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She spent 14 years with the American Society of Association Executives, working her way up from meeting planner/education director to vice president, education and conventions. In 1993, Susan Sarfati became president/CEO of the Greater Washington Society of Association Executives.
“Women very often have their nose to the grindstone, they're very focused on getting the job done. That's good, but it's also very important to have an external focus. Men have been focusing externally far longer than women. They have skills and strategies in place to help themselves and move up the ladder. If they learn of an available position, they'll take someone out for lunch, a drink, or talk it over on the golf course. More women are adopting productive networking strategies. But they don't have a track record and the established methods that men do.
“Confidence can be an issue for women. I had dinner the other night with some very high-caliber women. One of them talked what typically happens when she invites a woman into her office for a meeting. Women arrive thinking they've done something wrong. She calls a man in and he asks, “What can I do for you today?” Women need to learn to accept praise, and to toot their own horn. I still have trouble doing this even though I am very proud of my accomplishments.
“My hope for the future is that our industry will search out and hire women to lead industry organizations. There is an abundance of competent women to recruit. Associations need to walk the talk, to provide role models.
“Women often are pegged as good detail managers, good collaborators, good on the soft-skill stuff. That's somewhat of a stereotype, but I also believe that these are very important skills to build on. A leader has have a big-picture focus but also be skilled in focusing on execution. Meeting planners are very good at details and execution and these are critical CEO tools.
“Issues of work/life balance are still huge. Women need to to take the high-road and not think of themselves as victims. Many men have helped me in my career, as well as women, particularly when I was starting out. I try now to help those looking for mobility, especially women.