The Onus is on You: Lead by Giving

Addepar“Organizations are not networks,” says one exec in Stiletto Network. “Organizations are opportunities to build your networks.”

Karen White (President & COO of Addepar; former Oracle & private equity honcho; Stiletto Network Chapter 6) says that when a woman attends some esteemed institution of higher learning or gets hired by a reputable firm, the onus is on her to be active in her network – both inside and outside of her company.

We must work hard for others if we want others to work hard for us. We should lead by giving.

“People choose all types of criteria to favor – their alma mater, ex-football players, women,” White says. “But you have to be a contributor. Networks give you access, and if you’re in a network – at least in Silicon Valley – it’s assumed you will participate. All you have is your reputation around your capabilities and for keeping your commitments. You can fail at your venture, survive that, and move on to thrive in the next. But without the pillar of your network, your chances of succeeding are de minimus.”

In Silicon Valley, there’s less segregation of friends, family, work, church, temple, mosque. It’s all blended, and men and women see a fuller spectrum of each other’s worlds. This is way the rest of society is heading too.

People are relying more on their networks and less on their organizations.

So, what are you doing to feed your network? Whom have you helped today?

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The Cleats Network

After more than two months of practice, members of Congress and members of the media — the “Bad News Babes” — faced off on Wednesday at the fifth annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game. It was my great pleasure to cover the event for both the Washington Post and for MSNBC’s “The Cycle.”

While their male counterparts remain divided along party lines — the annual Congressional Baseball Game, which includes almost all men, pits Republicans against Democrats — the softball team is a bipartisan effort.

This game is notorious for its trash-talking, but it’s fostering a spirit of civility in politics. Players say it has allowed them to develop strong personal ties that are reducing antagonism on Capitol Hill, easing gridlock, and slowly overturning the Old Boys’ Clubs of both politics and press.

Sound familiar? We call it the “Cleats Network” — and it is ridiculously fun.

Even better? These ladies raised $125,000 for the Young Survival Coalition, which tends to the unique needs of young women with breast cancer.


Caleb Shirt

Members Line Up

Boehner

At Bat

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Hard Shells, Blue Suits

In Stiletto Network, one exec refers to “the hard shells, the blue suits,” while another recalls those “dorky silk ties” women used to wear. And in Chapter 1, I talk about trailblazers in the ‘80’s: “All wore Reeboks over nude hose, shoulder pads over thick skin. Life, they were told, was not a spectator sport.”

By Canyon Castator

By Canyon Castator

We all have a memory of THAT “power suit,” the one donned like armor to face the day. (And by “power suit” I do not mean the ill-advised, head-to-toe orange tweed number I wore at Goldman near the turn of the century – about which my former colleagues will remain mum and nod compliantly when I blame Y2K Fever).

I’ve always loved fashion. I relished prancing out the door in make-up and heels. Until, as a relatively junior employee, I started getting as much attention for my outfits as for my work. Arguably more. My clothes were always professional – never a “showcase of knockers and knees” – but in banking they stood out.

Really bad move on my part, but I was young….

These days I’m seeing a lot of sheaths and chic separates, as well as rockin’ kicks; they’re feminine, but not va-va-voom in a way that undermines anyone’s credibility or effectiveness. And still I had an interesting conversation recently with a friend who’s still banking. After more than 15 years on Wall Street, she decided to splurge on a few pairs of decadent-yet-office-appropriate shoes. She’d toiled in the trenches and deserved it – or so she thought.

“Who’s your new boyfriend?” one colleague inquired when she wore them to work, implying a Sugar-Daddy was bankrolling her purchases. “Someone doesn’t need a bonus,” another sniped.

Of course that’s a singular example, but the question remains: Can we as women appreciate fashion and spend time and money on clothes, yet still be taken seriously in the workplace?

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I’m Too Sexy For My Book Cover

Some have hemmed and hawed over my book cover, debating whether a classic Louboutin would have done the trick (trademark, shmademark). Still others winced at my hope of luring male readers with a shapely turn of ankle. (But sexy is better than dowdy, no? And them’s some sweet sticks).

I’ve been chided countless times in the nicest of ways by women who remind me that… this networking thing? It’s really not about the shoes and clothes. And ladies, I hear you.

As a journalist and former businessperson, it took me a while to get comfortable with this. But I ended up stuffing Stiletto Network with lifestyle details because these are the things women notice. These are things I notice.

So hear me out. Before I could figure what was happening, I had a gut feeling that the world was changing in important ways. Why? Because I walked into a conference room of 50 hard-core, successful women who actually looked like women. Women with chic shoes and healthy hair. Women for whom the requisite intro was: “I love your shoes!” or “What a fabulous dress! Is that this season or last?”

Stiletto Networks emerge because ladies find fast affinities. Sure, businesswomen talk about transactions, but they also do girly things like hosting baby showers and swapping Manolos. Where men might fall back on sports, women use clothes and shoes as an icebreaker, the initial step to a more substantive relationship.

“It’s okay to compliment another woman on her dress or shoes,” Heidi Roizen says in Stiletto Network. “Just because you admire what’s happening on the outside doesn’t mean you’re not interested in what’s going on inside her head.”

Stilettos might just grease the wheels…

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To Heel or Not to Heel? A Sartorial Romance / Tragedy

The other day, the awesome Rachel Payne—CEO of Fem, Inc., serial entrepreneur, former Google exec, and all around rock star—reached out to share a blog post she’d come across: I Refuse To Wear Heels.

Having just written a book called Stiletto Network, I get a lot of this.

One wonderful CEO posted my Barnes & Noble pre-order link on Facebook with the promise it was relevant to her crew—“whether we wear stilettos or not!”

Yet still the question remains: to heel or not to heel?

By Canyon Castator

By Canyon Castator

I’ve always loved wearing really high heels out because, well, they’re so pretty and they make me feel pretty too. Peep-toe booties? Check. Red-soled pumps? Check. Silver sequin Manolos? I’m a new woman.

I love my stilettos, and now that I’m hustling like mad doing PR for my book (with the geniuses who’ve nudged me toward this foray into “personality”), I’m embracing them again. I’ve escaped my writerly warren and hurled myself into the world to shamelessly hock my wares. I am positively running around town in stilettos, and reveling in that false sense of importance an extra 3 or 4 inches bestows.

(A sense of importance rivaled only by the spectacular narcissism of a blog).

And with every step I take, I’m cursing this callous, cruel mistress for the sting she inflicts. And I’m wondering—while feeling pretty and really quite important—just how fast I can get home to change back into my flats.

As the kids like to say, my dogs are barking.

Down girl. Heel.

So ladies, I leave it to you: is it pointless?

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We have to find a way to be successful that doesn’t compromise us as women… When you’re a woman trying to speak and act like a man, you’re expending energy on that while other people are just focusing on the work. If you have to put energy into being someone you’re not just to fit in, you’ll always be at a disadvantage.”

Heidi Roizen, trailblazing queen of Silicon Valley (entrepreneur, corporate executive, VC, educator)

Stiletto Network (Page 105)