Secrets of Successful Women Leaders
Education industry G.O.A.T.s and authors Barbara Kurshan and Kathy Hurley discuss their book InnovateHERs: Why Purpose-Driven Entrepreneurial Women Rise to the Top.
When the most difficult part of an interview is trying to figure out how to end it, you know you’ve had a great conversation. This is usually the case with Bobbi Kurshan and Kathy Hurley (be sure to scroll their legendary bios below). But when it involves their most recent passion project, that challenge goes next level.
The pair released InnovateHERs: Why Purpose-Driven Entrepreneurial Women Rise to the Top in April and have been promoting it both in person and online since. Here’s the marketing nutshell: “Through personal interviews with 30 of today's top women leading purpose-driven organizations—ranging from those in startups and nonprofits to those in large companies across the globe—Kurshan and Hurley have created a unique, insider's view of what it takes to be a successful female leader in today's competitive world.”
My take? I concur. The book is an easy and inspiring read that divines the distinctions between genders when it comes to entrepreneurship, then details and delivers best practices and insights that can be applied by everyone. I had the pleasure to dig in a bit deeper about the creation process of InnovateHERs, which you can hear by clicking above. Below are a couple of selected highlights:
On what makes women leaders different:
BK: Women are clearly more empathetic, but what was interesting is how that manifested itself in the way they ran their organizations. They were more collaborative. Their teams stayed with them longer. And one antithesis to that is they could fire people better. Because when they would go to fire people, they would say, “You know, I don't think this is a fit for you. I'll help you think about where you should be.” Kathy and I can't tell you the number of times we both told that to people we're mentoring.
KH: Mentoring is really an interesting area. I have worked with a lot of superintendent groups, and early on, I used to say, “You should have a meeting for women.” They'd get kind of their backs up and say, “We just don't have to have a meeting for women. If they're corporate people, they could be at the corporate meeting.” But women have different issues. Women have work-life balance issues. Women like to talk to other women about how they've kind of gotten through this—tricks of the trade. What's happened during the pandemic is a lot of women's groups have really come to the fore and it's not a thing about power or anything like that. It's just sharing ideas, sharing stories.
On what it means to be an entrepreneur:
BK: That's the research I've done for the last 10 years at the University of Pennsylvania. We've studied the mindset of entrepreneurs—you don't have to be starting a business to be one. We were very clear about that. And we’re not just addressing this to educators. You could be in government, you could be in a corporation, you could be in a foundation. You have a mission that causes you to think innovatively and be entrepreneurial. I think our book has given people a way to feel comfortable that they are an entrepreneur, but they don't have to be starting a business. They can be, but they don't have to be.
KH: And I think the research that Bobby's done gives us an edge. So when we interviewed women who were all very, very different, we compared it to what the research says. And I think people were happy about that. They think, “I always thought it was an entrepreneur, but now I'm seeing that I have the passion or I see that I have that need to achieve, I really am an entrepreneur.”
More info on the authors:
Dr. Barbara “Bobbi” Kurshan, is the President of Educorp Consultants Corporation and Senior Innovation Advisor, Graduate School of Education, Education Entrepreneurship, University of Pennsylvania, and a former education industry entrepreneur. Dr. Kurshan has more than 40 years’ experience in education as a researcher, entrepreneur, developer, investor, and company executive. She developed the first children’s software products for Microsoft, as well as award-winning products for McGraw-Hill, Apple, CCC (Pearson), and others.
She is the author of several books, including Internet for Kids (Sybex); Exploring Creative Writer and Exploring Fine Artist (Addison-Wesley Longman); Understanding Computers Through Applications (Glencoe); Activities for Kids and Kids at Heart (Reston). She has received numerous awards and recognitions including the WISE Prize, the King Bahrain UNESCO Prize, 2019 Most Influential Corporate Board Directors, 100 Edtech Influencers, and Laureate Tech Awards – Technology Benefiting Humanity.
Kathy Hurley is a former senior executive for numerous educational publishing and technology companies, including IBM and Pearson. After retiring from Pearson, she was selected as a Fellow of the Advanced Leadership Initiative (ALI) at Harvard University and co-founded a global nonprofit organization, Girls Thinking Global (girlsthinkingglobal.org). In 2004, Hurley was inducted into the Association of Educational Publishers’ Hall of Fame and in 2019, she received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award in Education Technology from the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA). Currently, Hurley is a senior advisor to several educational technology companies, education associations, and school superintendent networks. She is also the co-editor, with Priscilla Shumway, of Real Women, Real Leaders: Surviving and Succeeding in the Business World (Wiley).