OWL Circle Shares 'Unwritten Rules of Business' with Coles Alumnae

KENNESAW, Ga. (Feb 15, 2018) — The Women’s Leadership Center officially launched its OWL Circle initiative this month with a panel discussion featuring some of the country’s most prominent women executives sharing the secrets to their success with Coles College of Business alumnae.

Called The Unwritten Rules of Business, the panel met on Feb. 1 at The Georgian Club. Panelists included:

  • Michelle Livingstone, Vice President of Transportation for The Home Depot,
  • Kathy Ross, Senior Vice President for ADP,
  • Connie Engel, Senior Partner with real estate development firm Childress Klein, and
  • Leslie Zinn, Chief Executive Officer of Atlanta-based juice company Arden’s Gardens.

Unwritten Rules of BusinessPanelists at The Unwritten Rules of Business

The panel discussed unwritten rules that many organizations have governing employee conduct that are not part of a business’s official policies. While men typically teach these rules to each other, women are often not aware of them. This puts women at a disadvantage because failure to follow the unofficial rules can lead management to pass them over for promotions.

According to Wolf, Executive Director of the WLC and the chief architect of the OWL Circle, many of the unwritten rules that women should prepare to encounter surround the importance of showing strength in the workplace.

“Women often think that if we keep our heads down and work hard, people are going to notice us,” she says. “But that’s not true. The rule is that you’ve got to put yourself out there.”

The panelists all stressed that women must see the value of networking and should not avoid conflict if they want to succeed in their organizations.

While Wolf acknowledges that businesses tend to reward typically masculine behaviors in their employees, she does not think business culture is inherently sexist. Instead, she says that men have set the tone because they reached positions of power ahead of women.

“The people who get there first get to make the rules,” she says. “It’s hard to change the rules from the bottom.”

As the kickoff event for the OWL Circle, The Unwritten Rules of Business was a huge success, says Wolf. Nearly 100 women attended, offering support and discussing with panelists their own experiences grappling with office politics.

OWL Circle - short for Outstanding Women Leaders - is a group of professional women who come together to network, offer mentorship, share their experiences, develop solutions to each other’s professional challenges, and participate in lifelong learning opportunities. Each of its members is either a Coles College alumna, donor, or friend of the college.

Wolf says that many of the attendees are eager to participate in future OWL Circle events, including an upcoming workshop on building and sustaining a professional network. Several attendees donated money at the event to the WLC scholarship fund for female students in the Coles Scholars program.

As Coles College alumnae reach higher positions in their (often male-dominated) organizations, Wolf hopes they will use the advice learned at the panel to achieve success and become the change they want to see.

“You don’t have to follow the rules,” she says. “But, once you reach a leadership position, then you can change the rules.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the OWL Circle and how the group lifts up Coles College alumnae, visit colesowlcircle.com.  

- Patrick Harbin