Saturday, April 28, 2012

Center for Women and Business Inaugural Forum

Yesterday I had the pleasure to attend the Bentley Center for Women in Business' Inaugural Forum - Moving from Conversation to Action. As I am an undergrad and graduate alum of Bentley University, I was intrigued about this new endeavor - I also thought it would be a great way to network and gain some career inspiration, as I am still looking for that next piece of my professional journey.

The morning started at 8 AM with breakfast and registration and then shortly past 8:30, Gloria Larson, the President of the University, kicked off the forum.  The forum was a way to introduce the Center to the public and share its values and objectives - to research and build programs to help women envision and reach their potential at every stage of professional life.

Gloria shared some staggering numbers with us, such as that despite efforts made to diversify the workplace, and the fact that women make up 46% of workforce, only 5% are in the CEO position.  She also mentioned how much our thinking and actions have progressed over the years, telling us that in the 70's men were considered women's mortal enemies in business, where as now they are considered strategic partners.

Next up to the podium was the Founding Director for the center, a woman who has previous served as senior adviser to Barack Obama, was COO of and Chair of Women for Obama, served on Clinton's administration, and served as director of the Small Business Administration Office of Women's Business Ownership at Harvard - Betsy Myers.  Betsy is such a strong speaker and will be a great asset to the Center as it gets it's feet on the ground and running.  She highlighted some staggering statistics about women and men in the workforce, noting that globally, only 17% of white men actually graduate college, yet only 12 - 15% of women hold top positions in the corporate world.  Also, did you know that 85% of consumer spending is done by women - well no surprise there, but did you know that 91% of those women consumers feel misunderstood, and that only 3% of women hold creative director positions at the ad agencies serving those consumer?!  Crazy, right?

One of her quotes that I really loved, although it was said in political context - it is still prevalent in how women are viewed today - "Women are no longer an interest group, we're half the population!" and leaving us with another zinger - "What got us here...won't get us there" - meaning there is an overpowering need to find new ways of reaching out, new ways of bringing change - utilizing the new technologies and mediums available to us today.

To continue with the great start to the day, Bob Moritz of PWC, took the mic for his keynote session and started with some personal, yet honest experiences of why he is so passionate about women initiatives and breaking down diversity walls in the workplace.  He describes this mission as a vision, and a "vision is the art of seeing something before others...then doing something about it!"

Keeping with the theme of the forum, he spoke about motivation to get things done - starting that discussion, to bring action and then results - and when going into a change movement, where you start matters, so start small and expand from there.  Although he covered some powerful stuff, what I found most important going forward from this speech, was his discussion of mentor versus sponsors, and how imperative it is to have a strong sponsorship structure in place to foster those discussions around diversity, push the women AND men to their limits, and help move each person along in their career in a way that fits.  He said a mentor is someone that will listen and advise, where as a sponsor is all of that, as well as someone that will break down barriers for you, make things happen that you might not even know they did, and embark on that career journey with you.

This rang so true, as I am personally struggling to find that right next step in my career, and although I have had a few people I consider mentors along the way, I have never had an environment that fosters sponsorship as a necessary and acceptable program.  Take Proctor & Gamble for example - each employee is encouraged to find a sponsor, someone that knows them professionally and personally, and this process is seen as inspirational and coveted to be chosen as that sponsor - in order to become a brand manager, you must have a sponsor who fulfills this. I would love for my next company to offer or grow a similar program to be a part of - heck, I might be able to help that initiative along now that I am more aware of the impacts and power a sponsor can have!

The morning topped off with a panel comprised of some top hitters in the corporate world today, and great thinkers/innovators to boot! There was William Bacic, NE Managing Partner - Deloitte, who spoke about how Deloitte is bringing about change for women in their organization through their WIN program, as well as their Lattice (rather than ladder) policy where women and men alike are allowed to dial down or up (essentially pace) their own career and decide how quickly and how far they can take their career. Then there was Micheline Germanos, Senior Director at Microsoft Corporation, who highlighted the need for consistency in order to get policies and  new ways of thinking to stick, as well as something I think resonates with many women, and especially women athletes - that we need to free our minds, make decisions and do things ourselves - no more time spent feeling guilty for leaving for that Dr.'s appointment - you can either choose to feel guilty, or you can take charge and own the choice you made and feel good about it.
Patricia Flynn (professor at Bentley who led the panel), Bill Bacic (Deloitte), Micheline Germanos (Microsoft), Paul Sagan (Akamai) and Lauren Sen (BJ's).

The panel finished up with Paul Sagan, of Akamai technologies, and Lauren Sen, CEO of BJ's Wholesale Club, both of whom pushed the need for non-traditional fixes to issues in the workplace and organic growth of female presence in the workplace.
Betsy Myers and Tom Peters debriefing on the morning's discussions
After some lunch and afternoon discussion about the forum with Tom Peters, we parted ways with a full head of things to consider, notice and act well spent if I do say so myself!!

I am still trying to digest everything I heard and learned yesterday, and there was so, so much more covered at the event (this is my highlights and notes) but I am really happy I chose to attend this event, and I am excited to see what more this Center will bring!!

I know this was a more unconventional post, but I saw a lot of relationships to female athletes and my own personal road interwoven throughout the conversations, something to open the mind and start noticing in your own communities.

Have a great rest of the weekend, I know I plan on it!!

1 comment:

  1. What a day! And you sound so enthused. Happy and excited for you to find out what your next career move might be. Wonderful way to stay connected and informed.


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