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Women will rule corporate world in 40 years

There was a palpable tension in the room when Bob Chernow began his recent speech to Tempo Milwaukee by telling the women that the original title for his talk was, "The Future of Women in Business, or, There Ain’t Nothing Like a Dame."

But Chernow put the women more at ease by telling them, "My projection is that women will dominate the management of business within 40 years."

That provided cover for my good friend Susie Falk, who had booked Chernow to speak to the women’s group and so kindly invited me to attend the luncheon.

Chernow, an accomplished Milwaukee investment advisor, is qualified to make such projections, as he is the vice chair of the World Future Society and is widely regarded as one of the most
credible futurists in the country.

U.S. businesses owned by women doubled from 1992 to 2007. According to Chernow, 28.7 percent of family businesses have a female CEO or president, up from only 5 percent in 1997. By 2020, Chernow projects that 30 percent of Fortune 1000 companies will be led by women.

Chernow cited a growing list of women leading major corporations, including: Marilyn Carlson Nelson of Carlson Companies; Ellen Kullman of DuPont Corp.; Marissa Mayer of Yahoo; Phebe Novakovic of General Dynamics Corp.; Ginni Rometty of IBM; Sherilyn McCoy of Avon Products Inc.; and Laura Lange of Time Inc.

Chernow said the "echo boomers," the children of baby boomers, like to work more in collaboration than their predecessors. That will suit women, who like to manage in a more collaborative fashion than their male counterparts, Chernow said.

"Our new world is a relationship economy where business subcontracts, creates alliances and partnerships and uses outside consultants. In this world you need the active participation of those
involved and the job of managers is to work with these  relationships. In short, you just can’t order people to work; you need their willing participation," Chernow said. "Women and men
think differently. Men operate in a hierarchical manner; women in a consensual style."

Chernow offered the following ideas for women to get ahead in business:

  • "Make others comfortable with you. Be aware that some men do not understand how to interact with women or minorities."
  • "Eliminate jealousy and envy as much as possible. Ask yourself if the success of others affects you personally."
  • "Be curious. Explore. Experiment. Expand your thinking. And get out of your comfort zone."
  • "Take Risk. As Wayne Gretzky said, ‘You always miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.’"
  • "Walk the factory floor. That is, seek out and listen to those who work for you. You’ll get great ideas from them."
  • "Focus on small wins."
  • "Seek positive people; avoid negative people."
  • "Find meaning and passion outside of your work."
  • "Pick your battles. Everything does not have to be a fight."
  • "Laugh at yourself. Lighten up."
  • "Give of yourself."
  • "Remember, your people skills go a long way. Emphasize the natural advantages that you have as a woman: listening, exchanging ideas, collaborating."
  • "And lastly, remember what Eleanor Roosevelt said: ‘The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.’"

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