Does a rising tide really lift all boats? Ask Bacardi Limited's C-Suite Team.
Last October S.H.E.Summit took place here in New York City. It attracted over 200 entrepreneurs dedicated to empowering leaders in pursuit of gender equality in the workplace. S.H.E. Summit founder Claudia Chan, uses the term “macro-movement” to describe the amalgamation of social movements working as a team to ensure women and men are treated fairly. Chan’s vision is one where leaders in the workplace use their voices to rise up in the face of gender inequality. And in doing so lift each other up in the process.
Claim Your Seat at the Table
The most memorable moment at S.H.E. Summit happened during the panel, “Breaking Barriers in Male Dominated Fields.” It featured Zara Mirza, Head of Creative Excellence for Bacardi Global Brands and her boss, Michael Dolan, CEO of Bacardi Limited. Mirza described how a fleeting moment signified one of the most important turning points in her career. At Mirza’s first meeting with the senior leadership she walked into a large board room. The room featured a ‘u’ shaped table. She went directly to the far end to take her seat.
As the new person (woman) on staff she unconsciously elected to set herself off to the side. She figured she should wait until it felt ‘appropriate’ to insert her voice into the conversation. She didn't want to seem pushy or presumptuous to her new colleagues. However, no sooner had she taken her seat when Dolan’s assistant came over and whispered in her ear she was to sit next to him at the top of the ‘u’. To paraphrase Mirza’s retelling of this moment, “Michael opened the door for me but I f**king walked through it and I’ve never looked back.”
The Power of Choice
Dolan is creating a space in which Mirza feels her voice is wanted, desired. In turn she’s empowered to realize her full potential and he sets a precedent other male leaders in the company as to how they should treat their female colleagues. Dolan shared with those of us in the audience that day that the choice to create an environment where everyone’s voice is equally valued helps him too. It helps him maintain a competitively healthy workplace. It secures Bacardi’s role as an active player in the movement to achieve gender equality in the workplace. And most importantly, makes him feel thankful that he is able to use his power as a CEO - and as a white man -to help even the playing field.
Having difficulty advocating for yourself? Start by advocating for others.
Even though you may not be the global CEO of an international brand, I still think there is immense value to be derived from this story. Have you ever found it’s easier to extol the virtues of a friend or colleague rather than sharing your own accomplishments? I certainly have. Many of our clients feel this way too. Sometimes it stems from a fear of being boastful. Or feeling unsure about how to talk about your strengths (hint: Bespoken can help with that!). Or a previous negative experience you had speaking about yourself in public.
Yet no matter where you are in life, or where you work, look around. I wager you can find at least one place you can use your voice to create space for someone who may be lacking the room in which to find theirs. Maybe it will be during your next staff meeting. Or at dinner with friends. Or at your next family gathering. Regardless, you will be pleasantly surprised the power to be derived from choosing to be part of the macro-movement and in your own way, in your own time, help all of us trying to move the needle towards a world where all voices have equal weight.