Photo Credit: Andrew Neel,

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

Affirmative action doesn’t work. Being promoted because you’re a woman when you’re not ready won’t serve you or your company.

We preach to the “establishment” that they need to hire more women, more candidates of ethnic diversity. We pound them with statistics about the benefits of true integration. And they’re all true.

Companies with fully integrated leadership teams outperform their competitors by 45%. Companies with at least 30% women on executive leadership team can expect to see 5-6% net margin increase over those with no women on their team. We all get it and want to do the right thing. There are many cultural changes that must take place in order to welcome the diverse thinking that comes from a truly integrated organization. That’s a discussion for another day.

What else is getting in the way? WE ARE!

As women, we have the equal responsibility to prepare ourselves to be amazing leaders–ready to take on new roles, and the world! We cannot cry foul and sit and wait for opportunities to be given to us, we have to earn them and show that we’re valuable additions to the executive boardroom table. We must create our own success in a Bold and Fearless manner.

Sheryl Sandberg says to Lean In. I couldn’t agree more completely. We need to seek out new challenges and not rest on the excuse that “they” have put us in a box that we can’t break out of.

Here’s a tale of two young women stepping up and earning their place at the table:


Katy graduated from college five years ago and has worked for a large bank in campus recruiting for the last four. She has had two different jobs within the group, learning the specific business of each and networking with the bankers, her internal customers, as well as those throughout her extended group.

She’s consistently reached out to those outside her immediate team to learn about their objectives. Along the way, people have noticed her desire to learn and enhance team success through hard work and going the extra mile.

Deborah’s the corporate leader responsible for Katy’s division. Katy fostered their relationship with periodic check-ins. At a critical juncture in Katy’s career, Deborah became an active mentor. “You have two options in front of you. It’s a no-brainer; take this one and you’ll leverage all that you’ve put in and be positioned to accelerate quickly.”

Although the change in location and the new team to build seemed daunting, Katy trusted the relationship she’d built and jumped into the new opportunity. She’s off and running with a significant increase in pay, and has demonstrated her willingness to forge ahead into the unknown. Bold and Fearless!


Taylor left her first job after two years because she wanted more. She wanted to learn and grow and wanted to find a mentor that’d help her to push to new levels. She took a risk to move from a large, public company where she was a high performing cog in the corporate finance department, to a small startup where she worked directly for the CFO.

She was often included in strategy meetings with the executive team. Taylor wasn’t shy about questioning strategic moves and brought alternative analyses to the table to help guide their direction. Quickly the executive team began including her as an integral member and looked to her thoughtful analysis in making significant decisions on growth and utilization of resources.

After six short months, the CEO offered to be her formal mentor. Her late nights in the office, attention to detail and willingness to speak her mind at executive meetings have made her a superstar at the company, bringing her exactly what she’d been looking for.

It doesn’t matter where we are in our careers. If we want the respect and equal place with our male counterparts we need to step up, show up, and believe in our value. We need to work really hard to prepare ourselves with the experience and skills critical to our success.

Never stop growing and learning. Yes, companies have a lot of work to do in parallel, to promote cultural change to embrace the diversity of thought that women bring to leadership. We can help to lead that change as well. We’ve got this!


BreakAway Leadership Coaching works with high performing women and men who want to move to the next level of success. Executive Leadership Coaching is a powerful resource for enhancing the investment that you’ve made in your leaders. To continue on your path to greatness, contact BreakAway Leadership Coaching founder, Karyn Grant at [email protected] or visit

 Photo Credit: Andrew Neel,