IWD Hands-On Roundtable Discussions Explore Women’s Financial and Career Issues

By Anne Evers, FWSF MarComm Co-Chair

On March 7, at the FWSF International Women’s Day conference, participants broke into smaller groups to attend three of five roundtable discussions. These roundtables, led by well-known subject matter experts, focused on pressing topics facing women in finance today. Here are some key takeaways from the afternoon sessions:

The Language of InclusionDonald Duggan, Former Senior Executive Vice President, Head of Banking Services & Chief Diversity Officer at Bank of the West, and Marilyn Nagel, Chief Learning Officer, SAMI game, and CEO of Ready-Aim-Aspire

Language of Inclusion presenters

At the beginning of the session, the presenters had a list of questions ready for participants. In this group exercise, they requested that every time they asked a question, those of us who had had that experience should stand up. Questions included “Were you born outside the U.S.?” “Have you ever been made fun of because of your accent?” “Did your family struggle financially?” “Have you ever been passed over for an opportunity because of your gender, race, etc.?” “Have you ever been called a derogatory name?” “Has someone spoken to you inappropriately and you wish you had responded and didn’t?” Pretty much everyone in the room was standing for at least one of the questions and it helped us all see just how much we have in common. Diversity and inclusion affects us all.

Discussion centered around the barriers women face in the workplace, the inequality in their access to mentors and sponsors, women’s aversion to taking risks because of fear of failure, and the need to develop a network of mentors, sponsors, and allies. Presenter Donald Duggan, who helped design Bank of the West’s Diversity and Inclusion program, stressed that more white men need to be on board for women to really make progress. Duggan said based on the current rate of growth, gender parity in the boardroom is now expected to be achieved by 2048 (Equilar Gender Diversity Index). We are making progress, but there is still a long way to go.

The Art of AllyshipPamela Hopkins, PhD, Owner and Managing Partner, Enact Leadership, and Flavio Bravo, Graduate Intern, Office of Diversity Engagement & Community Outreach, University of San Francisco

Art of Alleyship

What is the mindset of an “ally?” Pamela Hopkins and Flavio Bravo facilitated a discussion on how we all can contribute to transforming organizational culture. They posted scenarios around the room that took into account real-life situations regarding race, socio-economic status, and gender. Participants broke into small groups to discuss various options in the scenarios and how to acknowledge our own biases, recognize acts of micro-aggression, educate, initiate discussion, and become an ally.

Key takeaways from the session included insights into how to become an ally, including:

  • Deepening our self-awareness, checking our intentions vs. impact, and exploring personal world views and their origins
  • Focusing on others by educating ourselves about others’ identities, histories, struggles, and stories, reaching out across differences, and resisting assumptions and challenge stereotypes
  • Working to mitigate implicit bias in systems and in ourselves
  • Leveraging our privilege to support others

Addressing Implicit Bias — Molly Anderson, CEO, and Faye Sahai, Senior Director Innovation & Inclusion, Exponential Talent, LLC

IWD Interaction

Given the recent media coverage of implicit bias, this event was timely and relevant. Whether in the workplace, the community or in sports, bias is pervasive. And we can all do something about it. Molly Anderson and Faye Sahai led participants through exercises to help them recognize what “implicit bias” is, its impact in the workplace, and how we can disrupt it. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.

The presenters gave an example of a study that was done where two interviewees, male and female, with the exact same qualifications, applied for a job. Study participants watched videos of the applicants and commented. Their comments showed their implicit bias regarding the female interviewee’s qualifications versus the male’s and the focus on personality and style. The study participants in the video were surprised by their own attitudes.

The presenters gave some guidelines and resources for disrupting implicit bias and learning more about it. These included:

  • Checking evaluations for undue focus on personality or style
  • Providing powerful introductions — make sure you make strong introductions for all your new staff and team members
  • Assigning high-growth, visible work equitably — and distribute equitably the low-value office chores

Knowing Your Worth – Project WorthEmma Reilly, Vice President, Head of Technology Strategy & Execution, Lending Club

IWD Audience

Women talk about a lot of things, but they usually avoid talking about money. Four former BlackRock executive women, the founders of Project Worth, believe that discussing money shouldn’t be seen as a taboo. One of the founders, Emma Reilly, led the roundtable.

The session started with a video of various women answering the question, “What I wish I had known” about money management. Many voiced their lack of confidence regarding their finances, and their tendency to defer to spouses and partners. Project Worth co-founder Heather Pelant, managing director of Baker Street Advisors, said in an online interview, “What we found is that it unleashes a lot of conversation when you pose a few questions like, ‘What do you wish you would have known? What is your very best money lesson? What do you wish women knew?’This begins to unearth women’s ability to talk about money and topics related to it.”

In the session, many topics were covered about gaining financial savvy, including:

  • Amplifying women’s economic voice
  • Driving a new conversation about the links between career and wealth
  • Fostering conversation and community
  • Educating women that money provides power and it’s good to want power
  • Changing women’s perception that money is a means to help others rather than a way to increase their profiles

Paving the Path for Women to Serve on Corporate BoardsDonna Hamlin, PhD, CEO of BoardWise, and Danna Lewis, Chief Operating Officer, Athena Alliance

Addressing Implicit Bias

Ready to take a seat at the board table? Donna Hamlin and Danna Lewis discussed determining your readiness to serve on boards and crafting your professional development agenda. Donna has 30 years of corporate, governance, and strategy consulting experience and Danna works to accelerate gender parity in the boardroom.

They gave participants a handout with seven tips to help explore their readiness and to learn more about the commitments involved with board participation.

  1. Know your style of thinking/orientation to problem-solving — Group dynamics are a key factor in board success, so knowing your style helps identify if you are a good fit and would add diversity of thought.
  2. Target your search — What types of businesses/organizations? Where in the life cycle (early-stage, growing, turnaround, etc.) are they? Consider industry options and ancillary markets. Frame your search with focus rather than blanketing your bio everywhere.
  3. Have a crisp resume and board bio — Make sure the board bio emphasizes your best fit for both committee and board roles.
  4. Be on the lookout for opportunities looming — e.g., Delaware—registered companies are under scrutiny for “director overboarding.” Some of those directors will need to leave some boards, which opens up seats. Some companies with European footprints are adopting term limits, which would open new seats.
  5. Know the commitment — e.g. a CEO of an early-stage company may expect weekly or biweekly calls. Or at later stages, they may expect specific committee work or more frequent in-person meetings. Board service requires 150-300 hours a year, with quarterly meetings in person (at the minimum.)
  6. Know your unique contribution to a board — What unique expertise and experience can you bring to the table as a director, thinking not of yourself as an executive or an operator, but as an overarching steward of business?
  7. Increase your board savvy — Learn about board structure, insights into the committees, how to read financial statements (especially if you are not a finance operator), the differences between public and private boards, etc. 

View roundtable leader biographies

Additional Articles about IWD

Teveia Barnes, FWSF IWD Keynote Speaker: It Takes Courage, Tenacity and a Belief in Oneself
By Marianne LaPorte, FWSF MarComm Co-Chair

Panel Discussion: Overcoming Obstacles and Sharing Success Stories
By Linda Wagner, VP, FWSF MarComm

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