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Don't Put All Your Eggs (Frozen or Not) in This Basket: Speak Up and Lead the Conversation About Diverse Workplace Alternatives

Courage is critical, because there are so many situations in which we women have to break through barriers, challenge traditional behaviors and redefine the way others see us.
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Beginning in January 2015, Apple will join Facebook in giving women employees the opportunity to have their eggs frozen -- so they can put off motherhood until their careers get fully launched. This is an added perk for some women, and it's a boon for these companies.

Indeed, by allowing women to focus on work through much of their childbearing years, this step may help stem the exit of women who choose to leave technology firms when the pressures of child care and work become too great. It will also address gender imbalances in these tech giants. Only 20% of the tech jobs at Apple and 15% at Facebook are now filled by women. And both firms are committed to gender diversity.

But what if you don't want to put all your eggs (frozen or otherwise) in this basket? What if you want to have other options for combining work and family?

Speak Up and Have Your Voice Heard

The answer in two words is to "speak up!" You'll help your company by encouraging them to provide other workplace solutions such as better day care, better maternal benefits and more flexible work arrangements. Not only will you gain, but other moms and dads will thank you.

In my new book, Taking the Stage: How Women Can Speak Up, Stand Out, and Succeed, I discuss how to be a voice for change in your companies, in your career and in life. In my 25 years as founder and head of The Humphrey Group, I saw the remarkable results when individuals chose to speak up -- and did so in a strong, thoughtful way. I particularly encourage women to put their hands up and express their views so they can achieve career goals. Here are a set of strategies you can use to have impact on decision making.

1. Begin with Courage
Courage is critical, because there are so many situations in which we women have to break through barriers, challenge traditional behaviors and redefine the way others see us.

A young woman we coached questioned her company's commitment to diversity when she saw that senior management were all white males. She was surprised, but the men in the C-suite welcomed her views, which she expressed thoughtfully and persuasively. It began a process of change and led to her promotion. This sort of courage is especially needed for conversations about motherhood and your career. No one can advocate your case better than you can.

2. Find Your Stage
Taking the stage involves finding the right people to talk to. Make an appointment with a key decision maker, talk to HR or put yourself on the agenda of the appropriate committee. Or simply open up the conversation with your boss and get her buy-in. It's fine to tweet and blog about these issues -- and companies are growing more aware of what's said on social media -- but discussing your particular proposal with the right people in your company is still the best way to get results.

3. Share Your Vision
The best, most inspiring presenters speak with vision. You can too! So when you speak up, share that larger view with your co-workers and your boss. If your goals seem to be in-line with your company's stated policies, emphasize that common vision -- and show what needs to be done to make it a reality. Encourage companies that announce themselves as "family friendly" and "supportive of women" to take the key steps to realize those goals.

4. Make a Strong Case
Prepare exactly what you're going to say. Make your message clear and then explain with proof points how your idea will benefit the firm (and the women within it). Never go into the meeting with unsubstantiated or random thoughts.

Do a "dry-run" with your husband, partner, or peers -- even if you're planning an informal conversation. That practice will allow you to fine-tune your script and delivery and gain valuable feedback from those around you. They, after all, will be affected by the outcome.

It's likely that any questions they share with you will be brought up by the decision makers, so plan your responses to those questions as well.

5. Listen Carefully and Stay Calm
As you're presenting, stay grounded. It's easy for women to get angry or emotional when presenting an idea we are deeply committed to -- particularly if others oppose what we're saying. But remain composed and listen to other views expressed. That way, if need be, you can respond to any questions or challenges.

6. Take the Stage!

It's often easier to stay silent for fear of failing if we speak up. But, consider this: It's in the interest of both female employees and their companies to have women come forward with a range of solutions that work for them.

More broadly, speaking up with courage and confidence can become a way of life. Every time you speak up for something you believe, you'll feel more and more comfortable expressing your views and being a voice for change. So, take the stage!

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