Women Leaders Share Trade Secrets

Marta Vieira da Silva, Football
Now All the Girls Want to Play, And There's Always a Game
When i was growing up in Dois Riachos, a small town in the poor, backlands of Alagoas, in northeast Brazil, girls didn't have a lot of choices. Most studied to be teachers or to work for the town government. My dream was a little different. I wanted to play professional football. And because I come from a very simple family, I dreamed a little harder.

My family was very poor then and still is today. I help them as much as I can, but women's football doesn't exactly earn you millions. My father separated from my mother when I was around 1. To make ends meet, my mother left the house early for work, as super at the town hall, and came back only at night. I have one sister and two brothers. (An older sister died when I was young.) And we were pretty much on our own. I played ball whenever I could. Sometimes I'd skip classes to play. I was 7, 8 years old, and had no idea what else I might do but play football.

But football was for boys. So I started out in the boy's league. The coach helped, buying me gear and paying my bus fare. My mother had enough money for food and clothes, but not much more. Some of the boys got pissed. "Why do we need a girl on our team? Aren't we man enough to win?" they'd ask. I got into a few fights, but mostly I let them talk. And I played with the best of them.

One day a friend who used to organize local matches asked me if I wanted to go to Rio de Janeiro and try out with a major-league team. I said yes and later was picked by the Vasco da Gama club. I was 14 and doing well, but a year later Vasco dissolved the women's team. I had no club and no place to live. But I set my mind to staying on. Fortunately, my friends helped me out. I was drafted by a club in Belo Horizonte, and my career took off.

I don't remember having any idols as a kid, except perhaps my mother. She never had the opportunity to go to school. We kids taught her to write her name. But she raised four kids on her own. I really admire that.

I am proud to represent women in a way. Of course, we don't earn nearly as much as men. That's especially disappointing when I think of how much I could do to help my family and the people in my hometown. To this day there is no gymnasium in Dois Riachos. What's gratifying is to see how things have changed. When I began playing, almost no girls played football. Now all the girls want to play football. And there's always a street game when I go back home.

Mireille Giuliano, author"French Women Don't Get Fat"
Life is lived in phases and episodes. for me, the leap [from CEO of Clicquot Inc. to author] came about quite naturally. I was never all that interested in the raw numbers, processes and bureaucracy, but believed the art of living—food, wine, travel, entertaining—was important to building our brand. So when the opportunity to put my philosophy of life on paper came about, I grabbed it, and entered a new phase in my life.

To me, being a leader is like being a head coach: you are here to help, give directions and advice when needed, set the course, be the spokesperson for the vision, mission and goals, and empower one's staff to be responsible for their own actions. Generosity is also an important ingredient in leadership, as is honesty and a sense of humor. Working harder and smarter is something that works, and women will need to continue doing it to show the world that gender should not be such an issue. Taking risks, being fearless but realistic, meeting objectives, recruiting appropriate top talent and having a great team all helped our company to be successful.

Don't forget the "you" in the equation so there is a balance between work and life. The last point is perhaps the most important in the 21st century, as it seems that working hours could be endless with cell phones, e-mail and so on. Taking what the French call une plage de temps—beach time—is more necessary than ever and actually helps us be better human beings and professionals.

Being a successful career woman is a double-edged sword. As you rise on the ladder, you create both respect and admiration, but also jealousy and envy. You often are confronted with meanness—the "I can do her job" type of remark, snarky comments and much worse, which you learn to dismiss as part of the territory. But it still saddens me coming more from women than men at a time when women should work together, help each other and give support to the younger generation via mentoring. On the other hand, you and only you can truly measure what you have accomplished, and that is something nobody can take away, and a source of great joy.

Zaha Hadid, Architect
I've never really thought of myself as a woman architect. I'm an architect. There's always been a bit of misogyny in certain architectural circles. They can't deal with a woman. They think you're second fiddle.

The way I've dealt with it was to work harder than anybody else. During my early career I literally worked day and night. It was like a tonic—we were always on the cusp of a new discovery. I have kept my own style. I don't have to be more of a man than the guys themselves. That's why they can't deal with me.

I've paid a high price for it. Because you're in the public eye, working on public buildings, people feel they can poke fun. The worst point was when they decided not to build the Cardiff Bay Opera House after we'd won the competition in 1994. When they started talking about me personally, or my family, or my nationality, or how I spoke, it became quite shocking. It was very nasty. It was unpleasant for everyone that I worked with. I moved on, and it prepared us
for the next phase when we started winning all these competitions: the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati; the MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome; and the Phaeno Science Center in Wolfsburg.

Gender isn't the only way I'm different. I came from a situation in Iraq in the '60s and '70s where it was all about new ideas, nation-building and progressive thinking. I really believed in the new. I took on modernity. I had less luggage because I was displaced—it gave me tremendous freedom. Sometimes it's useful being different.

Baroness Patricia Scotland, U.K. Attorney General
When I came to the bar in 1977, diversity was still seen as an obstacle, not an asset. People told me there were two impediments that would prevent me from becoming a successful barrister: my gender and my color—two things I would never want to change (even if it were possible!). I refused to let their issues determine my aspirations or my desires to help others. My mother was a great mentor to me. She instilled a strong sense of self-worth in all of her 12 children, and empowered us with the confidence and independence to pursue our dreams. My father was the greatest feminist I have ever known. He taught my sisters and me that we were no different from his sons and expected great things from all of us. He always made it plain that there is no disgrace in failure. The disgrace is in not having tried. I would say to people starting off: be brave, have courage, believe in yourself. Everything worth having is worth fighting for.

Yuriko Koike, Former Cabinet Minister, Japan
There aren't many female role models, not in Japan. I faced a big challenge as environment minister. Global warming is an important issue, but it's also abstract. My way of doing things [as a leader] is to break down that good cause into a specific goal. I told people that we needed to save energy and that we were going to do it by turning down the air conditioning in summer and the heater in winter. So that it wouldn't become unbearable, we relaxed the traditional strict requirements for officewear. That's how Cool Biz was born. The reaction was fantastic. I realized then that it's about getting people to participate, to share a feeling that is immediate in their own lives.

As a leader, you need to make clear what you stand for, where you are heading and what you are trying to achieve and by when. I was able to accomplish a major job with a limited budget with this approach—that is, to reduce a huge problem to the level where ordinary people work every day. Having a shared goal and a sense that we are in this together enhances people's motivation.

Oddly enough, that harked back to an experience I had as a college student in Cairo. I didn't have much in the way of resources back then, so I had to find some part-time work. I ended up working as a tour guide. I would take Japanese tourists to see the sights. I realized that I needed to show them the sights in a way that inspired them, made them realize they had seen something.

When I became defense minister, I was the first woman to hold the job. I faced several big tasks that included reaffirming our relationship to the United States and boosting the motivation of our people. I realized you couldn't make policy in the same old way as the men had done before me. It's an institution with 270,000 people.

So I decided to make a change in management style. Before I became the minister, it was a 20th-century-style ministry. It was all about tanks and planes and machines. A modern defense policy in our country has to be more about taking care of the people who are doing the job, and more about paying attention to personnel issues, to quality of life, as a way of improving motivation. In this way, I was attempting to achieve a paradigm shift as a female leader.

Yes, men still have a lot of say in Japan, but it's interesting how often the fact I am a woman can actually help me. Of course, the fact we have more women in politics nowadays can help. When I was a national-security adviser, one of my key jobs was strengthening the alliance with the United States. And it was particularly interesting to be doing this at a time when one of the partners on the other side, Condoleezza Rice, also happened to be a woman.

Perhaps it's a peculiarity of the Japanese situation, but I cannot say there are a lot of female role models for women of my generation in Japan. There was a pathbreaking health minister, Masa Nakayama, who's kind of a hero to me. Outside of Japan, one of my biggest heroes is Margaret Thatcher. You can sum her up in a single word: determination. She's the one who said, "I'm more interested in conviction than in consensus." That's an attitude that I admire.

Dalia Itzik, Speaker of the Knesset, Israel
Mother is uneducated, but knows everything. I remember the trauma of my early years, after our family arrived in Jerusalem from Iraq in the late 1950s. We were eight children living in a tiny two-room apartment. Four were born in Iraq and four were born in Israel. My father was a drinker. Because of his drinking, he couldn't function well. So my mother ran the family. My mother is an uneducated person. She scarcely knows how to read. But she's a very strong, impressive woman. She's naturally intelligent. She didn't preach to us. She didn't push us. But we knew she knew almost everything. It was intuitive for her. She was the model for my later ambitions and career.

My dream was to be a teacher. If someone told me when I was in my 30s that I was going to be a politician, my answer would have been, "What kind of pill did you take?" Then, in 1989, while serving as a head of the Jerusalem teachers union, I was recruited by Teddy Kollek, the legendary mayor of Jerusalem, to become deputy mayor. Jerusalem is a very difficult city. You have everything; it's a microcosm of Israel. But you have to watch your step.

I didn't need much coaxing to move on to party politics, as a member of Knesset from the Labor Party. My roles included minister of the environment, industry and trade, and minister of communication. During the great political shuffle of 2006 I joined the new Kadima Party under the leadership of Ariel Sharon. As the Speaker of the Knesset, during the turbulent days of the Second Lebanon War, I took upon myself the role of preserving national unity across the aisle, in support of the government. In January 2007 I became acting president of Israel, a role I filled until July of the same year.

Politics takes a lot of time. If you want to be a good father or a good mother, you don't want nurses bringing up your children. I don't know any mother in the world who doesn't feel guilty. You suffer so much from guilt. Sometimes you're exhausted just from the guilt. Now my children are grown up and big enough to judge for themselves. What you fear is they'll say, "Mommy, you weren't there." Sometimes I come to them and say I want to stop. But they say, "No, stay."

With [Kadima head] Tzipi [Livni], some people still say, "Can you rely on her—can you sleep well?" I'm not sure we'd ask the same question if there were a man running the country. No, I don't think Israelis feel secure yet with women making security decisions. Men all serve in the Army; they make the major security decisions. I didn't serve in the Army. We have to convince people that it's not just a matter of serving in the Army. It's also judgment and a good staff. I insisted on being in the security cabinet. The message was: we're not just good for women's issues.

I'm proud [that all three branches of Israel's government could soon be led by women]. I don't understand why I'm the first. But it gives us more responsibility. If it's not a success, they'll say, "Look, we gave you the opportunity." I'm not going to say it's easy. It puts more responsibility on our shoulders. God forbid if we fail. We have to watch our steps.