Finding a Way Forward for Women Leaders

IMG_6385When women begin their jobs each day, they do so knowing they earn as much as 30% less than their male counterparts. They do so knowing they face substantial barriers to rising to the highest leadership ranks in their corporate organizations.

Mostly, however, women leaders go about their daily business either ignoring these obstacles, or keeping them in the background and doing the best they can for their organizations and for themselves.

But once in a while, it’s important for women leaders to take a step back. It’s important to further empower themselves to help break down the barriers to gender equity in the highest ranks of corporate leadership.

That is the mission of A Way Forward: Women in Leadership Summit 2017, produced by Brandon Hall Group, the leading independent research and analyst firm that focuses on improving human capital management.

Rachel Cooke, BHG’s chief operating officer, saw the need for this event after her 2016 research on women in leadership validated the need to offer targeted development opportunities for women to improve capabilities, communication, understanding and sensitivity between genders and cultures.

Through Cooke’s efforts, a talented group of women from large organizations are coming together in Delray Beach, Florida, June 15 and 16. The Women in Leadership Summit is an effort to build a diverse community to enhance skills and share ideas to build more inclusive environments in which women can improve personal and organizational performance.

“Research shows that companies perform better with diverse leadership teams.  People are happier or more engaged – these companies are more attractive to newer generations coming in to the workforce,” Cooke said in her opening remarks on June 15.

“Our research reveals that only 12% of firms said they are seeing gender parity when it comes to executive roles, and about 70% of companies have C-suites with 25% or fewer women. The #1 reason holding women back from C-suite roles is a lack of succession management for the leadership roles. It’s even more depressing that only about one-third of companies have women currently being groomed for executive roles. If there is to be any major change, we must be united in empowering each other. That is one of the reasons why we are here today.”

Jenny Dearborn, Senior VP and Chief Learning Officer for SAP, gave the opening keynote. The summit has also attracted women leaders from other major organizations, including Accenture, Bank of America, Dell, Ernst & Young, Hunter Douglas North America, Pearson North America, Tata Consultancy Services, and United Healthcare.

Dearborn talked about the importance of authentic leadership, or the practice of bringing “truth to work.” Dearborn said authentic leadership involves:

  • Self-awareness
  • Transparency
  • A sense of fairness to different points of view
  • An ethical foundation
  • Continuous learning.

“You can’t have authenticity without trust,” Dearborn said. “Trust breeds loyalty, and loyalty breeds performance. … When you have a culture of authenticity – among many leaders, not just one leader — all steps from strategy to execution, are more aligned, and execution is better.”

Claude Werder, VP/Research Operations and Principal HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.