborative, they are very civic minded, they are racially diverse, they are global, they are green, they really don't see gender the way that other generations do, they are very tech savvy, and they are social-media focused. There is a happy collision coming … changing workplace values that are pushed by this generation, and a surge of women graduating with business degrees and graduating from college, and if we, as influencers in our industry have an impact, they are ready to lead,” said King Smith.
Five Ways to Have an Impact
Here are five things King Smith recommends that women (and men) should do to help narrow the gender gap.
- Make all the women in your company aware of every opportunity. “When you are hiring for a technical position, when you are hiring for IT, are you skipping over somebody who might be taking those types of courses that you don't know about, and you think that that woman is not interested?”
- Speak up for those roles. “If it’s a traditional male role, don’t assume it’s not for you or for a female colleague. It's actually a good time to be a woman, exploring roles that are normally male dominated because companies are looking to diversify, so the opportunities are fantastic.”
- Don't lock women into non-technical roles or think they are locked into specific roles. “It's just looking beyond the gender when we look to the fill the roles and opening our minds a bit, so we are not caught in those traps. It takes some undoing. We have tracks in our brain, and it takes undoing to get rid of those, but it can be done.”
- Be an inclusive workplace. “Look around. If you are not inclusive, you may need to actually take some very intense steps to change the composition of your workforce, because there are a lot of young women who are not going to walk into your accounting department, for instance, if it's five men and take that job. Some will, but some will be like, ‘No thanks, that's not the place for me. I need something more inclusive.’ So, in order to get the first one or two in those departments, you are going to have to work hard to get them, and you may have to pay them more; you may have to be intentional about it.”
- Be a mentor. “Look for the women in your company you can mentor. Somebody who is curious, somebody who is bright. If she has no idea that she could be in IT someday or she could go into finance or any other traditional male role, then be the person that puts that thought in her mind. Be the Mr. Risser and encourage her to take classes in tech and IT programming, all of that.”
King Smith reminded her audience that the North American work culture is male driven and that is what is at the root of inequality. Referencing Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, she said, “Lean into that and become as assertive as men in pushing forward in your careers.”
At the same time, she asks if women need masculine traits to be successful, then haven't we lost some of the advantages we brought to the workplace? “I'm convinced,” she says, “that leveraging feminine qualities will also leverage success, but the qualities of self-promotion and confidence are always going to be rewarded in business. There is nothing wrong with those. And honestly, sometimes, as women, we should stop with the self-defacing things we say and just be confident.”
As the owner of a mid-sized, privately held firm competing with the giants of the ticketing industry, King Smith admits it can all be a bit scary at times.
“I summon all of the courage and all of the bravery and all of the confidence from within, and I believe that I can, and that makes a big difference. I get up every morning and I say, ‘What are you crazy?’ But as soon as I get up, have a cup of coffee, I believe that I can. It is something that a lot of women struggle with … having the courage to stand up, and they say, ‘Oh, I’m just not sure I could pull it off.’ I always look them in the eye and I say, ‘You can if you think you can.’ That's all that it’s about.”
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Tags: INTIX 2018