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!”

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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. 

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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.



 

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Laurie Kaye Davis, Executive Director of TCI South Florida
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Carmen Perez-Carlton, Panelist
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The Miami Herald Table
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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. 

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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.

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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. 

 

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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).

 

 

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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.

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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.


May 04, 2016

What makes a state the worst for a working mother?

Source: WalletHub

 

 

 

Yesterday, I drove past the bus stop and noticed a mother with young triplets trying to get her family onto the public bus. I wondered what her life was like -- how difficult it is to support her family and she manages on a daily basis to get her family where they need to go. Is our public transportation accommodating? Is Florida's child care affordable? Is housing affordable?

With Mother’s Day approaching, and single moms with young children constituting nearly three-quarters of all working women, the personal-finance website WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of 2016’s Best & Worst States for Working Moms.

So, what makes a state one of the worst for working mothers? Expensive child care, lousy paychecks, too few pediatricians, lack of advancement opportunities, crappy parental leave, and a huge wage gap.  And that's just the beginning of it!

In order to identify the best and worst states for working moms, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across three key dimensions: 1) Child Care, 2) Professional Opportunities and 3) Work-Life Balance.

From there, WalletHub’s analysts compared the attractiveness of each of the states to a working mother by using 13 key metrics such as median women’s salary, female unemployment rate, day-care quality, and the pay gap.

Vermont had the highest overall score. Nevada had the lowest.

 

Here's how my state (Florida) scored. (It's the 12th Worst State for Working Mothers):
 
Life as a Working Mom in Florida (1=Best; 25=Avg.) 

  • 24th – Day-Care Quality
  • 51st – Child-Care Costs (Adjusted for Median Women’s Salary)
  • 30th – Access to Pediatric Services
  • 18th – Gender Pay Gap (Women’s Earnings as % of Men’s)
  • 19th – Ratio of Female Executives to Male Executives
  • 34th – Median Women’s Salary (Adjusted for Cost of Living)
  • 34th – Female Unemployment Rate
  • 23rd – Parental Leave Policy
  • 39th – Length of Average Woman’s Workday
  • 20th – % of Single-Mom Families in Poverty

 

If you live in New York, then rejoice because you live in the best state for working mothers for daycare quality.

If you live in Washington D.C., there's good news for you, too. You live in the area with the highest percentage of pediatricians and the highest percent of female executives. 

Moms in Virginia have something to celebrate as well. You live in the state with the highest median women's salary, adjusted for cost of living: $45,452.

Let's hope states that ranked low make some improvements in the next year. We owe it to the nation's working mothers and the children they are raising!

For the full report, visit WalletHub

 

 

March 31, 2016

Why women will get equal pay and who we will thank for it

Women are capable of achieving amazing feats, and for centuries we've done it without recognition. But now, we're achieving way too much to do it without equal pay.

In the last few months, female voices are getting louder, the discontent over the gender wage gap is getting stronger and we're rallying the way we did decades ago when we wanted the opportunity to vote in America. Today, I woke up to learn that five players from the World Cup-winning U.S. national team have accused the U.S. Soccer Federation of wage discrimination in an action filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Women soccer players want equal pay and they should get it. It's an awesome goal.

Soccer2
 

The soccer players' lawsuit comes only weeks afters the subject of equal pay in tennis grabbed headlines. It started with awful comments by BNP Paribas Opentournament CEO Raymond Moore said female players in the Women’s Tennis Association “ride on the coattails of the men.” He followed up by suggesting that women should “go down every night on [their] knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have.” Moore has since issued an official apology for his “erroneous” comments that were in “poor taste.” But Novak Djokovic, the world’s top men’s player, who won on the men’s finals this weekend, added more fuel to the fire, saying that men should “fight for more” money because their matches have more spectators that those played by women.

Serena Williams, wasn't going to take that and fired back, saying “I think Venus, myself, a number of players—if I could tell you every day how many people say they don’t watch tennis unless they’re watching myself or my sister—I couldn’t even bring up that number,” she added.

SerenaSerena got her point across. Moore took so much heat for his comments about women's pay that he announced he was stepping down as CEO of the tournament.

Outside of the sports world, the call for fair pay has cropped up in other professions. In my Miami Herald column yesterday, I wrote about young female lawyers in Florida surveyed by the Florida Bar who complained of inequities in compensation in the legal industry. Their collective voices are bringing attention to the issue in the legal community.

And then there is the attention Jennifer Lawrence has brought to equal pay in Hollywood for actresses. In a widely read essay Jennifer addressed wage gap in Hollywood, which was made explicitly clear to her after the Sony hacking scandal revealed she was paid less than her male co-stars in "American Hustle."  She wrote that she wasn't so much upset with Sony as she was with herself, believing she "failed as a negotiator." She attributed this failure to "an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn't want to seem 'difficult' or 'spoiled.'" 

Her piece sparked not only sparked discussion, it launched the Women Entertaining Change movement in JlawHollywood in which actresses and female directors are speaking out about fair pay and opportunities for women. The Today Show has been highlighting outspoken women in Hollywood and their demands for an equal playing field.

Women may have gotten the Equal Pay Act in 1963, making it illegal to pay men and women differently for the same type of work, but today, women are still paid, on average, only 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. For women of color, that pay gap is even wider. In 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, intended to restore and improve on equal pay law.

Yet, women still experience pay inequality across the board -- whether you're Hollywood's , a clerk in a retail store or a businesswoman.

My mother's generation went mostly for jobs that were set aside for women. My generation fought to ascend into careers that had been off limits and we're still fighting to get the leadership positions in businesses that we think we deserve. Now come the millennial women and they assume they are going to be business leaders, law firm partners, world renowned athletes and Oscar winning actresses --  and they want to be paid equally for it. They are speaking out about it -- loudly. 

I believe they will be heard.

Not because the men want to hear them, but because they no longer can afford not to hear them. These women are their daughters, their wives, their bosses.They are smart, competent, and increasingly well educated and think big. They are saving lives, directing corporate strategy, winning sports events, bringing audiences to the movie theaters, representing litigants, discovering cures and inspiring the next generation of women who will make a difference in the world.

These young women see that they are sacrificing as much as men and working just as much and they want to be appreciated for it. Not with praise or trophies but with equal treatment and compensation.

Their voices are loud. Their strategies are targeted. Their actions are creating dialogue. I believe the time is now and equal pay is in their grasp. 

 

                                            Equal

November 05, 2015

Is there a such thing as work life balance?

Maryam

 

At least once a week, someone will tell me they don't believe in work life balance. This week it was Maryam Banikarim, global chief marketing officer of Hyatt Hotels Corp., a risk taking, change maker with two teenagers at home.

When I began my conversation with Maryam, one of the first things she said to me was:  "I don't believe in work life balance."

Then, she added:  "I think we juggle lots of different things, and make different tradeoffs at different times in our lives so we never really have balance." Balance implies there is an equilibrium, she told me. "At different times something gives. I recognize family is important, but there are moments when I make a different decision because something is urgent at work."

In other words, Maryam believes what I do. That balance isn't about a moment in time but rather about the big picture in life. It's about fast forwarding to when you turn 100 and you ask yourself, "Was my life fulfilling?"

Yet, balance is something all of us chase. And we should.

For her new job with Hyatt, Maryam has relocated her family to Chicago. For now, her work and home lives both present a challenge, particularly with her son and daughter in high school. "Kids need different things at different times. When they get older, your presence is required in a different way," she explained to me and I agreed.

Maryam says in the first few months of her new job, she tried not to travel for work while her husband and children acclimated. "It's a challenge when you move your family for your work. You have to be empathetic to the people who are part of your journey."

Opportunities to make purposeful change at companies have always presented themselves to Maryam who says she uses this motto to guide her career decisions. "You only live once so I want to have left the world in a better place than I found it." 

Maryam made her recent leap into hospitality after working in the media industry, book publishing, consulting and sales. Her prior job was the chief marketing officer at Gannett Co.  She says jumping into a new industry is easier than one might think.  “You just have to have confidence your skills will translate."

Throughout her career, Maryam has held leadership roles and navigated through common challenges many women in executive positions face. Now as Hyatt’s CMO, she is responsible for bringing the company’s brands and experiences to life while initiating innovation around the guest experience and driving growth. Her main task has become differentiating Hyatt’s nine brands in the hospitality marketplace.

“When you come from the outside you look at things from a different lens. You might see different opportunities,” she said. “But it’s a combination of the view from outside, plus the expertise of those who know the business coming together that help you see a new path forward.”

Her secret to leadership: "You need to have people around you who have different backgrounds ... people who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions.”

As a leader, she has no qualms about voicing her opinions -- or taking risks.

Because she grew up in Iran during turbulent times, Maryam says she has a higher risk tolerance than most people and excels at ushering companies through purpose-driven change. For her, an ideal job is one where she can learn and have significant impact. She once told a former boss: “I will work hard while I’m here, but if there is nothing new to learn I will have to find another job.”

As a mother, Banikarim offers her teens this advice: “Pick something you care about, something you really want to do because you will end up spending a lot of time at work.” 

So do you agree with Maryam about work life balance? Do you think there are times when the scale needs to tip one way -- or the other  -- toward work and a personal life?  Can you be successful in your career and as a parent?