Thursday, November 15, 2007

Success in Wall Street for Women

July 2005

The "Black Women on Wall Street" panel organized a seminar wherein g high-achieving women in finance shared their career experiences and unvarnished leadership strategies to address the "double outsider" status of being female and black in corporate America.

The ongoing series hosted by The Executive Leadership Council and Merrill Lynch, the leadership forum has become an anticipated annual event attracting women and men executives ranging from rising midlevel managers to senior Fortune 500 decision makers.

"Black Women on Wall Street" concluded a national Black Women's Economic Summit of some 65 African-American women executives in finance within two reporting steps from their company's CEO. The panel, one event in the daylong summit, was also open to Executive Leadership Council members and invited Wall Street employees, including the Merrill Lynch Professional Networks.

"The women panelists are outstanding professionals and corporate leaders engaged in developing the talents of African-American women in the corporate and financial communities," said Carl Brooks, Executive Leadership Council president.

"The Executive Leadership Council is proud to join our member company Merrill Lynch in presenting this panel discussion under our women's leadership initiative." Aulana Peters, a retired partner of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, and a member of the boards of directors of Merrill Lynch, 3M Corporation, Northrop Grumman Corporation and John Deere & Company, set the tone for the event by emphasizing the importance of ethics as the linchpin of the framework of the capital markets and the financial services industry.

"While you exercise your judgment, your ingenuity and your initiative, keep in mind that trust and integrity are critical not only to your own advancement and true success, but also to the respect that you earn from your clients," she said. The positive and powerful importance of mentors and role models was a recurring theme of the discussion, echoed by Dr. Westina Matthews Shatteen, first vice president at Merrill Lynch, an Executive Leadership Council board member and chair of the planning committee for the summit and panel discussion.

"Having African American women in the C-suite is a business imperative. The only way to achieve that is to give our talented women and men the insights and the foresight they need to navigate their careers successfully," she said.

The "Black Women on Wall Street" discussion opened with remarks from Ms. Peters and a research overview of African-American women's perceptions of the corporate workplace from Dr. Katherine Giscombe, senior director of research at Catalyst. A "Who's Who" panel of successful African-American women leaders in finance was moderated by Joyce Roché, president and chief executive officer, Girls, Inc., herself an alumna of the corporate workplace, having served as president and chief operating officer at Carson Products Company and vice president of global marketing at Avon Products, Inc.

Dr. Giscombe urged diversity programs to go deeper, and directly address institutionalized racism and sexism. "If business organizations really want to make lasting change, they must employ methods that identify and question the established privilege embedded within many organizations. These processes will probably feel uncomfortable and will surface a range of emotions, but typically real change requires some discomfort."

The panelists were:

Carla Harris, managing director, Morgan Stanley

Wanda Hill, managing director, The Bank of New York

Arlene Isaacs-Lowe, senior vice president, Moody's Investors Services, and a member of The Executive Leadership Council

Marsha Jones, managing director, Merrill Lynch

Glenda McNeal, senior vice president, American Express Company, and a member of The Executive Leadership Council

Tracey Travis, senior vice president, CFO, Polo Ralph Lauren

Ms. Harris, managing director at Morgan Stanley, advised the audience to be strategic and authentic in conveying one's personality in the workplace.

"Perception is the co-pilot to reality. Think of three adjectives that describe your strengths and contributions; and make sure that the people around you — your colleagues, managers and clients — perceive you that way."

She also advised the audience to cultivate both mentors and sponsors. "Sponsors carry your papers for you — they are the ones who fight for you when you are not in the room, in those important meetings about compensation and advancement."

Wanda Hill, managing director at The Bank of New York, emphasized the importance going above and beyond. "When you first start out, be sure to know what is expected of you, and then seek out the stretch assignments to really allow your talents to shine."

Arlene Isaacs-Lowe, senior vice president at Moody's Investors Services, who shifted her career into real estate investments, advised listeners, when meeting clients, "Get in the room and demonstrate your effectiveness very quickly. Later in your career, learn how to embrace change as an opportunity for growth and advancement."

Marsha Jones, managing director at Merrill Lynch, cited the quantitative nature of the sales position as a way to set and attain measurable goals in a career, and then to use that as the jumping-off point to attain satisfaction in leading and mentoring.

"I chose to go into management to act as a leader and make a difference in the organization. I chose my position because it offered me the greatest opportunity to succeed and to add value to my clients."

Glenda McNeal, senior vice president, American Express Company, said that she learned about power, politics and personal balance. "The importance of power lies in how to acquire, manage and leverage it," said Ms. McNeal. "It enables you to influence the direction of people and the organization, and to set examples for people."

But with the arrival of her first child 11 years ago, Ms. McNeal expanded her focus to family and community. "What is important to me is to strike a balance, to understand the professional decisions I make and how they impact family life. When I look back in 10 years, I want to know that I gave back to my community and raised good citizens in my children."

Tracey Travis, senior vice president, CFO, Polo Ralph Lauren, said, "When I began my career in engineering I was very focused on obtaining results, because I was young, the only minority and the only female. But then I learned that it is important to understand the corporate politics around you. If you don't build relationships, it can be an early career derailer."

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