August 1st, 2014 | 6:00 am

Summer Fridays!

iStock_000007154239XSmallHappy Summer Friday from The Glass Hammer Team!

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Enjoy your weekend!

July 31st, 2014 | 6:00 am

In Promoting Board Diversity — Should Investment Funds Practice What They Preach?

boardroom womanBy Beth Senko

The push for increased diversity on corporate boards has been going on for some time. But the push for diversity hasn’t really reached the boardrooms where those shareholder votes are cast.

Last September, The Thirty Percent Coalition, a group formed in 2011 to address issues of gender diversity in the boardroom, congratulated eight companies for adding women members to their boards and noted that overall progress continues to be slow. However, there were a couple of bright spots:

“During the 2013 proxy season, shareholder resolutions on board diversity were filed with 25 companies. Of the 25 shareholder resolutions filed, 18 have been withdrawn based upon mutual agreements, an important mark of progress in the work on board diversity. Three board diversity shareholder resolutions went to a vote in 2013: proposals at CF Industries, Urban Outfitters, Inc. and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. received support of 50.7 percent, 27.5 percent and 28.9 percent respectively. The impressive vote at CF Industries marks the first time a board diversity resolution has received majority support from shareholders.”

Many members of The Thirty Percent Coalition come from the institutional investing world and while its member firms lead in the area of board diversity, according to a recent study by BoardIQ, women may not be doing as well in the fund management boardroom as they are in the corporate boardroom.

BoardIQ studied fund filings on board composition of the 20 largest fund groups by assets and 125 other random boards overseeing assets ranging in size from $19 million to $193 billion. Their analysis showed, “nearly a quarter, including Pimco, DoubleLine and Fidelity Sector Funds, don’t have any, the analysis shows. Another 30% of boards have only one woman director.”

Put simply, 55% of fund boards examined have either one woman or none. In contrast, a 2013 study by 2020 Women on Boards shows that 43% of the companies in the Fortune 1000 index had one or fewer women board members. While the studies aren’t directly comparable, the twelve percentage point difference merits further study.

Is the problem a lack of qualified women candidates?
The BoardIQ study quotes Kristianne Blake, Independent Chair of the Russell Funds noting that board recruiting hasn’t changed that much over time. “I do feel historically the way board seats have been filled is the old boys’ network. It’s who you know.” At the same time, while the network expands when women are on the board, “the pool is smaller of women candidates, so boards have to make an effort to include them in the pool. You’ll have to aggressively look for women candidates.”

The number of women candidates available varies according to source. The University of Mannheim estimates that approximately 10% of equity fund managers are women. On the upper end, an estimate by the Mutual Fund Directors’ Forum says that women account for about one-third of qualified candidates.

Keep reading »

July 30th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Why Crying at Work is OK.

iStock_000007316048XSmallBy Louise Ogunseitan

Are you familiar with the saying ‘Big girls don’t cry?’ Well, according to recent research on emotion in the workplace by Anne Kreamer, author of the 2011 book, It’s Always Personal: Emotion in the workplace, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The dominant perception that crying at work is detrimental to one’s career is today being challenged by thought leaders around the world.

From the biological perspective, women are more susceptible to crying due to the prolactin hormone (the hormone that controls crying) being six times more present in our pituitary gland than men. Subsequently, crying is broadly defined as a “feminine” activity. If there is a biological argument for women showing more emotion than men, then shouldn’t this be embraced in the workplace and play a part in gender diversity discussions of a male-dominated corporate world?

In a study taken from Anne Kreamer’s book, she found that 41 percent of women and 9 percent of men reported that they had cried at work during the previous year and that it had no impact on their success. Is emotion, and indeed crying, part of a new workplace culture, making it acceptable and actually OK?

According to Kreamer, the fiction of the workplace being only about return on investment is now but a myth. Likewise, Sheryl Sandberg, Technology executive and Facebook COO, who has confessed to crying at work, said in an interview with Mint, an Indian business daily, that there is nothing to fear in crying at the office as it can actually promote close bonds and help build relationships.

We must remember that emotion is a natural function of the body designed to help us get through physical and cognitive dangers. Therefore, emotions don’t cease to exist once we hit the office floor.

Understanding Emotion
The main reason many women fear showing emotion at work is because of the misconception that crying signifies weakness, instability and an inability to lead. In fact, crying at work is usually a manifestation of inner frustrations that have been suppressed due to workplace pressures. Peggy Drexler, Assistant professor of Psychology at Cornell University, writes in her article, “The Dos and Don’ts of Crying at Work,” that crying at work can be a powerful tool if employees learn to recognise that most emotion at work stems from frustration, and not sadness. On the other hand, crying is proven to reduce anxiety and stress and improve productivity, showing the human side of leadership.

“There is no tissue ceiling,” according to Kreamer, she goes on to add, “If you cry, you are not management material that is not true. The occasional display of empathy and emotion, not pushed under the carpet, can be healthy.”

Essentially, conveying emotion at the right time in the workplace can help to open up dialogue and bring issues to the surface. When co-workers gather to support a colleague, it can foster a working culture and environment where colleagues feel they are truly part of a team.

So, when then is it OK to cry?

Methods for managing emotions at work
The key differentiating factor between crying at work being acceptable or not rests in the word genuine. An outward display of emotion at work must be authentic because anything other than this will be considered manipulative, such as crying after receiving constructive criticism from a boss. In addition, crying in large groups or in front of clients can also create discomfort and awkwardness and is considered inappropriate as part of the executive-client relationship.

In order to avoid scenarios such as these, below are three useful methods for managing emotion at work:

Keep reading »

July 29th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Leading People Through a Crisis

Elegant leaderBy, Jessica Titlebaum

Captain Chelsea “Sully” Sullenberger spoke at the Options Industry Conference this year in Austin, Texas. As the keynote speaker, he talked about emergency landing US Airways Flight 1549 into the Hudson River and keeping safe all 255 aboard. One of the things he said about handling the crisis was that, “You can manage many things, but people deserve to be led.”

A crisis in the office may not feel much different than maneuvering a plunging plane. The same goes for any crisis; you have to look at the situation from a bird’s eye view, trust your team, confidently communicate to the parties involved and rely on the processes you already have in place to get you through, safely and successfully.

Get Out of the Way
Cynthia Zeltwanger is the Executive Director of the Paulson Institute. She currently oversees daily operations and workflows of the Institute’s staff in the United States and China.

Prior to joining the Paulson Institute, Zeltwanger spent 17 years at FIMAT USA, a subsidiary of Societe Generale. FIMAT merged with Calyon Financial in 2008 to form Newedge Group, where Zeltwanger was global chief operating officer. At FIMAT, Zeltwanger held roles such as; chief executive officer and managing director of the Americas as well as general counsel.

In 2003, while at FIMAT, the Northeast coast and Midwest parts of the United States as well as the Canadian Province of Ontario experienced a widespread power outage.

“During the blackout, we had the option to support the New York office from our Chicago office; however, the electrical back up for that particular office was also on the East Coast,” she said. “We couldn’t communicate between the offices and we knew it was only a matter of time before clients got a whiff of what was going on.”

While in New York, Zeltwanger had to trust her employees in Chicago to control the situation.

“My manager was in Chicago and I had to trust that he had it under control. I knew the New York office had a lot going on and sometimes, the best thing to do in a crisis is get out of the way.”

One of the things she learned while handling the blackout was not to micromanage, but to delegate work.

“We dispatched information and let the employees make the good decisions we knew, they knew how to make.”

First Steps and What to Avoid
While Zeltwanger believes you should delegate work in a crisis, the first thing she recommends is getting all of the facts.

“First, find out what is happening,” said Zeltwanger. “There after I would get multiple people’s opinions. Make sure you are not just listening to one person with one specific view on the matter.”

She said that it is important to move quickly when faced with a crisis, but make sure you have all of the facts.

“Also, determine how time sensitive the problem is,” said Zeltwanger. “While you should be timely in your decision making; don’t be ready, shoot, aim.”

Take enough time to figure out how you will calmly approach the crisis. Be steady and directive with the people around you.

“If you can’t provide information immediately, give them the plan from what you do know. Don’t just go into a room and avoid everyone,” she said. “People will make up stories because of the lack of information.”

Zeltwanger suggests providing enough information so people know you are working on getting the answers.

“Let people know you are aware of the problem and working to fix it,” she said.

She believes that communication is essential and if you can’t give them information, give them enough so they know what to do at that moment.

“Be honest too. Information is going to change but they won’t trust you if you have not been honest,” she said. “It’s hard to spin a story in a crisis anyway, because you don’t know what information will be coming out next.”

Keep reading »

July 28th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Voice of Experience: Dawn Trautman, Senior Vice President, Life Insurance Division, Pacific Life

rsz_1rsz_1dawn_m_trautmanBy Irene Solaz

If Dawn Trautman could advise women who wish to work in the insurance industry, she would encourage them to be willing to inspire change and to seek out varied experiences throughout their careers. While the industry has been slow to change in the past, new developments in technology, changing demographics, and economic conditions make it poised for transformation. In fact, this philosophy of embracing change and being open to different opportunities has led Trautman to her current position as a Senior Vice President in the Life Insurance Division at Pacific Life.

Trautman began her career in technology at Prudential over 25 years ago. There she was fortunate to be in a program in which she rotated through various roles in the IT department early in her career. This opportunity enabled her “to learn many aspects of the business and see the business from different perspectives.” She added, “Rotating through different jobs early on taught me to ask questions, to learn critical aspects of new areas quickly, and the importance of being able to see a situation from another person’s perspective.”

After a few years, Trautman joined Accenture, leading various system implementation and strategy development projects for other insurance companies. After that, she transitioned into business roles at Pacific Life, working in various areas including technology, sales and marketing, new business operations, and underwriting.

Career Advice for Women
“Innovation happens at the intersections of different disciplines. Having an appreciation for multiple disciplines, as well as having professional contacts in different areas, expands your thinking and opens many opportunities,” said Trautman. She recommends that women be open to opportunities to “get broad experience in different aspects of business and across industries wherever possible.”

Trautman also notes that helping others develop their careers is important. “As you look back over your career, you see many places where others helped you, and it is important to pass that on by helping others get a good start and progress in their career,” Trautman added.

It is not surprising that, when asked about what she would have liked to have known at the very beginning of her career, she mentioned “how important networking and mentoring is to developing your career.”

Women in Pacific Life
With regard to the advancement of women at Pacific Life, Trautman explained that the culture at the company is equally supportive in developing and advancing women and men. Key development programs include leadership development as well as technical skill development programs, such as an actuarial rotation program.

Keep reading »

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, 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.”

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