June 26th, 2014 | 11:00 am

Does Being LGBT Still Matter or Are We in a Post-Bias World at Work?

Nicki HeadshotBy Nicki Gilmour, CEO and Founder of theglasshammer.com and Evolved Employer

Recently, I was asked to speak at The Conference Board’s Diversity and Inclusion conference in NY. My topic can be paraphrased into ‘why culture eats strategy for breakfast when it comes to diversity’ and most other things for that matter. In my session I was asked, “Do you still think that being LGBT matters since there has been considerable societal and workplace progress recently?”

My response was, “It depends on which firm you work for.” This holds true for a similar question regarding gender and essentially any social identity matter these days. Anecdotally, over the past seven years of theglasshammer’s existence, a small number of you have told me that it does not matter; that you are a woman at work and it has no bearing on your career. I see a small group of people echoing this sentiment when it comes to applying the same question to being LGBT at work. Conversely, most of you have told me or have acknowledged formally in print that, yes being a woman does matter and having other social identities, such as LGBT or being Multicultural, are factors that affect how people perceive you at work regardless of your talents. It even has affected how some of you see yourselves, famously coined as the imposter syndrome.

My first caveat is that you are entitled to any construct of belief that works for you, as personality and personal experiences are so often overlooked or discredited when they should not be. Ambition and access to the right relationships along with the natural desire often embedded into our personalities (conscious or otherwise) to assimilate to dominant group behaviors can trump a lot of adversity in any part of the world or in any workplace.

Many people enjoy hard work and find the climb exhilarating. There is something to be said for believing something and then growing your reality from that place. That is why we have theglasshammer and why books like Lean In exist; to give you every chance to think about networking, negotiation, and career advancement on your terms should you choose it. Further to that, if you buy into the concept that you control your destiny, you won’t see or perceive obstacles to be because of your social identity at work; this concept works for some people, myself included, until I studied Organizational Psychology. There is a certain personality who can make it anywhere, but the question sometimes becomes at what cost? I count myself in this category. If I was a flower I could grow happily on a rock. The downside of this strategy is that I would be completely ignoring the environmental forces around me that help other flowers grow with less energy and better soil on the meadow.

Stereotypes- Alive and Well
I want to share a shocking, previously unseen study with you that my good friend and associate Dr. Frank Golom conducted to prove that we don’t live in a post-bias world and that social identity matters.

The new study uses the famous and now forty-year-old “Think Manager, Think Male” trait research conducted and progressed by Virginia Schein. This new study by Dr. Golom et al extends the groups to include gay managers and lesbian managers in addition to (presumed) straight female and male manager categories.

Dr. Golom, whilst at Columbia University, surveyed almost 200 undergraduate and graduate students in the NY metro area. Eighty percent were women and a small percentage of all respondents were LGBT-identified. The results will astound you and make you think twice about any beliefs you may have around the next generation creating change just by virtue of being born as Gen Y.

Despite the survey responders being mostly women, the group that was elected as having the most leader-like traits was the straight male manager group. This group was ranked as most competent, productive, and emotionally stable amongst other attributes.

So perhaps these young, educated women might answer a direct question such as, “Do you want to be CEO?” as, “yes”, yet blatantly stated their group as a whole to be a less able group (remember this is a stereotype, actual competency levels were not measured as no individuals were presented here as subjects).

Furthermore, lesbians as a stereotyped group were rated as hostile and less competent than straight men yet had an edge over straight women ( as ranked by straight women, go figure?). Gay men really bore the brunt of the evils of stereotyping in this survey. They were assigned very low rankings on every trait that is considered to be leader-like, despite the slogans that people write on their Facebook such as, “It gets better”.

How can this be, I hear you ask? Well, you have all heard about unconscious bias and stereotyping but perhaps it is good to note that (mostly straight) women are guilty of it too. It is less discussed that (mostly white) women have a role in keeping the status quo in place due to their proximity to the current power structure, just as it is also a stereotype to think men don’t want to be involved and do something.

Keep reading »

June 26th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Movers and Shakers: Suzanne McAndrew, Vice President of Talent Management, American Express

Welcome to Pride Week on The Glass Hammer — we’ll be profiling successful LGBT business women all week long!

suzanne_mcandrew_amexBy Michelle Hendelman

“By not telling your story, you might run the risk of creating barriers for yourself at work,” said Suzanne McAndrew, vice president of Talent Management at American Express.

“That being said, you need to find the right outlets to tell your story and feel comfortable that it will then become part of what you are known for at the same time–and this can be challenging,” she continued.

Currently, McAndrew works to identify high potential talent within American Express and facilitates pathways to their success. For LGBT professionals, she advocates bringing their whole self to work, but also encourages them to define a personal brand that extends beyond their sexual orientation. “Regardless of whether you are gay or straight, you still possess skills, knowledge, and talents that make you a leader who is worthy of attention,” she explained.

Career Story
As McAndrew looks back at her career, she can separate her professional journey into three different chapters that blend the areas of service, communications and change management and talent. She started her career in retail, working in HR for Saks Fifth Avenue where she really had the opportunity to develop depth and breadth of knowledge in the area.

“I was fortunate to have a sponsor who brought me to New York to lead the corporate communications group before becoming the HR Director for Saks Off Fifth, the outlet store division of the company,” said McAndrew, who led the initiative of opening new outlet stores all over the country during her time in this role.

Before moving on to what McAndrew considers the second chapter of her career, she continued to develop her communications experience at Macy’s where she was charged with building a strong corporate communications group in addition to bolstering the company’s internal programming for employees.

Continuing to focus on communications, McAndrew took her career in a different direction when she accepted a consulting role at Towers Perrin, which later became Towers Watson. “I started as a communications consultant, but my role evolved over time to include work in the talent space and thought leadership,” she said. It was here that her relationship with American Express began as she spent eight years providing communications consulting services for the company.

“An opportunity opened up in the talent management group at American Express which involved executive talent planning, development, and assessment for the top 1,500 employees at the firm. And this is the third and current chapter in my career story,” McAndrew explained.

She is spending a lot of time right now thinking about the employee of the future and what that profile looks like. “What does the next generation of leaders look like? What motivates and drives them? How do we build a diverse talent pipeline and build inclusion into our everyday? These are ongoing questions that we have to consider while managing our current talent pool and bringing on new talent as well,” said McAndrew.

“I take a lot of pride in developing people and helping them discover and reach their full potential,” she continued. “It is rewarding to see others grow and succeed.”

Advice for Achieving Professional Fulfillment
According to McAndrew, her personal definition of success centered around the notion of finding her purpose, although this is not something she figured out until later in her career. “I wish I had been more in tune to the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ aspects of my professional development,” McAndrew noted. “I learned that having a purposeful career did not necessarily mean finding the quickest path to the top, but rather being clear on what I am aiming to achieve overall for myself, my family and the company I work for.”

Keep reading »

June 25th, 2014 | 6:00 am

In a Record Year for Corporate Equality, Some Challenges Remain for LGBT Employees

Welcome to Pride Week on The Glass Hammer — we’ll be profiling successful LGBT business women all week long!

iStock_000000837540XSmallBy Michelle Hendelman

For the last twelve years, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has compiled the Corporate Equality Index (CEI), the national benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees. The current index features a record number of corporations– 304 to be exact –that achieved the coveted 100 percent ranking. The ranking validates the significant contribution of a company in providing equal rights in the workplace to LGBT employees.

While this number speaks volumes about the progress and change that has occurred, there are still factors of LGBT equality in the workplace that are difficult to address through the index and its measurements. Such as, what happens when a high potential LGBT employee is selected for an extended assignment abroad—let’s say for example, in a country where their sexual orientation or gender identity is considered illegal and punishable?

Or, consider a scenario closer to home. If you are a lesbian professional and are offered a promotion that requires you to relocate to another state where marriage equity is not recognized by law and you don’t know if the office culture is accepting of differences when it comes to who you take to the company BBQ?

Talented people are faced with choosing to continue to live as themselves at home and yet forgo the recognition of their marital status and their life in fact and potentially go “back in the closet” in order to advance their career. We are talking about highly professional people who want to do well, yet this type of dilemma ensures that only the folks whose ambition will overshadow all else would take this opportunity. Companies don’t always realize that they are losing talent by ignoring cultural markers and inconsistencies in the laws and policies at company, state and federal levels.

Myriad Complexities Accompany Small Victories
According to Meghan Stabler, an IT executive at CA Technologies, member of the HRC’s board of directors and National Business Advisory Council, “It’s a woven mess of state and federal laws, and other legal and social implications that impact employers. While the CEI accurately reflects positive changes occurring within the workplace, it’s progressive companies who benefit the most by clearly understanding that attracting, recruiting and retaining employees regardless of who they are or who they love, is vital to a healthy and productive corporate culture.”

She continued, “A huge gap exists in both large and small companies EEO policies. Hiring practices, diversity training and EEO policies need to be updated to combat the lack of statewide protection. This is where we need to see change the most.”

Since the inception of the CEI in 2002, there has been a large increase in the percentage of major businesses providing workplace protection for the LGBT employees. In 2002, 61 percent of Fortune 500 companies included sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policy compared to 91 percent in 2014. Furthermore, the percentage of companies including gender identity under their non-discrimination policy jumped from just 3 percent in 2002 to 61 percent in 2014, according to the CEI.

Keep reading »

June 24th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Movers and Shakers: Emily Griffen, Counsel, Shearman & Sterling

Welcome to Pride Week on The Glass Hammer — we’ll be profiling successful LGBT business women all week long!

griffen_emily_shearmanBy Michelle Hendelman

As a litigator, Emily Griffen is accustomed to speaking out in court or in legal meetings on behalf of her clients. But, like most people and especially women, speaking out about her career didn’t come quite as easily.

That is why Griffen, a litigation Counsel in global law firm Shearman & Sterling’s Bay Area offices, advises other women to have confidence in their skills and knowledge.

“Be vocal about your career interests and find people who will give you the opportunity to share your opinion,” she says. “This is how you will learn and grow.”

Career in Litigation
To date, that approach has taken her far, even though she didn’t really have a definitive career plan set in stone after college. According to Griffen, she was drawn to law school and especially litigation because of the complexity of the subject matter and the enjoyment she found in grappling with challenging legal concepts. She honed her strengths, identified her interests and aligned her passion for legal research, analysis and brief writing with her ultimate professional goal: to join a global law firm with a strong litigation group.

When Griffen started at Shearman & Sterling’s San Francisco office, she was involved in a number of securities class action and shareholder derivative cases, but as the scope of the litigation group has expanded, so have Griffen’s role and responsibilities. In recent years, her work has grown to include white collar crime and consumer class action suits, as well as securities and corporate governance litigation, for major clients like LG Electronics Inc. and Toyota Motor Corporation – and that variety is something Griffen is excited about. She works regularly with Shearman & Sterling’s litigation partners in the Bay Area – Patrick Robbins, Jeffrey Facter and Stephen Hibbard – as well as with the firm’s other litigation partners and senior lawyers around the world. Griffen also spent a one-year rotation in Shearman’s international arbitration group in the firm’s Paris office, and continues to work with that group from time to time as well.

In Griffen’s field, it is somewhat rare for a case to go to trial – most disputes are settled well before a jury is empaneled. Yet in only her fourth year as a lawyer, Griffen found herself immersed in a three-week-long jury trial in San Jose in a securities-related employment dispute. “This was an incredible and unique experience for me so early in my career,” said Griffen, who argued complicated pre-trial motions in front of the judge and questioned witnesses at trial. “We won the case, obtaining a complete defense verdict, and I feel so fortunate to have had such a rewarding experience, which is rare for a securities litigator.”

More recently, Griffen found herself on the eve of trial again when she was part of the defense team representing the former CFO of a Silicon Valley software company in a civil enforcement action by the Securities and Exchange Commission. “We obtained a favorable settlement for our client at the last minute after years of litigation, but we had to prepare our case as if we were going to trial. It was a very exciting case to be involved in,” said Griffen. As part of the settlement avoiding trial, the SEC agreed to drop all of its fraud claims against Griffen’s client.

Keep reading »

June 23rd, 2014 | 6:00 am

Voice of Experience: Susie Scher, Managing Director and Head of Investment Grade Capital Markets/Syndicate and Liability Management, Goldman Sachs

Welcome to Pride Week on The Glass Hammer — we’ll be profiling successful LGBT business women all week long!

scher_susie_gs (1)By Michelle Hendelman

“For the first fourteen years of my career, I was not out at work. I think this was a self-imposed barrier that was holding me back,” said Susie Scher, Managing Director and Head of Investment Grade Capital Markets/Syndicate and Liability Management, Goldman Sachs.

“It was a turning point in my career when I decided that I just couldn’t hide anymore. I was able to be myself at work all the time,” she added, “and everyone at Goldman Sachs was so incredibly supportive and accepting.”

Her Beginnings in Banking
Although Scher has had a long and fulfilling career in banking, she attributes her start in the industry to serendipity. When Scher entered her final year at Middlebury College as a Political Science major with a minor in English, she was certain that she would either become a lawyer or a writer upon graduation.

Scher did not pursue either of these paths, and instead decided to enter the workforce. “I applied for a bunch of different jobs in banking, consulting, advertising, and marketing, among others,” recalled Scher, “and ended up with thirteen interviews at different companies, including a handful of investment banks.”

Even though Scher had developed a bit of an aversion to math growing up, she did not let this deter her from pursuing a career in banking. She explained, “I loved the energy of the people who interviewed me for the investment banking jobs. They were smart, type A, young individuals, and I thought it would be a lot of fun to work for and alongside those people.”

After the interview process, Scher accepted a job with Salomon Brothers, and the feeling she had about the energy of the business was spot on. Moreover, Scher began to realize that she had an affinity for understanding corporate finance and how companies operated from a strategic perspective.

“I decided to go to business school at Columbia after three years at Solomon Brothers to obtain a broader view of corporate America. Here, it clicked for me that corporate finance was a story being told with numbers,” Scher said. “This is when I realized that banking was for me.”

In business school, Scher also became very interested by how external factors impact the markets, and thus impact businesses. “I paired my interests in corporate finance and the markets and landed in a capital markets function which marries advising companies and executing transactions,” she said.

Her Work at Goldman Sachs
Currently, as head of Investment Grade Capital Markets/Syndicate and Liability Management, Scher takes a lot of pride in the growth of this business considering just ten years ago, the firm was not as strong in the investment grade bond business as it is today. Now, Scher and her team handle many high profile deals and attract even more business when the markets are tumultuous.

“I advise big cap companies on financing, risk management and capital structure,” said Scher, “and right now I am focusing a lot on capital structure optimization and helping companies with the complexities of M&A transactions in a global market.”

She added, “Our clients rely on us for our judgment on complex deals or during tough markets, and I am proud to have been a part of the rebuilding and restructuring of the investment grade debt finance business over the last decade.”

According to Scher, one of the most rewarding aspects of her job is having the opportunity to work with some of the most interesting and exciting clients in the world. “I am also really interested in how technology will continue to transform our industry and how we do business in the future,” explained Scher.

Her Experience as a LGBT Woman in Banking
“As a gay woman in banking, I do not feel like I have encountered insurmountable hurdles,” Scher remarked. “The path to success requires all of us –men, women, gay people and straight people –to think about how to be strategic about our careers,” she added.

Keep reading »

June 20th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Career Breaks: the good, the bad and the ugly

iStock_000004107649XSmallBy Nneka Orji

Do you dream of hitting the pause button on your career? You don’t necessarily want to hit stop but you want just enough time to pause and reflect without the day-to-day pressures of a demanding career. But how many of us are willing to take a career break and at what cost?

About 90,000 people take career breaks in the UK every year, 60% of whom are women. Recent surveys have found that while the reasons for career breaks are similar across both genders, the imbalance has a clear reflection on the current and future talent pipeline. According to a 2013 YouGov survey, 58% of women take career breaks to care for children or elderly family members and 9% use career breaks as an opportunity to travel. This contrasts with the reasons men cited; 11% opt to pause their careers for family and 29% for travel.

If more women take career breaks, is it right to assume that we look forward to them? According to the results of a recent survey by London Business School, the simple answer is no. Of the over 2000 female survey participants, 70% stated that they felt anxious about taking a career break. It turns out that the bad and the ugly aspects of career breaks can lead women to opt out altogether.

Embracing the Good
Taking a step back from our careers means that we are able to see challenges and opportunities from a different perspective, which indirectly drives innovation. The skills we develop while on career breaks – learning a new language, working in a different culture, raising another human being – all contribute to our wider personal development, making us more rounded and experienced employees when we return.

Organisations that offer career break programmes realise direct benefits, including talent retention and increased productivity. According to the Great Places to Work Institute, 34 of the “100 Best Workplaces in Europe” in 2007 offered sabbaticals. Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2012 found that almost 25% of the companies offered fully paid sabbaticals. Formal career programmes, such as that recently introduced by Morgan Stanley, clearly contribute to an organisation’s attractiveness rating and companies benefit by attracting top talent.

In the US, 24% of small businesses and 14% of large businesses allowed their employees to take career breaks of 6 months or more (paid or unpaid). However, the 2014 National Study of Employers indicates that since 2008, organisations in the US have reduced the number of provisions in place for enabling extended time away from work; down from 64% to 52%.

If there are net benefits to the employee and employer, why are we seeing this downward trend?

The truth of the matter is that career breaks are still seen as “interruptions” rather than continuums of self-development. This misperception is directly shaping the global workforce.

Dealing with the Bad
McKinsey’s 2007 Women Matter report stated that today’s model “presupposes a linear career path, with no space for career breaks” when in fact 58% of the survey participants stated their careers would not be linear. Company leaders need to recognise this in the way they shape their workforce initiatives.

45% of the women reported in the survey cited “need more time for the children” as the reason for their career break. Despite wanting to return after the break, only 74% successfully got jobs and only 40% found full time work. Sylvia-Ann Hewlett and Carolyn Buck Luce found that 5% of mothers wanted to return to their previous employers, however barriers such as perception mean that they are not always successful which in turn leads to reduced retention.

Views such as that expressed by a UK politician earlier this year – that women who take time out of work to have children are “worth less” to their employers than their male colleagues – are clearly barriers for returning mothers.

Eliminating the Ugly
The ugly reality of career breaks, mainly the manifestation of “the bad”, is that there can be a direct impact on earning power and career progression.

A 2004 study found that “for each year of interruptions to employment for childcare and family care work, hourly wages decrease by 1% (again, in addition to missing out on the 3% gain for each year of full-time employment)”. Despite picking up new skills and demonstrating the ability to work with multiple demands, returning mothers are recognised as financially less valuable than their peers who have chosen not to take family-related career breaks. Another study, based on work by Waldfogel, found that the “family penalty”, a 10-15% reduction in income for women with families compared to those without (and therefore fewer “interrupted work histories”), exists for women but the opposite – a “marriage premium” – exists for men.

These consequences of career breaks have a direct impact on the talent pipeline and need to be addressed by company leaders and policy makers. While policy changes such as maternity (and more recently paternity) leave entitlement in the UK, have provided more options for returning mothers, there is much more to be done to improve gender representation at executive level.

We need a shift in attitudes towards career breaks; rather than seeing them as interruptions, they should be seen as an opportunity to shift focus and develop addition skills which build our careers.

Employers: This is not just a nice to have so don’t get left behind. The 2013 “100 Best Companies for Working Mothers” required applicants offer at least one fully paid week of leave to new mothers. In many cases it can be an enabler to a firm’s strategy; for example SAP, the global software company, launched a formal Social Sabbatical Programme in 2012 which provides employees with global opportunities but also enables SAP to meet its emerging markets strategy. Not only do such programmes provide structure, they drive a change in culture and perceptions across genders.

Employees: Some of you will see a career break as an inevitable part of the professional and personal growth, so planning ahead for the break is critical. It is important to clearly articulate the case to your employer (what skills will you be gaining during your time away), identify a mentor and also identify those who will make up part of your support network during your break.

Encouraging career breaks is a long term strategy; to think differently and become more innovative we need a change of scenery. As Albert Einstein famously stated: Insanity: doing the same thing over & over again & expecting different results.” Why then would we not encourage our people to do things differently?

June 19th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Mentoring: 6 Ways to Help Your Mentee Think Strategically

mentorBy Robin Madell

If you’re a mentor, you have a lot of responsibility. Your mentee relies on you for valuable guidance, input, and advice on successful career navigation. But of all the lessons you might choose to impart or doors you might open for your protégé, how do you ensure that you are giving the right advice?

One of the primary goals of mentorship is for mentors to assist others in career advancement, preparing often more junior employees for that next promotion or opportunity. Yet research shows that a mentoring relationship doesn’t always result in promotions for women, especially compared to men. A report from Catalyst found that while having a mentor did help decrease the career advancement gender gap, it didn’t eliminate it. The study showed that men were promoted more often than women even when taking into account factors like prior work experience, starting level, and amount of time in their current role, as well as industry and region.

Strategic Thinking Linked to Effective Leadership
By examining this research, it’s clear that one area where mentors can focus their efforts is in helping mentees think more strategically. Strategic thinking can help people at all levels improve their chances for advancement by working smarter and not harder. What’s more, according to Robert Kabacoff in Harvard Business Review, strategic thinkers have been shown in many studies to rank among the most effective leaders within organizations.

For example, a 2013 global study by Management Research Group (MRG) of 60,000 managers in more than 140 countries and 26 industries discovered that taking a strategic approach to leadership was around 10 times more important to how effective a leader was perceived to be. Strategic thinking was found to be twice as important as communication and nearly 50 times more important than tactical, hands-on leadership behaviors.

This speaks volumes about the importance of mentors teaching mentees how to master taking a long-range approach to decision-making and problem-solving. Kabacoff notes that being mentored by someone with the “ability to keep people focused on strategic objectives and the impact of their actions” is a very effective way for mentees to develop their own strategic skills. He also suggests that strategic thinking is “as much of a mindset as a set of techniques.”

How can you as a mentor encourage your mentee to excel at strategic thinking?

Keep reading »

June 18th, 2014 | 6:00 am

How to Deal with Objections like a Boss: Your Four Step Plan to Rock Your Next Presentation

Businesswoman Giving a PresentationGuest Contribution by Bushra Azhar

Let’s pretend you are presenting a management solution to a group and you’ve done everything right; you’ve laid out a water-tight case, supported by a robust value proposition, strong arguments and an even stronger voice.

You didn’t mumble or stumble or skip over your slides.

You did everything by the book. Heck, you even mastered Fantastic First Impressions Cheat Sheet.

And then, just as you are about to wrap-up, expecting a resounding applause or even a standing ovation, one of the attendees announces that although he is intrigued by your solution, he feels that your solution at the given price would not be able to achieve the required objectives.

He uses words that can slice steel hearts…words like, “impressive presentation” (implying that it doesn’t have any meat, only fluff) or “leaves something to be desired” (translation: It was just a load of crap) or my personal nemesis “having said that” (which essentially means… brace yourself, things are going to get real nasty here)

You feel deflated after your moment of glory and you cannot just stomp your feet and walk out like you used to when you were five.

So what to do instead?

Below is a four step process to deal with valid objections; objections that are not just mud-slinging fests but where the person is genuinely trying to understand something or raising a valid point. It is hard, because it is a battle against the objection as much as it is against your own rationality.

But who said, winning’s easy?

Step One: Welcome the Objections
Valid objections are caused by a person’s old brain. They are triggered by the fear of making a wrong decision and are typically the last step in the decision-making process. You should therefore welcome objections as a sign that the old brain is getting ready to make a decision and all it needs is some reassurance that the decision is the right one to make. This is the exact same technique but that I recommend when faced with the statement “you are too expensive”.

Objections are also a sign that the person is actually considering the viability of your solution and getting his cognitive resources involved. This is great news…never underestimate the importance of getting his mind engaged because this means they are open to any suggestions that come as part of the rebuttal.

Keep reading »

June 17th, 2014 | 6:00 am

The Introverted Boss: How to Make Your Personality Work to Your Advantage

iStock_000016639682XSmallBy Nikole Grimes

Can introverts successfully lead in business?

After the publication in 2012 of Sara Cain’s New York Times bestselling book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, there has been a rallying cry for introverts everywhere. Cain’s TED talk in February 2012 is lauded by introverts who feel validated and uplifted by her message.

In her TED talk, Cain expounds on the value of introverts to creativity and innovation, but do these qualities translate to effective leadership?

Examples of Successful Introverts
In a 2013 article in Forbes, Victor Lipman, a management communications coach and retired insurance company executive, reflected on his career and the hundreds of executives he worked with. He writes, “…there are just a handful who come to mind as universally admired and respected. Oddly enough, they were all quiet individuals who could all easily be considered introverts – and all shared the same constellation of characteristics.”

Lipman notes that these introverted leaders were universally measured in their responses, highly analytical, good listeners, naturally risk averse, and the frequently the voice of reason. He continued, “Their voice was not the loudest but was often the most listened to.”

Bestselling author, chairman of Avon Products, and former CEO and President of Campbell Soup Company, Doug Conant, writes in a 2011 article that he scores high on the introversion scale. He says, “In meetings, introverts can often be perceived as aloof, disinterested, shy or retiring. … When viewed from the outside, it may seem that I’m not openly contributing as much as I could or should, but that’s just because I’m busy listening and thinking.”

If you are an introvert, know that you can be perceived this way, but remember, too, that listening deeply and thoroughly can give you an advantage when you provide well thought out input after you have processed all of the information presented to you.

A recent article in Entrepreneur indicated the benefits of listening and the importance of honing this soft skill as a business leader. “Typically, we choose leaders for their skill at conveying messages clearly and powerfully. But it is listening that distinguishes the best leaders from the rest. That’s because the better you are at listening, the more likely people will talk to you.”

When leaders listen, they are more likely to actually hear an employee who shares the next big, industry-changing idea. Employees who possess leadership traits have the potential to really thrive when they feel like their ideas are being heard. If you are naturally introverted, you can use your ability to listen and make others feel heard to your advantage.

Mike Jones writes in the Entrepreneur article, “The business world has never been altogether friendly to introverts. Yet roughly four in 10 top executives — including Larry Page, co-founder and now CEO of Google, identify as one. What’s more, their success may not come despite their natural introversion, but because of it, an idea backed up by new research suggesting introverts foster a better team environment than their more outgoing peers.”

The Research
A 2011 study concluded that while extraverts are more likely to be perceived as leaders, their leadership does not always lead to increased group performance. The study by Adam Grant (University of Pennsylvania), Francesa Gino (Harvard University) and David Hofmann (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), concluded “…when employees were not proactive, extraverted leadership was associated with higher group performance. However, when employees were proactive, this pattern reversed, so that extraverted leadership was associated with lower group performance.”

Keep reading »

June 16th, 2014 | 6:00 am

Voice of Experience: Yas Banifatemi, Partner, Shearman & Sterling

yas_banifatemi_shearmanBy Michelle Hendelman

Every day is a new day for Yas Banifatemi, a partner at Shearman & Sterling in Paris. An internationally acclaimed leader in international arbitration and public international law, Banifatemi works in an area of law that is very fluid and where clients regularly confront highly complex – and often emerging – issues.

“What I love about arbitration is that this is a field where you can truly be creative,” she says. “The law is in the making, so you can be a pioneer of the law.”

In many ways, Banifatemi has already been a pioneer. When she joined Shearman & Sterling 17 years ago, the arbitration field was clearly male-dominated. Today, not only is she the head of the firm’s Public International Law practice, but she was instrumental in the development of the firm’s investment arbitration practice and also acts as deputy managing partner of the firm’s Paris office. In her different capacities, she has seen more and more women in senior corporate and government roles and at her firm.

Beginning Her Career in Arbitration
Banifatemi joined Shearman & Sterling’s arbitration practice in 1997 after earning her doctorate in International Law from Panthéon-Assas University in Paris and her Masters of Law from Harvard. “It was quite a hectic year for me as I was juggling between my studies at Harvard and completing my PhD and writing my dissertation,” she says.

Before joining the firm, Banifatemi had considered a career in academia, but after studying under Arthur van Mehren at Harvard, a leading figure in arbitration in the US, she decided to practice law. “I wanted to be engaged in the process and be an agent of change – to make a difference instead of staying behind the scenes and merely reflecting on matters,” Banifatemi says. “Given how few firms practiced arbitration back then and how few positions existed in the field, joining Shearman’s arbitration practice and having the opportunity to work with Emmanuel Gaillard, one of the world’s leading figures in arbitration, felt like a miracle.”

Although a practitioner first and foremost, Banifatemi has been fortunate enough to indulge her academic interests, conducting seminars in Paris and all over the world and being a co-founder of the Arbitration Academy, an international institution providing for advanced courses in the field.

Overcoming the Odds
Many naysayers told Banifatemi that it was practically impossible to become a practitioner in public international law, which governs the rights and obligations of states and international organizations. International arbitration seemed like the safer bet, and Banifatemi initially focused her efforts on this area of law instead. However, she persisted in her quest to become a specialist in public international law, and as fate would have it, she worked on a matter that would change her career path.

“Three months after I started,” she recalls, “Shearman & Sterling landed a major treaty arbitration case for Slovakia. We were one of the first firms to work on treaty arbitration. I worked specifically on the international law aspects of the case and have been engaged in treaty arbitration and public international law issues ever since.”

Keep reading »