The Power of Mistakes: Amy Schulman

Amy Schulman - Pfizer

For women striving to compete with men in the business and professional world, emulating “perfection” can often seem like a survival necessity.  But according to Amy Schulman, the senior vice president of the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer, this mindset can be both constricting and detrimental to a woman’s success.

 According to Schulman, this mindset is markedly different in women than in men due to the fact that women tend to interpret things internally.  Whereas men tend to blame a mistake on the situation, women tend to blame themselves and attribute a mistake to a personality or talent deficit. When receiving workplace feedback, for example, a neutral rating is often interpreted by women as a problem and by men as doing “pretty well”.  This can then affect the way a woman feels about her performance, her likelihood at achieving success, and her desire to stay with the same company.

So while “perfection” can often seem like the only way to make a positive impression in the workforce, understanding that this is not always possible can actually be more beneficial.  Understanding and staying aware of the gender differences in performance interpretation could make a huge improvement in the gap between the number of men and women in the top ranks of a company.  In making perfection in performance a lesser priority and making mental interpretation a greater one, women will be able to better “lean in”—ultimately allowing for both greater personal and corporate success.

Stephanie Wisner

Cornell University

Further reading: http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=2629

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