A couple of weeks ago I attended the Vistage Chair Conference and spent an evening with 9 senior women chairs. All of us were at the gathering at the invitation of one of the people present, i.e. we all knew at least one person and none of us knew everyone. We talked about a lot of things and then serendipitously began to share stories about challenges early in our careers. In the spirit of full disclosure, the stories mostly were about challenges of being young women faced with inappropriate situations in male-dominated companies.

A few days later I had a conversation with a male chair who is a longtime friend and mentor. I was telling him what a wonderful time I had with the other women earlier that week.

I told him about our shared history conversation and the direction it took. After telling him a few of my stories, he then shared his own stories from the other side. Such as when he was in a leadership position and falsely accused, offered sexual favors, etc. I was struck by the reminder that the more we share, the more common ground we find. And, that these stories are really about the personal side of business.

Like me and my women colleagues, my male colleague had several stories to tell. We talked about how these stories shape us, and that for women and people of color, because of the power equation, sometimes they shape us more.

I was struck by the value of shared histories in creating connections and overcoming stereotypes.

Wouldn’t it be cool to sit at a table with men and women, and people of all colors and backgrounds, and tell our shared histories of career and life challenges that shape the people and leaders we have become…?

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