Joanna Barsh is a Director in McKinsey & Company's New York office. Since joining the firm in 1980, Joanna has served a broad range of consumer-facing clients. Her client experience spans mergers and acquisitions, development of corporate growth strategy, and performance and operations transformation. She also spearheads the Centered Leadership Project and co-authored the book, How Remarkable Women Lead, published by Crown Business.
Joanna is a strong advocate for women at McKinsey and beyond. She has been a New York City Commissioner on Women’s Issues since 2002, appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Joanna created The McKinsey Centered Leadership Project, an effort to accelerate the development of women leader. The project includes a video archive of more than 100 in-depth interviews with women leaders from around the world.
A dedicated contributor to the New York community, Joanna has served the Partnership for New York City, the NYC Economic Development Corporation, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Manhattan Theatre Club, as well as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Alaska Conservation Foundation. She is a trustee of Sesame Workshop.
Prior to joining McKinsey, Joanna held positions at Macy’s and at Bloomingdale’s. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Chicago, and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, where she was a Baker Scholar.
Joanna is passionate about many things, but at the top of her list is women’s leadership. She has two wonderful daughters, Gaby and Jetta, and a husband (David) of 18 years.
The stats are just awful: while women account for more than half the college graduates and more than half the PhDs, we make up less than 20% of top management in almost every industry you look at. Now draw a circle and estimate three percent of it. That is the percentage of CEOs who were women in 2008. (Continued below...)
MIX Maverick Joanna Barsh explores the differences between women and men when it comes to leadership.
So what’s holding us back? The pipeline argument still holds water: it is going to take many more years for those young women grads to work their way through corporations that value “pilot hours.” Still, that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Our research suggests that women just don’t seize the chance. Some of us hold ourselves back, waiting for enough experience to gain the confidence to raise our hands. Some of us never made the connections or could not find the key to unlock the networks and forge the powerful personal connections that help accelerate people to the top. Fear of failing is a powerful constraint, and while I don’t argue that women have it more than...
A few months ago, in one of our Centered Leadership learning sessions, a Latin American executive approached me with an insight that had deeply affected him. “In our transformation meetings,” he said, “we always talk about how they have to change. I realize I have to change myself first if I want them to change. Why should they change? They have to see me changed. But we haven’t done that because we spend all our time talking about them.”
Self-awareness is one of the three elements that makes Centered Leadership a distinctive approach for leaders who face large scale change challenges. The self-aware leader can recognize his own emotions—positive and negative—and he knows the triggers for when he is hijacked by them. He recognizes his own sources of meaning, and how to use them as fuel. He explicitly designs his network and he watches his sources and uses of energy, recognizing how much energy it takes to catalyze an organization.
Are you self-aware? Try these questions on yourself or on your team and let us know the results:
If you had nothing to prove to anyone and no constraints, what...