October 31, 2017

Shelley Zalis Shares Insight on the Power of Female Connections

IMG_7519

Shelley Zalis sits comfortably on the auditorium stage of the Celebrity Equinox cruise ship docked in Miami. The audience of more than 200 women are hanging on her every word in this unique venue for a women’s leadership event.  I am among them, trying to absorb every morsel of business wisdom this go-against-the-grain leader has for us.

Zalis, is the former chief executive of a Hollywood research firm and the leader of an effort to advance corporate women.  After the $71 million sale of her research firm to a bigger entity, Zalis has moved on to her next big thing. She has become the founder of the Girls’ Lounge, which she started four years ago as a gathering spot for women at the International Consumer Electronics Show when she invited women to meet in her room, and bring girlfriends. This year, Zalis, who lives in Los Angeles, will take the Girls’ Lounge to nearly a dozen major business events. In addition, Zalis also heads TheFemaleQuotient.com, a consulting firm that helps companies advance gender equality in their workplaces.

Zalis tells the audience: “There is a place in heaven for those women who help other women. There is power in collaboration. I have seen it in action. Mentorship is not from the top down or the bottom up. It is the wisdom we learn from people all around us.” 

IMG_7522Seated on stage next to Zalis is Katie Kempner, another formidable business woman who asks Zalis the questions on all our minds. In the next hour, the women attending The Commonwealth Institute South Florida 14th Annual Leadership Luncheon hear how to break the rules and profit from it, how to spot a need and launch a business to fill it, and how to create a support team of women to bolster your chances of success.


Here is what I learned from Zalis:

Break the rules

Zalis is not one to abide by the rules of business, particularly those that exclude women. It is how she built a company, started a movement and landed a show on Bloomberg television called Walk the Talk.  “I break the rules to create new ones,” she said. “Doing it for the first time is scary, especially when you have no formula for success.” Initially, Zalis tried to conform to the male business world.  Early in her career, she dressed in conservative clothing like the men, until she met Penelope Queen, a well-known researcher, who greeted her in a purple leather suit. “That’s when I realized you cannot create the new norm if you follow the same patterns.”

 

Think carefully about opting out:

Zalis realizes the tension of work life shows no signs of easing and recognizes companies are losing great leaders to caregiving. She explains that women are opting out to care for children or parents when they reach middle management levels. About the time they become mid-level managers, women are gaining responsibility at home and work. “They have three choices. To opt into leadership, they must conform to rules that make no sense, or they can leave to start their own company, or they can opt out completely,” she said. “If they opt out completely, getting back in is difficult. They never get back to where they were.” As a consultant, Zalis is working with companies to change the dynamics, something she says will happen in small steps.

Take diversity seriously:

Zalis believes it is of critical importance to have women in executive leadership where they provide a healthy counterbalance to the men.  Diversity is good for business, Zalis explains.  Yet, she realizes that male leaders need to believe in advancing women, and follow through with action. “It takes a leader saying I want to be better. I will be better, but I need to be conscious about being better.”  The first step toward a mindset shift is not a drastic change. “It’s a leadership conversation about where we are and what we want to work on first,” she said

  

Be confident:

Women often have an obnoxious roommate in their heads telling them they aren’t qualified to take a risk or make a change, Zalis says. She warns women not to listen to that voice. “Perfection does not exist and if it does, it’s boring. Blemishes make you interesting,” she said. “Believe in yourself. Be yourself. If you’re not perfect have people around you who complement you.”

  

Encourage mandatory parental leave:

Zalis said mandatory parental leave would create a more level playing field in the workplace. Hiring bosses would be less skeptical of hiring young women, and men would be better positioned to help more at home. “The rules were written 100 years ago, by men for men. We need to cut the cord and move forward. With mandatory parental leave, the bias against women kicks out. We must go in that direction if we want a modern workplace for today’s modern workforce.”

  

Take risks:

In her first job, Zalis said she took a risk by doing the sales job her way, thinking she had a perfect performance and insisting she deserved a raise. Her boss did not see her performance the same way.  “It was the worst review I have ever gotten. My boss told me I was spending too much time with clients. I told him, ‘You’re so wrong. Relationships are what business is about.’ “ Now, she does a job the way she thinks it should be done, even if it hasn’t been done that way before. “I love getting uncomfortable. I am comfortable being uncomfortable because I know I am trying something new.”

 

Stay relevant:

At 53, Zalis is gaining momentum, making connections and moving in a new direction. Zalis recommends trying something new as often as possible. “Invite a new person to dinner. Watch a different kind of movie. Try a different type of food. That’s how you evolve and stay interesting. If you do the same thing you don’t evolve and you get boring.”

 

During our short time with Zalis, she has helped the audience of businesswomen see her as the girlfriend who has our back, our inspiration for banning with other women, and a mentor for those who want to take risks and embrace change. Most of us will walk away acknowledging her guiding principle: “A woman alone has power, together we have impact.” Now, it will be up to us to act on it.

 

C7B8A740868ED44EB9044BD3AC8AA2D1

October 20, 2017

Awesome insight from a woman at the top of her field

IMG_0102

Can you be a big corporate big wig and have a personal life? Can you stay at the top of your field as a woman, in a male-heavy industry?

Yes you can!

When Lonnie Maier spoke at Nova Southeastern University’s Women’s Success Series recently, the college students arrived eager hear what she had to say on those topics, and a good number of adults came to hear her, too.

Lonnie, vice president of Enterprise Sales and Marketing for Fibernet Direct, told the audience about her personal journey to become an executive at a leading national telecommunications company. Lonnie Maier is vice president of enterprise sales and marketing for Fibernet Direct, a company with operations throughout Florida and the Southeastern United States.

As a successful corporate executive, she had plenty of advice to share on work life balance and Bay O’Leary, a NSU associate professor, chair of the marketing department and one of the creators of the series asked her the right questions to draw out those pearls of wisdom:

On her biggest work life challenge….

Early in my career, I commuted to Miami from Fort Lauderdale. I was never late to work, but I was always late coming home. I would make a commitment to my family to be home by a certain time and then I would be late. At work, I never wanted to say no so I would take on more than I could chew and then I would be late. Eventually, I had to learn to prioritize my family so I didn’t continuously let them down. They would joke about “Lonnie’s time” referring to my being late all the time.

 

On giving herself a work life balance report card….

Giving myself a report card is tough. My daughters are 27 and 22 and when I look at them I would say I earn an A+ all the way. I am celebrating 35 years of being married so I get high grades there, too. When comes to work though, I am always trying to do more, and with me it’s never good enough. There is always another project, another result I want to achieve. I have high expectations of myself.

 

On advice to young women new in their careers….

Prioritize and don’t personalize. As young people new to business, we tend to say yes to everything. There comes a point where the only way you can become good at certain things is to say no to other things, in a nice way. Early in my career, if I wasn’t included in a meeting, I might personalize something. Eventually, I realized you can’t do everything and be included in everything. If want to be involved, I reach out. I wanted to get involved in economic development. I got involved. After a while, people would say, “Lonnie can you head up this committee?” I would have to say, “I have a full-time job and I need to focus on my job.”

 

On what she looks for in her team…..

People who can articulate why they are a good fit for the job. I look for candidates who are proud of their accomplishments.

 

On how she handles an employee who is struggling with work life balance…

I try to be flexible with schedules and offer ideas or solutions for problems. But if it becomes an ongoing issue, then I need to sit down and talk to that person.

 

On changes or cracks in the glass ceiling in Corporate America….

I have seen a willingness from men to listen more over the years. Still, I see lot of men at top and not as many women. My company was sold and when I met with prospective buyers, there were few that had women in decision-making seats. It was frustrating to see the glass ceiling was still there. We had a lot of women on our management team at FiberNet and we were getting things done. Overall, there are not many women at the top in telecommunications. It’s an opportunity. Young women should feel there are no limitations for them, just opportunities everywhere. It’s our job as leaders to help them see that.

 

On finding mentors…..

If you have problem, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. A lot of informal mentoring can take place just by asking. If you see someone with a similar path to the one you want to take, ask them questions. Often, women see asking questions as a weakness. The best way to show it is not a weakness is by being there for them when they need it.

 

On self-care….

 

I go on long walks and before I go bed, I take time to reflect and do my praying.

 

On personal work life choices….

 

I look at my friends in the C -suite and they don’t have kids. That was personal choice they made. At one point, when my boss retired I was told “you can become president” but I said “no thank you I like what I do.” You must know what you are good at and where you need to be to get the results. You don’t need to feel you must be at the top to lead a fulfilling career. 

 

On supporting other women…

 Whatever level you are at, you need to be supportive of other women. The people who propelled me, who pushed me the most were other women. You need a gang of girls around you to need to leverage their strengths. Don’t ever look at other females as competition.

 

Thanks Lonnie for awesome advice!

 

 

IMG_0103

Bay O'Leary asking Lonnie Maier about her experience in Corporate America

 

October 04, 2017

Investing in "What Matters" Over "Having it all"

 

FullSizeRender

(From R to L: Monique , Paula Glickenhaus, Kathleen Procario, Claudia Chen)

 

 

A least 100 women are gathered in a conference room -- and two men.

We are waiting to listen to a panel discussion on Investing in "What Matters" over "Having it All" at the S.H.E. Summit Bacardi in Miami. The panel looks interesting to me as I gaze at the white board with bios on the speakers. And then, the discussion begins....

Here is what I take away from the conversation that follows:

1. Investing in your relationship with your spouse, partner, significant other should be high on your priority list. (It matters!)

The moderator is Claudia Chan, founder of SHE Summit and author of This IS How We Rise.  Claudia tells us she is struggling with raising a two year old, seven month old, writing a book,  keeping her marriage strong, and running her organization. I've heard discussions on work life balance many, many, many times. But Claudia brings up a point that rarely gets mentioned. She aims for balance not as an individual, but as part of a couple. Claudia prioritizes she and her husband "getting on the same page." When investing in what matters most, she considers her marriage her top priority.

"If you're good as a couple, your children will feel more confident when they see mom and dad in good place," she said. "Your relationship with your partner is your most important relationship."

2. Outsourcing will look different for each of us, depending on our income, but it can be crucial to having time for priorities. 

Panelist Paula GlickenhausVice President of Global Indirect Procurement with Bacardi Limited, travels often for her high-powered job. She has a grown daughter who is 22 and a son who is 9. To keep up with her many responsibilities, she exercises wherever she is in any way she can..."If I am in Miami, I swim. If I am in New York, I do yoga. If I am in Switzerland, I run." But to have me time, work time, spouse time and child time, Paula outsources. She outsources A LOT. "I do procurement ...so even at work I outsource everything I can." Paula said the goal of outsourcing is to ensure family time is the best quality it can be.

When prodded, Paula detailed exactly what she outsources:

  • Homework: "I can't help my kids with homework. I have no patience. So I find a tutor who can help them until the age they don’t need help anymore. I did it with my daughter and now with son."
  • Sports. "My son is good at soccer, but the coach said he needs to practice more. I found a coach online and recruited a few other kids in the same boat who can be coached as a group." 
  • Driving. "I have a nanny, but she is not full time. She picks my son up from school and takes him to activities."
  • Lunches. I tried to get my son to buy the school lunch but the quality came time and he wanted to bring a lunch box. Rather than take that extra half hour in the morning, I use FreshDirect to make his lunches. They also have some amazing snacks." 

3. Set your priorities one day at a time. 

Kathleen Procario, HR & Talent Management  for Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits, said you can’t do it all, so you need to start to focus on what’s most important today. Most of us wear many titles: sister, brother, husband, wife, friend, parent, employee. "We have to figure out which of those jobs matter right now," shw said.

 

4. Going "all in" at work is okay, but get your partner on board. 

Monique Catoggio runs a business from home. So does her husband who also is an entrepreneur. She wants to give her business a lot of attention, so does her husband. So they take turns with the home stuff to give the other person the ability to focus on work stuff.  "We both prioritize making our business profitable so we have learned to find harmony in our home," she said.

To keep that harmony, they speak up when they need something from the other. "When I see resistence, I tell him you're not supporting me in the way I need you to and we have to talk about it," she said. Monique said it can be challenging to find time for those conversations. "Usually when the kids go to bed, that’s our time.  Sometimes we have a heart-to-heart over TV shows."  The biggest risk is not communicating, she said. "Don’t let it get far down road."

5. Someone needs to deal with the logistics. They matter.

There are bills to pay, appointments to make, home repairs to deal with and supplies that need to be restocked. Someone has to handle the logistics of daily life and running a household. When there are children, the logistics rise exponentially. Those small things can build resentment if one person in a household feels he or she is handling a disproportionate amount. However, if the other person takes on the task, there can be no second guessing, or nit picking. "When you divide and conquer whatever your partner takes on, let them do it their way," Monique said.

 

6. Don't ask, tell.

Paula said she doesn't ask her husband if it's okay to go to the gym. She tells him when she is going. She doesn't ask her boss when she can take vacation. She tells him to put it on his calendar. Investing in what matters over having it all means asserting yourself to get what matters to you.

 

7. Take a pause, often.

People get stuck or feel overwhelmed because they don’t find time to understand themselves, Monique said. "We make ourselves busier than we should be."

That's why we need to create more moments of pause...to make time to figure out what matters most.

"It doesn’t have to be two hours. When you give yourself time to create clarity, you can think about what you want your relationship to feel like and if it's not the relationship you want, you can do something about it," she said.

 

While these business women might not have all the solutions, I think they had some great wisdom to share -- for both the men and women in the room!

 

 

June 09, 2017

The Latina Mother and Risk Taker Who is Disrupting the Entertainment Industry

I love to read about women who took risks in business. Bold risks. Risks that involved a work life sacrifice but eventually paid off. I figure you like to read those stories, too. Today, I am featuring Ana Benitez, President & Co-Founder of Storyrocket, a Miami company with a genius concept. Ana is a Cuban American mother of two who believes in dreaming big. She is disrupting the entertainment industry with her startup, an online marketplace that it allows writers to showcase their work to an audience of content-hungry producers. 

 

Meet Ana Benitez....

Ana

What is your Background?

I was born in Cuba and came to Miami as a two-year-old toddler.  We were not your typical Cuban family, I don’t remember much politics being discussed. At home it was all about education, it was ingrained that we would go to college and pursue a higher education. I don’t think we were ever given a choice. My father always said, “They can take away all you have (which Castro did, when he left Cuba) or lose a job, but no one will ever be able to take away your education.” My parents always reminded us that we could achieve anything we wanted with our hard work and determination. We were always encouraged to dream big and then road map it… in other words take steps every day to get there.

 

What is it like to be a Latina in the entertainment business?

It takes courage. But growing up in a family of immigrants you saw courage in action every day and it became part of my DNA. I think courage is vital to being an entrepreneur, whether or not you are a Latina. There are a million great ideas, but you have to have the courage to take action. I was taught that nothing is given to you for free. It is your responsibility to make it happen and live with no regrets. 

 

Your new company is Storyrocket...what is it?

Storyrocket is an online marketplace that connects great written works with the global production community that has a goal of producing for film, TV, theater or web. In the entertainment industry everything starts with a book or script.  So content is king, but content is all over the place. There is no one place that amalgamates and organizes content easily so that great written work is discovered, opted and produced.

How does it work?

Storyrocket is an open online marketplace with a free membership model where both writers and producers can enter their first project free of charge. Subsequent projects are fee-based ,with very accessible plans starting at $9.99 a month for up to 10 projects. Our site also has a social media component to it that allows you to promote your script outside of Storyrocket to as many people as possible. Storyrocket has the ability to create groups, that allow people to form collaboratives, which can add momentum to a project and also help to crowd source since some ideas will become indie projects that will need funding. It’s really the go-to place for both writers and producers.

How did the idea to launch Storyrocket come about?

It began three years ago with the realization by my partner, Ron Karasz that although he’s a great writer he has never been able to get his writing optioned because of the way “show business” works. It’s all about who you know and if you can attach a big name to your project. Getting representation by a reputable agent is like playing the chicken and the egg. Agents won’t represent you unless you have something already produced and the industry won’t look at your screenwriting without representation. Like Ron, we estimate there are hundreds of thousands of writers globally that are desperate to get their writings into the rights hands, but have nowhere to go.

On the flip side, I’m a two time Emmy-winning producer. In my field, we always say that there are not enough great written works out there. Big production companies spend thousands of hours vetting scripts sent to them by agents and many other sources. Nowadays, not only the traditional networks and studios are in competition for great content, but also companies like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon etc. who are producing great original movies, shows and series. This trend will continue to grow, again creating the need for more and more content.

How Is Storyrocket a game changer?

Storyrocket's robust search engine is a game changer. As a writer, you can get your work into the hands of content hungry producers. As a producer whether you're searching for a book, script or treatment, you can easily filter by genre, gender, location, era, etc. and can communicate directly with the content owner, or agent.  Production companies who used to spend a considerable amount of time and money vetting scripts from a multitude of sources, now have a one stop solution with Storyrocket.

What challenges are ahead?

Our goal is to have the largest collection of content in the world for the entertainment industry that is easily searchable from anywhere, 24/7.  We understand that great content transcends borders and is adaptable to multiple markets. This has prodded Storyrocket to begin the expansion of the site to multiple languages.  Having launched in English, it plans to be available in Spanish by the fall of 2017.  This will open the possibilities to huge production markets in Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and Spain, among many others.  The long-term goal is to have the site available "in-language" for the top 15 film and TV producing countries of the world.

Will you self-finance your expansion in Phase II, or be looking for funding?

We will definitely be looking for investment funding  our next phase.  Recently eMerge Americas, the technology conference of the Americas where many tech trends are launched, invited Storyrocket to be one of its select Startup Showcase companies on June 12 & 13 in Miami

What tips would you give to other entrepreneurs?

Having self-financed this startup, I can tell you it hasn’t been easy, but it sure has been an exciting ride. No two days are the same. Each comes with its own priorities and there is no road map. It’s up to you to steer the company in the right direction. Start-ups are not for the faint of heart. It takes guts and determination to see it through from idea to reality. On the personal side, lots of meditation, envisioning the end-result, keeping a never-give-up attitude and a positive outlook no matter what.

As a mother of two, how have you been able to balance family and launching a company?

It took a lot of hard work and many years of willing to do more than was expected of me to get ahead. It was when I was at the top of my career creating the highest rating specials as senior producer of special events for Univision Network that I had to take a hard look at my life. During this time, I gave birth to my two sons. The intense work schedule and travelling commitments left little time for family, and even less time for me. I had a serious lack of balance in my life and for the first time I felt I was losing the joy. This is when I knew, I had to reinvent myself in order to have more flexibility and be able to be happy in all areas of my life. This took deep thinking and great courage.

Was it scary to leave a job you loved?

I left the network at the top of my career…with multiple nominations and 2 Emmy Awards, an executive position with high visibility, great pay and benefits and opened a marketing and entertainment agency Benitez Karasz, with my husband and partner, Ron Karasz. I re-invented myself and I have zero regrets. Benitez Karasz not only has provided me the with the flexibility I was looking for but it also expanded my expertise in the areas of talent management, marketing and events. We worked with Fortune 500 companies leveraging talent for marketing campaigns. After many years of success at Benitez Karasz it was time to start our new challenge. Today the same partnership has decided to disrupt the entertainment Industry with a win-win formula that helps both writers and producers, Storyrocket.

 

How are you different now that you've run your own business? Did it influence your willingness to take risk?

I’m much wiser, stronger and my tool box is much bigger. I’ve learned I can do it all with the right attitude, being organized, prioritizing, planning ahead, and focusing on the things that I do want.  I’m able to spend quality time with my family, travel, volunteer at my church, take care of my health, support emerging filmmakers and launch a startup. And, yes I’m very happy!”

Computer

 

 

 

May 23, 2017

Career Advice from Women Leaders

A few days ago, I sat in a room with 500 other women, and some men, waiting to hear the wisdom that women at the top of their professions would share. Nothing compares to the energy in the room when women are eager to learn career secrets from other women.

This year, The Commonwealth Institute South Florida, not only announced its Top Women-Led Companies in Florida at its annual event, it also revealed some interesting trends in its new report

These are some of the trends:

*At least 20 percent started companies because they had a passion for something that no one else was doing.

*The majority of women who lead companies have only 1-5 employees

* The number one issue women leaders are focused on this year is winning new business

However, it was the advice from the women panelist that I found most fascinating. 

IMG_5628

 

Moderator Janet Altman, marketing principal for Kaufman Rossin, with enthusiasm and elegance posed the questions in bold below. This is an edited version of the panel presentation:

What was your first leadership experience and what did it teach you?

Kirsten Dolan, president and COO of One Parking-- My first leadership experience was as a Resident Assistant (RA) in college. I was in charge of overseeing 150 coed college students. That experience taught me how to lead as a peer. 

Carmen Perez-Carlton, former president of FPL Fibernet -- My first leadership experience was when I worked for an accounting firm. It taught me regardless of what level you are in an organization, everyone has a valuable role to play.

How did you prove yourself early on in your career?

Tina Brown, Executive director of Overtown Youth Center - My early career was as an accountant. I had to prove to myself and to others that my work could be trusted. I had to show them that I could be accurate and meticulous.  As an African American women I have always felt I had to prove myself. From the beginning I took it as a challenge, gracefully and with a positive attitude. I did it and excelled and gained friends and mentors.

Kirsten - As a woman in a male dominated business, the men didn't know what to do with me. I wasn't want they envisioned. But I worked hard and learned from the good skill sets men have. 

The TCI survey asked women leaders if they feel there is a difference between men and women leaders and if women leaders are better or just different? Most women said female leaders are not better, just different. Do you agree?

Hilarie Bass, Co-president Greenberg Traurig - Women are consensus builders. Men want to come in and be the smartest in the room. Women want to be liked, to convince others it's in their best interest to do what they want them to do. That approach creates more loyalty among employees. It's a different approach to run a company on consensus rather than directive. 

Carmen - Women more intuitive. They take notice of things that might impact strategy. Men are more prone to take risk but women are more thoughtful.  Sometimes that's looked at as not enough of risk taking. When there is a position open and men have five of the necessary qualifications, they will apply for the job. If a woman has eight, she will wait to apply. The men believe they can learn as they go. I have noticed that women are less likely to wing it. They want to feel competent going in.

Kirsten - I noticed that men exaggerate their successes. Women are reluctant to boast but playing up your successes is a good skill to hone.

We all need networks to thrive. Who is part of your support system, your network?

Tina - My TCI (The Commonwealth Institute South Florida) network has become my family. They are people I can lean on for advice. I have learned that networks are extremely valuable. 

What are your strengths as a leader?

Carmen - Transparency and openness. I was always open and specific about goals. I would say this year is about 'x' and they could trust that it would be about that.

Tina - My ability to weigh and measure and think analytically about decisions and how decision affect everyone. You have to foresee implications when you make decisions.

Hilarie: My strength is as a consensus builder If you get consensus about goals, you can ask people to make decisions that may not be what they want to do. For example, if you are able to say "we're trying to get our firm to look like this in five years" and you get buy in, it's easier to get people to make the tough decision along the way to get where you need to go.

What are obstacles or challenges you faced on your way to the top?

Kirsten-  Perception. Prior to starting One Parking more than 12 years ago, I worked for another company and was responsible for the profitability and operations of more than 200 locations on the West Coast. I commuted from the East Coast to the West Coast for eight years and worked really hard. One day they told me I wasn't committed because I didn't live in L.A. I knew I proved myself extremely committed but I was battling perception. I left after that to start my own company.

Tina - For me a challenge has been developing my staff as leaders who can work for profit or non-profit and be successful. I feel like I have done that.

Carmen - A big challenge for me was when my company realized it was time to sell the company I was running. It was like selling my baby. It was an extremely exhausting year in 2016, going through deal making process. Now after 35 years working for companies, I am going to take time off to dedicate time to my personal life, I am going to pick up a hobby, spend time with my family and figure it out  

What advice do you give to ambitious young woman?

Kirsten-  A lot of young women worry about whether they are where they are supposed to be in their career path. I tell them no matter where you are, you are where you are supposed to be. Now, go forward from here.

Tina -  Allow integrity and passion to drive your success. Do what you want to do, take risks, work hard and be a life long learner. Take something from everyone you come in contact with good and bad. 

Carmen - Never underestimate your potential. Dream big.

Hilarie - Think about what you want to accomplish in the next 12 months. If you don't know you can't make decision about how you spend your day. Oh, and also, don't personalize rejection. Don't make it about you...simply set a new goal and move forward.



 

IMG_5621
Laurie Kaye Davis, Executive Director of TCI South Florida
IMG_5627 (1)
Carmen Perez-Carlton, Panelist
IMG_5623
The Miami Herald Table
IMG_5618
Bonnie Ross, marketing director for Fiske & Co and me


 

May 11, 2017

Do you believe "boys club" environments still exist?

Good old

 

 

Women are making their way onto corporate boards. They are working in top jobs in Silicon Valley. They are heading up major departments in hospitals and becoming deans of universities. They are networking in ways they have never done so in the past, giving each other business, making introductions and investing in each other's companies.

So with all women are accomplishing, are we to believe "boys club" business environments still exist?

I would like to be in denial. I think most women, and many men, would like to be in denial as well. But the headlines force us to think otherwise.

Today's headline is the latest example. South Florida tech firm, Magic Leap, has settled a lawsuit with Tannen Campbell, who says she was brought in by the CEO to make the  company less of a "boys club." Yet, her mission didn't go well. In a lawsuit, she claimed that Magic Leap's top management did not include females and the company ignored efforts to hire more women were met with resistance. Even worse, she claimed that the corporate culture is one of "macho bullying" where women's work and ideas are ridiculed openly and their opinions ignored in favor of those of their male counterparts.

Campbell reached a confidential settlement in her gender bias lawsuit this week. Still, the details of the suit gave the public a glimpse into the inner workings of a cutting-edge technology company and a corporate culture that frankly, turns my stomach, and frankly prohibits this company from reaching greatness.

I'm not just tossing out some "I am woman, hear me roar" rhetoric.  The facts speak louder than I do. 

The study on gender diversity by Marcus Noland, Tyler Moran, and Barbara Kotschwar for the Peterson Institute for International Economics released in 2016 says there is a positive correlation between the presence of women in corporate leadership and performance "in a magnitude that is not small."  The study found that having a woman in an executive position leads to better performance, with the more women the better.

Yet, even as research shows companies perform better when they include women in leadership, we continually learn of workplaces where men don't want to include them -- at least not at the higher levels.

The Magic Leap lawsuit is merely the latest. A year ago (May 2016), a senior female fixed-income banker at Bank of America Corp. filed a lawsuit accusing the bank of underpaying her and other women, and retaliating when she complained about illegal or unethical practices by her colleagues. She also accused the bank of condoning bias by her boss that made her feel unwelcome in his “subordinate ‘bro’s club’ of all-male sycophants.” Then in November, a former employee of Citigroup accused that bank of being a “boys’ club” that paid women like her less, denied her equal opportunities for promotion, and then penalized her for speaking up about potential gender discrimination.

I don't know the validity of these lawsuits, I just know they exist. I also know that Glassdoor.com, a website that encourages employee reviews, is littered with employee claims that all types of businesses have leadership teams and corporate cultures that reflect "boys clubs."

So even while I want to be in denial, I can't. The boys club thinking that existed decades ago remains intact in some workplaces. But it doesn't have to continue.

We change it by challenging it in court, by taking our business elsewhere, by telling the men in our lives that it wrong to be a part of it, by encouraging women to speak up when they see it happening, by making the business case for promoting women into leadership and by pointing out the consequences and the effect on morale when women are excluded. 

It's unlikely we will eliminate these "boys clubs" completely. But by acknowledging they exist and vowing to work toward change, we are on our way to making a difference.

April 04, 2017

What Equal Pay Day Means for Our Daughters

Today is Equal Pay Day. It's the day to bring attention to the pay disparity between men and women.

The reality is that most workplaces won't acknowledge it. Regardless, it is the most important day of the year for women. Today is the day when real change happens because of small actions and big resolve. It's the day when we focus attention on making the workplace better for our daughters, our nieces, our granddaughters. 

By now, women have been in the workplace for decades, holding high level jobs, becoming bosses and running large agencies. In many workplaces, they are the human resources directors who do the hiring. Why then, do women still earn on average 20 percent less than men for the same jobs? (Click here to see how your state stacks up against the pay gap)

Yesterday, I heard actress Gina Rodriguez speak on television about her partnership with LUNA nutrition bars to drive awareness for the pay gap. Listening to Gina, what I liked most about what she said was her plan. Instead of just urging employers to do something about the pay gap or pushing for legislation -- two strategies that haven't been enough --Gina talked about how LUNA is sponsoring AAUW Work Smart salary negotiation workshops for women across the country.

LUNA and AAUW are working to close the pay gap one workshop at a time by empowering women to negotiate their salary and benefits packages. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) empowers women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research.

“We know that salary negotiation is not the only variable in the gender pay gap, but it is true that women tend not to negotiate, and that affects their earnings all the way through to retirement," AAUW Board Chair Patricia Fae Ho said. “We are so grateful to have LUNA’s support spreading our negotiation workshops, because we know how well they work. We hear from women every day that they used what they learned in AAUW Work Smart immediately – and that it worked!”

I look around me and I see many women working the same long hours as men, and putting their passion into their jobs. We all know it's not acceptable that they earn less for men, particularly as they struggle with trying to raise families and serve as role models, too. Working women first need to pay more attention to who gets hired and at what salary and speak up for change. More important, we need to put the power to eliminate the pay gap it in the hands of our daughters by showing them how to ask for what they deserve at the beginning of their careers. We can rally for brands like LUNA to bring attention to champion women's equality. We can have conversations with the young women in our lives about how and why to go after any job they want, research what the men in the job are paid, and have the confidence to negotiate salary and benefits. We can even take those young women with us to a workshop. Here's the link to free workshops across the U.S.

The AAUW website offers some other actions: Bring a workshop to a campus or community. Sign up to become an AAUW salary negotiation ambassador to help spread the word, or train to become an AAUW salary negotiation facilitator so that you can take the reins in empowering women.

Today is a day in which small actions count. Take them for the young women in your lives. You can help close the pay gap and this is the time to do it.

 

 

 

February 20, 2017

The New Ways Working Women Are Defining Success

What is success? 

If you asked a room of 100 people, it's likely each would have a different answer. And, they should.

For most of us, success is living our life with purpose, knowing what are dreams are, and figuring out how to break through the inevitable inner and outer resistance we will hit along our path to achieve them, says Mina Shah, who considers her success speaking on stage and motivating others.

Over the weekend, Mina, and a dozen other speakers at the 2017 Office Depot Foundation Women's Symposium, motivated more than 1,000 women to define success in new ways. 

Sign

There is nothing more energizing than being in a large ballroom, filled with energetic women who want to build awesome businesses, reach bigger heights at the companies they work for, or find new career paths that excite them. When I walked into the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach on Friday for the Office Depot Foundation Women Symposium that' what greeted me.

One of the most important messages Mina offered was not to be hindered by our fears or by naysayers, and stop short of our personal definition of success. "Most people work hard enough to feel the pain, but not enough to get the benefit of the reward," she said. 

A new definition of success...someone who breaks through doubt.

"No matter how accomplished you are or how much personal work you have done, you'll experience occasional doubt...and that doubt could mean the difference between success and failure," said Karen Pfeffer, co-founder of Fire Power Seminars. Pfeffer said success is pushing past doubt, busting through barriers and moving forward with determination, focused on what you want. She entered the male-dominated field of banking and became the first woman president of the Florida Bank Marketing Association. She now has a successful company that puts on empowerment seminars and does breakthrough coaching. 

However, if you think success is only about making money in the for profit business world, think again. Almost any business idea you come up with can be turned into a non profit, and there is a lot of start up capital available for non profits such as grants and foundation money and charitable giving of real estate. Speaker Sherry Watson, CEO of The Power of Purpose, a nonprofit consulting firm, gave an inspirational look into how women are earning good incomes while building nonprofits that better the world. "It's about taking our entrepreneur ways and bringing that forward, bringing solutions." Watson said with a nonprofit you can start a company, and change the world. The steps to building a non profit are on Waston's website: The Power of Purpose. She also suggested www.NonprofitWebclass.com.

IMG_4472

How else are women redefining success?

There are making the right connections, not in the old way, but in a new way.

Kavita Sahai of BIGplans, said early in her career, she saw the power of networking in action when she befriended an administrative assistant, who later persuaded management to give her a job at a private equity firm. "You are one conversation away from achieving your dreams," she said. "Have more conversations."

To achieve the success most of us want, when we have those conversations, we need to be able to fill in the blank: "I'm your go-to girl for ______ " Once we know what we need and what we can offer, success is in our grasp, Kavita said.

                                                   Kavita

Now, if there's a woman who has defined success in an intriguing way, it's Vernice Armour, America's first African American female combat pilot, who calls herself "FlyGirl"

Armour went from beat comp in her city, to a combat pilot who served two tours overseas in Iraq. She now is a motivational speaker, pulling in a six-figure salary through her keynotes, group coaching, seminars and executive retreats. Her big message: Who needs a runway? Take off from where you are."

Often, women wait waiting for the right moment, the right circumstances to make their move. Instead, "just move into action from wherever you are," she advises. "In order to be successful, you gotta get gutsy." When Armour realized she had a voice and something to say, she took a workshop on public speaking, and moved into action. Clearly, she is good at what she does. She had the whole room of women cheering, laughing and interacting. 

 

                                            IMG_4483

One of the most impressive women who has defined success her way, despite obstacles, is Mary Wong, president of the Office Depot Foundation. Mary suffers from health issues, but pushes forward to accomplish amazing things for the foundation, which gives children tools to succeed in school, among other contributions. Wong sent a clear message at this year's Women's Symposium that today's working women are defining success in new ways and she encourages women everywhere to be A Difference Maker (#diffmkrwomen).

 

 

IMG_4477
Honored to be in the company of Mary Wong (and her dog) at the 2017 Office Depot Women's Symposium

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 19, 2017

Brenda Barnes: A Working Mother We All Should Mourn

 

A few nights ago, I was late to pick my son up from sports practice because of a business event. When I pulled into the school parking lot, he was sitting alone on the curb looking exhausted. I knew had still had hours of homework ahead of him and I felt awful for being late. I know in the big picture, no one would accuse me of being a horrible mother, but at that moment, I felt like one.

Some days, juggling work and family is more difficult than others. Brenda Barnes knew that juggling act well. 

BarnesI had just started writing about work and family when I met up with Brenda Barnes. She was the first female CEO of PepsiCo and a working mother of three. Brenda Barnes did something few women at her level in business had dared to do. In 1997, when Brenda was president and CEO of Pepsi-Cola North America, she resigned after 18 months to become a stay-at-home mom. Her children were then 10, 8 and 7 years old. She told the New York Daily News at the time that "You have to make choices. Maybe I burned (the candle) at both ends for too long."

The backlash from Brenda’s resignation was loud. Many women didn’t approve, and her actions fueled the “Can Women Do It All?” debate over the extent to which family duties keep women out of executive suites.

I spoke to Brenda about the time and she told me she was still engaged in the business world and was sitting on corporate boards. But she was also driving her children to soccer practice and the movies. She sounded happy.

Years later, Brenda did something equally as noteworthy.Not many women return to the highest ranks after taking time off, but in 2004, with her children teenagers and preparing for college, Brenda went back to a full-time job at Sara Lee Corp. She became CEO, and then added the chairman title a few months later. She accomplished the tough task of renaming the company and making it profitable. It was as if Brenda proved that spending time with her children didn’t make her any less of a capable businesswoman.

Unfortunately, in 2010, Brenda suffered a stroke while working out at a gym near her home. She resigned as CEO of the company when it became clear she faced a long recovery. Brenda spent the last 6½ years working on her recovery until recently when during her sleep, she had another stroke that took her life.

When I learned of Brenda’s recent death at 63, it hit me hard. I wanted this strong woman to succeed at everything she did. By my standards Brenda succeeded at the most important job she held, being a mom. Her daughter Erin Barnes told the Sun Times she remembers her as “the best mother you could ever imagine." Erin also spoke to the importance of family in her mother’s life. “Family is what she lived for,” she said.

To me, Brenda Barnes represented the juggle we all do and the tough choices we face trying to be there for our children and our jobs. To me, she was a role model who exemplified that it’s okay to put our family first at times, and our jobs first at other times. I will think of Brenda’s efforts at balance often, and give myself a pass when I fall short of the expectations I place on myself. I hope you will, too.

 

 

Video clip from Interview with Fortune Magazine

December 07, 2016

Getting through rough patches in business

We all go through rough patches at work, whether we are the employee, the manager or the business owner. Some are more easy to navigate than others. I always appreciate when someone successful talks about a rough  patch and how he or she steered through it.

BethRecently big time corporate executive Beth Kaplan came to South Florida to address a women's organization. Instead of giving the typical "I made it to the top" speech, Kaplan spoke about the rough patches she has hit in her career and how she handled them. To me, that's valuable insight!

Kaplan has hit more than one rough patch. First she worked at Rite Aid, where there was a massive accounting scandal. She managed to leave with her reputation in tact.Next she worked at Bath & Body Works as executive Vice President of merchandising where she spent a ton of time ina different city, away from her family. She left when she could no longer handle the work life balancing act.  Next, she worked as president and COO of Rent the Runway in 2013, a New York-based online company, that loans  designer dresses and accessories to women for special occasions. She left that position in October 2015 and today she is a strategic advisor and board member at Rent the Runway.

In an interview with Wharton's Knowledge@Work , Kaplan explained that a key part of steering through rough patches is knowing how to exit a job with grace.

 “It’s amazing to me that people don’t talk about how to leave an organization. They all talk about how to join one, but they don’t talk about having to leave.”  she told  Wharton. She noted that Bath & Body Works had an extensively documented six-month onboarding process, provided in a large binder to new hires, which made no mention of how people should behave when leaving the company.

She talked with her boss, and together they designed a program with which, Kaplan said, she compiled all her insights and learning, and then “left with grace.” 

Kaplan outlined “certain ground rules” about leaving with grace. Be transparent with your manager, she said. “You go to your boss and say, ‘Look, I found this other opportunity, but I really care about this organization and I’m very thankful for everything you have given me.’ By the way, say that even if you don’t mean it.” Ask your manager how you can help make the situation a win-win, and discuss how much time it will take to wrap things up, she added.

Ruiz.Lisa_.thumbnail-150x150

Kaplan recently shared a few stories and lessons learned from her career with 220 of South Florida’s leading women at The Commonwealth Institute’s Leadership Luncheon at Jungle Island she and had lots of wisdoms to impart. Fortunately, Lisa Cawley Ruiz, (pictured to the left)  a content marketing manager at Kaufman Rossin, one of the top 100 CPA and advisory firms in the U.S., captured  those insights. She originally posted them on her firm blog but allowed me to share them with my readers as well.

 


Here are Kaplan’s top four tips for success:
1. Your reputation is your most valuable asset. It is your personal brand, and  follows you wherever you go.
2. Don't underestimate the impact you have on other people. Our behaviors (positively or negatively) affect those around us more than we realize, which is why it’s important to solicit quality feedback frequently.
3. Make a graceful exit.
How you leave a company is just as important as how you enter.
4. Pick the right partner. “We don’t always agree, but he always has my back,” Kaplan says of her husband. “He reminds me of the things that are most important in my life.”


Kaplan acknowledged that women often feel pressure to conform to expectations, and sometimes have to make decisions that may not be popular. If you’ve given a decision careful thought, you should stick by your choices, she said. “Never apologize for something you’ve thoughtfully considered.”

When the decision in question is whether or not to take a job, thoughtful consideration includes conducting due diligence on a company’s culture. As Kaplan learned the hard way through her experience of seeing Rite Aid nearly collapse in a high-profile financial scandal, culture can make or break a company. (The right culture makes steering through rough patches more doable!)


Recent reports have blamed a mean girl culture for numerous departures at Rent the Runway. However, while in South Florida, Kaplan said culture has been one of the top priorities for the leadership team at Rent the Runway.  The online clothing rental startup recently changed its compensation structure, eliminating bonuses and raising salaries in order to underscore its trust in employees, shift employee focus to long-term strategic thinking that can help scale the business, and create a culture of learning that encourages feedback, she said. Giving your team members “unvarnished, truthful and constructive feedback,” is important. And if an employee is no longer a good fit, address it sooner rather than later.

Kaplan's final piece of advice for busy women: Find a way to unplug and recharge. For some, it may be taking a vacation, working on a hobby or spending time with friends. For Kaplan, it’s ballroom dancing.