Women of Influence call for co-gender CEOs


Carolyn Lawrence, President & CEO of Women of Influence

Carolyn Lawrence, President & CEO of Women of Influence

Women of Influence, an organisation that provides best solutions to women’s advancement has recently released an interesting white paper called ‘Women Leaders Breaking Through in their Careers.’ The North American based organisation is offering a new outlook on a critical issue for women and the future success and profitability of corporate America: the need for more women in the C-suite. According to a group of experts on the topic, one way to do so is to bring together the ultimate “power couple” in the form of co-gender CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, etc. Is corporate Canada and North America ready for this revolutionary and pioneering move? We spoke to the group’s President and CEO, Carolyn Lawrence to find out more. 

What are you hoping to achieve with this groundbreaking white paper?

I believe that the world needs the right solutions to women’s advancement around the world, and we can drive that conversation.

This concept struck me in the wake of reading the Harvard Business Review’s article, years ago, that said “the women’s market is larger than China and India combined, and that it would be foolish for companies to ignore them, but they are doing just that”.  What I realized was that we, the corporate world, and the media, were talking about the gender GAP, and the continued UNDERrepresentation of women in the C-Suite, but not HOW we were going to change it.  Which made me wonder, how DO WE change the game, does anybody know?

It turns out, that no, not a lot of people do know the answers.  So we partnered with the best – Thomson Reuters, who have been equally driven to find the answers to the diversity and inclusion mandate that so many global companies understand is not just a women’s issue, but a business issue.  And we partnered with Barbara Annis & Associates, whose world renowned research and solutions on gender intelligence are showing the best results we’ve seen.

We want to change the conversation, and find the answers and the solutions to women’s advancement.

Were you surprised by any of the findings?

The one finding that we weren’t necessarily looking for, but was an incredible outcome was learning that there are no victims in this group.  We survey senior executive women in the Women of Influence community, and it was so uplifting to learn that none of them felt that the barriers and road blocks and challenges – that we all face – were in any way going to get in their way.  It is a very positive mindset that I believe has been critical to their success.

Why should companies consider co-gender leadership and how can it be used to help women gain a competitive advantage?

What we’re hoping is that companies talk about the possibility of co-gender leadership; and at the very least change the conversation and take us past the stagnant growth in women’s representation in the workforce.

There is tremendous value in having the ultimate power couple at the helm of a company which creates a fully integrated and diversified approach to leadership that will allow companies to approach business from a more effective and successful position. By tapping into the innate skillset of both genders, their unique management styles, and differing insights and perspectives, companies can only benefit from this approach.

How can companies establish a stronger and long-lasting culture of diversity?

To sum it up, be gender intelligent.  But our survey has 9 solutions for corporations to solve women’s advancement, and they are all steps that can be taken immediately.  They’re also steps that if not taken, we believe corporations will be at a real disadvantage in the next 10 years when competing against companies who do get it.

Being gender intelligent means leading with the mindset of understanding, appreciating and leveraging the unique strengths of men and women at the table.  It’s simple, but it’s a game changer and it’s had proven results around the world so far.  For example, one of the largest management consulting firms in the US has been able to report saving hundreds of millions in annual turnover costs as a result of implementing gender intelligence practices.  And on average companies who are gender intelligence report 34% higher profit margins.  You can’t, or shouldn’t, ignore the compelling business case, one of your competitors will inevitably tap into this.

How can women advance their own careers and overcome some of the challenges that have been highlighted by this research?

  • Don’t fall prey to the victim mentality.
  • Be aware of the business environment.
  • Become skilled at recognizing the unwritten rules to navigate the system and network strategically.
  • Recognize there are blind spots in the recruiting and interview process; be aware, and be comfortable self-promoting.

How will Women of Influence act upon this white paper and actively address its findings?

On May 12th we are launching a series of new courses and workshops specifically designed tackle the 7 pitfalls for women in business, that we share in the report.  So we can tailor executive education to the most strategic places where it’s needed most.  And, we offer full scale gender intelligence training through diagnostic analysis, workshops, speakers, and even train the trainer courses for large Human Resource departments ready to see their initiatives work.

For more on Women of Influence click here. 

Women In Web Weekly Round-Up


It’s been another action packed week at Women In Web!

On Tuesday, we published our fascinating Q&A with Carladenise Edwards, Chieft Strategy Officer at Alameda Health System. Carladenise provided her insight into working in the healthcare industry, and how President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is impacting upon the sector.

We also had a special guest post from Louise Czekaj, a social media professional in the financial services in South Wales about how she shared her passion with 200 people! She is, of course, talking about the fab Ignite events that take place in Cardiff- it’s the perfect place to conquer your fear of public speaking! Click here to read Louise’s inspiring and funny piece.

We also spoke to Womenalia’s, Christina Chaplin. Christina is the USA Development Director, and one of WIW’s advocates. She left the USA to work in Spain and has never looked back! Check out her Q&A here.

This week’s question from Ena is: “Have you ever predetermined the time you wanted to stay in a role or a job? In other words, have you planned an exit strategy?” Let us know your answer on Twitter or Facebook.

Other stories that have caught our eye this week include…

The launch of Arianna Huffington’s life-changing book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder. It’s one book you don’t want to miss!

Will Sheryl Sandberg run for President? If she does, she’ll need to ‘lean out’ of Facebook.

Our co-founder Laura, spoke to Selina Tobaccowala, President and CTO of SurveyMonkey for a Women in Business Q&A.

Take part in Chwarae Teg’s #mumentous Mother’s Day campaign by tweeting 5 words and the hastag #mumentous to share something great that your Mum has achieved!

Women in Digital Media: Christina Chaplin, USA Development Director, Womenalia

Christina Chaplin

Christina Chaplin

Christina Chaplin is a bilingual English-Spanish strategic marketing, communications and development professional with solid experience in product development and positioning, both online and off, in various companies and roles related to career growth and professional education. Born in Boston, she has a BA in International Studies and Spanish Language & Literature from Johns Hopkins University and a MS in Marketing from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain.  She’s been living in Spain since 2005. She is the USA Development Director for Womenalia, a network for professional women.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

My life is very much marked by a before and an after. Most of life had been a series of choices that, while rewarding and positive, were more about moving along a path set out for me, going through the motions and doing my best to live up to what was expected of me by my family, my environment and society at large. But in December 2004 I had finished my undergraduate coursework at Johns Hopkins, and I was off schedule with graduation still six months away. I was presented with a unique opportunity. I decided to break with expectations. I picked up and moved to Spain that January with almost no plan in mind and completely abandoning the path that I thought my life had been on up until then – hence the before and after in my story.

It was an adventure. It was a fresh start. It was a chance to do and become whatever I wanted, and to spend more time exploring the path than heading in any given direction. It was an opportunity to allow myself to just live. And that’s more or less what I did for the next 5 years of my life. Explore, live, learn, be open to new possibilities, and most importantly, try to find my own footing in a world where it would have been so easy to just let one thing lead to the next.

I think few people really question who they are, what they want in life and if what they’re doing today is actually helping them to get closer to that goal. Most people need a disrupting event in their life to start to question anything at all.

It’s been nearly a decade since I left the US, and I can’t even imagine what my life would look like had I stayed, but I had a chance to shed the expectational baggage and start anew, and that means that today I am and do what I have chosen for me.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

I’ve been defined by two of my core values. On the one-hand I’ve always enjoyed learning, so as a leader I am driven by an insatiable curiosity and drive to grow. This means that I can be demanding at times (on myself as well as others), but it’s always with the aim of seeing my team grow and learn with me as we work towards a common goal. This also makes me very results driven. You have to be open to the many ways to achieve any desired outcome, so giving the freedom and flexibility to people to take their own journey is important as long as the goal is clear.

The second most important part of leadership for me is a strong sense of self-responsibility, which in many ways goes hand-in-hand with the first part. It’s one thing for someone else to hold you responsible for something, but an entirely different skill to have a strong internal sense of ownership over one’s actions and decisions. With freedom comes responsibility, both for one’s mistakes as well as one’s successes. Mistakes are a necessary part of the learning process but you have to be willing to acknowledge them and learn from them for them to be beneficial in the long-run.

How have you learned from these challenges and successes?

I’ve had to learn to be very self-sufficient since moving to another country. You don’t realize how much of a support network your friends and family provide until you lose it and have to start nearly from scratch and have to relearn even the most simple of everyday tasks.

Living immersed in other culture also gives you a new perspective on everything. You are constantly calling into question (or others are calling into question for you) assumptions about your values, ideas, goals… you end up going through a deep self-redefinition process that I think is invaluable. You have the opportunity to adopt and adapt those values and ideas from your adoptive culture that better adapt to your personal values, and maintain those you prefer from your country of origin.

I have also had to make new friends and get to know new colleagues so often that it has really helped me hone my networking skills!

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Womenalia?

I’d say the most exciting part of being part of Womenalia is the opportunity I have to lead our current platform development project. Not only because it’s a strategic project for the company, but because it’s a project that brings me in contact with the entire team and all aspects of the company at one point or another, so it’s a chance to better understand the business and to help create an well-integrated future for the company. It’s a huge challenge to bring together all the need and ideas from all over the organization into one coherent platform, but it’s extremely rewarding to actually see it materialize and develop little by little.

What are your hopes for Womenalia’s future?

Womenalia is a platform with so much potential to unify a currently fragmented market. There are endless groups and organizations, big and small, for and not-for-profit around women, their careers and their place in society. I would love to see Womenalia be the place in which all the many faces of the professional woman can come together and create a powerful voice that leads to meaningful social and political change as well as being a dynamic and innovative technology platform that reaches the infinitely unique needs of each individual professional woman and helps her find her voice, whoever and wherever she is.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

Time management is key and for me that means formally scheduling in both work and fun into each day. As I mentioned earlier, I’m very results and deadline driven, so I’ve never been one to be held to nor to hold people to any particular schedule. With that being said, it means that coordination and scheduling are key! If my team or any other department needs me in the office at a given time, they just have to schedule it in and I can build the rest of my day around my top priorities. I always make sure to schedule in Me time every day. Whether it’s to go running, read a book, catch up with a friend or try a new recipe it’s important to have activities every day that you do not because someone else wants you to or you feel obligated to do them, but rather because you want to do them.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

While there is certainly data that shows that women are discriminated against in pay, promotions, and social perceptions, I believe that the biggest issue is really our own inner dialogue. I think that too many women censor themselves, don’t truly believe in their own abilities and potential, and often get distracted from their main purpose. I also think that society feeds into these behaviors (and has constructed them in many ways) and certainly doesn’t do much to help women break through these constructs. It’s so easy to get caught up in the million daily tasks and distractions and lose sight of what really matters to you, how best to achieve your top goals and actually go for them.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book and movement?

I think that Sandberg’s book hit quite a few nails right on the head. There were certainly whole sections that I read through thinking, “Yes, that’s so true!” For me the most important realization was that choosing your life partner is probably the one most important decision a women makes in her career. You and your partner’s values and ideas around gender roles, career expectations, and childcare responsibilities shape a women’s career more than most of the direct career decisions we make along the way. The question couples should ask each other before building a life together is no longer “Do you want to have kids and how many?” but rather “What expectations do we really have around family, career and money?” And as a woman you need to allow yourself to be honest about what you do or don’t want for your life.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

I have had very few formal mentors in my life, but there have been a couple of women that have been great sounding boards for me during my career. More than anything they have helped me discover where my potential lies and opened my eyes to opportunities that I would probably have never considered on my own. The most powerful mentoring experiences for me have been very practical and focused on specific skills and competencies. Mentorship is a powerful tool that women don’t take advantage of often enough though, myself included! Many women think it’s hard to find a mentor but it’s easier than you think.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

I have to admit that I’ve never been someone who turns to famous names or a particular person for inspiration. Each person’s strength and success comes from a very personal set of experiences and sources and cannot be replicated by anyone else. I draw inspiration better from my immediate surroundings and the small daily acts that catch my attention and make me stop and reflect.

What is one word that sums up where you have got to today?


Women in Non Profit: Q&A with Kate Farrar, Vice President of AAUW Campus Leadership Programs


Kate Farrar, AAUWKate C. Farrar, vice president of AAUW Campus Leadership Programs, manages programs that ensure college women assume leadership roles and acquire the skills they need to succeed in their academic, professional, and personal lives. Prior to assuming her current position, Kate was the associate director of National Programs and Policy at Wider Opportunities for Women. She was a 2011 WIN Young Woman of Achievement awardee, member of the Center for Progressive Leadership’s 2011 Executive Fellowship, and serves as president of the Women under 40 Political Action Committee (WUFPAC) board.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is the nation’s leading voice promoting equity and education for women and girls. Since its founding in 1881, AAUW members have examined and taken positions on the fundamental issues of the day — educational, social, economic, and political.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

Long before Take Your Daughter to Work Day was official, I went to work with my mom, who is a nurse practitioner. Starting when I was 5, I would join my mom at the Staywell Health Clinic in Waterbury, Connecticut, where she served low-income women and families. Some days I wanted to grow up to be the pediatrician, some days the clinic’s office manager. At Staywell I learned to see that each patient, regardless of income, should receive comprehensive and respectful health care treatment.

While interning in the state legislature during college, I witnessed what a difference women at the table could make for families in my state. I saw that it was the women legislators leading the charge for health care, for basic child nutrition. They were the ones speaking out and making policy change for the women I’d met at work with my mom, but there were so few of them in the legislature. I soon started to understand that diverse opinions and experiences were how to reach the best decisions.

I wanted to change what I saw as an imbalance in power. That at the tables of business, media, government, military, and on and on, there were not enough women leaders. More women are needed to more accurately represent our population but also to bring different and new perspectives to priorities and decision making.

This is why today I work to build confidence and skills in college women to help them to break through the gender leadership gap.

We need more women in this next generation to see themselves at the decision-making table and to break through the barriers to leadership. At AAUW we are empowering and training thousands of women every year to take on leadership roles on their campus and in their communities. I get to use my beliefs and passions to support these women to change the world and build their own leadership story.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

I see that I had the privilege of having two supportive parents, a chance at a college education, along with mentors and cheerleaders, which all helped lead me to where I am today. But also the leader I am today is due to lots of hard work and self-reflection. In many cases I’ve also been witness to leaders I want to emulate and the leadership qualities I want to avoid. My first boss out of college was an intellectual property lawyer in London. I was his administrative assistant for four months and suffered through his micromanagement style during which he often treated me as incompetent and immature. On the other hand, in my next boss, a lobbyist for nonprofits, I was a trusted member of the team and thrown into new tasks to learn how to problem solve and negotiate on my own. The juxtaposition of these supervisors an taught me what a difference having a leader that you admire can make in your effectiveness, growth and success in your work but also your happiness.

How have you learned from these challenges and successes?

I think we learn a lot more from the challenges than from the successes. We tend to analyze the challenges way more than we savor the successes. When you are faced with a challenge, personal or professional, I think the only way to get through it is to be easier on ourselves and lean back on the values and personal mission that guides us. For instance, when I was unemployed for months after graduate school, I felt lost. I didn’t know which direction to go professionally and felt like I needed to choose the “right” job since it would set the course for my career. In the end, I was being way too hard on myself to find that perfect opportunity. I took a risk and traveled to Wisconsin for three months as a field organizer for the 2004 presidential campaign. This risk led me to settle in Washington, D.C. and pursue my current career. Once I let go of the idea of that ideal job, I could be open to doing something I’d never done such as joining a campaign and fighting for a candidate who shared my values.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at AAUW?

Over the past six years at AAUW, I’ve been an intraprenuer. Intraprenuer is the concept that you are acting as an entrepreneur in an already established larger organization. I’ve led the growth of our Campus Leadership Programs with five programs from two staff to 10 and from fewer than 300 college/university partner members to more than 800 and thousands of AAUW student affiliate members.

There are two key highlights that are special to me, and they are building the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) and founding and growing Elect Her. NCCWSL is the only conference of its kind for college women and is a transformative event that will welcome nearly 1,000 college women in 2014. This conference is special to me because when I was in college, I attended and it opened my world to the opportunities beyond my state school experience. Getting to expand the attendance of the conference with our collaborator NASPA has been very fulfilling. At each conference I get to see these college women say how this event changed their life in the same way it changed mine over 12 years ago.

Elect Her, a program developed in collaboration with Running Start, is the only program in the country that trains college women to run for student government and political office. We started a pilot of this program with just three campuses and now reach 50 campuses and more than 1,000 college women. The attendees gain the confidence and skills to run for office in college, and we fully expect many of them to pursue political office at a young age and build the pipeline of women in office.

I would say that there are daily challenges. Often we underestimate the maneuvering that goes along with leading a team, being a kind coworker, seeking excellence, and being an effective communicator. These things require a conscious effort every day, and some days are realistically easier than others. To stay on track I try to keep an open mind and a problem-solving mindset. None of the work, especially in a large and long standing organization such as AAUW is ever done on your own. You must rely on others in the team and external collaborators to accomplish your goals.  You need to be open to a lot of opinions, expertise, and work styles. And, there is always going to be something that goes wrong or fails. Perfection is a myth. I try to see challenges from a mindset of a problem-solver in order to get through them and move forward.

How is AAUW making a difference in the lives of women across the US?

AAUW builds a better future for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world. Building an incredible legacy, AAUW has been empowering women as individuals and as a community since 1881. For more than 130 years, we have worked together as a national grassroots organization to improve the lives of millions of women and their families. We do it all through research, advocacy, education, philanthropy, and leadership development. We analyze gender equity issues and challenge sex discrimination in education and the workplace. We shape the lives of the next generation of women leaders. We level the playing field for girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We provide educational and lifelong learning opportunities for women and we deliver leadership development opportunities to AAUW members. Plus, our members find lifelong friends and mentors from their engagement in AAUW. Our real strength lies in our community of over 170,000 members and supporters, 1,000 branches, and more than 800 college/university partner members across the country.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

There is no such thing as work-life balance. For everyone, it is your life and how work is integrated into it. For me, what I do for work is a large part of my identity, so I need to hold it in check to make sure I’m making time for who I am beyond my work.

Really, the concept of work-life balance is such a luxury. Most women in our world don’t think about work-life balance. Women in every country are often just trying to survive and support their families day-to-day.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

I think the biggest issue for women in the workplace is that our workplaces have not kept up with what our 21st century society wants and needs to be innovative, productive, and sustainable. Due to outdated workplace cultures and policies, women often feel unsupported and underdeveloped as employees and leaders, not to mention unequal pay. If our workplaces actually were held accountable for pay practices, our economy, families, and women would benefit in leaps and bounds.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book and movement?

I greatly appreciate Sheryl Sandberg’s choice to use her platform to make the gender leadership gap a worldwide discussion. I hope Lean In helps start the conversation among women and men about what we can do as individuals, communities, and across systems to change the inequities. Sheryl is one person, and it is going to take each and every one of us to see the value of women’s leadership and make personal and systemic change.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

Mentorship can be an often misunderstood concept, but I equate it to a range of relationships I’ve had in which I learned from someone else. That person can be more senior than me or younger than me or a peer. There is no doubt that I’m where I am professionally and personally due to a strong support network and a network that has pushed me. I think the biggest difference that mentors can make is to help you envision the life you can’t even imagine for yourself.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

I greatly admire women who are innovators and risk takers. Women I associate with these attributes are social entrepreneurs such as Majora Carter, an environmental justice pioneer, and public servants such as Senator Kirsten Gillibrand whose first political race was her win for Congress at the age of 40.

I also greatly admire women who are living life to the fullest when our society expects them to slow down. Rita Moreno is one of those women. At 82 she lives life with joy, humor, and passion. Not only does she serve as an incredible role model in being the only Hispanic to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony (!) but she still dances every day.

What are your hopes for the future of AAUW?

My hope for the future of AAUW is that we go out of business because our work is done.

But in the meantime, my hopes are that we are able to build a stronger and sustainable intergenerational community of women and girls who see the power of working together to break through the remaining barriers to equity.

What is one word that sums up where you have got to today?