It's "Our Turn," says Twitter VP Kirstine Stewart

Kirstine Stewart, Twitter VP for Media North America, on tour promoting her book "Our Turn." Photo courtesy Canadian Press.

In a recent stop in Vancouver to promote her book, Our TurnKirstine Stewart took a few moments at Roundhouse Radio to talk about her book's premise and the golden era of leadership opportunities Stewart sees for women in the tech sector. 

"Businesses have redefined what success looks like," she said, "so they actually have demands for a new kind of leadership to get them there." 

The new kind of leadership Stewart talks about about veers dramatically away from the macho model of the solitary CEO issuing directives from the corner suite.

In her book, Stewart writes that "influence, not control, is the new power concept." And influence, according to Stewart, stems from emotional intelligence.

"You can't get buy-in from people until you have bought into them," she writes in Our Turn.

This is good news for women who, according to recent business research, consistently score higher than their male counterparts on emotional intelligence tests.

Business schools are taking note of the new paradigm. In her book, Stewart cites a 2011 Harvard Business Review survey that found women "significantly outscore men in their ability to inspire and motivate others, communicate powerfully, collaborate, build relationships and establish long-term goals."

Stewart notes the trend toward this new type of leadership is particularly pronounced in the tech sector. She herself made the jump to Twitter after building her career in "old" media — first at Paragon, then Alliance Atlantis, and then Hallmark Entertainment — before heading up the English language side of CBC for four years.

In the tech sector, explained Stewart, "We feel there is not the kind of years of institutional old boys, or closed doors."

Stewart cited the example of Susan Wojcicki, current CEO of Youtube, who has said the reason she got as far as she did in tech while while raising five children is that she "didn’t know there were any rules. There are no rules. The field is still so new.”

When Yahoo appointed a pregnant Marissa Mayer as its CEO, it signalled a tidal change in the way business thinks about motherhood and leadership — accepting that the two are not mutually exclusive.

Other women heading up leading tech companies include Ginny Rometty, CEO of IBM, Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard, and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, who has released her own treatise on women and leadership, Lean In.

"When you look at the stats," said Stewart, "even though they’re kind of dismal in their entirety, in management, women do better in tech than in any other field.”

But she warned, as tech companies move from the start-up stage to more traditional businesses that must increasingly answer to Wall Street, the door is in danger of closing.

"We’ve got a prime opportunity to make sure tech is at the forefront of change and doesn’t fall back into the old habits of the rest of businesses," she said.

“Those of us in those jobs have a responsibility to keep reminding people that we need to look for people to come into the business that don’t look like the rest of us," she said. "Because they need to have diversity of gender, colour — all types. Let's not let that door close."

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