Yesterday I attended my first BiblioBabes meeting – the monthly book club of members of Women in Technology. The focus of our discussion was Connie Glaser’s and Barbara Smalley’s book, What Queen Esther Knew—Business Strategies from a Biblical Sage.
Glaser, an Atlanta-based gender diversity expert, told me in advance of the meeting that she loved the story of Queen Esther as a child. “But hearing it again as an adult made me realize that the lessons of the book are as timely and resonant as they were 2,000 years ago. For someone who has been writing and researching issues on women and leadership for over two decades, this was an epiphany!”
“Queen Esther transformed herself from an orphan girl in exile to the most powerful woman in the Persian Empire. How did she do it? By being a brilliant strategist, a persuasive speaker, and a courageous risk-taker — yet all the time remaining true to her principles and ethics. The themes of the book – leadership, integrity, overcoming adversity – resonate as powerfully today as they did two millennia ago,” she says.
The 17 book club participants universally enjoyed the read, and discussed the book’s implications to their own journeys as women in business in smaller group breakouts.
Sandra Hofmann, WIT board member and president, noted the greatest truth of Queen Esther’s story is having the courage of your convictions. The story of Esther begins around 400 B.C.E., in the third reign of King Ahasuerus. The king became displeased with his queen and embarked on a four-year search for her replacement. The most beautiful maidens were brought to the palace for the king’s consideration and one of them was Esther, an orphan who was being raised by her older cousin Mordecai and who kept her Jewish origins secret. She eventually was selected as the new queen after proving her poise, worth and loyalty. Her mettle as a risk taker and strategist came later when a key figure in the kingdom maneuvered and used deception to get the king to agree to have all the Jewish people massacred. Esther – through a well thought out strategy – was able to deliver her people from death after revealing the true plot as well as her own Jewish heritage to the king at a special banquet she arranged.
The book, rich with examples of modern-day Esthers, illustrates how critical risk taking and leading are at critical moments that can define your character. The book also delved into the importance of understanding an organization’s culture, being privy to the grapevine and cultivating mentors.
“There were so many things that struck a chord in me,” says Carol Fowler, a district sales manager for an enterprise call center provider.
As a history buff, I would have enjoyed more details around the historical context of Esther’s life and struggles, but nevertheless found the book’s practical advice immediately applicable.
|Margaret Anderson and Carol Fowler.|
In discussing the importance of mentors, Margaret Anderson, a VP with SAP Labs, cited a recent Harvard Business Review article that points out that women need more sponsors than simply mentors (the difference is a sponsor goes beyond giving feedback and advice and uses his or her influence with senior executives to advocate for the mentee – something that men have a much better track record of doing for one another). The interviews and surveys cited in the article suggest that high-potential women are over-mentored and under-sponsored relative to their male peers—and that they are not advancing in their organizations.
Anderson agrees: “We as women have no lack of mentors; what we’re lacking are sponsors — people who can promote you.”
More modern-day Esthers will be explored at the December meeting of BiblioBabes, as we discuss WIT’s forthcoming book, CLIMB, Women Leaders n Technology Share Their Stories of Success, scheduled for release in mid October.