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Product and Topic Expert
Product and Topic Expert

Look around your company. How many women in leadership positions do you see?  What can you learn from them?

At last week’s Ariba LIVE in Las Vegas, Dr. Tracey Wilen-Daugenti served as host for Ariba’s Women in Leadership luncheon. During her talk, Dr. Wilen-Daugenti shared insights from her research on views about women’s leadership skills and the rising opportunities in the workplace. The talk triggered a lively and insightful conversation among the audience. While several topics were covered during the session, three key themes emerged.

Generation, not Gender, Guide Attitudes about Women as Leaders

When examining the research, Dr. Wilen-Daugenti’s team saw an interesting trend surface. Different generations had different attitudes on how they rated women’s leadership skills.

Baby Boomer men gave women top scores for people skills yet rated men better at risk-taking and confidence. However for Millennials, both men and women from this generation viewed women strongly on all leadership attributes. Today’s work environment demands strong team building, relationship, and collaboration skills among its leaders – areas where women rate high.

The experiences of these different generations likely influence their attitudes. Baby Boomer men were raised in an era where most women stayed at home while Millennials grew up in homes with working moms.

Millennial Women say they are Ready to Lead

When asked the question, “At what age will you be a leader?” Millennial women said in their twenties. This contrasts greatly with Baby Boomers and Generation X women, who reported they would be ready for a leadership role in their forties.

Millennials graduated during a poor job market and were burdened with college tuition debt. These factors shaped a survivor mentality among Millennials and gave them experience and confidence to persevere challenging situations. This generation won’t wait for opportunities and promotions to emerge. Instead, it will pursue paths that offer career and personal growth ... whether with their existing employer or somewhere else.

The Personal Board of Advisors

For many professionals, developing a career path includes networking with others and securing a mentor for guidance. But rather than rely on one person as a mentor, Dr. Wilen-Daugenti recommends women build a personal board of advisors who can offer advice on a variety of topics. While one advisor can offer guidance on salary negotiations, another can provide couching on skills needed to prepare for career advancement. Don’t overlook personal guidance for life outside of work – an advisor who can offer advice for financial management or child care is valuable.

Women in the audience shared a number of suggestions for securing mentors to serve as a personal board of advisors. Some picked people who served in roles they aspired to achieve … whether in their company or with other organizations. Others talked about recruiting family members, vendors, and former bosses to serve as mentors on their boards. It is important to pick advisors that you can speak with candidly and who in turn, will offer honest feedback. One woman spoke of an unintended awkward situation she created when she enlisted her boss’s boss as a mentor. She felt limited in what she could share and wasn’t able to gain the candid guidance she was seeking.

What’s Next for Leadership?

How do you see the Millennial generation affecting leadership at your company?

Do you feel men and women differ in their leadership styles? Or do styles differ more by generation rather than gender?

Do you have a personal board of advisors? If so, who serves on it?             

Please share your thoughts and add your comments to the conversation.

To learn more about Dr. Tracey Wilen-Daugenti, visit her web site at and follow her on Twitter at @traceywilen.

Follow Debbie on Twitter at @debcm.