July 24th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Micro-messages: Managing Small But Powerful Communication

iStock_000009245275XSmallBy Nneka Orji

A slight raising of the eyebrows expressing doubt, a subtle gesture which others may not necessarily have noticed but you have, and you start to doubt your ability to contribute to group discussions effectively. It happens again and again, eroding your self-esteem and increasing the feeling of alienation.

Mary Rowe first wrote about this in 1972, defining such gestures that highlight differences between individuals as micro-inequities: “apparently small events which are often ephemeral and hard-to-prove, events which are covert, often unintentional, frequently unrecognized by the perpetrator, which occur wherever people are perceived to be ‘different.’” What Rowe found was that these “small events” – which are not necessarily intentional and include inattentiveness, exclusionary comments and posture – contribute to segregation in institutions such as universities and corporate organisations. The gestures are a powerful form of communication, which can have either a positive or negative impact on the recipients of the message. Based on research conducted in the 1980s and 1990s by Sandler and Hall across universities, the groups most vulnerable to the negative effects of micro-messages and a “chilly campus” are ethnic minorities and women. “In fact, subtle and/or inadvertent incidents can sometimes do the most damage because they often occur without the full awareness of those involved.”

You might think that these references are fairly outdated, and you might also assume that we have made some progress in addressing the inequities associated with micro-messages. This would be true to an extent, but according to a recent article on Psychology Today micro-inequities still exist in today’s workplaces. Checking emails or texting during face to face conversations, consistently ignoring emails with no valid reason, making jokes aimed at certain minority groups – these are the more explicit forms of micro-inequities which exist today and should have been the easiest to address. Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 HBR interview highlighted the more implicit and damaging forms of micro-messaging: taking more questions from men than women and interrupting women more often than men. Sandler and Hall also found that expressing surprise and/or doubt about a female colleague’s career aspirations, a subtle micro-message, contributed to this downsizing of goals.

To develop an approach to managing our micro-messages, we need to have an understanding of how we develop them in the first place. NAPE (National Alliance of Partnership Equity) developed the Culture Wheel, which effectively demonstrates how cultural stereotypes lead to biases, which manifest themselves in micro-messages, which in turn lead to an accumulation of disadvantages, then self-efficacy, and finally are exhibited in behaviour.

Trying to address explicit biases at work is challenging enough. How do we then go about addressing small manifestations of bias that are developed before our careers and are often so small it is a challenge to identify?

Acknowledgment is Critical
Encouraging behaviours at work that avoid open discussion or acknowledgment of differences only feeds micro-inequities. To better manage the micro-messages we exhibit at work, we all need to appreciate that we work in diverse organisations and work to address any prejudices we may have about gender (and any other form of diversity). Acknowledgment is the first step on this journey.

Deloitte, featured on the 2009 Working Mother’s “Best Companies for Multicultural Women” list, developed a programme that encourages employees to actively recognise and discuss biases, the root to micro-messages. One such programme requires participants to write life stories for each of the 30 individuals presented to them, based on photographs alone. Allen Thomas, a Managing Partner in one of Deloitte’s US offices, told Working Mother that “people build their stories around hidden biases, and quite often the story is very wrong.” By reviewing the biases reflected in the stories, employees are able to ask fundamental questions about how they perceive and react to others and address specific issues accordingly.

As more women become decision-makers and check-signers, micro-messages can have a direct impact on revenue. Nicki Gilmour, CEO of this platform shared her story. “Before I founded theglasshammer.com, I ran the US arm of a UK company. I found it interesting that when we were looking for office space the male real estate broker kept talking to my male peer who ran the sister company and a team of two, as opposed to my team of 32 that was ten times as profitable. In the end, I turned to the broker and informed him that he hadn’t looked at me or addressed me once and as the check signer I was going to find a new broker. You should have seen the look on his face!” While that was a negative experience, it motivated Nicki to start The Glass Hammer and Evolved Employer, a sister firm that also consults on such issues, bringing them to the top of the agenda.

Keep reading »

July 23rd, 2014 | 6:00 am

Inequality in Filmmaking, and What Women are Doing to Break Through the Gender Barrier Behind the Camera

iStock_000017490863XSmallBy Hadley Catalano

In 2013, according to Celluloid Ceiling, women accounted for only 16 percent of behind-the-scenes employees on the top 250 (domestic) grossing films. Similar to financial services and technology, women in Hollywood lack the exposure and access to capital needed to finance their films.

Like other industries, organizations and individual content creators are working to combat and change the mindset of the traditional jobs assigned to filmmakers through pragmatic initiatives, mentor programs, and networking partnerships to promote, educate and empower women in film.

One of these organizations is Women In Film Los Angeles (WIF), a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women in media achieve their highest potential, who partnered with Sundance Institute to investigate the root of the film industry’s gender gap.

“For so long the parity for women in film has been flat-lined. Since 1998 there has been no growth,” WIF President, Cathy Schulman, explained. “So two and a half years ago we partnered with Sundance Institute to launch a Women Filmmakers Initiative to foster gender parity for women in all aspects of the global media profession.”

This partnership resulted in a study called Exploring the Barriers and Opportunities for Independent Women Filmmakers that examined gender differences for U.S. independent films at the Sundance Film Festival (SFF) from 2002-2012.

Schulman, who won an Academy Award as a co-producer for the 2005 film “Crash,” explained that while the study revealed a higher representation of female filmmakers in independent film as compared to studio films, further data points and qualitative interviews were needed to understand the fundamental cause behind Hollywood’s traditional economic model and power structure, leading to women’s low employment statistics.

The second step involved analyzing the progress of Sundance Institute women filmmakers as they advanced in their careers. The organizations established programming to address what challenges women faced, provide a Mentorship Program for selected writers, directors and producers, and form an Allied Organizations network to help support sustained careers in film and promote gender inclusivity.

The second part of the project referred to as Phase II continued to update and explore the barriers and opportunities facing women filmmakers. In 2013, a snapshot of the 1,163 content creators working behind the camera of 82 American films at SFF revealed that only 28.9 percent of filmmakers were female, with women most likely to hold the job of producer versus director, writer, cinematographer, or editor. Additionally, targeted interviews with female directors and producers, industry executives, and leaders in the film field suggested that the five biggest blockades that hindered women’s career development were: “gendered financial barriers, male-dominated industry networks, stereotyping on set, work and family balance, and exclusionary hiring decisions.”

Facing Filmmaking Obstacles
Gendered-financial barriers were identified as the leading obstruction (43 percent) facing independent women filmmakers. Schulman extrapolated, explaining that there was a commonality among the interviewed financial backers – a stereotyped uncertainty to allow female filmmakers fiscal control. The reasoning, she said, was based on “mythological factors” such as a woman’s emotional behavior and inability to handle the financial responsibility.

Schulman took this information directly to the source, addressing independent financiers, networks and studios with empirical evidence that women are economically capable, and to bust the “cultural dependency on mythological ideas.” However, Schulman stressed that this effort would be futile if women could not invest in their own rescue. In turn, WIF began intensive financing workshops for hand-selected groups of women to help drill down on financial issues to help women overcome these obstacles.

“Women are not used to being demanding. Young girls are taught to be philanthropic with money,” she said, noting that there is a correlation between the amount of women working in gate keeping positions and the transactional value of the film. “In these workshops, we teach women the business of transactions so that they can gain access to the limited resources, and to know how to ask for and be chosen for the allocation of funds.”

Research behind stereotyping on set revealed that a majority of internal job referrals and socialization was being typically confined within well-established male networks, and skills, jobs, and careers on set were based on society-formed gender roles.

“This is why you’ll see more women producers,” Schulman said. “Statistically it is about gender association, and women are associated with qualities that fit the description of the job, ‘problem-solvers, multi-taskers, nurturing,’ where men are associated with roles that match the director ideal, with words such as ‘strong, fierce, and boss’.”

A Call-To-Arms
Creating a dialogue around women’s films, leadership on sets, and creative contributions is a rare conversation, and pursuing traditional forms of networking has been a struggle for women in the industry. Schulman suggested that the stigma of competitiveness is hindering women from establishing the networking channels needed to retain employment numbers for fellow filmmakers.

“We have to be more supportive of each other,” said the Mandalay producer, who through WIF has established networking programs and breakfast series events. “The more women that are in gate keeping positions, the more women will get jobs on sets.”

An Independent Woman
Documentary film director, Cynthia Wade, has first-hand experience with both the struggles and empowerment of working in independent film. She has faced monetary blockades and gender stereotyping, but she has also contributed and networked to gain the employment of majority woman crews, and has encouraged and supported female moviemakers.

Wade currently represents a thriving statistic in the growth of women storytellers, as she is one of an increasing number of female documentary filmmakers. In her short film, “Selfie,” for Dove’s #BeautyIs campaign, Wade redefines the image of beauty, one of the many motion picture examples of the way she’s changing the content and nature of independent films.

“As a female documentary filmmaker, I present women’s issues, and because of the sensitive nature of the films I pursue, it caters to working with female dominated crews,” said Wade, whose “Selfie” film employed about 75 percent women behind the camera, and quickly went viral. “But, all the guys on my crew are ‘honorary women,’ they are sensitive, communicative, and attentive to women’s stories and perspectives.”

Wade, who won the 2008 Academy Award for her short film “Freeheld,” explained gender bias is still a controlling factor for women crewmembers.

“I was trained at Stanford in cinematography and became a strong handheld documentary cameraperson. I worked for all the broadcast outlets. When I was being considered for a job that required travel, I was almost always asked who was taking care of my children at home. When my husband traveled, a prospective employer never asked him who was taking care of the children,” said Wade, who feels compelled to support her fellow female co-workers.

She continued, “I’m more likely to hire women, accept female interns, and share war stories. I feel an obligation, an investment in our young generation. I say things to these women that I wish someone had told me at 23.”

Access and Funding
However, Wade is constantly working to overcome the two biggest statistical obstacles in show business: access to the right people and access to funding. She is continuously networking. As a result of a screening of her Oscar-nominated film, “Mondays at Racine,” at a Financial Women’s Association event, Wade was introduced to well-networked women and through them pursued new contacts.

Wade’s experience is a prime example of how networking with the right people can be a useful career advancement tool regardless of your industry. Furthermore, it supports a model of cross-industry networking in order to bring women with different backgrounds together to share ideas, experiences, advice and support for each other’s endeavors.

“It was a detective game. I’d always ask people who they knew whom I might like to know, and who might like to know me,” Wade said, explaining that these efforts, through several generations of networking, allowed her to connect with Michael Crook, a leading female photographer. She subsequently hired Crook to appear in “Selfie” and now considers the photographer a valuable asset to her growing women’s network.

While “Selfie” was corporately sponsored, the majority of Wade’s additional free time is spent fundraising, applying for grants, and pushing for advancement.

“I’m fighting to move my career forward. I’m pushing commercial work, fiction work. I’m teaching master’s classes at universities. I am a keynote speaker at corporate events, where I speak about women’s stories and perspectives. We’re still not at a place in our society where people don’t stop and look twice at a woman director,” said the wife and mother of two. “I wish that every decision I made about a film wasn’t entirely based on whether or not I can find funding, or if my backers will find this topic important enough to fund.”

While stagnant employment numbers and stereotypical disparities are still preventing women from finding equality in the film industry, small initiative-based interventions and cultural shifts are starting to break through gender barriers. Inspirational documentary filmmakers like Wade, dedicated organizers like Schulman, and outspoken women filmmaking initiatives are creating awareness around Hollywood’s skewed representation in front of and behind the camera.

There is equal value in women’s contributions, leadership, and vision to the film industry and women are succeeding in shaping the way movies are written, filmed, directed, and produced.

July 22nd, 2014 | 6:00 am

Office Gossip: How It Can Actually Help You in Your Career

iStock_000009318986XSmallBy Mary Chung

How many times have we been told that there is no place for gossip in the office?

Let’s be honest, we are all guilty of it, and now we may not have to feel so bad for engaging in it.

According to a recent study published in the journal Psychological Science by researchers from Stanford University and the University of California-Berkeley, there can be positive effects to gossiping in groups because people learn through gossip about the behavior of others. The study showed that individuals readily gossiped reputational information about others, and groups used that gossip to selectively interact with cooperative people and encouraged cooperation as a team, while ostracizing those who were behaving selfishly and egotistically.

So, though it is still very much a frowned upon office activity, gossiping can have its benefits. It is also a part of the daily social interaction and office bonding that we have with our co-workers. What might be surprising, however, is that while women are typically stereotyped as being the bigger gossip than their male counterparts, in reality, research shows the opposite is true. Numerous studies show that men gossip more than women. Not only do men gossip more, but their choice of venue to gossip is usually at the office with other colleagues.

Are there ways for women –who already have the challenge of being stereotyped as gossiping more – to use this negative stereotype to benefit their career, especially since research shows that gossiping can have positive effects?

Kimberly Unger, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the Securities Traders Association of New York (STANY), said she has encountered many people who have benefited from gossip during her career. “Information can help. Even if it is untrue, you can learn a lot about the people who are spreading or starting the gossip and that in itself is information. Gossiping can also strengthen bonds between co-workers and that can lead to greater productivity, team work, and empathy,” Ms. Unger said.

Adrienne Becker, CEO of Glass Elevator Media, a production incubator that sources, secures and develops a co-owned intellectual property library that creates high-quality entertainment across multiple platforms, said: “office gossip is a universal reality” that can impact a person’s career. She describes an example of how she personally benefited earlier in her career.

“It would be hard to imagine that office gossip hasn’t played in a role in most careers. Years ago, during my first day on the job at a large media corporation, there was a rumor that my boss, the VP, would be fired for a mishap that pre-dated me. I wasn’t sure why my new colleagues were telling me this and wasn’t sure it was a great thing to be so visible on day one. But when the gossip played itself out in reality, I was prepared to step into the VP role because I had time to think it through,” Ms. Becker said. “When you have a mechanism to manage change and anticipate surprises, it will serve you well. In this sense, gossip is an essential career tool.”

Keep reading »

July 21st, 2014 | 6:00 am

Voice of Experience: Susan C. Frunzi, Partner, Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP

susan_frunziBy Michelle Hendelman

“I didn’t have a master plan or a clear vision of my career path,” explained Frunzi. “Instead I went with my gut instincts, I focused on the things I liked to do, and I knew that no decision I made was irrevocable.”

Following her instinct has been one of the most important lessons that Frunzi has learned and applied to her career. “Coming out of law school, I did not follow everyone who was chasing big firms. I had a hunch about Schulte Roth & Zabel –which was a smaller firm with about 50 lawyers at the time –and I felt like it was the right fit for me,” Frunzi said.

“If anyone told me that thirty years later I would still be here, I might have told them they were crazy, but I have enjoyed being part of the growth
of this firm and couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else,” she added. Today, Schulte Roth & Zabel is an AmLaw 100 law firm with 375 attorneys and offices in New York, Washington, D.C. and London.

Career Path
While in college, Frunzi weighed the options of attending either business or law school, and ultimately enrolled in law school at Columbia University. “If you go to business school, you can do a lot of things, but you can’t be a lawyer, and if you go to law school, you can choose to be a lawyer or work in business,” said Frunzi. After she started law school, Frunzi applied to business school at Columbia, and was accepted.

After her first year of law school, Frunzi worked at a large law firm and concentrated on antitrust and trade regulation because of her background in Economics. “Although I enjoyed it and learned a lot, I realized very quickly that I was not very passionate about this particular area of law,” noted Frunzi.

Frunzi came to Schulte Roth & Zabel in the summer following her second year of law school and had the opportunity to explore several different areas in order to determine which path she wanted to pursue. She explained, “What I love about trusts and estates is that I get to help individuals. This adds a different layer of complexity and can be challenging at times, but every day is different, the issues are extremely interesting, and I like and respect the people I work with.”

“What more could I ask for?” added Frunzi.
Frunzi indicates that there remains a gender leadership gap (though not at Schulte Roth & Zabel) in trusts and estates, an area in big law firms that tends to attract women. “I feel especially proud of the fact that I made partner eight years into my career, even though the cards might have been stacked against me at other firms,” stated Frunzi.

Currently, Frunzi helps a lot of individuals with different aspects of charitable planning, including creating and administering private foundations. According to Frunzi, it is very rewarding to help people negotiate the terms of substantial charitable gifts. “It is always interesting to see how the institution is viewing the gift versus how the client is viewing the gift, and finding the middle ground can be a challenge,” Frunzi noted.

Another issue Frunzi is interested in, and is very much involved with, is determining how trusts are administered among multiple generations within a family. “My role changes depending on whether I am representing a beneficiary or a trustee,” said Frunzi, “and often times I have to figure out how to navigate the family issues in addition to the standard legal issues that arise.”

Working closely with families on these personal matters is one the most interesting and complicated aspects of this area, said Frunzi, who noted that learning how to handle family dynamics is definitely something that comes with experience.

Throughout her career, Frunzi has always taken a lot of pride in developing the future talent at her firm. “Looking back at all of the help and guidance I had as a junior lawyer, I try to give back as much as I can,” said Frunzi, who feels a great sense of accomplishment from watching junior associates grow and mature in their career.

Women’s Leadership in Law
“It is a little different in trusts and estates,” remarked Frunzi, “and there are certainly plusses and minuses to being a woman in this area.” She noted that in her experience, she has encountered clients who only want to deal with a woman because they feel like a woman will be more inclined to understand the emotional side of the situation. On the other hand, some clients only want to work with men because they feel like men are more capable of handling the business aspects of the field.

Keep reading »

July 18th, 2014 | 6:00 am

What Should Leaders Do About Stereotype Threat?

iStock_000010457824XSmallBy Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)

There are many organizational mechanisms that push women and people of color out of the professional workplace. Not least of these is a subtle, systemic bias toward white males that gives people who are part of the dominant group the benefit of the doubt, while those on the outside seemingly have to prove themselves over and over again.

Perhaps the most insidious factor driving women and minorities out of the professional workplace is the subtle, gnawing anxiety created by stereotype threat.

Dr. Maya Beasley, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, has spent years studying the effects of stereotype threat. “Stereotype threat is the term given for the anxiety individuals get when they are in situations where there are negative stereotypes about how their particular group performs in those situations. There’s a pressure to perform well and not to represent the negative group stereotype,” she explained.

Studies have shown that this anxiety leads to decreased concentration, increased heart rate, and nausea, “factors which would make any one freeze up during a test,” Dr. Beasley commented. Ultimately the fear of conforming to the negative stereotype leads people to perform worse – essentially, they fulfill the stereotype because they are afraid of fulfilling the stereotype.

While much of the research on stereotype threat focuses on how it affects people during specific events – a math test, for example – Dr. Beasley believes stereotype threat can affect people over the course of their university study or professional careers. Her research suggests that stereotype threat is sapping STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields of diverse talent. “It leads people to disengage from a situation where they feel this kind of anxiety,” she explained.

But, she suggests, it doesn’t have to be this way. Stereotype threat is driving talented people away from the academic and professional world, and leaders of these institutions can and should do something about it.

Stereotype Threat in Organizations
According to Dr. Beasley’s work, stereotype threat is causing women and people of color to leave certain fields at an alarming rate. “My research suggests that stereotype threat is not just isolated to events like tests, but to prolonged experiences, like pursuing a course of study. There are strong pervasive stereotypes about the performance abilities of certain groups of people with respect to specific fields and people within these groups are pretty aware of them. This awareness leads students to question whether they want to avoid participation in the very activities that lead to success within these fields.”

For example, she says, “Someone may wonder whether a professor thinks their question is a bad one because they are Black or because they are female, and that might make them less likely to ask.”

Ultimately, this leads people in the minority to leave. “Women and minorities are just as likely as white males to pursue degrees in STEM fields at the beginning of college, but they leave these fields at a much greater rate than white men,” she said.

In her next book, Dr. Beasley is examining the results of stereotype threat in the professional workplace. She said, “In a domain like the corporate workplace that is highly biased and dominated by white men, there are a number of stereotypes at play, for example that women or Asian Americans are meek, or that African Americans and Hispanics are hot-headed or prone to violence. It’s likely that these groups have encountered stereotypes growing up or on college campuses, and they are likely to encounter them at work. Trying to cultivate a contrary identity can be tiresome and it’s hard to shrug a stereotype off.”

There’s also research to support that when people behave contrary to a stereotype, they may be penalized. “For example, studies show that women who are aggressive are not rewarded in the same way as men.”

Eventually, the stress and anxiety of dealing with stereotypes day in and day out can cause talented people to leave the corporate workplace for a more inviting environment. “Most women and minorities tend to recognize that dealing with stereotypes is literally exhausting,” she said. “At some point, women and people of color are tired of warding off stereotypes and they may seek out a situation that is safer or where stereotypes are less pervasive.”

Keep reading »

July 17th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Once Upon a Time: Tell Your Story, Inspire Others and Build Your Teams

iStock_000006665839XSmallBy Nneka Orji

Over the years I have become convinced that we learn best—and change—from hearing stories that strike a chord within us…Those in leadership positions who fail to grasp or use the power of stories risk failure for their companies and for themselves.” John Kotter

The idea that storytelling can be a powerful tool to convey important messages and inspire is not new, but its impact in a business context is only more recently gaining traction with the wider management community. While data and analysis go some way in convincing audiences of the need to act, on their own they have limited impact on inspiring the audience to act.

Make an Impression, Make an Impact
According to Paul Smith, author of Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives that Captivate, Convince, and Inspire, stories are a powerful tool which leaders can use effectively to inspire an organisation, set a vision, teach important lessons, define the culture and values, and explain who the leader is and what his / her beliefs are. Smith provides examples where organisations have not only acknowledged the importance of storytelling, but have invested in developing storytelling skills across their leadership team. For example, Proctor & Gamble brought in Hollywood movie directors to teach their executives and a number of Motorola’s leadership belong to improvisational or theatre groups. By formulating their messages as stories, executives were in a stronger position to lead organisational change and influence delicate issues like diversity and inclusion.

Storytelling can also be instrumental in improving employee engagement, both in the short and long term. For organisations looking to identify and develop the next generation of leaders, the leadership’s ability to engage and inspire must be at the core of their talent strategy. In a 2002 article for the MIT Sloan Management Review, Douglas Ready states that “storytelling by a company’s senior executives is a way of providing potential leaders with the necessary context from respected role models.”

Uri Hasson’s research with his Princeton team also demonstrated the power of storytelling; when telling a story, the storyteller can directly influence the brain activity of each audience member to map the storyteller’s brain activity. In the study, when the storyteller’s insula (emotional brain region) was activated, activity was also seen in the insula of the listeners. Paul Zak’s work on oxytocin-rich environments also highlights how personal connections through storytelling and other means evoke empathy across employees and customers, leading to “better business.”

What does this mean for leaders who are trying to influence organisations through periods of change? To ensure employees join their executives on the organisation’s change journey, leaders must take their employees on the emotional journey too. And they can do this through storytelling.

Don’t Just Tell, Do
While storytelling by leaders has been shown to be successful, Ty Montague (CEO of co:collective) argues that storydoingTM is the differentiator. In addition to telling the stories, leaders and organisations need to engrain the stories in their organisation through their strategies and direct action. Based on Montague’s studies (during 2007-2011), storydoingTM organisations see improved performance; annualised revenue growth rate is 4.3% higher than those of storytellers, social media mentions for storydoers was twenty times greater, and share price growth between was positive compared to negative for storytellers. StorydoingTM companies such as Red Bull, TOMS shoes and NIKE are outperforming storytellers like Dr. Pepper, Reebok and Adidas.

If a leader or an organisation cannot reflect the ideals or key messages of their story in their action, the story cannot have the intended impact. Blake Mycoskie, CEO of TOMS Shoes – a storydoer, also highlights that a good story and corresponding action, will lead to further sharing of the story: “I realised the importance of having a story today is really what separates companies. People don’t just wear our shoes, they tell our stories.”

Telling a Good Tale
According to Jeremy Hsu’s Scientific American article, 65% of our conversations are made up of personal anecdotes and gossip. If this is indeed the case, we all need to ensure that the stories we tell, and more importantly the stories others tell of us, reflect ourselves and our goals.

So, how do we tell a good tale in a business context?

In a video on the Lean In community, Professor Jennifer Aaker, Stanford Graduate School of Business states that stories are twenty-two times more memorable than facts. This encourages us to use stories, but just as a good story will be remembered more than a fact, likewise a bad story will also stick.

According to Aaker, a good story has four elements: goal (why tell the story), grab attention (why would the audience listen), engage (why would the audience care), enable action (why would they share the story). By ensuring your story includes all these elements, you can narrow the gap between the way in which others view you and how you view yourself. To assess the success of your story, confirm whether your audience has changed their view of you, whether they better understand your position on the subject, or empathises with you and your cause.

If your story has not had the desired impact, take the time to work on it and practice it. Like all skills, especially leadership skills, good storytelling is the result of practice.

Keep reading »

July 16th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Does Inga Beale’s Promotion to CEO of Lloyds Mean the Insurance Business is Ready for More Women?

Young woman gesturing positive business perspective.By Irene Solaz

Now that, the UK’s most historical player in the insurance business, Lloyd’s of London, chose Inga Beale as a replacement for long-time chief executive Richard Ward can we expect to see other big insurance firms to follow suit with a female CEO?

Beale’s credentials are definitely solid, with 30 years of experience in the insurance industry, making her a great choice as the first female CEO of Lloyd’s, a company with 325 years of experience.

Insurance is a particularly interesting segment to examine, as even within financial services, it is perceived as being most flooded with straight, white guys. This perception was solidified thanks to a live poll conducted during the June 2013 Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) Global Women in Insurance Conference. Ninety-eight percent of male and female respondents said that gender inequality still exists in the insurance industry and nearly half said the lack of C-Suite recognition and sponsorship is the top issue that must be confronted to elevate this statistic. More than 30 percent said their company does nothing to source more female talent.

Have Things Really Changed?
A 2012 study by Saint Joseph’s University Academy of Risk Management and Insurance concluded that only 6 percent of top executive positions were held by women. However, these numbers do not entirely reflect the experiences of women in the insurance industry who have achieved success in their firms. This industry can be ideal for women. Insurance dominated the 2012 version of the National Association for Female Executives’ (NAFE) ranking of the Top 50 Companies for Executive Women.

Keep reading »

July 15th, 2014 | 6:00 am

On the Way Up the Corporate Ladder, Carry Your “Pearls” Advises Morgan Stanley’s Carla Harris

womanladder.JPGBy Michele Drayton

This past April 2014, the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Chicago Chapter held its 31st Annual Celebration of Achievement Luncheon in Chicago, marking the 35th anniversary of the chapter’s founding and showcasing the accomplishments of corporate executives and entrepreneurs.

Keynote speaker Carla A. Harris recounted how when she came to Wall Street in 1987, she felt that she had the smarts and work ethic that appeared to guarantee success. Realizing quickly that this would take her only so far, she reached for her “pearls,” or career strategies that propelled her to success. She shared them before a rapt audience of nearly 500 women and men at the event.

Leading in Turbulent Times
“If you consider yourself a leader in the 21st century, you must be comfortable taking risks,” said Harris, commanding the center of the stage as she discussed one of her pearls. “In the environment we’ve had for the last six years everyone else may be ducking, but you have to have clear vision to see opportunity. Now is not the time to keep your head down. When you submerge your voice you become irrelevant.”

The women who are fearless as turmoil ensues – Harris cited GM CEO Mary Barra, Xerox Chairman and CEO Ursula Burns and HP President and CEO Meg Whitman – reinforce the fact that uncertain circumstances can produce uncommon victories.

Even amid the economic doldrums reflected in a 6.7 percent unemployment rate, Harris urged women to take the lead on a new project or recommend a process improvement. Those actions demonstrate relevance, and colleagues and stakeholders will take notice and say: “She’s trying to put points on the board. She’s moving the ball down the field. She is a keeper,” Harris said.

Crafting Your Personal Brand
A Wall Street veteran for nearly 27 years, Harris is Vice Chairman of Wealth Management, Senior Client Advisor and Managing Director at Morgan Stanley in New York. She is the author of the book, Expect to Win, her playbook for workplace success.

One insight Harris learned early involves understanding the importance of workplace perception. For example, a woman aiming for a P&L role will not get tapped for that position unless colleagues see her as quantitative, analytical and strategic. Harris advised audience members to select three words they want colleagues to use to describe them when they are not in the room, where decisions are made about hiring, promotion and compensation.

Recounting her own experience, Harris remembered a senior colleague telling her she wasn’t “tough” enough for investment banking. Instead of rebuffing the colleague, Harris, who earned two degrees from Harvard, changed her modus operandi. For the ensuing 90 days, she told the audience, she walked tough, talked tough and used the adjective to describe herself in conversation. Soon, she heard colleagues take into account how “tough” she was as they prepped for meetings with her.

“You can train people in the way you want them to think about you,” said Harris, recently installed as Chair of the National Women’s Business Council.

Know Yourself
Harris also recommended that audience members be authentic on the job because in relationship-driven business it opens up the opportunity to connect with a client on a different level. She related her experience. Before making a formal pitch for Burger King’s $300 million IPO, she asked the client whether the company planned to bring back both verses of the “Have It Your Way” jingle. The client insisted the jingle had only one verse until Harris sang both. Morgan Stanley got the account and Harris maintained a working relationship with the client.

This pearl? “Nobody can be you the way that you can be you,” said Harris, who has produced gospel CDs and sung at Carnegie Hall. “It is your distinct competitive advantage.” Most people aren’t comfortable in their own skin and they will gravitate toward people who are, she added.

Harris brought her message full circle with her most important pearl, what some might call faith. Women should accept that the answers to the most daunting workplace challenges are within their reach by way of their intelligence, their professional experience and their network. “If you expect to win, you will,’’ Harris said, as audience members at the sold-out event stood to applaud.

Keep reading »

July 14th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Voice of Experience: Jennifer Taglia, Senior Vice President, Head of RFP, Voya Investment Management, formerly ING U.S. Investment Management

taglia_jennifer_voyaBy Michelle Hendelman

“My career journey is certainly not linear,” said Jennifer Taglia, “but it has taken me to a place where I am enjoying what I am doing and I am learning something new all of the time.”
Taglia advises young professionals to seek similar professional fulfillment by taking responsibility for their own career path. “Don’t sit back and wait for things to happen to you,” said Taglia, “instead, be proactive, take initiative and create opportunities for your own career advancement.”

Career Story
Taglia started her career in operations on the sell side of UBS Investment Bank recruited right out of school. Here, she was exposed to foreign exchange, interest rates, precious metals, and derivatives in support of institutional business. After three years at UBS, Taglia decided that she wanted to gain more exposure to the rest of the business.

This desire to learn and grow prompted her move to the buy side at GE Asset Management, where she managed the equity operations team and later joined the Lean Six Sigma Quality Team. Taglia spent about six years in this cross business six sigma project management role and was exposed to many different processes across multiple sections of the business.

During this time, Taglia earned her Master Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma and went on to become a project manager in a product and marketing role. After relocating to Phoenix, AZ for a brief time, Taglia returned to the New York City area where she was offered a position at ING U.S. She came to ING U.S. as a project manager supporting the client business, and stayed in this role for about two years before an opportunity presented itself that would simultaneously challenge her and elevate her career to a new level.

“When the head of the RFP team resigned, I was put in charge of keeping the team running smoothly while they searched for a replacement,” explained Taglia, who spent a couple of months in this interim role. “It became clear to me that my experience, knowledge and ability to do a deep dive on processes could be an asset here, but that I also had the opportunity to learn and grow.”

She continued, “I was not an expert on everything that the role demanded, but I was confident in my ability to improve the process and improve the team.” This confidence helped Taglia transition permanently into the Head of RFP role where she has been for nearly three years.

The lengthy and complex process of rebranding ING U.S. Investment Management to Voya Investment Management was completed on May 1 and Jennifer and her team played a large part. “It is definitely a rare opportunity to be part of a complete rebranding, “Taglia explained, “and it has been very exciting to be involved in this change and to ensure that the process went smoothly.”

“Being successful in this role is something I am very proud of,” Taglia noted, “because it combines all of my strengths and past experiences while enabling me to take my career in a new and rewarding direction.”

On Thriving Professionally
According to Taglia, one of the most important components of her personal success has been maintaining a healthy work-life balance. “Having support at work and at home is a key factor for me,” said Taglia, who is married with two children.

Keep reading »

July 8th, 2014 | 12:00 pm

Summer Publishing Holiday

We are enjoying our annual publishing summer break, working hard behind the scenes to bring you useful and insightful career news and advice and great networking events for the rest of the summer, fall, and beyond.

We will be back on Monday the 14th with more profiles and articles and in the meantime, do enjoy a selection of our recent pieces.

  • Does Being LGBT Still Matter or Are We in a Post-Bias World at Work?
  • Sallie Krawcheck and Pax World Offer Women’s Global Equality Fund
  • The Glass Hammer’s 7th Annual Top Women on the Buy-Side Breakfast
  • The Imposter Syndrome: Why Owning Your Success is Critical to Your Career
  • How Being an Athlete Can Help Women Advance in Business
  • Are you a writer or an expert in the industry and would like to become a Glass Hammer writer? Contact [email protected] to discuss opportunities and learn more information about becoming part of the stellar TGH team!

    And don’t forget to check out our Facebook page, group, twitter page, and subscribe to our newsletter in the meantime!