Fifty years ago, women in the United States won a major achievement: Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act listed sex as one of the characteristics that employers couldn’t discriminate against. American women began to enter the workforce in larger numbers across sectors, paving the way for social and economic change.
Yet I’ll admit that for much of my career, I wasn’t thinking about the societal or business impact of gender equality. I had graduated from Harvard Business School among its first 1,000 women students, joined McKinsey, and advanced to senior partner with 19 others—all men. At age 50, I looked up and realized that there were too few women leaders in business and that I didn’t feel much like one myself. Troubled, I set out to discover their secret sauce. That effort was the beginning of “centered leadership,” an approach that, in its simplest terms, joins feminine archetypes with masculine ones, anchored in purpose.
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