Lessons from New York City’s Most Powerful Woman

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As deputy mayor for housing and economic development, Alicia Glen is the highest-ranking woman in New York City government. Since leaving Goldman Sachs to join mayor Bill de Blasio’s cabinet at the end of 2013, she’s worked to expand economic opportunity in America’s largest city while presiding over major municipal agencies like the Department of City Planning and the Economic Development Corporation.

All of this is to say that it’s with good reason that Crain’s New York Business has named Glen the most powerful woman in New York City on two separate occasions. In her morning keynote at the 2017 AppNexus Women’s Leadership Forum, Glen urged an audience of more than 260 current and aspiring leaders to use their own influence to manifest more power for themselves and other women.

“I think about [power] in a very specific way of getting women more money, more responsibility, more juice,” Glen said. “‘Juice’ is a concept that’s hard to define, but it’s getting women more juice and using that juice to aggressively correct for biases that work against us.”

Here are five ways Glen believes women can increase their influence, both in the workplace and in society at-large.


1. Hire. More. Women.


Business leaders sometimes have a tendency to make leadership diversity more complex than it really is. Rather than hemming and hawing over a ten-year pipeline, Glen says that women should just go ahead and hire other women for key positions.

“If the stack of résumés that you have on your desk doesn’t have a lot of women in it, then somebody’s not doing their job right,” Glen said. “This is New York City. There are a lot of really smart, talented women in this town. So cast a bigger net. Say, ‘Send me more people.’ Just hire more women.”


 2. Get your company to commit to pay equity.


One major bias that works against women is that companies frequently believe they can hire them at a lower salary than they would offer a male worker, particularly when a woman is already being underpaid in her current position. In order to combat this issue, New York City recently passed a law that prohibits employers from asking about a job applicant’s salary history.

In the private sphere, Glen suggests that companies should commit to paying women as much as men in equivalent positions – and women should demand that companies create a strategy for accomplishing this goal within a reasonable timeframe.

In her Women’s Leadership Forum talk, Glen pointed to Salesforce.com as a 25,000-person company that was willing to invest millions of dollars and two years of work to make pay equity a reality.

“This is not a moonshot; this is not rocket science,” Glen said. “There’s plenty of money — it’s how you spread it around.”


3. Share your “juice” with other women.


Women leaders often get asked to take part in a number of mentorship opportunities, from being a Big Sister to attending various industry functions. Glen recommends choosing a few places to use your influence to impact a woman’s career in a meaningful, tangible way.

For instance, you can find a rising leader and pick a time to give them your full, focused attention every other week. Or, more than providing advice, you can use your connections to help someone in a concrete way.

As an example, Glen told the story of a meeting she once had with a young woman who had started a bread company. After speaking in generalities about the bread business for some time, the entrepreneur asked her whether she knew the person in charge of Whole Foods. It was then that Glen decided to use her “juice” to give the woman a tangible boost to her business.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m the deputy mayor of New York City — of course I know the guy who runs Whole Foods. Like, he’s in my rolodex. That’s what I do.” Glen said. “So that’s what I did. I called him up, and she’s on the shelves.


4. Give women your most important, most challenging assignments.


A great way to position women for future success is to put them on projects that will allow them to grow professionally. While men often raise their hands for the most difficult assignments, actively seek out a woman to get the job done.

“Find a woman who’s really smart and say, ‘You know what? You figure out how to do that deal,” Glen said. “This is your chance to prove that you can take on those most complex assignments, so that you will get the bonuses, you will get the promotions, you will run the company.”


5. Lead by example when it comes to work-life balance.


Finally, Glen encouraged WLF attendees to be themselves and take time for self-care. At her job, everyone on her team knows that there will be times when she needs to take time off to go on college trips with her daughters, take care of her mother-in-law, or make an appointment at the salon.

“I take time off to get my roots done in the middle of the day, and do you want to know why? Because I need to. And I do my job better because of it,” Glen said. “You cannot not set your own example and then expect the world to change.”


Changing the whole system


For Glen, these tips are about more than just advancing any single woman in her individual career. In an off-stage interview after her talk, she explained that the more powerful women there are, the better off women will be.

“We need more women in every single sector to be in positions of power because with power comes better pay, better benefits, better quality of life, and I would argue, probably better outcomes,” Glen said.

To hear more from NYC deputy mayor Alicia Glen, you can watch her full Women’s Leadership Forum presentation here or click here to watch her post-event interview.

Filed under AppNexus Events, AppNexus Updates.

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