"The program gave me a close-up view of political, business and social issues and trends, information that is invaluable to me as an entrepreneur and active participant in the success of our great state. The speakers were incredible� they inspired us and stretched our minds. The opportunity to connect with successful and dynamic California women leaders was a main highlight. Being part of Leadership California is like being part of a powerful sisterhood."

—Ursula C. Mentjes, M.S., ACC
President and Certified Business Coach
Potential Quest, Inc.
"I have enjoyed my involvement with Leadership California. Our trip to the state capitol was most enlightening. As a result I have gotten involved with the Los Angeles African American Women's Political Action Committee. Thank you, Leadership California, for sparking a genuine interest in the political process."

—Shawn Farrar
Director Corporate Diversity
Sempra Energy
"The CIT program brings together successful women from all over California, and gives them the opportunity to build a network with other successful women. It's a way to learn about the important issues in our state, and to get ready to take the next step in your professional life."

—Isela Vilchis Hoenigmann
"Leadership California has provided me a panoramic view of issues, challenges and opportunities for this lovely state that I live in. The program was my introduction to women of unbelievable talent, experience and passion who are set to make a difference. The feeling to want to be more, to accomplish more, is simply contagious. I hope to know these women for the rest of my life."

—Rosario Montes-Arena
Manager, IBM Software Executive Briefing Program
Silicon Valley & Worldwide Briefing Program
"As a young immigrant woman working in the nonprofit sector, it was inspiring to see women leaders in action, to be able to network with them, and talk about the issues that are relevant to our communities and our state. I feel honored and privileged for the opportunity to participate in such an awesome program that weaves women leaders from different sectors and geographies of California to engage in a conversation about the social, political, and economic fabric of California."

—Winnie Hui-Min Yu
Development Associate
Asian Law Caucus
San Francisco
"I've spent half of my work life in the corporate world, and the past ten years in the nonprofit world, but neither taught me how to be who I am at work�the whole pastiche of talent and spirit. I found role models who excited me, the true state of our state of California (which frustrated me), work partners continually learning like me, and friends."

—Peta G. Penson, Ed. D.
Oakland Unified School District
"Leadership California sessions feature influential speakers and lively discussion on timely issues shaping the economy and workforce. The session on work-life balance struck a chord with me, where key leaders advised us to map out a personal career plan. Networking with other women was invaluable. Leadership California is an engaging and downright fun experience."

—Roberta Tinajero-Frankel
Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit Dept.
Healthy Eating, Active Living Project Manager
"Simply put, Leadership California is time well spent that will benefit me personally and professionally for years to come. I've not only kept in contact with my fellow classmates on a social level, but have had opportunities to work with some of them on business projects as our professional paths crossed. The sessions gave in-depth looks at the critical social issues that many Californians face, inspiring me to get more involved in my community�s outreach programs."

—Teena Massingill
Manager of Corporate Public Affairs
Safeway Inc.


High Potential Women: Remove the Feminine Filter and See a Clearer Path to Significance


KELLY WATSON and her team researched barriers to career success for their book, The Orange Line: A Woman’s Guide to Integrating Career, Family, and Life. Above, Kelly teaches high potential women at Toyota about their findings. She's a member of the Leadership California Class of 2014.


By Kelly Watson
June 30, 2014

Why do women find the quest for work life balance so elusive? Why do women, more than men, need work flexibility? Why are the numbers of women in leadership still so low? Why does having a family derail a woman’s career while boosting a man’s?

My colleagues and I wanted to find out. So we did a qualitative study of 118 college-educated women, and wrote a book about our findings, The Orange Line: A Woman’s Guide to Integrating Career, Family, and Life. We described their quest for a more integrated (not "balanced") life path, called "The Orange Line", and contrasted it with a career-only focus (The Green Line) and a life or family-only focus where career is sacrificed or stunted (The Red Line). We learned about the goals, ambitions, and still-significant barriers to women’s career success, as well as the tradeoffs women felt they had to make to have a family or life outside of work. We heard women were frustrated by how the system works and how little control they felt they had over their too-busy lives. Equally educated and inundated with career advice, (“network more”, “learn to negotiate”, “get a mentor”) women still lag behind men in pay and executive roles.

KELLY WATSON at a book signing for The Orange Line  

Holding Back, Being Nice

However, our major finding was that women themselves were, surprisingly, a big part of the problem. They had unnecessarily burdened their lives to the point of burnout, held themselves back from career advancement, and forgone rewards for their efforts. They also held each other in check with effective use of guilt and were notoriously unsupportive of other women in the workplace.

The Feminine Filter tells us that to be an Ideal Woman, we need to do it all, look good, and be nice.”

In our book, we describe the self-limiting phenomena we observed and called it the "Feminine Filter", which is a distorted lens women use to view the world that limits their careers in many ways. The Feminine Filter tells us that to be an Ideal Woman, we need to do it all, look good, and be nice. To achieve this, we focus on all of the wrong stuff: We work harder, not smarter, we get mired in perfectionism, and we resist asking for what we need. It doesn’t help to tell us to “negotiate more” or “lean in”, if our own internal belief system screams “It isn’t nice to ask for money” or makes us feel guilty for going to work.

Engaging Dads

The biggest flawed assumption we uncovered in our research was the belief, held as much by women as by men, that women are primarily responsible for the home, family, and taking care of everyone else. It’s why daycare and flextime are seen as women’s issues. It’s why even today, married women are doing 70% of the housework, regardless of employment status and when children arrive, they do 3 times the childcare duties than men. It’s why having a child is the single largest career de-railer for women yet has the opposite effect for men.

Daycare and flextime are seen as women’s issues. Even today, married women are doing 70% of the housework, regardless of employment status.

But while it permeates our popular culture and gets reinforced generation after generation, it is only an assumption. Any woman who chooses not to buy in opens her world to a whole slew of new options. Having a career doesn’t have to mean two full time jobs for mom or single-handedly managing a workforce of nannies, assistants, and housekeepers. Men aren’t limited in this way. Reframing the assumption to “We are all responsible for home, family, and taking care of ourselves” gives us permission to engage dad in the responsibility equation, not just the “good helper” role. And it frees women to embrace their careers, like men can, instead of feeling guilty for enjoying their work and earning a living.

Reframing Flawed Assumptions

Why exactly do we feel the need to compete with each other or overachieve a school potluck? But we do. And burnout looms.

The list of similarly flawed assumptions goes on. We assume we need to be perfect but we are falling short and are never good enough. So we overcompensate by overachieving even the most unimportant tasks. Think of Sarah Jessica Parker’s character in “I don’t know how she does it” throwing the store-bought pie into the glass pie plate to make it look homemade for the school potluck. Why exactly do we feel the need to compete with each other or overachieve a school potluck? But we do. And burnout looms. Or, we avoid risk, waiting until we’ve got 110% of the requirements before asking for the promotion or applying to the job. We assume women shouldn’t seek money and power, so we wait to be patted on the head and recognized fairly, only it rarely happens. Learning to reframe these flawed assumptions can free us from their limiting impact: Being a work in progress and doing my best is good enough; getting paid what I’m worth is fair and just; outcomes and personal fulfillment matter more than the number of boxes I can check off, etc.

There are a lot of systemic problems career women face. It can seem daunting and unfair. But one thing we can do is take control of ourselves, our own belief systems, and the assumptions on which we base our decision-making. An integrated, Orange Line career is possible if we learn to do this.


Kelly Watson is a management consultant and co-author with Jodi Ecker Detjen and Michelle Waters of The Orange Line: A Woman's Guide to Integrating Career, Family, and Life and a member of the Leadership California Class of 2014. Learn more at www.orangelinecareer.com

“Self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice. The thing that most retards and militates against women’s self development is self-sacrifice.”

—Elizabeth Cady Stanton






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