Mar. 8, 2012
BOSTON — Charlotte Beers has been the CEO/chairwoman of two ad agencies and Undersecretary of State to Colin Powell. She’s known for her trailblazing climb to the top in the 1960s ad world made famous by the hit show "Mad Men." Believe it or not, she thinks it’s actually harder for women to get those leadership roles today. In Beers' new book "I’d Rather Be in Charge," she shares her philosophy and tactics for creating your best and most effective work self.
"We spend incredible hours at work. We have to find a way to make it all more fruitful," she said.
The challenges women face advancing in business are subtler now than in the bra-strap-snapping old days, but Beers believes it's still difficult for women to present themselves effectively.
Today, she thinks women tend to fall into one of two extremes when creating a work persona: too soft or too hard. On the one hand, "'Mother hens' don't run companies," Beers said. On the other hand, she had to learn to soften up. In her early days climbing the ladder, "I behaved like my boss who was extremely tough and I thought that's how I showed I meant business."
One key to the puzzle: Realizing that you can be different selves at home and at the office. "You get to practice different parts of you at work — and that's why we like work," she said.
And if a boss tries to tell you to choose between your different selves, as one did to Beers when she decided not to travel when her daughter was young, she suggested taking the long view: "It's a long life. You get to make some choices."