After interviewing 52 female corporate executives for her book, “Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World,’’ Wall Street Journal management news editor Joann Lublin of Ridgewood identified four common leadership traits.
She will tell stories about four women, each of whom exemplifies one of these traits when the editor and longtime Ridgewood resident speaks at the annual Lunch and Learn Study Group of the Bergen County section of the National Council of Jewish Women on March 6 at Temple Emeth in Teaneck. (See box for details.)
Although Ms. Lublin would not say what those four traits are — she’s keeping that for the luncheon — she readily agreed to share with Jewish Standard readers other insights gleaned from writing her book and from reader reactions to it. (It was published by HarperCollins imprint Harper Business in October 2016.)
“Very few women are at the helm of U.S. companies, yet nearly two-thirds of the women I interviewed are experienced public company chief executives, well-known corporate leaders at companies such as GM, IBM, DuPont, and Campbell Soup. And that makes their stories all the more interesting,” Ms. Lublin, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, said.
A majority of her interviewees had children, but Ms. Lublin was surprised to discover that the proportion of working moms was even higher among those who became public company CEOs.
She devotes an entire chapter, “Manager Moms are Not Acrobats,” to busting the myth of the work-life balance. The working mother, Ms. Lublin asserts, chooses to be more devoted to her children or her career at various stages of her life, because achieving an equal balance between the two is an elusive goal.
She discovered early in her research that women became better leaders by overcoming obstacles. “The original hunch was that those obstacles only had to do with gender bias,” she said. “But it became clear in the course of my reporting that these women had personal and professional setbacks not always related to gender, so it became a leadership book on how to overcome obstacles.”
Some of the executives she interviewed had been fired from previous jobs, had lost spouses, or had battled cancer. Yet they got their stride back and became more empathetic leaders as a result of their difficult experiences, Ms. Lublin said.
She has given more than 100 talks to corporations, business schools, and nonprofit groups about “Earning It.” One of those talks was at Temple Beth Or in Washington Township; she has been a member of the synagogue and its sisterhood since 1990. That was the year she and her husband, Michael, moved to Ridgewood. Locally, Ms. Lublin also will speak at the Rotary Club of Ridgewood and has spoken at the YWCA of Bergen County’s annual breakfast honoring women of valor, the Ridgewood Public Library, and Bookends in Ridgewood.
Certain patterns have emerged at these talks, she said. “Reactions vary depending on how much of the audience is female. With women, there’s a lot more ‘Oh my God; that happened to me,’ but some men also relate to these experiences.
“For example, recently I was the keynote speaker at a conference of industrial psychologists in Savannah. A man born in Tanzania and now living in Vancouver said he suffers from racial and religious discrimination as a man of color and a Muslim. He asked how to deal with being treated differently.”
Ms. Lublin said that when many men are in the audience they tend to dominate the question period, but when there are just a few men present “they either ask no questions or ask after the women, and do so apologetically.”
She frequently is asked about the so-called Queen Bee Syndrome. That’s when women in positions of authority treat female subordinates harshly, or do not help them climb the corporate ladder. This topic is not covered in her book.
“People like Sheryl Sandberg have researched this ‘syndrome’ and concluded it is greatly exaggerated,” Ms. Lublin said. “My response to those who question me about it is that I’m sure there are queen bees out there, but I don’t think that’s the general approach of most senior-level women.” In fact, she said, many female executives are overly eager to mentor less-experienced women, giving up their own precious time to do so.
If they’re not queen bees, then, how would she characterize most of her interviewees? “They not only earned it but returned it,” Ms. Lublin said. “They are giving back in many ways.”
She has her own impressive history in a male-dominated industry. As one of the first female reporters at the Wall Street Journal, where she began as a summer intern during college at Northwestern University before earning her master’s degree in journalism at Stanford in 1971, she faced some uphill battles. After working in San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., in 1987 she became news editor of the newspaper’s London bureau and took over as deputy bureau chief in 1988.
Her book, which includes some personal stories, grew out of an essay she wrote for a Wall Street Journal blog.
Since December 2002, Ms. Lublin has worked with Wall Street Journal reporters in the United States and abroad to conceptualize and organize coverage of management and workplace issues. She writes about corporate governance, executive compensation, recruiting, and succession for the Wall Street Journal’s front page and Business & Finance section. She was a contributing editor to the Journal’s annual special section on executive pay and still helps coordinate coverage of its yearly CEO pay survey. Before that, she oversaw the weekly Career Journal pages and was responsible for career coverage.
“As a women’s organization, we always show great interest in women who have shattered the glass ceiling,” noted Jane Abraham, co-president of Bergen County’s NCJW section. “We very much look forward to hearing stories of women like Ms. Lublin, who have navigated the corporate battlefields, and to learning their leadership lessons and experiences.”
The National Council of Jewish Women is a grassroots organization of volunteers and advocates who strive for social justice inspired by Jewish values, focusing on improving the quality of life for women, children, and families, and safeguarding individual rights and freedoms.
What: Annual Lunch and Learn Study Group of the Bergen County section of the National Council of Jewish Women
When: March 6 at noon; registration deadline is February 27.
Where: Temple Emeth, 1666 Windsor Road, Teaneck
How much: $18 program admission includes a buffet lunch catered by Foster Village Deli.
For information: Go to www.ncjwbcs.org or call