When I started the Corner Office column more than four years and about 250 interviews ago, I set several guidelines for the conversations I would have with top executives about leadership.
I was going to pursue, for example, a diverse mix of voices, in terms of age, race, nationality and the kind of organizations they led. I would also interview a lot of women, though I planned never to ask them any gender-related questions. My thinking was simply to interview leaders who happened to be women, rather than focus on the fact that they were women leaders.
But a few things have happened. The vigorous debates started by Sheryl Sandberg, with her “Lean In” book, and by Anne-Marie Slaughter, with her provocative article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” in The Atlantic, suggest that we are not even close to being done with the gender conversation (though Janet Yellen’s nomination to lead the Fed is certainly a noteworthy milestone). I’ve also kept in touch with many of the women I’ve interviewed over the years, and I’ve heard from them a growing frustration with the stubbornly low number of women in executive suites.
Given that the arguments surrounding work-life balance have been so fully voiced, I decided to take a different tack, and add more insights to the discussion of leadership challenges that women face at work, apart from the juggling act.
So I went back for a second conversation with four women I had interviewed for Corner Office, to ask them to share stories about headwinds they have navigated over the years, and advice they would offer other women about succeeding at work.
Following are edited excerpts: