Top Executives from Morton and Prudential Discuss Development Strategies for Female Talent

Rosina Racioppi, WOMEN Unlimited CEO

Rosina Racioppi President & CEO, WOMEN Unlimited, Inc.

WOMEN Unlimited recently interviewed two graduates of The FEW—The Forums for Executive Women.

Click here for more information on The FEW, an exclusive program limited to approximately 20 female leaders, one from a company, who are selected by their organizations and who report to a Division Head or are C-Suite executives themselves.

 

In addition to being corporate leaders, Naomi and Jennifer are actively involved in mentoring women within and outside their organizations. We are pleased to share with you the insights of these two highly accomplished executives.

WOMEN Unlimited:
As a talented, successful woman what did you find of most value in The FEW?

Naomi Mulgrave:
Two things really. As a senior leader, you can find yourself as a party of one. You don’t have the chance to have candid discussions with other successful women as we did in The FEW. Secondly having the opportunity for one-on-one coaching provided incredible insights on how to influence and negotiate.

Jennifer Schipper:
The timing was perfect for me since I was just moving into my new role at Morton. I got to get better faster. Our Executive Coach was fantastic in providing support and insights. The networking was also critical, resulting in real bonds among the talented women attending.

WOMEN Unlimited:
What challenges did The FEW help you tackle?

Naomi Mulgrave:
As a senior executive, you sometimes don’t take the time to reflect on what you want personally and professionally. I developed a more defined vision internally and externally.

I also looked at how to influence an organization that has been around for a long time and make changes with people over whom I don’t have direct authority. I looked at how to make sure I was not JUST reacting.

Jennifer Schipper:
The program helped me be more structured as I looked at my new role. It provided an objective thought partner. An unanticipated positive outcome was bonding with other women who face similar personal changes and challenges in transitioning to higher organizational levels.

WOMEN Unlimited:
From your top management perspective, what do you see as the opportunities and threats to feeding the pipeline with talented women?

Naomi Mulgrave:
In terms of opportunities, I see a number of them for change. We need to create more opportunities for growing new talent. Women themselves have to show up more and understand that being ready, doesn’t mean being perfect. Women also need to tap into networks more actively. Additionally, we just need to start earlier in developing women; and by earlier, I mean in high school.

The threats I see are the historical structure of corporations as well as legislative and attitudinal drivers to stall change.

Jennifer Schipper:
There are opportunities for women in leadership roles to build the pipeline. We need to be thoughtful about bringing women along, especially in a field like mine, manufacturing, where women are under-represented. We need to take other women under our wing, both formally and informally as mentors and sponsors.

One of the bigger threats is the personal/professional balance women often face. It’s an inherent problem we have to figure out how to solve.

WOMEN Unlimited:
What’s your take on the role of millennials in moving gender parity forward?

Naomi Mulgrave:
They see the world differently. They see it in a diverse way. They interact with friends digitally. Long-standing organizations are being challenged by smaller, digitally-based ones. It’s no longer about gender; it is about driving results. I am looking forward to seeing how that brings new opportunities for gender parity.

Jennifer Schipper:
As you compare millennials to baby boomers, there are cultural differences. Millennials are likely not to have the same cultural biases. With that comes a bit more freedom corporately and culturally. Retention becomes more of an issue. Corporations are going to have to be more explicit about the career paths for those they wish to retain.

WOMEN Unlimited:
What advice do you have for younger women in terms of getting past being risk averse?

Naomi Mulgrave:
Find a way to understand your value, your self-worth and truly believe in yourself. Deliberately take a calculated risk. Allow yourself to fail and learn from your mistake. Also, be sure to have the right network of individuals who will push you and tell you when you should do something.

Jennifer Schipper:
With any major decision you are trying to make, go to the “what if’s.” What’s the best that can happen? The worst that can happen? What are the odds of each? Then look at how to ease anxiety and cope with the uncertainty. If you fail, have no regrets. Learn from your mistakes.

WOMEN Unlimited Note:
A few additional quotable quotes

Naomi Mulgrave:

“I remember a wonderful mentor telling me: ‘It’s not about what you think you can do; it’s about what we believe you can do.”

“What got you here, won’t take you to the next step.”

Jennifer Schipper:

“Success favors the prepared. You need to own your career. Early.”

“We are made for more. That doesn’t mean more stuff, more work. It means thinking deeper and bigger. “

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