Professional growth and on-the-job comfort do not co-exist, according to Pattie Sellers.
The editor-at-large of Fortune Magazine, Sellers offered this bit of wisdom in a wide-ranging morning keynote address at the IICF Women in Insurance Global Conference, being held in New York City June 12-14. The annual conference convenes more than 400 business executives from leading corporations, as well as educational leaders and subject matter experts.
During the keynote, Sellers shared her views on what it takes for women to rise up the corporate hierarchy and excel in a traditionally male bastion: the company C-suite. Peppering her talk with anecdotes (and gossip) about leading female corporate chiefs, Sellers drew upon the insights she’s gained as co-chair of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit, a gathering of preeminent women in business, plus leaders in government, philanthropy, education and the arts.
Among them: Ginni Rometty, the current chairman, president and CEO of IT solutions provider IBM. Sellers said that early in her career at IBM, Rometty demurred when offered a senior management role, citing her lack of experience and time at the company. After consulting with her husband, who urged her to reconsider, she accepted the job; and said Sellers, Rometty now believes she would not now be CEO if she had not reversed her position.
“Rometty is a really wonderful example of a woman who believes that growth and comfort do not co-exist,” said Sellers.
She added that women should think of a professional career path as a “jungle gym” because the corporate world is so unpredictable, requiring women to be conscious of career-enhancing opportunities and how best to leverage them, while also alert to obstacles that may hinder their progress.
Sellers warned that women aspiring to a senior leadership position within their company should take their skills elsewhere if the employer’s corporate culture throws up barriers to advancement.