April 3rd, 2014 | 11:00 am

Closing the Leadership Gap for Women at PwC


By Jarod Cerf

According to Jennifer Allyn, the Managing Director of PwC’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, “The problem is not just about women or about companies. It’s an interaction between the choices that women are making and the opportunities that companies are providing. And the question is ‘how can we work together to close that leadership gap?’”

Sometimes, as Allyn explained, the right solution involves a combination of feedback, responsiveness, and adaptability. The Full Circle program that PwC launched in 2008, for instance, was developed to address the on- and off-ramping needs of high potential professionals at the firm who wanted to take a few years off to focus on parenting or elder care.

“Concrete programs matter,” Allyn stated. “They signal to people that it’s okay to take a non-linear path. Because if we want to retain talented people who want to step out for a period of time, we should be able to stay connected to them, keep their technical skills current, and when they’re ready, bring them back to the firm.”

She added, “In fact, we just had our first Full Circle participant admitted to the partnership: she took two years off, returned, stayed on the partner track, and was admitted in June.”

Advancing Careers Through Sponsorship
There is often a divide, Allyn remarked, between what is ‘easy to accomplish’ and ‘what should be done’ about the leadership gap. At PwC, the core issue was one of how to develop and enable talent, women included. “Talent is the firm’s primary asset,” said Allyn. To that end, PwC reinforced the importance of sponsorship by creating a mandatory program through which partners can preserve their individual legacy as well as the organization’s culture.

“Our partners are owners of the firm, and their legacy is the next generation of leaders,” Allyn affirmed. She added, “In their partner plans, which they fill out annually, each of them has to select three diverse professionals—women, minorities, LGBT—that they are sponsoring and investing in, and they have to list those people by name.”

By the end of the year, partners report back on the specific actions they took on behalf of their candidates, as well as the results of those actions. From there, partners adjust their plans accordingly, with particular emphasis on career trajectories for the upcoming year.

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April 3rd, 2014 | 6:00 am

Women in Engineering: Providing Pathways for Future Generations

iStock_000008675366XSmallBy Michelle Hendelman

By now, we have all heard the facts and figures about women in STEM fields. There have been gains, as evidenced by the high profile appointments of Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg to the C-Suite. However, there have also been setbacks, such as Twitter’s bold move to announce their IPO last fall without a single female on their corporate board.

There is plenty of media attention surrounding women and the boys club of Silicon Valley, but what does the bigger picture look like for women in other STEM fields, such as engineering?

A recent survey conducted by TE Connectivity found that the vast majority (87 percent) of respondents identified engineering as the leading profession sparking innovation and invention in the United States. Yet, women make up only 14 percent of the engineers in the United States. As society is recognizing the positive impact of engineering, what role will women play in sustaining the growth of this industry? Furthermore, what steps can be taken to make sure the pipeline of female engineers remains strong and consistent?

Untapped Potential
According to Jane Leipold, Senior Vice President of Global Human Resources at TE Connectivity, “Women can play a huge role in the future growth of the engineering field. Right now, there is nothing but upside potential in terms of attracting new talent.” Leipold added that as more female role models in engineering emerge, there will be a trickledown effect resulting in finding talented women interested in pursuing a career in engineering.

Attracting female engineers is only one half of the equation. The other –equally important –half of the equation is retaining women who enter the field by providing them with tools and resources that support career advancement and professional growth. Research on why women leave engineering revealed that one of the most important factors cited for driving women out of the field was workplace climate.

What’s more, one-third of women who graduated with an engineering degree never entered the field professionally due to the perception that the industry as a whole was unsupportive of women. In order to reverse the trend of women opting out of engineering, Leipold emphasized the value of investing in programs that support the advancement of women. She noted, “It is important to develop women as they move up the ladder into executive and leadership roles.”

The perception that engineering, and STEM fields in general, are not welcoming to women creates the well-documented psychological phenomenon known as “stereotype threat” that can prevent young women from entering and advancing in their careers. For example, when idea that women are not as good in STEM subjects as men is perpetuated, women will subconsciously internalize this notion and begin to lack confidence, even if they have proven their competence.

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April 2nd, 2014 | 6:00 am

How Developing Effective Communication Skills in Yourself and Others Leads to Success

Three serious business people talking in boardroomGuest contribution by Curtis Sprouse

When it comes to communicating, there are effective and ineffective ways to go about it. There are factors that exist that affect how someone communicates, whether they communicate poorly or effectively. The primary factors impacting how effective one is at communicating are listening, open-mindedness, and actively engaging in the conversation. Secondary factors include conflict resolution, and proactively and effectively providing and receiving feedback.

Effective communicators engage in an appropriate exchange of information. They feel a need to receive information, but also have the ability to provide information at the appropriate level. Because they have good listening skills, they know how to actively engage in listening, which means instead of just hearing what others say, they are actually taking in what someone is saying—comprehending, retaining and relating to what is being said. People that manage these behaviors are good at rephrasing what they have heard. They have well-developed or well-managed dominance and energy. These are genetic behavioral traits that, when not managed, cause people to be controlling, impatient, and present with a drive to win a position while rationalizing why it is acceptable to operate in what is clearly an ineffective way.

Now this is only the tip of the iceberg, as listening requires that one seek the appropriate amount of information regardless of the presenter’s skills. This includes the ability to be open-minded, and not overly critical of the sources grasp of information. Effective communicators are also able to engage in conflict resolution, because they are typically emotionally prepared and have actively listened to what the other person has said. Rather than shutting down during conflict, or tuning out what the other person is saying, effective communicators listen and engage in the situation properly. Lastly, the key influencer in being an effective communicator is being relevant in both providing and receiving feedback—not providing or seeking too little, or too much.

Those who are below the effective range of communicating do not share information or feedback well, if at all. They are also not looking for information. Typically, there are very few advantages for people who are ineffective communicators. The only benefit may be if someone was involved in a job that required a lot of confidentiality, otherwise the disadvantages far exceed the advantages in being an ineffective communicator.

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April 1st, 2014 | 6:00 am

Are You Dutiful or a Disruptor? Career Advice for the Innovator in All of Us

iStock_000009286763XSmallBy Nikole Grimes

A recent six-year study observed the habits of innovative entrepreneurs revealing a set of discovery skills that distinguish the most creative executives. The most entrepreneurial and innovative CEOs spend 50% more time on these discovery activities than leaders without a track record of innovation. The discovery skills highlight that innovative entrepreneurs connect disparate ideas and concepts, interact with diverse people from all walks of life, ask questions of the world at large, keenly observe behaviors, and test their ideas.

So what are these discovery skills? They are associating, questioning, observing, experimenting, and networking with one sub-trait underpinning all five of the discovery skills. What is this subtrait? Disrupting.

The most innovative leaders – those leading inventors whose ideas and businesses literally transform the way our world works – continually assess, evaluate, and analyze existing perspectives. Subtly and not-so-subtly, these leaders challenge the status quo.

Innovators disrupt traditional ideas through the skill of associating. They connect seemingly unrelated issues and concepts, resulting in fundamental shifts in perspective.

They disrupt the assumptions that underpin existing systems through the skill of questioning – asking “why”, “why not”, and “what if.” In order to get the most complete view on a topic, they will frequently take a position that is opposite their own initial perspective. They ask challenging questions that push themselves and others to break through to new ideas.

Visionary leaders disrupt even small things by observing common everyday behaviors and then considering alternatives to the standard ways things are done.

This sub-trait, disrupting, is also expressed through the skill of experimenting – by literally trying new things, testing new concepts, and doing old things in new ways, they explore and encourage the exploration of alternatives.

When they are networking with a wider array of people from all walks of life they disrupt the hierarchical culture of most businesses. Instead of limiting their network to their peer group, transformative visionaries actively seek the cross-pollination of perspectives across fields, cultures, and countries.

The greatest innovations are inherently disruptive and the sub-trait of disrupting underlies all of the discovery skills. In a Forbes piece, “Disruption vs. Innovation: What’s the difference?” author Caroline Howard wrote, “Innovation and disruption are similar in that they are both makers and builders. Disruption takes a left turn by literally uprooting and changing how we think, behave, do business, learn and go about our day-to-day.”

Women & Disruption
Disrupting is increasingly valued by corporations and is now frequently covered in business-related media. For example, the theme of Deloitte’s just-released 2014 Technology Trends report is Inspiring Disruption. The report provides a deep analysis of ten emerging technological innovations. By identifying disruptive technologies as they are developing, you can best plan for and even capitalize on them.

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March 31st, 2014 | 6:00 am

Voice of Experience: Minal Patel, Managing Director, Managed Services Business Development, SunGard

minal_patel_sungardBy Michelle Hendelman

Minal Patel, a Managing Director at SunGard, started her career in banking at Barclays Bank in the UK over twenty five years ago. At Barclays, she had the opportunity to participate in an accelerated training program that rapidly moved her through various areas of retail and wholesale banking. Although she had the chance to experience different aspects of the industry, Patel ultimately decided to explore career options outside of banking.

“I joined a technology startup that was looking for business expertise to build a treasury management system. I was able to apply my business background, which in turn exposed me to IT operations and the entire software development lifecycle,” said Patel.

She continued, “This experience led me to another tech startup focused on derivatives trading and risk management. I switched gears to focus on the sales and account management side of the business. We were a new operation in Europe, with a very small team, so I was involved in everything from pre-sales support, getting in front of prospects, contract review and working with customers. After a couple of years I decided to transfer to the New York operation to focus on that market. All of this was great experience for building my career.”

When the second startup was acquired by SunGard in 1998, Patel stayed on board and has been with SunGard ever since. She attributes her longevity at SunGard to the fact that she has been able to adapt and take on different roles within the company. “It has been exciting to have the opportunity to do a number of different things while remaining at the same company,” noted Patel.

Her Work at SunGard
During her tenure at SunGard, Patel’s responsibilities have spanned from running a global client and professional services team (around a set of trading and risk solutions) to taking on a horizontal role focusing on expanding SunGard’s global development and delivery capabilities.

Over the last 2 years, her role has been focused on further developing the managed services business within SunGard Financial Systems. Patel partners with each of the Financial Systems business groups to shape business and operational plans that will advance their managed services agenda – and grow the company’s overall managed services portfolio. “Figuring out the best ways that we can evolve as a company alongside the industry – and our clients – is one of the most exciting things about my job,” said Patel.

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March 28th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Finding Balance between Work and Family – How to Avoid Missing Out

wroklifebalancescale.JPGBy Kelly Tanner

The long-standing struggle to find balance between work and family has left many women wishing for an easier path.

When asked about their primary reasons for leaving jobs in Corporate America, women state concern that they are missing out on quality moments and milestones with their children. This absence is made more poignant when they feel that their job is not meaningful or has stalled. A recent study by Elle Magazine and the Center for American Progress revealed that both men (46%) and women (51%) think that family is the main reason why there aren’t more women business leaders. A lack of mentors and contemporaries within an organization can contribute to this dissatisfaction and create a sense of isolation, though in truth this predicament is quite common.

Stella Compiseno, who after 12 years in institutional equity sales and trading, left to start a lifestyle blog, said that her initial impulse to leave was a desire to balance work and family.

“The tipping point came [when] I had a two-year-old son and was pregnant with my daughter. I was spread too thin across all areas of my life. I was also preparing for a four-month departure from day-to-day client contact, which can be a tough setback,” Compiseno said. “Personally, I was missing out on my son’s milestones due to the demands of my job. Between early morning commutes and meetings, and late night client engagements, I felt my personal priorities were slipping away.”

Compesino’s employer attempted to provide benefits to support work-life balance, providing a generous maternity leave policy and a job sharing program. What looks good on paper within an organization often doesn’t really work as designed in real life, as Compesino found out.

“Likewise, job sharing is equally challenging for me and the company. Large institutional clients appreciate consistency and relationships are crucial to building the business. If you’re not around a few days a week, you miss out,” Compesino said.

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March 27th, 2014 | 11:00 am

Movers and Shakers: Mary Ruane, Senior Manager, Assurance, PwC Ireland

mary_ruane_pwcBy Michelle Hendelman

One of the most important lessons that Mary Ruane, Senior Manager of Assurance at PwC Ireland, has learned throughout her career is that if you do not take the initiative and express your interest in new opportunities, they might pass you by. “If you want to try something new or different, just speak up,” advised Ruane. She continued, “There are endless opportunities and you will find that taking initiative and displaying an eagerness to learn can go a long way.”

With this attitude, Ruane has been able to enjoy a variety of different roles and experiences at PwC, where she is currently responsible for establishing and building strong relationships with clients, internally and externally. “It is an interesting time in asset management right now, partnering with our Clients who have weathered the storm of the credit crisis and are now dealing with the wave of regulation that followed,” said Ruane.

Career Path at PwC
Ruane graduated from Dublin City University in 2001 with a degree in Accounting and Finance. Shortly after, she joined PwC and planned to complete her auditing qualifications while working full-time. “I joined Assurance and was assigned to the asset management department, which was more by accident than design at the time. However, I quickly recognized that asset management was a growth industry that held a lot of different opportunities and that a chartered accounting qualification would provide a great basis for any professional career in Ireland or internationally” she recalled.

Ruane had a lot on her plate as she was learning the asset management industry, assisting clients with their audits, and studying for her professional qualifications exams, but after she passed her exams Ruane expressed her interest in supporting the development of young PwC professionals facing the journey she had just completed. . “Every year, we receive training on both technical skills and soft skills, and when the opportunity to get involved in the learning and education department presented itself, I took advantage of it,” said Ruane.

She trained and worked as a tutor in the learning and education department for about two months where her role involved teaching the intensive training course to new associates. Ruane enjoyed training so much that she continued to teach courses for the next four years. “At one point, I had trained the same group of people for three years in a row at different career levels, which was an extremely rewarding thing to do,” Ruane noted.

As a result of her commitment to training and on the job coaching, Ruane recently received a coaching award to recognize her developmental impact. “I benefitted greatly from coaching, and it is something that I have always believed strongly in from my first day at PwC,” she noted.

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March 27th, 2014 | 6:00 am

How Executive Search Firms Exclude Women

Businesswoman Standing Out From the Crowd - IsolatedBy Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)

A new study of executive search firms delves into the way common headhunting practices can keep women out of top jobs by perpetuating the status quo. According to the researchers, when women are included on candidate slates, they’re commonly considered risky choices, regardless of their qualifications for the job, simply because they may not fit the stereotypical notion of a leader at the firm in question.

Women candidates face questions about loyalty, stability, and competence in ways that men simply don’t. And men are often considered the “default” candidate type, with women representing a “different” choice. Even when search consultants do try to include more women on long and short lists, clients will change their search criteria over time, the end result of which is weeding out women from the candidate slate.

The research zeros in on organizational factors that keep male dominated teams male dominated, and it shows just how difficult it is to change these patterns.

“Our study thus highlights the power of established practices in sustaining inclusion and exclusion in top management,” write the authors.

Because the executive search field is built on notions of exclusivity and fit, the researchers argue, it naturally upholds the stereotypes that keep women out of the corner office.

Stereotypes and Fit
The study, “And then there are none: on the exclusion of women in processes of executive search,” appeared in Gender in Management: An International Journal last year. It was written by a team of European researchers: Janne Tienari, School of Business, Aalto University, Finland; Susan Merila¨inen, University of Lapland, Finland; Charlotte Holgersson, Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden; and Regine Bendl, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria.

The team based their studies on interviews with headhunters at executive search firms in Finland, Sweden, and Austria, with the goal of comparing search practices in the more gender-diverse and egalitarian Finland and Sweden with the more patriarchal and hierarchical Austria.

What they found was that while Finnish and Swedish teams were more open to including women on candidate slates than those in Austria, in the end, the result was the same. Few women would make it to top positions. Gender was an explicit factor up for discussion during the Austrian search practice; that is, a headhunter could ask a client point blank if they wanted a women candidate, and the client could say no.

In Sweden and Finland, the discussion around gender was more nuanced. For example, an executive search team will ask a client how they feel about having women candidates on the list, and common response will be that the gender of the candidate doesn’t matter.

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March 26th, 2014 | 11:00 am

Be Yourself at Work: An International Women’s Day Event, Hosted by Capco

iStock_000017306404XSmallJarod Cerf

Featuring a panel of senior partners, top clients, and thought leaders, Capco’s 2014 International Women’s Day Event, “What Would You Tell Your Younger Self?”, provided the 63 attendees with an opportunity to speak frankly about their career aspirations and hear from the panelists, first-hand, about how to create opportunities and reach for the top. As founder and CEO of Prosek Partners, Jen Prosek, stated, in quoting author Jim Collins: “we all have the same amount of and return on luck.”

Prosek, who at twenty-four and lacking the credentials she sought, joined a local financial communications firm in Greenwich, CT, noted how her circumstances at the time conflicted with her desire to run an internationally-acknowledged firm: “We were going to be in New York, London, Hong Kong, Singapore. And we were going to work for the biggest companies.”

Regarding her first few years at the consultancy, Prosek remarked: “It still wasn’t the job I wanted. And I made a promise to myself, that if every year I could make it closer to what I wanted, I would make it work.” Currently, Prosek serves as the chief executive and managing partner of the company, which was named Corporate Agency of the Year by the Holmes Report in 2013.
“The people who are entrepreneurial,” she advised, “know how to recognize good luck. […] They also know how to turn the unfortunate moments around.”

Make the Most of Every Opportunity
For author Shari Harley, whose business management consultancy, Candid Culture, trains employees to be more up front about their needs and concerns, the opportunity to move her career forward stemmed from an unlikely moment.

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March 26th, 2014 | 6:00 am

When It Comes to Innovating in Tech, Age is Nothing But a Number

Woman with tablet computerBy Hadley Catalano

Unencumbered by regulations and potential failure, 35 and under innovators, powered by the unlimited potential of technology, are greatly appealing, prompting investors to jump on the branding bandwagon – but they are not the only show in town. According to Women in Tech Network founder Marina Lee, we are fixated on younger entrepreneurs “because of Silicon Valley successes” and the publicity Millennials receive for their innovations. “With that said, the stats support that there are more mature/experienced entrepreneurs creating successful businesses under the radar,” Lee said.

Successful innovators – and the irrelevance of youth as a factor in entrepreneurialism ¬ – for the high technology and information technology communities has been well documented by Vivek Wadhwa and the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) in the MIT Technology Review. The message is clear: there is no age limit on innovation. The SSRN research team found the average and median age of the founders of successful U.S. technology businesses (with real revenues) is 39, with twice as many founders over 50 than under 25 years old.

“The age of 39 is interesting because it is an age where entrepreneurs are raising families, meaning that they are vetting and building companies that are less risky than their younger counterparts,” Lee said.

Additionally, according to a Kauffman Foundation report by Dane Stangler, successful entrepreneurs, with a “peak age” of 35 to 45, typically come from previous jobs in big companies or from institutions or universities. This observation “runs against the prevailing stereotype that entrepreneurs are, or should be, recent college grads or college dropouts, (but) helps explain the age distribution of entrepreneurs,” Stangler reported.

What Does This Mean For Women?
It can be marginalized road for middle age entrepreneurial women in technology, according to Flavia Sparacino, CEO of Sensing Places, but women are present and their stories need to be told.

“Women are innovating all across the spectrum of new technology companies, as founders, CEOs, heads of marketing, programmers, and as UX designers,” said the entrepreneur, who received her Ph.D. in Media Arts and Sciences from MIT.

“Together and in large numbers, as a community, we can start changing perceptions. Not only can women design and build innovative technology products and lead great teams. The cultural shift we’re aiming for is that women are also actually ‘entitled’ to do so,” said Sparacino.

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