Closing The Gap

How pandemic changes to work can help 'level the playing field' for women, according to a female CEO


Although the pandemic has had a devastating toll on women's careers, one female CEO believes the emergence of remote work has also created new, unique opportunities for women to climb the corporate ladder.

Diane Bryant is the chairman and CEO of NovaSignal, a medical device start-up headquartered in Los Angeles. But she's spent most of career working for some of the best companies in the world – including 32 years at Intel and a year as Google Cloud's chief operations officer – often as one of few women in the room.

"For decades we've debated – as women – how to get a seat at the table, but now, there is no table," Bryant, 60, tells CNBC Make It. "Covid-19, in some regards, has leveled the playing field as the move to online communication channels lowers barriers to inclusion." 

She encourages women to use this unusual time in their careers to "leverage those very channels and connect with leaders that can support you and help revitalize your career," since everyone's online. Ask for a virtual coffee chat or 15-minute phone call with your manager's manager, or someone at that same level, Bryant says, to learn more about their career path and how you can better position yourself for success. 

"With all of us on Zoom, meetings are highly efficient," she adds. "There's no travel time, or even time spent running between buildings and conference rooms." 

To maximize the conversation, Bryant recommends following these four steps, summed in an acronym she refers to as "PEAP":

1. Preparation

Bryant explains: "Treat this like an interview – think about the current issues the leader is facing and how your skills can help. You are meeting to create exposure into your current work and to learn how you can increase your contribution and impact to the company."

2. Efficiency

Bryant explains: "Send a request to meet by Zoom, and keep the meeting request time short – 15 minutes. It's impossible to deny someone 15 minutes and if the discussion is going well, it will likely end up being a 30-minute meeting," 

3. Advice

Bryant explains: "Every leader wants to feel their opinion is valued. You are there to learn and benefit from the leader's experience and purview, so listen! And be sure to follow-through on the advice – no one wants their time wasted." 

4. Positivity

Bryant explains: "The meeting is about opportunity. Stay positive! You are not meeting to complain about your current pay or position, or gripe about the promotion you feel you deserved – and you should assume anything you say will be relayed to your manager."

Some executives might seem distant or intimidating in-person, Bryant adds, but women need to shake that fear: "You can be bold."

Check out:

How former Intel exec Diane Bryant went from homeless teen to CEO of a multimillion-dollar start-up

Walgreens CEO Roz Brewer was the highest paid female CEO in 2021, according to a new report

Dolly Parton revealed the worst career advice she ever got—and why she ignored it

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How a 26-year-old engineer at Google making $270,000 spends his money
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