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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March 25th, 2014 | 6:00 am

The Case for Women Intrapreneurs

iStock_000019152998XSmallBy Robin Madell

While we read plenty about women leaving corporate jobs for entrepreneurial ventures, much less discussed is the option of female intrapreneurship. Being an intrapreneur simply means acting like an entrepreneur in terms of risk-taking and innovation while working within a large corporation.

The potential pros of entrepreneurship are often touted and well-known: the opportunity to be your own boss, to work more flexibly on your own schedule, and to have the chance to do meaningful work of your own choosing. A 2013 report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) found that where personal satisfaction is concerned, those who start their own businesses rank the highest in the world in happiness scores. The report also stated that female entrepreneurs rated themselves even higher in their sense of well-being than male entrepreneurs.

While these stats are compelling, a 2012 report by GEM noted that the relatively small number of women launching new businesses worldwide—and fewer still who are running mature businesses—suggests a conundrum. This may stem from the fact that female entrepreneurs are less likely to receive funding to grow their businesses, which is a problem in itself. But what it also means is that women more often than not are failing to wield powerful resources and reach larger audiences at the entrepreneurial level.

As any basic business textbook confirms, the pros of larger companies generally include financial, labor, and audience advantages over smaller companies, whose main benefits are being nimble and reactive. When women leave the corporate arena, they aren’t just leaving behind their jobs; they are abandoning ample resources that could be used to enact change on the largest level. They just need to know how to access these resources.

Enter intrapreneurs. Unlike with entrepreneurship, intrapreneurs have a built-in corporate support system to help them reach their goals, if they know how to use it. Three companies that have strong intrapreneurial cultures are Google, LinkedIn, and Dreamworks. While intrapreneurship has traditionally been the purview of a limited number of people within a company, the trend is growing to extend this domain throughout entire organizations. Google and other tech companies, for example, have used “20 Percent Time” to give employees an allocated percentage of hours in their daily work schedule to tinker and innovate. This has led to some incredible discoveries, like Gmail and Google Earth, which affect hundreds of millions of users.

Here are some ideas on how to become an intrapreneur no matter which company you work for:

Look for problems to solve. Whether it’s a process that’s broken or you envision a way to build a better mousetrap, keep your finger on the pulse of the marketplace and your customers. Use your unique role as an industry insider to recognize new trends coming down the pike, and grab opportunities early to think outside the usual boundaries.

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March 24th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Voice of Experience: Mary Beth Bosco, Partner, Patton Boggs LLP

Mary Beth BoscoBy Tina Vasquez

To Mary Beth Bosco, her former career as a graphic designer and her current as Partner at Patton Boggs LLP aren’t as diametrically opposed as some would assume.

“I was working in New York designing book covers, where you’re given limited space to get your message across. It’s the same thing when writing a brief or giving an oral argument,” Bosco said.

After growing tired of the “starving artist route”, Bosco went to law school and clerked at a D.C. law firm where her focus was government contracts, an experience she cites as invaluable.

“So much of law school is theoretical and for me, it was important to learn by doing,” the partner said.

As partner at Patton Boggs, where Bosco has been since 1985, she counsels new and experienced government contractors on matters involving contract compliance and opportunities in the federal marketplace, drawing on more than 25 years of experience with both regulatory and litigation matters.

“The federal government buys everything from paperclips to battleships, which keeps my work very interesting because you’re always learning about a new industry,” Bosco laughed. “I love solving problems as they come up. It’s not my job to say, ‘No, you can’t do that.’ It’s my job to say, ‘This is how you can do it.’”

Diversity Leader
Bosco was the first female member of her firm’s Executive Committee, as well as the firm’s first Chief Diversity Partner. As the Chief Diversity Partner, Bosco is committed to starting over from scratch if that is what it takes to move the firm’s diversity goals forward. The partner is interested in driving diversity at the firm in real, tangible ways. This, she says, requires new innovations; something she’s calling “Diversity 2.0.”

“We want to recruit the best talent and if that requires pulling everything apart and starting over, that’s what we’ll do,” Bosco said.

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March 21st, 2014 | 6:00 am

Australia is Pushing for ‘Waves of Change’ for Women in Senior Roles

Feminine Business 2By Nicole V. Rohr

In November 2013, the Business Council of Australia (BCA) published the report Increasing the Number of Women in Senior Executive Positions: Improving Recruitment, Selection and Retention Practices, based on its July 2013 launch of the Action Plan for Enduring Prosperity. The report highlighted ambitious efforts to increase women in senior roles in BCA organizations from 46 percent to 50 percent by 2023.

As part of the proposed plan, the BCA published a letter to members, a checklist to help companies increase the number of women on senior executive boards, and a report to act as a support tool for companies as they review and change recruitment and promotion standards in alignment with the BCA plan. These documents include categories like “The role of the CEO,” which detailed the expectations of leadership in order to encourage gender diversity. According to the report, the role of the CEO is inclusive of including “the achievement of gender diversity within an inclusive culture as a significant strategic objective of the organization”, as well as overseeing the development and implementation of the strategy to achieve it.

It is also recommended that leaders “sponsor talented women into senior roles and participate in a socialization program with identified internal and external female talent [and] ensure and model the company’s approach to flexible working arrangements in ways that do not prevent progression of women within the business.”

The BCA report also outlines “waves of change” that can lead to improved business performance. “Given that talent is randomly distributed across both genders, there is a high probability that at least half of a talented workforce will be women, so to take 90 percent of company leadership from just 50 percent of the talent poll – the males – simply does not make sense,” the report noted.

Is the US Ready for a Similar Plan?
Could something like the BCA’s plan work in the United States, making senior roles more accessible to women, leaving CEOs more enlightened, and increasing performance? Jane Ott, President of North South Capital LLC, said that in order for aggressive action to be taken, citizens have to believe that the targeted group is in need of the assistance, and that that change in attitude has not yet happened in the United States.

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March 20th, 2014 | 11:00 am

The Outlook for High Potential Women in India and the 3 Approaches to Improve It

By Kayla Turo

Another demonstration of gender inequality is exposed in India, research from Catalyst shows in their latest report, High Potentials Under High Pressure in India’s Technology Sector. In general, even the most capable, post-MBA Indian women fall short of men in terms of pay and position in most of the country’s industries.

At first glance, however, the technology sector seems to be a light on the horizon for Indian women, hiring ambitious male and female graduates with an equal amount of pay, but according to a recent Catalyst report, within 12 years in the same job and all other factors being equal, women’s salary falls behind their male coworkers by an average of Rs. 3.8 lakhs (6,000 US dollars).

“We cannot blame the gender gap in pay and position to lack of aspirations on the part of women,” said Aarti Shyamsunder, Director of Research at Catalyst, and one of two contributors to the report. 79 percent of both men and women starting out in India’s technology industry aspired to senior executive positions. Data shows that throughout their careers, male and female workers received analogous amounts of training through formal programs, and were likely to “job hop” in search of greater career advancement, a common factor within the industry.

The Power of Social Pressures
One explanation for the salary decline is the lack of women landing “hot jobs” or long-term international assignments that lead to more opportunities for future career growth within their industry. Statistics from the report reveal that only 18 percent of women were able to relocate abroad for 3 or more years at a time, compared to 57 percent of men. Women with children were reported as less willing to relocate compared to men with children, and twice as many men accepted the international relocation positions they were offered.

Likewise, 54 percent of women reported taking leaves of absences (LOAs). This is twice that of men, who also tended to take much shorter leaves than women. The Catalyst report details that women were three times more likely to take LOAs for childcare related-reasons compared to men (not including childbirth and maternity leave), while men were three times more apt to take leaves for personal welfare. Even in dual-career marriages, almost three times more women took on the role of at-home caregiver compared to a small percentage of men.

Given the context of the surrounding cultural expectations, these findings are not surprising, according to Shyamsunder. She stated, “I don’t think it’s realistic to expect women to suddenly stop taking leaves to care for their children, or to overcome centuries of socialization of overnight.”

Changing the Corporate Culture
Shyamsunder suggests that in order to better support women in their careers, companies should evaluate the overall credentials and potential of executive candidates based on their abilities to perform the job, “not on proxies like tenure or role maturity,” insists Shyamsunder.

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March 20th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Don’t Freak Out: Why Upheaval Can Be a Good Thing

Businesswomen drinking coffee.By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)

Innovative. Resilient. Entrepreneurial. Solutions-oriented. These are the 21st century career buzzwords that populate the average corporate performance review or resume. They speak to the expectations of today’s volatile economy. Today’s professionals are expected to take whatever upheaval the market throws their way, and not only deal with it, but spin it into an advantage.

In theory, most of us would like to say we inhabit this rarefied domain of serial innovators who thrive on constant change. But in reality, a big upheaval in your life can be pretty terrifying, especially if you have a family to support or other people relying on you.

What happens when our best-laid plans go awry? “People are going to expect you to freak out,” suggested Veronica Fisk, a former Vice President at a top global bank, whose position was eliminated due to restructuring a year after she and her new husband moved to India for her job.

“Look at it as an opportunity to show how strong and confident you are, especially as a woman. Project that confidence. Say, ‘I’m an accomplished professional and I think it’s an opportunity for me.’”

Here’s some inspiration and advice to help you move forward through your own personal or professional upheaval.

Taking Risks
It’s important to take career risks, Fisk believes. That’s why, when her company offered her a sales position in India, she jumped at the opportunity. That also meant convincing her then-boyfriend to accelerate their plans to get married so they could move abroad. Ultimately, she was managing a large portfolio of big-name clients when her company was hit by a wave of aggressive restructuring. “Suddenly the environment went from one of growth to making cuts. Thousands of jobs were eliminated,” she recalled.

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March 19th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Business Schools Create Programs to Make Women Board-Ready: Will it Work?

business schoolBy Irene Solaz

Can you teach the skills required to obtain a seat on a board? London’s University of Westminster believes so.

The University’s new intensive Women For The Board program, taught by Dr. Ruth Sacks, lasts six-days and purports to teach women the skills and tools required to be considered board-ready.

According to Sacks, the goal is to offer women who are a few steps away from a board role a broader and deeper understanding and awareness of the skills, competences, tools, and techniques that will enable them to become effective members of executive or non-executive boards.

Specifically, the program focuses on something Sacks calls being “board wise,” which includes Emotional Intelligence, self-presentation, chairing and managing meetings, and creativity and risk in strategic decision making. Finance at the board-level is also covered extensively, among other important topics.

“There will also be sessions on corporate social responsibility, governance, and due diligence, as well as the legal responsibilities of being a member of a board, including anti-bribery,” Sacks said. “The program also includes a session with a recruiter for board-level positions to explore the application and interview processes for such roles.”

The Strength of Weak Ties
Clearly, having the experience, skills, and knowledge are of the utmost importance, but as we’ve all heard: sometimes it boils down to who you know. This is why Women For The Board also emphasizes the importance of networking. More and more we’re hearing about the benefits of women-only networking groups, which is why Sacks is confident that just by participating in the course and meeting other women on the quest for obtaining a board seat, women are expanding their networks.

“They will not only develop new networks among themselves, but also be able to link to the networks of the facilitators and speakers,” Sacks said. “Networking is key to all careers, they support the development of professional relationships, creativity, and learning opportunities.”

There is something to connecting with other women. In a recent Forbes post, executive recruiter Stacey Gordon discussed how the benefits of networking arise from differences rather than similarities, saying those differences have nothing to do with race, gender, or nationality. Gordon says they have to do with the strength or weakness of the “ties” in the networking group.

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