How can unorthodox career paths help women rise to leadership positions? Why are mentoring relationships important to grow careers? Should women see their career paths as a “jungle gym” rather than a ladder? Prominent women from the public and private sectors spoke with emerging female leaders in business and government roles on these topics, sharing their own experiences during AS/COA’s third annual Women’s Hemispheric Network Conference in New York City on October 3, 2014.
AS/COA President and CEO Susan Segal opened the conference with Vice President and Secretary of Greenberg Traurig LLP Patricia Menéndez-Cambó. Both women spoke to the importance of the network, which has grown in size and scope since its launch in October 2012, now traveling throughout the hemisphere for roundtables, workshops, and conferences. Its events are bringing women together around the sharing of personal stories intended to inspire a sense of community and a younger generation of women to remain in the workforce.
Over the morning and afternoon of October 3, women in New York networked and heard remarks and panel interviews by women across a diverse array of industries, engaging in topics such as leadership and women in the political sphere.
Keynote: Gillian Tett, U.S. Managing Editor, Financial Times
The opening key note delivered by U.S. Managing Editor of the Financial Times Gillian Tett began with anecdotes on the difficulties of breaking into a male-dominated occupation. Tett earned a PhD in social anthropology and work her way up the ranks of the Financial Times. Explaining the shifts in her career path, she stated: “We don’t all have to be Mark Zuckerberg. Some have a clear vision from age five onwards. But many don’t—and we shouldn’t assign them to the sidelines for it.” Echoing Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, she noted that life is much more of a “jungle gym” than a career ladder.
Tett presented an analysis of how rapidly the world is changing due to the explosion of digital technology. In the same way that it has changed how businesses and markets operate, she claims that women must do the same. “Get out of groupthink, out of the box, out of the silo, and think for yourself,” she said, and added that it is never too late in one’s working life to reinvent oneself and adjust a career according to passions.
She concluded by remarking that, despite some of the incredible advances made in the past several decades, there is still a lot of room for women to rise to power and authority and gain genuine respect in the professional world. She called on women in economics, culture, and politics to not shy away from being power players, leaders, and—most importantly—role models for other women. We as a society, she remarked, must celebrate the examples of women who are doing important jobs and are doing them well.
Panel: Women in Politics
- Diva Gastélum, Senator, Senate of the Republic, Mexico and President of the Organismo Nacional de Mujeres Priistas (ONMPRI)
- Elizabeth Llorente, Senior Political Correspondent, Fox News Latino (moderator)
In an interview with Fox News Latino’s Elizabeth Llorente, Senator Diva Gastélum spoke about her experience as a woman contending in the Mexican political arena. The two women discussed how things have evolved socially—how both have built careers of which their mothers and grandmothers could only have dreamed. The senator spoke of the importance of finding mentors, but advised women to not just look upwards on the career ladder, because mentors and teachers can be found at all levels, and bring a diverse range of experiences and wisdom. She also implored women to not blame external factors but to take initiative to reach the goals they set for themselves, noting that in her campaigning, she was often forced to do menial tasks like mixing glue for posters—which she did—as it brought her closer to where she wanted to be.
Panel: Lead to Inspire, Inspire to Lead
- Marcela Drehmer, CFO, Odebrecht
- Andrea Grobocopatel, Founder, Fundación por Liderazgos y Organizaciones Responsables (F.L.O.R)
- Maria Elena Lagomasino, Managing Partner & CEO, WE Family Offices
- Cristina Pineda, Co-Founder, Pineda Covalín
- Karen Toulon, Bloomberg News New York Bureau Chief (moderator)
In the concluding panel of the day, speakers discussed the importance of safeguarding the path of other women in the workplace. As a woman who navigated the financial world, Odebrecht’s Marcela Drehmer commented that a successful career is based on being able to “add value everywhere you go.” By learning from the work and conduct of peers and colleagues, she advised women to boldly make decisions and take risks when confronted with challenging opportunities. WE Family Offices’ Maria Elena Lagomasino echoed that thought, reminding women to take control of their financial livelihoods as early as possible in order to understand how the business world operates. She focused on the fact that women must be confident in their abilities and work towards achieving what is right—instead of focusing on who is right—when tackling issues in and out of the workplace.
The panel also addressed the value of mentorship. Pineda Covalín’s Cristina Pineda stressed the fact that mentoring consists of an organic relationship that helps both parties grow. She pointed out that mentorships not only create connections but also provide inspiration to succeed, and noted that these relationships were critical in launching her business at the age of 23. Andrea Grobocopatel shared similar experiences, and related the difficulties of being a mother and a business entrepreneur at the age of 25, when everyone expected her to stay at home and be a housewife. Now that she has grown her business, she mentors other women, urging them to be self-starters in every aspect of life.
Learn more about AS/COA’s Women’s Hemispheric Network at: www.as-coa.org/women