PayScale: You created Landit as an online community to help women become more successful in their careers. What challenges did you experience in your own career change and as a working mom that made you see the need for a female-focused technology platform?
Lisa Skeete Tatum: I found myself at an inflection point after over a decade as a venture capitalist. The process of figuring out what was next for me was really challenging. I knew what I didn’t want, but wasn’t clear on how to marry my passion, interests, and experience into a next step. Everyone, myself included, expected me to have the answer, and it was unsettling. The more I talked to women from all areas of my life, from fellow alumnae to friends at my sons’ school, I realized that I wasn’t alone in feeling a bit stuck about how to figure out the next chapter.
Since then, I’ve found out that more than 40 million female professionals find themselves at their own version of this inflection point, from trying to excel in their current roles, to searching for a new opportunity, to working to re-engage in formal workplace. They all face the same question: Where do I start?
There is a large number of professional women who don’t feel fully engaged or valued in the workplace. The challenge is not one of motivation, competence, or track record, but rather uncertainty about where to begin the process. Specifically, there is really no place to turn where you can find a solution that is personalized for you or have a safe place to manage the continuum of your career. One of the biggest barriers we face is that we don’t want people to know that we don’t have it all figured. The goal behind Landit is to unlock the potential of millions of women around the globe by providing each women with a personalized playbook that empowers them with the tools, resources, know-how, and human connections they need to more successfully navigate their career path.The more I talked to women from all areas of my life ... I realized that I wasn’t alone in feeling a bit stuck about how to figure out the next chapter.Click To Tweet
PayScale: In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, you explained that Landit caters specifically to women because they “represent 51% of the workforce but are only in 19% of senior management roles,” and that women “aren’t progressing through the ranks of these organizations as we should be.” Why do you think this is the case? What are the biggest challenges unique to women in the workplace when it comes to moving ahead apace with men?
Skeete Tatum: We are focused on women, at least for now, because the need is particularly acute in terms of engagement, progression, retention, a sense of satisfaction, and fit with their overall lives. Here are a few of the root cause issues:
Women are often not part of business and informal networks. Seventy-seven percent of women say that exclusion from informal networks is an impediment to advancement. As careers progress, opportunities are found almost exclusively through networks or sponsorship. Moreover, having competing personal priorities can often limit the time available to invest in building these relationships.
Workplace Culture. Enterprises need to create a culture of inclusion and enact policies that enable women to bring their “whole self” to the table.
Need for a Strong Personal Brand. Women often undersell themselves and it’s imperative that we can tell a compelling story of our successes, failures, and abilities. We need to be advocates for ourselves.
Lack of Actionable Roadmap. Knowing “how” to get started and where to look for advice is most often cited as a barrier to full engagement. Access to resources, coaching, and mentorship/sponsorship is challenging and fragmented, with varying ranges of quality.
PayScale: What are the larger implications of the disparity between the number of women in the workforce compared to how many occupy senior roles? Passing the halfway mark in terms of representation seems promising, but what might (or should) change if this figure was more proportionate to the number of women at the top?
Skeete Tatum: Diversity in the workplace is no longer just a nice thing to have; it’s a competitive imperative. You can’t have 50 percent of the workplace disenfranchised. Experienced professional women represent one of the largest untapped resources for corporations and small businesses. Increasing the full participation of women in the U.S. workforce by just 5 percent could have a nearly $1 trillion impact on our GDP.
A more diverse workforce drives growth, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Studies have shown that having at least 30 percent women in senior leadership or in the c-suite adds 6 percent to net profit margins. A diverse workforce can also capture a greater share of the consumer market because there’s a stronger infusion of different experiences and thus more creative ideation. Having more women in a company’s ranks fosters greater inclusion which contributes to employee satisfaction, easier recruiting efforts, more equitable workplace policies for all, and less turnover.Increasing the full participation of women in the U.S. workforce by just 5 percent could have a nearly $1 trillion impact on our GDP.Click To Tweet
PayScale: What’s the most valuable practical advice you can give to women about their careers?
Skeete Tatum: Negotiate. It’s imperative that we advocate for ourselves. We have to know our worth. The consequences of not asking for compensation that reflects it go beyond leaving money on the table. First, it is often difficult to close the salary gap once you have fallen behind. Second, we have to be able to ask not only for a salary but also additional opportunities and/or promotions. Beyond not actively pursuing your interests, not negotiating on your own behalf could lead to questions about your ability to manage, especially as you move up in your organization.
Form a dream team. Your network is one of the most important assets you have. Moreover, the workplace at times can be a bit isolating. Develop a personal dream team in your corner. A strong personal board of directors should have six types of members: a mentor, a sponsor, a connector, a point expert, a close friend, and an executive coach.
Develop a strong personal brand. What’s the most important brand of all? Yours! Whether you’re looking for a new career opportunity or simply want to raise your game, putting the time into building your personal brand is essential. Get visible and make sure you can tell a compelling story of accomplishments, skills and talents. You want your name to be top of mind when opportunities arise.
PayScale: What would you tell someone trying to leverage what makes them different as a strength in a new situation, from a freelancer transitioning to a corporate environment, to a woman returning to the workforce after a decade as a stay-at-home mom, to a recent college grad trying to apply his or her academic training in the professional world?
Skeete Tatum: I would give three pieces of advice:
Find an area where you can uniquely and quickly make a contribution. Start carving out a name and reputation for yourself. When I first started in VC, I didn’t know investing or healthcare so I chose to focus on an area—healthcare care technology—where I could quickly become “fluent” and visible.
Network, network, network!
Quickly learn the norms of your organization in order to minimize social or political pitfalls that could derail you.
PayScale: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Skeete Tatum: “Ask the question.” Think of what you most want to know or find troubling and speak up. Chances are, there are others in the room thinking the same thing. You also have the ability to change the course by being authentic and letting your voice be heard.
PayScale: Can you remember a specific moment in your career when you approached a goal or an obstacle a certain way and got what you wanted? In other words, a situation in which you “landed it.”
Skeete Tatum: Throughout my career, I have always chosen the less obvious path: “Chemical engineer in consumer products turned healthcare technology venture capitalists turned tech CEO.” I’ve never limited my dreams based on uncertainty or the challenging path ahead. My approach has always been to figure out my “what” based on the fit with my passion, skills, and personal priorities; build a network of advisors that could assist me with defining a strategy and success plan; and keep my “eye on the prize” despite the twists and turns that we all encounter.
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