Two days ago, I was copied on an email from someone who is struggling with whether or not to stay at a company where she is the only woman, and the environment is fairly hostile. She wrote seeking advice: Should I stay, should I go, should I try to recruit more women and create a bit more balance?
Amidst the animated discussion that ensued, one voice stood out to me, both because of the wisdom of her words and the author’s serious cred. Linda Fayne Levinson (who amongst her many accomplishments was the first woman partner at McKinsey) weighed in with some of the best career advice I’ve ever heard. I asked her permission to re-post it here, and she graciously agreed. Here’s what she had to say:
It seems to me that when you choose to accept a position you should be looking for the following:
- A company whose mission you believe in and more importantly, one that you believe will be successful in the marketplace.
- You want to work with great people, both your immediate superior – whom you hope will give you the kind of opportunities you need to develop – and your peers.
- You want some of those peers and even superiors to be women.
- You want to work with people who continually raise the bar so that you always recognize what “great” is and don’t settle for mediocrity.
- You want to see opportunity for promotion.
- And you want all of this to further whatever your longer term goal happens to be – whether it is to be a CEO, the best tech ever or a founder.
As one assesses whether to stay or leave because there are no or few women, all of the above attributes should come into play. If none of them are there – leave – not because there are no women but because there is no career. If most are there, figure out how to get more women in.
This might well be the best “Should I take (or keep) the job?” checklist I’ve seen. Would you add anything to the list?