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Will you step out of line?

Actress Alex Borstein who recently received an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a comedy series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, told a powerful story while accepting her award. Her grandmother, who is an immigrant and a Holocaust survivor, was in line to be shot into a pit during the Holocaust. When she asked a guard, “What happens if I step out of line?” he said, “I don’t have the heart to shoot you, but somebody will.” She stepped out of line. Borstein said, “And for that I am here and for that my children are here. So step out of line, ladies. Step out of line.”

This speech inspired me to think about my own behavior, as well as that of women in general. Do we have the courage to speak up and step out of line when needed? Are women less likely to defy the rules? It is difficult to make generalizations, but my impression is that women, more than men, tend to follow the rules, and although they may question, they are not as likely to challenge the rules and push the boundaries.

As women, we need to value our diversity of thought and our unique voice. We need to remember to:

Speak Up

If you want to make an impact you must speak up. It will always be easier to stay the course but having the courage to use your voice when you feel the organization is going in the wrong direction adds value and pushes the organization in the right direction. Believe in your value and speak up!

Stop Apologizing

I have observed that women are more likely than men to apologize for a new idea as a way to avoid being embarrassed if the idea is not accepted. We second guess ourselves, and it allows for others to more easily dismiss our opinions. Apologize and be accountable when there’s something to be accountable for, but never apologize for sharing your insights and ideas.

Don’t Underestimate Your Experience

Recognize that your knowledge and expertise matter. Share confidently what you’ve learned, your varied perspective, and stand up for your ideas.

Bring Others Along

Many women are natural leaders. We need to serve as role models to others by developing positive relationships, building strong teams, and bringing others along with us. Serving as a sponsor and/or mentor for other leaders will only strengthen the organization.

The women leaders I work with and admire are strong role models. They step out of line, speak up, and encourage the next generation of women leaders. Now, it’s up to us to do the same.

About the author

Sally Stetson, co-founder of our sister company Salveson Stetson Group (SSG), brings more than two decades of experience as an executive search consultant. She has worked across diverse industries including life sciences and pharmaceutical, healthcare systems, manufacturing, telecommunications, non-profit, and professional services. Sally also serves as Practice Leader for the firm’s Human Resources Specialty Practice.

Prior to co-founding Salveson Stetson Group, Sally served as Vice President of Client Services for Right Management Consultants and as Vice President of W.K. Gray and Associates, a retained executive search firm. She also held senior human resources management positions at Thomas Jefferson University.

In 2003, she was named one of Pennsylvania’s “50 Best Women in Business” by the Governor of Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Business Journal named Sally as one of its “2006 Women of Distinction” for her outstanding contributions both professionally and in the community. In addition, Sally has been selected as one of SmartCEO Magazine’s 2010 BRAVA! Women Business Achievement award winners.

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