Women in Business: Betty-Ann Heggie

Betty-Ann Heggie

Betty-Ann Heggie

After 27 highly successful years in the corporate world,  Betty-Ann Heggie retired from her position as Senior Vice President of Potash Corp in 2007, and now serves as a corporate director, advocate for women, professional speaker and blogger for Huffington Post. She was also inducted into the Hall of Fame of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women and received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal, the YWCA Lifetime Achievement Award, the University of Saskatchewan Alumni Award for Mentorship and the Stevie Award for ‘Women Helping Women’.

Currently, she serves on the board of Allana Potash, a TSX traded company. She has used her  retirement to spearhead the Betty Ann Heggie Womentorship Foundation, aimed at getting more women to the decision-making table. To this end, she founded a groundbreaking mentorship program at her alma mater, the University of Saskatchewan with more than 1800 women having participated in the program’s networking events, professional development and its annual women’s film festival. A graduate of the University of Saskatchewan she has also completed the Senior Executive Program at the Columbia Business School in New York.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

I grew up in a small town hotel which encouraged my love of business and my appreciation for the importance of service. After moving to the city to attend university I became the first female beer representative for one of Canada’s leading brewers, Labatt’s. I always loved sales and over the next few years tried my hand at advertising, Xerox and potash. In each job I was hired as a ‘token woman’ and had to prove my worth in male-dominated environments. My main career was at PotashCorp, the world’s largest fertilizer producer, and I worked my way up the ranks at a time when the elevator didn’t necessarily go all the way to the top for women. It was a great career but as a life-long learner I eventually realized that new learnings were only going to be at the margins. That’s when I decided to turn the page and enter the next chapter of my life. Since ‘retiring’ I have fed my passion for helping women step into their energy and ‘stand tall’ through keynote addresses, professional development workshops and one-on-one mentorship. I thoroughly enjoy sharing my stories to help others avoid the school of ‘hard knocks’. These stories are rooted in my theory of ‘Gender Physics ‘which says that both men and women have Masculine and Feminine Energy inside of them which can be accessed as their circumstances warrant. Life hasn’t always been serious- I love to laugh and have had some fun along the way performing as a belly dancer, doing numerology readings and participating in a reality TV show. While my career was important to me I am lucky to have been able to combine it with wonderful relationships with important women in my life: my two daughters, my mother and sister. It is these bonds that put everything else into context.

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

Growing up in a small town hotel I first learned the importance of hard work. Then I learned that hard work wasn’t enough- you have to cultivate relationships with your customers, your suppliers and with your staff. It is important to know people’s birthdays, to take time to ask about their families and to hear their stories. Such are the things that not only build loyalty and allow you to grow your business, they provide soul satisfaction. Human nature thrives on connection and that is a key element of who I am. When I went to PotashCorp I used the principles I learned as a girl in the hotel to establish relationships with our customers, and then again with our investors when I became responsible for raising investment capital. It was in creating these external power bases that I was recognized and acknowledged internally. At one point I was named the top investor relations person in Canada by my peers and one of our brokerage analysts wrote a testament that said, a full two points on our company’s superior multiple could be attributed to my ability to form relationships. I considered this the highest possible compliment. Another thing that influenced me was the fact that in all my careers I was navigating the narrow mine-field allotted to women trailblazers. These experiences drove home to me the different ways that men and women approach situations and that formed the basis of my ‘Gender Physics’ theory. Since retiring and focusing solely on helping women advance I have had more time to travel and hear the stories of other women all over the world. It has convinced me that at our core, women are the same everywhere, and that we need to bring forth our collaborative, consensual Feminine Energy to help balance the world’s current Masculine Energy leadership style.

What have you learned from these highlights and challenges?

To have success in both our professional and personal lives each of us must be authentic. People are attracted to those who are being true to who they are and no one likes a phoney. In fact, if you are doing what you were meant to do you’ll get 80% of your results from 20% of your energy and we all need more energy! To stand in our own authentic power each of us must become aware of our energy sources. Then we need to do more of the things that give us energy and delegate the rest. To get in touch with what energizers you, follow your passion. If you are working on something you feel passionate about you’ll find that you are ‘in the flow’, stepping outside of time and space. You’ll have more energy; people will be drawn to you and will want to help you reach your goals. As each of us need the assistance of others, women need to network to form a friendship group to turn to when the going gets tough. That means that you’ll need someone safe to whom you can blow off steam at lunch and come back to the office appearing composed. It also means that you’ll need a mentor to sponsor you and a group of like-minded people to replenish your energy when you feel drained. To establish such relationships women must ‘give to get’. They have to establish the relationship first before they ask for assistance. Most importantly, you’ll need to take risks. Too often when things aren’t going as desired, women expect someone to rescue them. Each of us must pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and do it for ourselves. That is how we learn resilience. When we venture out and take a risk not everything will turn out as we would like. In my experience women tend to fall into negative thinking and then ruminate on it. We have to learn to put unhappy experiences behind us and move on. In summary, women need Awareness, Assistance and Autonomy for achievement and these are the basis of the Womentorship curriculum in the program that I sponsor.

Tell us about Womentorship and how it is making real difference.

When I was making my way in my career there were no women higher than me in the corporation to turn to and I needed someone to whom I could go for advice. Thus, I looked for men who had wives or daughters breaking into management as I knew they would be sensitive to my situation. It worked out well as I was lucky enough to have a great number of male individuals who opened doors for me, promoted my accomplishments and included me in meetings. Later in my career I did a lot of mentoring in my department so it was natural that I would continue after I left corporate life. In fact, I was doing so much that I couldn’t handle the volume. So I turned to my alma mater, the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan. We made an agreement that they would administer my model for a women’s mentorship program and I would fund it. The ‘Womentorship’ program is my way of giving back. Each year we match aspiring young women with more experienced women to form a mentorship relationship. Throughout the year we offer professional development and networking opportunities and a women’s film festival. We have reached more than 1800 women. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than to see young women who have come through the Womentorship program become more confident and openly offer their opinions; put up their hands and volunteer for assignments; take a risk by leaving unsatisfactory positions to start their own businesses or form a valuable network. Most of all I have watched them become more of themselves, leave their frustrations behind and live fuller lives. Best of all women who have entered our program as protégés have come back to mentor others. It truly is a winning legacy.

You are one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame members. How are has this changed or reinforced the work that you do?

With recognition comes responsibility. I was delighted with the Top 100 Hall of Fame acknowledgment but also know that the universe bestows these honours so that we can use our position to help make the world a better place. I do that through my Womentorship program but also through my writing and speaking. My theories of Masculine and Feminine Energy are a bit far out for many (especially men) but the recognition that I have as a business person makes it more difficult to dismiss me and my thoughts. Also, we extended our Womentorship program to women from Afghanistan which was ground breaking. It wasn’t easy to get visas and certainly the credibility of this award helped convince officials that our program was legitimate. The four women who came to Canada for a month of mentorship with successful women were astounded at the number of female leaders in Canada. When asked how we accomplished this one of the women in our legislature said, “we stood on our mother’s shoulders, now you have to stand on ours”. That’s how it works. Many of the things that were seemingly insurmountable hurdles for me are now handled routinely by the next generation of career women. For example, I remember early in my career, being told that I wasn’t going to be included in a sales meeting because I might hear swearing! I fought that antiquated policy, was included in the meeting and women have been attending sales meetings at that company ever since. I believe that it is important to share these stories so women know that while they might face obstacles they can overcome them and have good careers. My recognition as one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame members gives me the platform to offer this inspiration.

How did you maintain a work/life balance?

I had two daughters 18 months apart and at the time had a demanding job with lots of travel. Because I was the primary bread-earner in our family I only took six weeks off with each child. I tried to go to every meeting to be a good executive, while also expressing milk on the road, in an effort to be a good Mother. It was a recipe for disaster as I got very run down and eventually caught mononucleosis. My recovery, which should have taken 3 weeks to 3 months was slow to non-existent. After more than a year I was diagnosed as the first person in our province with Epstein Barr Syndrome. While I was happy to know that I was actually sick and not crazy, I was distressed to learn that there was nothing that traditional medicine could do for me. That’s when I took my healing into my own hands and learned to meditate. Each day, for 20 minutes, I sat quietly and visualized my body healthy and it worked! First, my boosted immune system protected me from catching every cold and flu that went around and then I recovered my previous energy levels. That was 30 years ago and meditation is a practice that I continue to this day. After that experience, I realized that I couldn’t do everything perfectly. I relaxed my standards and looked at ways to balance work and home during the child rearing years. My solution was to try to do reach two goals at once. If I wanted to talk with a girlfriend we did it on a walk so I was getting my exercise at the same time. I spent time at the dining room table colouring with my kids to allow me time with them while feeling that I was doing something creative. I let my kids help with everything (which meant giving up on perfection). I really focused on never beating myself up or feeling guilty. In that way I balanced positive self-talk with the never-ending list of things to do . I also learned to compartmentalize- My goal was to be fully present when I was with my children but not to worry about them when I was at work. Finally, I couldn’t have done it without a supportive husband who did far more than his fair-share with the children. We need our husbands to be intimately involved.

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

Early in my career our company, which was based on a commodity, was performing badly. A man who was a mentor to me took me aside. He told me there would be layoffs but that I should hang in with the company. Using his wealth of industry experience, he said that our product was cyclical, that we had good assets, that our industry would turn around and that I was destined for a good career with the company. Shortly thereafter, he was a victim of the layoffs. I continued with the company but it was a difficult place to work: budgets were slashed; people were trying to make others look bad so they could look good in case of another layoff; wages were frozen and the reduced workforce increased the workload of every individual left. In the midst of this I was offered a job at a different company. I seriously considered taking it but the advice of my now-departed mentor rang in my ears and I decided to stay put. He was proven right. The market did turn around and I was rewarded with an increase in title and salary. A mentor’s experience provides a broader horizon and each of us benefits from looking at the world through their eyes. Earlier I mentioned being excluded from a sales meeting on the basis that I might hear swearing. It is worthy to note here that a different mentor was an important part of getting that decision reversed. These are two examples of mentors who were an integral part of my career success bit there were many. They have spoken up on my behalf to secure me a higher bonus, awarded me projects so that I could demonstrate my abilities and offered advice on when was a good time to have a baby!

Which female leaders do you admire and why?

I am a big fan of Aung San Suu Kyi. For many years I wanted to go to Myanmar but refrained from planning a trip there while the military had her under house arrest. When she was finally freed and became an elected official, I admired her ability to set aside the harsh treatment she received and work in the government alongside the people who imprisoned her. Her focus is democracy for her people and she is able to rise above personalities to focus on making steps to achieve the principle. I also admire Sheryl Sandberg, who wrote the book “Lean In”. While she has been criticized for representing an elite group she showed courage and vision in using her position to speak out on what it is like to be a woman in business. She could have ignored the issue and carried on making millions but she opened the door for important conversations. For example, she was open about her lack of confidence, which is something that far too many women battle. I also admire Arianna Huffington for her encouragement of women. She rightly tells us to get enough sleep, say “NO” and ignore the obnoxious roommate in our heads. Like Sandberg, she could have continued to run her media empire but she has stepped out and used her position to change the role of women. Both are great examples of my former statement that with recognition comes responsibility. Who couldn’t admire Malala Yousafzai, the young girl who was gunned down by Taliban for going to school? Not only has she spent many years fighting for the right of girls to get an education she is now using her notoriety to encourage peace and dialogue on the importance of girls getting an education. I also commend any woman in politics, regardless of the party, as I believe that women are still unfairly maligned in that world. Again, we need these trailblazers.

Which words sum up where you have got to today?

People-oriented, intuitive, creative, generous, focused, hard-working, determined.

Women in Blogging: Sydney Carver, Summer Wind

Sydney Carver

Sydney Carver

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

I grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA. In 2008, I attended school at James Madison University. During my 4 years at school, I studied Public Relations, Communication and Writing. I also joined Zeta Tau Alpha and was Historian on the Executive Council. I worked hard and made both Dean’s List and President’s List. I graduated in 2012 and moved back to Pittsburgh where I started a career with a luxury event planning company. I am an event coordinator and also handle all of the social media for the company. We do everything from nonprofit to corporate, private parties to weddings and everything in between. I really enjoy what I do!

As for Summer Wind, I started blogging in 2009 after my freshman year of college had ended and I had a lot of time on my hand for the summer. When I started, I had no idea I would still be going at it in 2014! But blogging is truly my passion and I am so proud to call Summer Wind ‘mine’.

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

I like to think I have lived an incredible life thus far. I’ve had my fair share of trials and tribulations, but I feel very blessed in that I have great friends, a supporting family, a career that I truly enjoy and Summer Wind, a creative outlet where I find passion.

Why did you become a blogger?

I started off reading blogs for about 6 months before I started my own. Once my classes had ended and I had some free time, I thought ‘why not’. I was majoring in PR and writing and I thought this would not only give me a chance to write everyday but it would also be a creative outlet for me.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your time as a blogger?

Hmm…this is SUCH a hard question. I think overall, the people I have met and formed friendships with and the people who I may not have met in person, but have created a relationship with through social media/e-mails is truly invaluable. It is a really amazing feeling when someone e-mails me and lets me know they enjoy reading Summer Wind and that we have something in common.

I also really enjoy getting to attend events and parties. Going to New York Fashion Week was definitely something amazing. Not only was the entire experience fun, but I am proud that I got myself there on my own, with my hard work and dedication.

As for challenges… I hate to talk about them because I never want to seem whiney, but there are definitely a lot. I think the #1 challenge for me is trying to find a balance. Working a high stress, intense job that requires long hours every week plus blogging 5-7 times a week is a lot. I often find myself a little bit sleep deprived and stressed, but when I seen the results of my projects both at work and with my blog, I know it was all worth it.

I also think that as a blogger, it’s really neat because I get to wear so many different hats. One minute I am a PR person pitching ideas and sending out media kits, and the next I am a graphic designer laying out all of my favorite shopping finds of the week. Then, you’ll find me as a photographer taking some photos for my blog and then a ‘model’ (I use that term VERY loosely) in front of the camera where I show off some outfits I put together. The challenge comes in when I really only went to school for PR and writing– not graphic design nor photography and I’m most definitely not very good in front of a camera. But, not knowing pushes me to teach myself. I YouTube, Google and read lots of books on photography and graphic design and a lot of other things I need to know. It’s a lot of work and time and effort but it’s fun, too!

What advice can you offer those looking to start their own blog?

I get asked for advice on starting a blog all of the time. When I started in 2009, the market of fashion and lifestyle blogs wasn’t nearly as big as it is now. I think now, it is really tough to break through the market. But, with that said, I would never discourage someone not start a blog. I always tell people who ask me for advice: start a blog, but not for the money or the ‘fame’ or the praise or the free stuff, but start it for yourself. If you start it for yourself and keep going, your true self will shine throughout your blog and people will be interested and will come back for more!

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

In the previous question I kind of touched on how hard it is to maintain balance. At times, I truly get overwhelmed. When I am sitting at work and I see my blog e-mail count getting higher and higher, it stresses me out. It’s hard to go from being on a computer all day at work, to getting home and being on a computer until I go to sleep. Not to mention, it’s even harder to add in a social life between work and blogging!! Somehow, though, I make it all work. I stay up late, I don’t go out one night a weekend… etc. As tough as it is, I enjoy it and wouldn’t have it any other way. I am a busy body. If you asked any of my friends, they would tell you I am always on the go!

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

I think overall, women are fighting a tough battle in the workplace. With unequal pay still an issue in 2014, and women trying to start a family, I just think it’s all around tough.

My friends and I are always chatting about how busy we are and how we cannot imagine having to raise a child, too. I think being a mother is an incredibly hard job and I always ask my mom ‘how the heck did you do it’?!

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

I truthfully have never read Lean In. I listened to her Ted Talk and I think she is an incredibly intelligent and successful woman. I also think she has a very valid point that there are just not as many women at the top. I admire her for pushing women of the world to push themselves to work harder and to make it to the top.

As I haven’t read Lean In, I can’t really speak too much on the book, but the entire movement is inspiring. I am all about supporting other women and supporting women in business– I actually work for a woman run business!

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

I think everyone needs a mentor… I think a mentor can be anyone at work, a family friend, etc. I think the people who have mentored me throughout my life have pushed me to work harder and be the best person I can be!

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

I really admire Tory Burch for building her empire. She is beautiful AND smart and has a family, too… she really does it all!

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

Drive. I have an insane drive for success… I’m not sure where it comes from, but I want to be the absolute best version of myself!

Women in STEM: Alice Gray, STEM Blogger

Alice Gray

Alice Gray

Alice Gray is a Neuroscience graduate and STEMinist blogger from Pembrokeshire, who is passionate about working towards a society that values equality. She hopes to one day publish a book that she is co-authoring, Women in White Coats, which discusses the issues that face women in scientific careers and celebrates their achievements.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

From a young age, I was interested in two rather opposing subjects, art and science, and was unsure which I would like to revolve my future around. I soon became more active in forming a career in science, partly due to competition between my identical twin sister (who is a fantastic artist), and decided to pursue further education in medical science.

At eighteen I began my degree in Neuroscience at Cardiff University, with a particular interest in Autism and Savant Syndrome. During my time at university, I became passionate about women in academia and encouraging more women into the industry I loved, science, which lacks an equal representation of women. I started blogging about the issues that I came across as a woman in science, leading me to begin working on a book Women in White Coats, which is in it’s early stages.

As well as blogging and working on my book, I use my spare time to volunteer as a STEM ambassador, where I visit schools to educate children about the possible careers in STEM and talk about my scientific area, neuroscience. This role allows me to use my experience to engage children in an area of research they may not of heard of before. It also allows me to act as a role model and hopefully encourage more girls to realise a potential career in STEM.

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

I think having strong female role models in my family has shaped how I view the world. My mother and her mother have been very influential in how seriously I take my ambitions and not sacrificing them for others or to fit into gender stereotypes. I have noticed their attributes in my personality throughout my lifetime, in my stubbornness and ambition to achieve my goals despite the opinions around me.

My experience as a woman in science has made me want to be involved in gender equality projects. It has made altered my ambitions and career goals completely. In response to the barriers I observed as a woman in a male dominated industry, I want to address the issues and create an even playing field for women in all industries to prevent women from being deterred in the future.

Tell us about your blog and the topics you cover.

I started my blog in 2013 after becoming incredibly aware of the barriers I faced as a woman in science and a lack of trust people feel towards science. I use the blog to explore a variety of topics, ranging from interesting pieces of scientific research, discussing issues in scientific research and important discussion about the issues of gender discrimination that occur in science. I aimed to create a platform for discussion that was somewhat informal and relatable for those from a non-scientific background, that confronted issues, inspired public interaction with science and added to a community of encouragement for women in STEM industries.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your time as a blogger?

My biggest highlight of creating a blog has been that I have thoroughly enjoyed it. It has given me the opportunity to utilise a variety of my skills that I don’t often get to use in collaboration. I have been able to use my artistic abilities, my interest in scientific engagement, my background in science and passion for gender equality to contribute to a project that I am really passionate about.

However, my biggest challenge has been confronting issues in an industry I really loved. When I was pursuing my career in STEM, it was disheartening to find that the subject I enjoyed had barriers up to deter me. But this has led me to become involved in projects that address these issues for women in science and industry, finding a new passion in gender equality and wanting to address these problem for future generations.

What tips can you offer those who are looking to make a difference in STEM?

As long as you are consciously trying to make a difference in STEM, you will. Whether that is by simply making yourself aware of the issues that occur in STEM or by getting involved in projects, you will make a difference.

The best suggestion I can make for women in STEM is to become a role model, for example by becoming a STEM ambassador. Your presence as a female in STEM is enough to make an impact that will make a difference, helping to inspire young girls to pursue a career in STEM and realise their full potential.

How do you want to make a difference in the STEM environment?

I am really passionate about improving the representation of women in STEM industries. I want to prevent girls at a young age from being discouraged from pursuing further education in STEM and want to stop the ways gender stereotyping can affect the performance and participation of girls in STEM subjects.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandbergs Lean In book and movement?

I am really looking forward to reading it, it is on my list of books to read. I am especially looking forward to Lean In For Graduates, released in April. I think the book (and the movement) has been able to help to make business a more accessible career avenue for women, helping to dispel myths that make a lot of women feel that they aren’t cut out for it. It will also be interesting to see whether the new book will encourage female graduates to feel confident in their abilities to start a business.

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

As a woman in science, female role models were specifically important to me. So, it is a rewarding feeling that by being a STEM ambassador that I could be somebody’s role model.

I also think that by assuming the role of a mentor, not only am I able to contribute to society and projects I am passionate about, but it has really benefited me. I think that by being a role model, it gives me the opportunity to not only improve my confidence and experience, but it has also has strengthened my own idea of what I have achieved.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

As a child I looked up to Michaela Strachen. I really identified with her and she inspired me to become interested in life sciences. That made it harder when last year she published her opinions in an article in the Daily Mail, where she discussed how women will always struggle in science as they aren’t as enterprising as men. As I grew older, I looked up to Professor Alice Roberts. She was another woman in science that inspired me and I could identify with, especially as she studied Anatomy at Cardiff University.

I think the biggest influence on who I am today, outside of family members, is someone who fairly recently triggered a massive change in the way I think. Until my second year of university, I, like a lot of science students, just learnt everything as if it were the law. However, during a lecture Professor Jenny Kitzinger (a Professor of Media and Communications Research) came into to talk to use about cultural, social and ethical dimensions of coma and severe brain injury, as we were learning the neuroscience of consciousness. She taught me to question science. That has contributed to a massive change in my attitude towards science, that is was in fact a community that in some ways needs to change.

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


Women in Business: Jean Martin, CEB

Jean Martin

Jean Martin

Jean Martin’s infectious enthusiasm coupled with her deep knowledge of human resources lead Chief Human Resources Officers at some of the world’s top organizations to look to her and CEB for guidance on the critical problems keeping them up at night.
As executive director of CEB’s HR Practice, Jean directs the research, business practices, and operations and together with the leadership team, sets the strategic direction for CEB’s HR research. Her areas of expertise span the HR spectrum and range from the future of the HR function to leadership to labor market trends. Specifically, Jean spends time working on issues relating to employee engagement, how companies can attract and keep the best employees, and how companies can seek out top talent globally and build out their global leadership bench.

Jean is often asked to share her knowledge in larger forums and has spoken at venues such as the Gathering of Leaders, Wharton Women in Business Conference and the European Union. Jean also regularly presents to executive teams including Bombardier, Intel, Cisco, BBVA and Eskrom among others. In addition, her work has appeared in publications such as the Associated Press, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek and Human Resources Executive Magazine.

Prior to CEB, Jean served as a special assistant to President Clinton’s Domestic Policy Council. Additionally, Jean was a Presidential Management Fellow serving as a Special Assistant to the Senior Vice President for small business/community development banking at Bank of America. Also during her time as a PMF she was project manager for microfinance and microenterprise development at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Jean received a Masters of Public Policy with a concentration in Economics and Finance from the Kennedy School at Harvard University and a Bachelor of Arts with highest distinction from the University of Virginia.

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

Growing up as the daughter of a social worker and a teacher, I learned very early that leading successfully requires leading through the success of others. My leadership approach focuses heavily on inspiring and supporting talented people and then getting out of the way. By not “helicoptering” I have seen talented people rise to new heights and it ties up more time for my own creative contributions – the things that only I can do for the business. Working for former President Bill Clinton I learned similarly that if you give people full information about the context for the work and the goal you are trying to achieve, they will use their own smarts and initiative to get to better solutions than those you could engineer. Whether they be welfare program administrators or hospital workers or prison guards, when each person knew what we as leaders wanted to do, communities carried the ball further toward the finish line. In my career at CEB, I’ve learned to plant the flag of achievement on the most aggressive targets possible – as one of our executives put it, if you, as a leader, don’t frame real truly aggressive goals for yourself, everyone working for you will be less aggressive, causing the organization’s real potential to be undergunned. Key as a leader is to inspire, empower and direct, and-only if absolutely needed, dive in.

How have your previous employment experiences aided your position at CEB?

My previous work in consulting, government and non-profits has assisted me in several ways:

1)    Previous employment has provided me with an ability to work across boundaries with many different types of people with differing priorities – being “multi-lingual” in this way is crucial in serving the thousands of organizations we serve at CEB;

2)    My prior work has allowed me to hone an analytic and operations skillset that means I can get quickly to the root-cause of problems and identify the underlying issues and work quickly and efficiently resolve them; and

3)    My work has always revolved around persuading and influencing extremely senior executives whether they be heads of companies or Heads of State – therefore, excellence in articulating ideas, building business cases and communications is something I have focused on throughout my career and has been a key to my success.

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

Highlights during my time as an executive director at CEB include:

1) Publishing groundbreaking studies in the areas of performance management, leadership development, succession management and employee engagement;

2) Growing our offices from to two to 12 globally;

3) Contributing to the launch of our services for small and medium-sized enterprises – now one of our fastest-growing businesses; and

4) Witnessing many of my staff rise up into other senior roles within the company.

Challenges have included creating new information platforms for regions like Asia, Latin America and the Middle East where cultures and histories make management very unique, and growing our sales and service capabilities to now include more hands-on application of tools and knowledge. Both efforts were highly rewarding in the end, but required fundamentally rethinking how we do business.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

For both men and women, I believe that work/life balance emerges first from having a strong definition and understanding of the values one plans to live by – for each person, these values and priorities can be different, but knowing and defining for yourself the full life you want to live and then living it is key to being truly successful. Knowing that family is a top value for me, I prioritize separating my time with my husband and three young children from my work time. Office work ends at 6:00 p.m. and dinner and bedtime are “no work” zones during which all calls and emails are deferred. When I am on the road, I FaceTime with the kids every day or show them pictures of where I am when I am traveling – they like seeing the sites through the photos I send and hearing my stories about what I am eating or doing and what the weather is where I am. During periods where travel and work is heavy, I try to make sure to reserve special time with each of my kids, my husband and my extended family where we can do things for just us and make sure that I am investing deeply in my relationships with the people closest to me. I think of it as “making deposits in a bank” ensuring that the balance of my time stays high enough even when work forces me to “make withdrawals” against my time with them. As with most working parents, for me caring for my family and myself means every day is its own journey and there is no magic formula. That said, how I spend each hour is a choice and I try to be extremely mindful of each choice I make since, with a family, the tradeoffs are high. I have found that being a working parent is the greatest management challenge I have ever faced and I have learned the most from it as a result.

What research has CEB been recently working on?

CEB is focusing on several topics of great interest to the C-suite and business leaders:

1)    How to accurately identify and engage high-potential employees and how to drive high levels of employee performance – this work leverages insights from neuroscience and organizational design to understand what are the most effective innovations in driving employee productivity;

2)    Building leaders in New Work Environment – given the way in which work has become more dispersed, virtual, horizontal, this work studies how leaders need to behave differently to be effective; and

3)    The Future of the Corporate Functions – given our privileged position managing the largest networks of C-suite executives, we have been able to study the continuum of practice within each function and map the overall direction we believe Finance, IT, HR, Marketing, Sales and other functions will take in the coming decade.

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

The biggest issue for women in the workplace today is the fact that many workplaces and many jobs – especially senior jobs are not designed in a way that is attractive to women. A recent CEB study showed no difference in women’s abilities to handle senior roles, there were dramatic differences in whether women wanted these roles, with as many as 30 percent saying they did not aspire to the roles of senior executives above them. Part of this is the work-life balance question and the fact that many of the senior roles are not dual-career or family friendly. Also interesting was the study’s conclusion that women prefer more collaborative and constructive work environments and that their perception is that many senior positions exist within senior teams that do not support constructive collaboration. Because these senior roles are the stepping stones to Board positions, we will not solve for the dearth of women on Boards until we make senior leadership roles in corporations more appealing to women. Until more women are in senior roles and can contribute to changing these roles to make them more attractive to a broad group of candidates, we will struggle to attract women to top jobs.

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

I am appreciative that Sheryl has raised women’s issues again and energized the discussion around women in the workplace – she has ensured women and men of all generations are reflecting deeply on the progress of gender integration in the workplace. In particular, her book is a terrific rallying cry for the soon-to-graduate cohort of women who will benefit from setting the highest possible aspiration for their careers and as Sandberg suggests, “going for it.” Her “Ban Bossy” campaign is vital to keep attention on places where double standards may exist for the acceptable behaviors of boys and girls. My argument with the book is only that I think the answer of “Lean In” oversimplifies the reality of the profession-life challenge women face. Those of us who have been in the workforce for decades know that in most organizations it is never just a question of leaning out or leaning in, but rather a subtle mix of activities and attitudes that may vary day to day or even hour to hour. We may lean in at a CEO/ Board presentation in the morning – only to lean out in the afternoon at a child’s doctor appointment or school event. We may have weeks or even years where the focus needs to be on an aging parent or a soon-to-graduate teen and work hours must taper, followed by years when the balance is such that a full-throttle lean in is possible and desirable. The other critical side of the Lean In need is also the need of organizations and societies to “Lean In” to meet women (and men) half way as they seek to support complex, multi-dimensional values-driven lives. The smartest companies are realizing that when they design programs and careers in a way that dedicates this kind of flexibility and lifetime commitment to top performers, they can attract and motivate a very different level of talent and keep that talent contributing longer to their mission. Yes, women need to lean in, but organizations and societies are also responsible for creating environments that allow men and women the resources to “go for it” at work even as they make positive contributions outside of work. I do not believe an employee’s outside life should be thought of as “Leaning Out,” but rather as living a full life and in a way that can often amplify their capabilities at work.

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

Mentoring has been essential to me in my professional and personal life. Mentoring relationship perhaps because they are driven by more personal, less structured interactions have contributed more to my learning than any other experience. My mentors have been and are men and women, professors and business leaders, experts and friends. Borrowing an approach created at GE, I have recruited and maintain a “Personal Board of Directors” that meets with me off-line to help me guide my investments in myself and in my career. This diverse group has been invaluable at challenging my thinking and pushing me to the question of “Why not you? Why can’t you accomplish your wildest dreams?” Their real-world experience has also helped me with innumerable lessons in work-life balance, creative problem solving, team management and persuasive skills. All of the key transitions in my career were driven by mentors who saw an opportunity and encouraged me to reach for it. In my view, there is nothing more important, regardless of one’s profession or aspiration, than cultivating a terrific set of mentors to serve as guides through work and life. Notably, for rising female leaders, I do not think these mentors need to be women.

Instead most important is that they are people with networks and experience that extend beyond your own in the fields that you care about and that they have an energetic and long-term commitment to you and your advancement.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

I admire Hillary Clinton for her willingness to really do the work to master a subject and maintain an exceptionally high bar for the quality of her own and her teams’ work. I admire Christine Lagarde of the IMF for her superb yet subtle ability to frame a national or international agenda. Finally, Melinda Gates is an inspiration for the way in which she quietly reframes countless health, development and education challenges by asking simply “What works in addressing this problem and how can we rapidly scale that solution?” In general, I admire women who ask those fresh, tough questions that go furthest to advancing dialogue and understanding and then have the operational skills and discipline to inspire teams and organizations to deliver a fresh approach

What are your hopes for the future of CEB?

CEB has an exciting future ahead. We are committed to unlocking and progressing the science and practice of management and my team specifically is focused on unlocking and progressing the science of talent management. This is particularly significant in that the dramatic changes in the work environment mean that many of the talent management solutions that worked a decade ago are no longer effective. At the same time, the market of providers – largely consultants and technology firms – has not kept pace with advances in employee behavior and organizational management. CEB sees a better way forward against the challenge of talent management and is assembling a suite of services grounded in the principles of economics and organizational behavior. We are committed to ensuring that every organization does not just have effective talent management, but rather the right talent management for its specific objectives. We are beginning to see breakthrough results from this business-specific approach and look forward to taking that to all of our operating regions and the thousands of organizations we serve. We continue to be energized by the mission of improving executives’ ability to harness both their personal and their organizations’ full potential during these challenging times.

Women in Business: Manon Antoniazzi, CEO at Visit Wales

Manon Antoniazzi

Manon Antoniazzi

Manon Antoniazzi was recently appointed to the role of Chief Executive Officer, Tourism and Marketing for Wales within the Welsh Government. Prior to this she worked in the private sector as a specialist in leadership development and was a member of the household of the Prince of Wales, where she served as a senior Private Secretary from 2004-2012. Manon has worked in public affairs and governance at the BBC, as Secretary of BBC Wales and subsequently Head of Public Policy, Nations and Regions. She has also worked as Director of Communications at the National Assembly for Wales and Head of Press and Public Relations at S4C.

Manon is a former Chairman of The Prince’s Trust Cymru and Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company and has served on the advisory boards of the Philharmonia Orchestra and Welsh National Opera. She is currently a Non-Executive Director of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. She holds a doctorate in Medieval Literature from the University of Cambridge.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

Like most people, I have always worked best when driven by things that interest me and about which I feel passionately.  My first job (after finishing a PhD in Medieval Welsh Poetry) was at Welsh Water where I was tasked with drawing up a policy for bilingualism across the various groups in the company. This was a great introduction to commercial life and taught me a lot about balancing principles and practicalities.  It proved the start of a varied career which has spanned marketing, communications, governance, policy and management work – the unifying thread has been cultural content.  Each job has had elements within it that have led to the next and I’ve been fortunate to twice have had the chance to return in an enhanced role to a previous employer, showing that it can sometimes pay to be bold about career moves.  Having made that start in the private sector, I have also worked in the public sector and the third sector, so I have an appreciation of the strengths – and frustrations – of each.

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

Definitely the most defining experience was the birth of my daughter.  I was pregnant when I was appointed as Assistant Private Secretary to The Prince of Wales in 1993 and started work in Clarence House when Indeg (now 20) was 5 months old.  It was a crash course in combining motherhood with a very busy and demanding job and on top of it all I had to move to London.  I don’t believe I will face many things that testing again!

Has there been a particular role that has propelled your career into a different direction to what you were expecting?

I haven’t been prescriptive about planning a career, but probably the most striking change of direction came when I was at S4C, the Welsh language broadcaster, as their head of Press and Public Relations.  The channel had developed a strong expertise in animation which had potential to be marketed in different language versions around the world.  One project was an animated film of The Prince of Wales’s book The Old Man of Lochnagar and I found myself not only co-ordinating a press launch, but also coaching HRH to deliver a Welsh-language voiceover (not that he needed much coaching).  Next thing, I was asked whether I’d be interested in my name going forward as a potential Assistant Private Secretary in his office.  It was approaching the 25th anniversary of his Investiture in Caernarfon Castle and it was thought a good idea to have a private secretary on the team from Wales.  It was a two-year secondment which was to turn into an eighteen-year professional association…  I was privileged to get to know the UK from a unique perspective and work in partnership with some of Britain’s leading cultural and charitable organisations.

Tell us about your role at Visit Wales.

I was appointed eighteen months ago to work with the talented team responsible for developing the tourism sector and maximising its contribution to the Welsh economy.  As part of the Welsh Government, we invest strategically in individual tourism projects and major events and are also responsible for marketing Wales domestically and overseas.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your time at Visit Wales?

We had an excellent year last year, helped by fine weather, but of course also by some very focussed marketing work!  Highlights include the current celebrations of Dylan Thomas’s centenary, the chance to host a meeting of NATO in September in Newport, and the opportunity to appreciate through local visits just how far the industry has developed in the last few decades.  Challenges boil down to making the most of our resources to make an impact in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

For a reader who is thinking of visiting Wales what would you recommend that they see and do?

The website www.visitwales.co.uk  has a wealth of information on what to see and do – be that for a family holiday, luxury weekend or activity trip.  As the Wales Coast Path has just celebrated its second anniversary, why not tackle some of the 870 mile long path. Rhossili Beach has recently been named as the best beach in the UK and among the top ten in the world – and there are plenty more fantastic beaches to explore along the coast path.  The Dylan Thomas 100 festival adds to our wealth of festivals and events this year as we celebrate the centenary of his birth, an opportunity to discover more about the poet and the places which inspired him.   There’s plenty of on offer to get the adrenaline going too, from Zip Wires to downhill mountain bike tracks and of course, no visit to Wales would be complete without a visit to one of our 641 castles.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I work long hours, but do so in order to protect time off with the family, who will let me know quickly enough if I’m getting it wrong.  There are plenty of things I love doing outside work, such as reading, playing the harp and running, so I don’t allow work to expand to fit all the available time.  I am fortunate to have an excellent team around me – that makes it much easier to share the burden.

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

I have had great advice at various stages in my career, not least from my parents.  Outside the family, one former boss is still someone to whom I turn every time I contemplate a new career move.  On the professional front, I worked on a project a few years ago to help an international mentoring company called CMi establish an office in London – our purpose was to match up high flying (board level FTSE100) executives with experienced Chairman who could mentor them, utilising lessons learnt from experience rather than from theory books.  This has left me with great respect for that mode of working and the benefits gained by both parties from developing strong privileged relationships with people who are just distant enough from your work to be objective.  It proved particularly useful for women in business – irrespective of the gender of their mentors.  You do have to establish excellent chemistry though, so it isn’t entirely straightforward to find the right match.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

I lapped up Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In last year.  I think it should be required reading for young women.  It is still too difficult to achieve success on the same terms as men in some sectors and getting the tone right can be tough.  I have learnt a lot from female bosses I have had over the years, from Menna Richards at BBC Wales to Jenny Abramsky at the Heritage Lottery Fund and Welsh Government Minister Edwina Hart.

Women in Business: Rathna Sharad, Founder of runway2street


Rathna Sharad

Rathna Sharad

Rathna Sharad has combined a love for fashion with years of experience in technology, online advertising, and logistics to bring runway2street to life.  Prior to launching runway2street, Rathna was the Director of Product Management at Microsoft, where she was responsible for overseeing the Advertiser Marketplace for Bing Ads Business Group.  Earlier in her career she held technology leadership positions at UPS, Menlo Worldwide Logistics, and Emery Worldwide.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

I have been fortunate in my life to have opportunities to travel the world, discovering amazing new designers and sharing my spectacular finds upon returning home. It was during my travels that the idea for runway2street started to take shape. After spending time with the brands I found that many faced the same challenges –that in an increasingly competitive market it was difficult to create awareness and reach the ideal customer. It was at that point that I realized there was a way to combine my passion for fashion and travel with my years of experience in technology, online advertising, and logistics, and with that runway2street was born.

Prior to runway2street, I was Director of Product Management at Microsoft, where I was responsible for overseeing the Advertiser Marketplace for Bing Ads Business Group.  Earlier in my career I held technology leadership positions at UPS, Menlo Worldwide Logistics, and Emery Worldwide which rounds out my experience in transportation and global logistics.

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

Growing up I remember always watching my mom pick out clothes and dressing up. She was incredibly fashionable and loved accessories and fashion. She was also extremely creative – I remember her designing dresses for my sisters and me, picking out fabrics and getting them tailored. She also did a lot of embroidery and taught me that skill as well. It was because of my mother’s creative side and keen fashion sense that my first dream job was to be a fashion designer.

My dad is a computer science engineer, a fantastic teacher and just simply brilliant with math and science. My earliest memory with my dad is learning how to solder ICs onto a motherboard to make our first TV – yes, my dad made our first TV as a hobby following a technical journal!! It is from my dad that I get my love for technology and I am also a computer science engineer.

The differences that my parents represent – the creative, artistic side from my mother, coupled with the analytical and determined side from my father – are what define who I am today. Their skills and passions have become my skills and passions, and the ying and yang of those passions have helped to make me the best leader I can be of a small start-up.

How have you learned from these challenges and successes?

We have quickly learned that in order to react efficiently to challenges that arise we (as a company) must be both nimble and creative.  Startup life means never knowing what each day will bring, and being both creative and data-driven allows us to stay on top of the challenges that may arise.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your time as a business owner?

Since launching to the public last month, we have been so thankful for the positive press response we have already received. It is always hard taking an idea that you have been so passionate about, and announcing it to the world, as you don’t know what the reaction will be.   Also, it is always so wonderful hearing from women who see our site and really relate to it and fall in love with it.

Our biggest challenge so far has been global logistics. It is a very complex process to work with multiple carriers and providers in order to bring the best shipping rates and convenience to customers and our brands. The challenge arises primarily because we are pioneering this at a global scale and at this time the technology provided by the carriers does not support this global model, yet.

What practical advice can you offer those seeking to start their own business?

I think two things standout for me.

1)      You need to be absolutely passionate about whatever you want to get into. It’s incredibly hard work but if you are passionate about it – it doesn’t feel like it, and you enjoy every moment of it.

2)      You need to be learning something new – at least for me I wanted to get into something that would offer learning in area that I am unfamiliar. It keeps each day fresh, interesting and also helps you think about problems as an outsider.

What’s the one thing you wish you had known at the beginning of your business journey?

The frequency of highs and lows – I wish I had known that you can go through a rollercoaster of emotions within the same day!

How has technology changed the fashion industry, and how is this impacting upon your business?

It is an incredibly fascinating time for the fashion industry right now. There are many areas where the fashion industry is lagging in terms of technology and other areas where consumers are driving rapid changes. The digital age and globalization is completely changing the way we perceive, follow, produce and purchase fashion.

At runway2street, we are bridging the global creative process with technology and providing a cutting edge platform that fosters creativity.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I thought work/life balance was difficult before, when I was working in a very demanding corporate job however, nothing can prepare you for long hours in a startup life. In startup life you are constantly thinking about your business and it can be extremely challenging to turn off.

For me, it is important try to make time every day to cook, which is a hobby that relaxes me at the end of a busy day and also helps to keep me healthy and in shape. I also like to spend some time on yoga to regain balance between my body and mind. As I’ve said, startup life can pull you (both emotionally and physically) in many directions in one day, and yoga helps me to bring that all into perspective.

On the weekends, is when I try to let go (at least a little) to make time for friends and family. It is important to me to maintain my relationships, and making the time for the ones I love to hang out with is key to maintaining my work/life balance.

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

I have looked up to many special people in my life on a personal and professional basis. They have really helped shape my path, supported me and believed in me.

This was especially important for me in terms of my career when I chose to work on runway2street. Finding people, who on both a personal and professional level, whom I could bounce ideas around with, discuss the turmoil’s of emotions that you go through, and who can offer sound advice through it all, has been indispensable for me.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

Natalie Massenet for vision and creativity.

Sheryl Sandberg for courage, leadership and being a great role model for women.

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


Women In Web Weekly Round-Up


We hope you are having a lovely Easter weekend with lots of sunshine, treats and fun! Check out our weekly round-up whilst eating a yummy hot cross bun, or munching on that last chocolate Easter egg.

This week we spoke to Theresa Brown, Partner in charge of Microsoft Dynamics GP Practice at Armanino. If you are seeking a career in the financial industry this Q&A is one that you don’t want to miss. 

Sheryl Sandberg recently re-released her successful book Lean In, and it now has a bonus section for graduates. There are some great Google Hangouts coming up covering topics in the book. Click here to find out further details.

We were honoured to interview Tiffany Dufu, Chief Leadership Officer at Levo League and a launch member of the Lean In team. Tiffany has dedicated her life to empowering women and girls, and formally served as President of the White House Project. Check out her inspiring Q&A and thoughts on how we can inspire women and girls here.

This week’s question from co-founder Ena is: “The success of a job interview depends on your ability 2 sell yourself and for the panel to sell the job. Post offer, what do you consider?” We’d love to know your thoughts, so please share them with us!

Other stories that have caught our eye this week include…

The confidence gap

Does Westminster have a problem with women?

Young girls depict history’s most compelling women

Great interview with Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama and Sally Blount, Dean at Kellogg School about helping women become leaders

Empowering Women and Girls: Tiffany Dufu

Tiffany Dufu

Tiffany Dufu

Named to Fast Company’s League of Extraordinary Women and by the Huffington Post as one of 19 women who are leading the way, Tiffany Dufu’s life’s work is advancing women and girls. She is a nationally renowned expert and speaker on women’s and Gen Y leadership. Tiffany serves as Chief Leadership officer, Levo League and on the Launch Team for Lean In. She is former President, The White House Project, and was previously at Simmons College and Seattle Girls’ School. Tiffany is on the board of Harlem 4 Kids and lives in New York with her husband and two children.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

My personal and professional journey are the same because my life’s work is advancing women and girls. My first formal job on this path was raising money for Seattle Girls’ School. I was then a Major Gifts Officer at Simmons College in Boston before moving to New York where I eventually ran The White House Project and am now Chief Leadership Officer for Levo League. All of these organizations have a goal of creating a world where women’s talents and voices are leveraged for everyone’s benefit. Along the way I’ve had many women mentor and sponsor me. I’m the product of their cumulative investment and I thank them for my success.

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

My parents taught me that if you want something you’ve never had before you’re going to have to do something you’ve never done before in order to get it. For me, that means not being afraid of taking risks. The first one that comes to mind is running for class President in middle school. It was terrifying, but when I lost I learned the most important lesson: that you can fail, wake up the next morning, and the world hasn’t fallen apart.

It’s been your life mission to advance women and girls, and you have served as the President of the White House Project, and most recently as the Chief Leadership Officer at Levo League and a launch team member for Lean In. What have been the highlights and challenges you’ve experienced during these positions and how have you met your mission?

My mission is something I strive for consistently. I’m not sure we’ll reach the end goal in my lifetime. My highlights are always in moments when I’m interacting with women who recognize their own power. Whether they are students demonstrating their knowledge to a large crowd with unfathomable poise, or a woman who decides to run for office, or a young professional who musters up the courage to ask for a raise, I’m most inspired when I see women realizing their own potential and purpose through my work.

How do you think the Lean In movement has made a difference?

One of my sponsors, Marie Wilson, taught me that if you want to make any meaningful impact in the world you have to meet people where they are. And you have to leverage popular culture. Sheryl did that with Lean In. She captivated the attention of the masses and many more people that otherwise wouldn’t be are now talking about women in leadership – and doing something about it. It’s been wonderful to see.

What advice can you offer those seeking a career in non-profits?

The non-profit sector is expansive. It includes everything from an ivy league college to a small community center. Conduct lots of informational interviews to learn about how others navigated their path and to explore all of the different opportunities. I also think it’s helpful to be clear about your own passion so that even as you transition to various organizations throughout your career your brand remains consistent.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

I don’t. It’s all the same to me. I just do the best I can every day to be the kind of person I would want my children to grow up to be. I also listen to loud music and dance all over my furniture…frequently.

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

Unconscious bias. Many workplaces purport to be a meritocracy but they are all complex political ecosystems, and the role that gender plays in them is powerful.

How can we collectively close the leadership gap and advance opportunities for women and girls?

Pass legislation that creates affordable childcare options for families, ensure there is equal work for equal pay, and mentor and sponsor women.

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

I wouldn’t be here without it. My mentors have helped me to develop a level of self awareness. They help me to achieve clarity through guidance and encouragement. I consult them whenever I’m making any major decision. Their wisdom has been priceless.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

My mother-in-law. She is a fierce negotiator and amazing entrepreneur. If it weren’t for her, my husband wouldn’t have the assumption that ALL women are supposed to rule the world. I’m also indebted to Janie Williams and Marie Wilson, who really saw me and gave me opportunity even when others didn’t.

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


Lean In for Graduates

Graphic _4

We’re passionate supporters of the Lean In movement and it was exciting to hear that a new version of the book has been released especially for graduates.

Since Lean In was published a year ago, it has sparked a global conversation about gender equality. Now Sheryl Sandberg has enlisted the help of experts to create Lean In for Graduates, a handbook that offers instruction and inspiration for the next generation.

Lean In for Graduates includes the full text of the original bestseller as well as new chapters on finding your first job, negotiating your salary, listening to your inner voice, and leaning in for women of color and millennial men.

There are lots of exciting ways to get involved over the next few weeks:

Make sure you get involved!


Women in Business: Theresa Brown, Partner at Armanino

Theresa Brown

Theresa Brown

Theresa is the Partner in Charge of the Microsoft Dynamics GP Practice at Armanino, and has more than 25 years of experience in management consulting and accounting leadership roles. Prior to joining Armanino, her industry leadership experience included finance roles at Peet’s Coffee and Tea, Mizuno Sports and The San Francisco Music Box Company. Theresa focuses on recommending comprehensive solutions to the broad spectrum of challenges faced by the CFO Organization. Exhibiting her expertise in mergers and acquisitions, Theresa managed the strategic acquisition and successful integration of Rose Business Solutions, a fellow Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle partner, to expand Armanino’s national Dynamics GP practice. Theresa is a Microsoft Dynamics GP Certified Master and Microsoft Dynamics Certified Trainer (MCT) and sits on the Microsoft Product Partner Advisory Board. She was awarded the 2008 #1 Trainer for Dynamics GP in the United States by Microsoft. She is also the current East Bay Chapter President and a long-term member of the Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today.
I grew up in Alaska, a wonderful place for any kid to grow up. This last frontier makes it a necessity to become pretty independent at a young age. I cannot tell you how many times I had to bail my car out of a snowbank! Like most, I worked through school, and when attending my first accounting class I realized I was pretty good at it. I was immediately asked by friends to tutor them, followed closely by an invitation to teach computer labs at night (I helped to teach Lotus 123 and Peachtree classes). Fast forward to my first accounting job where I did accounting for a husband/wife team that owned several businesses.

After my parents migrated south, I followed them to California and landed a job as an Accounting Supervisor for a rapidly expanding retail company. It was right about this time I took a small sabbatical and did modeling for a year, something I had done on the side for several years and I wasn’t going to be persuaded to not try it. I had an offer to go to New York to model for a big agency but really didn’t like the starving model life, plus I was madly in love with my husband (then boyfriend) and would not leave him. So, back to accounting I went and from there, I had progressively more responsible roles as Cost Accountant, Accounting Manager, Assistant Controller and Controller.

Married, with two children, by this time I was a little exhausted by some big changes, including two cross-country relocations. I grew tired of the monthly grind, and my company was hunting for a new ERP system. I helped select and implement it, then decided this might be a new career for me, one that allowed me to call on my historical experiences, and afforded more flexibility for family life. I quit my job, became a consultant and haven’t looked back. After 15 years in consulting, I’ve recently been promoted to Partner. It has been a wild ride, and I can honestly say I would not change one thing about the journey.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
A variety of roles, industries, and cultures has given me a great opportunity to be exposed to many things. Without this exposure I would not be able to speak my client’s language, problem-solve or lead a team.

How have you learned from these challenges and successes?
Failures as well as successes are what define me, I think the most important thing has been learning how to handle both. One of the things has taken me years to learn, (I haven’t yet mastered this but continue to try) is how to spend more time focusing on proactive, positive things, rather than dwell on and be reactive to the bad things. I spend a lot of time on proactive, teambuilding activities, and allow the team to lead the meetings. I don’t claim to know everything, I am not in the trenches every day and I don’t believe that my ego should rule my career. I don’t succeed – the team does.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your career as an accountant and consultant?
My biggest highlight was making Partner at Armanino! I was so honored to be chosen – I finally have achieved my goal. The problem is, I haven’t yet planned beyond this goal, so I now have more work to do. My biggest challenge was participating in the downsizing and relocation of a sizable company – and moving across the US, twice in two years. The integration was rocky and unsuccessful for me, my family and most of the other relocate-ees. Hence, the second move (back to where I started). I don’t regret trying, and am glad to have had the experience.

What advice can you offer women seeking a career in the financial industry?
When seeking a job, do your homework! Think about your personal interests and try to align yourself as best you can. Foodies might look for something in the hospitality industry. Pet lovers could seek out a non-profit that helps animals. If you enjoy taking time off during the holidays, you might choose to avoid retail! Look at future career potential. If you have the desire to move up, be sure to ask a potential employer about their planned growth, succession planning and opportunities for advancement. Depending on the size of the organization, the opportunity may not even exist. Look for a position where you will learn from leadership – find a mentor, if not your immediate boss. Set goals for yourself, review them with your mentor and track them.

In business, do not be afraid to take risks. Once you’ve formulated an idea and done your homework, go all in! I allow myself one moment of doubt, recognize it, and tell it to go away. Self-doubt is a deal-killer.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Mastering my own schedule and prioritization – making time for myself has been the hardest thing to master and the most impactful on my happiness and well-being. I live by a calendar, and share all my appointments with my husband, who helps to keep things running smoothly. Daily workouts are important – my husband and I go first thing every morning. I feel stronger, happier and more alive by making this the first thing I do, plus there is no guilt the remainder of the day and no opportunity to find other more important things to be done. When my children were young workouts were a luxury, so I found this personal time by simply pulling over on the side of the road a few blocks from home, and unwinding before I came home to a busy household.
I love to cook and spend time with my family, so when I’m in town, I make it a point to prepare meals. I try to not to do emails on the weekends or at night, which allows me to focus on my family. I found by not sending emails on nights and weekends, my team also does not feel obligated to respond, allowing them the same family time courtesy.

I am so very fortunate to have a loving and supportive husband, an IT Manager for a Fortune 200 company, who works from our home. Over the years he has been our home manager, shuttling kids to and from school, practice and doctor appointments. I don’t know where I would be without his support.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Family planning. From pregnancy to childbirth and beyond, women bear the lion share of this responsibility. Toward the end of my second pregnancy, I was at a doctor’s appointment and was going into labor far too early. The doctor told me to go straight home; I was to be on bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy. Of course I didn’t quite follow those orders, I dropped by the office to pick up my computer. (What else was I going to do for three months in bed?) Due to my uneasy feelings, I took a short four weeks off with my first child and only two weeks with my second; not nearly enough time for bonding. Though it is illegal to discriminate, each time I wondered if my job would still be there when I returned from my leave. Employers need to lay out action plans in advance that help families and the company survive and thrive.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book and movement?
I have been following Sheryl throughout her many interviews and in all honesty haven’t made my way to the end of her book, but I haven’t put it down since I started reading it. I am saddened by some of the statistics that Sheryl has exposed. I must admit, I’ve been a little blinded by my own life experiences, I wasn’t raised to see a difference between what men and women could do. My great-grandmother worked as a translator for the French Embassy. My grandmother worked as an electrical draftsman for the Navy, drawing plans for ships and submarines. She worked in this capacity at a time, after the war, when women would not dare to ask for a raise or a promotion. Still, they realized her talent and she was promoted several times. My mother owned her own accounting business for mechanical contractors, and in the 1980’s took that a step further to keep our family business afloat, becoming HVAC and Sheet metal certified. While none of them aspired to the “C” suite, they all worked in male dominated professions, and I’m amazed that they progressed further in their careers as single parents than they did when they were married.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I would not be where I am today without strong male and female mentors. From my mother and friends, to CFO’s and VP’s, I have always searched for those with a passion to share their knowledge; ones that will sit with me and take the time to talk about the bigger picture. I also look for those who will challenge me when I am getting complacent!

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Oprah and Hilary Clinton are both women I admire, both have set high goals for themselves and neither has been deterred by failure. Their humanitarian efforts put them on the top of the list in my book.

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