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    IWF World Conference: What Did You Do In 2017?

    May 23rd, 2017

    What did you do in 2017? People may ask you this question 10 years from now. What will you tell them?

    This was the question Jan Eliasson, the former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, posed to the crowd to close his keynote address at the IWF World Cornerstone Conference in Stockholm, Sweden.

    Eliasson spoke about the refugee crisis, but his speech was ultimately a global message to humanity, and to me, as a woman, as a leader, and as an immigrant, it was very inspiring.

    Currently, there are 244 million migrants and 65 million refugees in the world. And the narrative about this movement of people is largely negative. But it shouldn’t be. Because without migration we would have much less economic growth, negative demographic growth, and less transfer of wealth to the underdeveloped world — who wants to live in a less successful, less diverse world?

    Unfortunately, the world is suffering from an empathy gap — we seem to have forgotten the beauty of diversity and tolerance. The same diversity — the melting pot — that fueled the United States and helped it become the superpower that it is today. We’re viewing refugees and migrants as a problem, which leads us down the path of division and polarization. The scariest thing? Terrorist movements exploit this to reach their main objective: to make us afraid.

    Access to information and social media are actually making these problems and conflicts more difficult because arguments are becoming less rational and credible. The dissemination of fake information is so easy — it’s delivered to people directly via social media. This misinformation leads to distrust and fear.

    So what can we do? We must work to rebuild trust and close the empathy gap by communicating and connecting with people. We must mobilize all good forces of international understanding and solidarity, and stand up for the beauty of diversity and tolerance. We need to be more determined and stronger as we stand up against those who want to divide and polarize us and undermine democracy as we know it.

    As Eliasson pointed out, our job as leaders is to reduce the gap between the world as it is and the world as it should be. Every person needs to do their part to make a difference in 2017.

    So, when people ask you 10 years from now what you did in 2017, what will you tell them?


    Photo credit: IWF Twitter

    5 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Embrace Their Femininity

    July 22nd, 2012

    Women who are running  businesses should detach from feminism and embrace their femininity.

    My daughter started her career in a high stress male dominated industry. We were reflecting on how a woman can succeed in this environment  without becoming masculinised. Women who are running  businesses should detach from feminism and embrace their femininity.

    The truth is that women have been liberated. We no longer need to spend our energies proving that we’re equal. We own our own companies, we assume leadership roles and we don’t have to wear ties to work.

    Here are 5 ways to create this balance while getting respect from both males and females:

    1. Don’t pretend that you’re one of the boys – you’re not. But at the same time don’t play the “us girls” game.  Work at your individuality as a person. Use your unique leadership strengths when dealing with an issue.
    2. You shouldn’t dress provocatively but you also don’t need to wear a burka.  You have a wonderful opportunity to express yourself  and your femininity.  Make sure that you are dignified and professional and let your gender work for you.
    3. It’s OK to talk about kids, make-up and hair but please consider your audience – these discussions may be boring to whomever is listening. Be yourself but remain sensitive to the situation.
    4. Respect both male and female employees. Disparaging remarks about men set a feminist tone and put a line in the sand when there may not have been an issue to begin with.
    5. Watch out for “womens only groups” why would you want to segregate ideas and talent. Position yourself as an entrepreneurial leader rather than a proponent of  “Women rule”

    You have a real advantage as a woman running a business – don’t blow it by  wearing workboots and snarling at men, rather walk around in your stilettos with strength and conviction.


    4 Ways Women Business Leaders can Utilize Visualization to Remain Positive

    April 25th, 2012

    I have just completed seven weeks of radiation where I received space-age-type treatments that invaded my chest wall with the intent of killing any cancer cells that had migrated from my breast. The weekend before I began my treatment I flew to Atlanta to spend time with my family.  As fate would have it, on my way home, I happened to be seated next to a friendly and talkative gentleman who told me to visualize that these rays were on a seek-and-destroy mission with the sole purpose of winning the cancer battle.

    As I lay there getting my first treatment, my body flinched as the long beeps told me of the invasion. Staying positive at this point seemed almost impossible as I contemplated the side effects of radiation; exhaustion, severe burns and a compromised immune system.

    I decided that as a woman business leader and entrepreneur, I had faced many other challenges, although none as daunting as this. But my response has always been to embrace my challenges rather than fear them. Why would this be any different?

    Here are some of the ways that I learned to create a positive experience:

    1.    I listened to music that evoked positive emotions during treatment. This proved to balance my thoughts and alleviate the fear. Once I took out the fear factor, I was able to release the vision.

    2.    I connected with as many people as I could who were receiving the same treatment as I was. Sharing stories and following their progress. I realized how fortunate I was as their stories unfolded.

    3.    I found that by being positive and open I encouraged new relationships. I got to know the therapists, doctors and staff. The care and compassion was definitely a factor in making the process more bearable.

    4.    Overcoming the fear and embracing the experience was definitely the key. I found that by the end of the seven weeks I was actually looking forward to my daily trips.

    There have been studies that describe how an optimistic outlook can literally help people live longer and happier lives than those with a pessimistic view of the world. I would love to share your stories of optimism and how your positive outlook helped you through a difficult time.


    How Women Business Leaders can Reset Their “Factory Default Settings”

    February 16th, 2012

    I am sure many of you can only imagine how my breast cancer has permeated my life. And, many of you know only too well based on your own cancer experiences.

    For me, the doctor’s call at 10 p.m. bearing the “verdict” changed my life forever. The world stopped, my heart stopped, I clutched my husband’s arm and squeezed. Adrenaline rushed through my body and blind panic overcame me.

    Over the weeks, I have settled into my new identity. I have gained strength both physically and mentally and have had much reflection time. I don’t want to diminish the horror, but along with my diagnosis, I have received unprecedented gifts. I have received compassion, advice, the ability to help others and the opportunity to reflect.

    But in reading a recent article by Peter Bregman, I can see that there is a whole new way to look at my situation. I have condensed Peter’s blog below, and I think you’ll agree that he says it all.

    An “unplug-and-stop-everything-for-a-minute” strategy might be a pretty good solution for whenever things aren’t working in life.

    That point was reinforced for me in a recent cell phone call I had with Eleanor, my wife, while she was traveling. We were having a difficult conversation and each of us had the feeling that the other one wasn’t listening. Then the call was dropped. We tried calling each other back but only got voicemail. So we sat there for a minute, each of us in our respective places.


    When we eventually connected again, the tone of the conversation changed radically. We were softer with each other. More attentive. More forgiving and loving. Better at listening and rephrasing what we heard the other one saying. I never thought I’d say this but, for once, I was happy that my cellular network is unreliable. It gave us both a minute to breathe and get some perspective.

    Unplugging and waiting for a minute is an unexpected strategy because it appears passive. You aren’t actively developing new strategies, arguments, or viewpoints. In fact, you aren’t actively doing anything.

    When you unplug and wait for a minute, you restore yourself to your factory default settings, which for most of us tends to be generous, open-hearted, creative, connected, and hopeful. That makes us more likely to be effective when we plug back in.

    In a meeting that’s going nowhere? Take a break. Making no headway on that proposal you need to write? Stand up and take a walk. Fighting with your kids? Give yourself a time-out. Unplug for a minute and breathe.

    I have been given an opportunity to reset – to pause, evaluate and choose the manner in which I would like to emerge. I can shed the pieces of my lifestyle that we, as women business leaders, move into; rushing, harrowed, no time for ourselves. I recommend trying Peter’s suggestions whenever you feel overwhelmed.

    Women Business Leaders–Take Time to Smell the Roses

    January 29th, 2012

    I am lucky enough to live on the bayfront and run my business in an attractive and desirable city on Florida’s west coast.

    Prior to my breast cancer diagnosis and surgery, my normal morning consisted of walking or jogging over the bayfront bridge as I monitored my time and breathlessly figured out how I would maximize my work out and get to my morning meeting. This activity was a scientifically timed event where my “getting to work” routine was carefully crafted into five-minute segments; shower, make-up, hair, outfit, breakfast (If there’s time) – you get the idea!

    In all this activity, I may have smelled the coffee but I certainly did not smell the roses.

    I am just now starting to get back into some sense of normalcy, and I decided to go for a walk yesterday. Bound by my weakness and wounds, I surprised myself by stopping to sit on a bench facing the bay. I imagine this bench was a fixture that had been there all along, but I had really never paid attention to it.

    As the bench beckoned me and I contemplated how lucky I am to be alive at this moment in Sarasota, I realized that I had just received a gift – among all the flowers and well wishes over this past week I had the opportunity to really smell the roses! Hopefully this is a lesson I won’t soon forget.

    Thank you to all who are keeping me in their thoughts throughout this journey.


    How Does a Woman Business Leader Cope with Breast Cancer? A Personal Message to My Readers

    January 16th, 2012

    A Pink Rose for Breast Cancer

    My Dear Readers,

    I know you’re out there because I continually get feedback. Writing this blog has had a dual purpose for me; I have been able to provide help and mentorship to many women and, at the same time, I have been learning and growing from your experiences. Well, I am now on a new journey, which I am going to share with you because I know there is much to learn from each other.

    How does a woman business leader cope when she hears that she has breast cancer?

    I have recently learned that I am joining the army of women in pink. I received the news a few days ago after a three-week bout of angst over a suspicious annual mammogram. In fact my blog, 6 Ways Women Business Leaders can Overcome Negativity,  was written with the hopes that all was OK!

    I have noninvasive in situ breast cancer. The good news is that it is noninvasive, the bad news is that the 3-by-4 centimeter hole in my breast did not placate the enemy. My case was evaluated by a tumor team and the recommendation based on family history, rate of growth and MRI was that I undergo a mastectomy. I have opted for a bi-lateral with reconstruction.

    So what happens to “little miss positive” now? I am going to share my journey with you from the perspective of a woman business leader. Who am I with this new identity? How do I share the news with family? Staff?

    I will be having surgery this week and have full confidence in the medical team taking care of me and will be blogging again at the end of the week. Stay tuned for what I expect will be the ride of my life……….I intend making it a good one!

    Why Women Business Leaders Need to Think Differently for their Businesses to Thrive

    November 20th, 2011

    Change is inevitable. It’s driven by external factors as well as deliberate decisions. My business, a creative communications firm, has been affected by the economy and has been drastically altered by the emergence and integration of technology. We have to continually make reactive and anticipatory decisions that ensure our ability to service our clients. We need to stay ahead of the curve and, in effect, forecast trends. In order to do this, we cannot operate in a vacuum – and as a woman business leader and business owner, I believe that we have to integrate ourselves on all levels to remain viable.

    This Harvard Business Review article brief by Rosabeth Moss Kanter sums up how companies need to think and act differently in order to excel.

    Traditional theories are dominated by the notion of opposition between capital and labor, disconnecting business from society and posing conflicts between them. According to this view, companies are nothing more than money-generating machines.

    • By contrast, great companies use a different operating logic. They believe that business is an intrinsic part of society, and like the family, government, and religion, has been one of its pillars for centuries.
    • Great companies work to make money, but in their choices of how to do so, they consider whether they are building enduring institutions. As a result, they invest in the future while being aware of the needs of people and society.
    • There are six facets of institutional logic, which radically alters leadership and corporate behavior: a common purpose; a long-term view; emotional engagement; community building; innovation; and self-organization.

    Does your organization or firm consider the six facets of institutional logic—listed above in the last bullet point—and integrate them as part of its business plan? What do you “wish” your company would do or change to be a better steward of the future?

    Do You Know the 10 Worst Stereotypes About Women Business Leaders?

    October 30th, 2011

    I have written several blogs about the value of being authentic. I find that the truer I am to myself and my own beliefs, the more believable I am to others.  There is not only a sense of freedom that accompanies honesty but also, perhaps, a guarantee that you won’t get stereotyped. In this article, Jenna Goudreau interviewed some of today’s most powerful women business leaders to examine their least favorite stereotypes. I’ve highlighted the 10 worst here:

    1. Ice Queen
      The ruthless “ice queen” stereotype is rampant. “For many women, it can be a no-win situation,” says Halley Bock, CEO of leadership and development training company Fierce.
    2. Single and Lonely
      Men get to be “bachelors” while women are reduced to “spinsters” and “old-maids.”
    3. Tough
      The first female executive editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson, must contend with being called “tough” and “brusque,” making the “she’s-tough stereotype” her least favorite.
    4. Weak
      Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla believes the most pervasive stereotype is that women are “weak,” a perception that may stem from a greater desire for women to build consensus.
    5. Masculine
      The notion that powerful women must be, lead and look like a man really aggravates Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
    6. Conniving
      NBC’s Ann Curry says the stereotype that most offends her is “the idea that a woman can only be successful because she somehow connived or engineered her rise.”
    7. Emotional
      Former Yahoo Chief Carol Bartz is frequently cited for her “salty language,” which has been used as evidence that she is “emotional” and a “loose cannon.”
    8. Angry
      “Anger is a sign of status in men, but when women show anger they are viewed as less competent,” says Valerie Young, author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women.
    9. A Token
      Women hold just 16 percent of corporate board seats. But instead of focusing on balancing things out, they are often devalued as being a “token” of diversity rather than having earned the post.
    10. A Cheerleader
      Billie Blair, president and CEO of Change Strategists, notes that prominent women who are considered feminine and warm may be dismissed as “cheerleaders” rather than the strong leaders that they are.

    These stereotypes are examples of how many women in power can become pigeonholed. What is your “image” and how are you managing your brand? Read my blog “5 Branding Steps Women Business Leaders Can Use to Remain Authentic,” for some useful tips.

    Steps Women Business Leaders Can Take to Make Diversity a Priority

    September 13th, 2011

    The issue of diversity has been a constant theme throughout my life. I am a proud American citizen, but I did not start my life this way. I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa during the apartheid regime. However, I was raised to believe that all people are born equal and spent many years trying to disassociate myself from my identity as a “white South African.” As a woman business leader, I do not take this issue lightly and am constantly aware of not only the political need for diversity, but also how embracing diversity creates expansion of ideas, creativity and thus produces innovative outcomes.

    In a recent article by former Campbell Soup CEO Douglas Conant, he describes how Campbell Soup embraced diversity and made a commitment to promote acceptance and appreciation for each employee’s special talents and background. I’ve condensed his tips here for you to read and possibly incorporate in your business model:

    1. Confront the brutal facts
      We took a hard look at ourselves. Our products were on the shelves of virtually every American home, but our workforce was insufficiently representative of the diverse people we were serving. If we maintained a narrow recruiting framework, we would be also be missing out on some terrific talent.
    2. Create a disciplined plan
      We challenged leaders to strengthen their understanding. Hiring managers had to make sure that every position had a diverse slate of candidates, and they were held accountable for advancing our performance in this regard.
    3. Declare yourself
      “Be the change you want to see” in your organization, no matter whether you are a middle manager or a CEO. I actively supported our human resources network groups and several novel ideas that came from the nooks and crannies of the organization.
    4. Educate the organization
      We developed a suite of courses, such as “Micro-Inequities” where people learned about common behaviors that could undermine our efforts. We wanted to make sure that people learned to listen, speak and act more inclusively.
    5. Deploy mentors and support networks
      We put in place consistent and sustainable support mechanisms in the form of six human resource networks for women, people of various ethnic backgrounds, generations, and sexual orientations.

    Please see  “How To Make Diversity and Inclusion Real” to read the entire article. I know many companies talk about accepting and embracing diversity, but how many do you think actually do something about it? I’d like to hear what you have experienced in the workplace, so please leave a comment below.

    How Women Business Leaders Can Ascend to The Top While Retaining their Femininity

    September 7th, 2011

    I am a firm believer in using your femininity to your advantage. You have a sensitivity and intuition as a woman business leader that, if used appropriately, can greatly enhance your effectiveness in business situations. However, I find that I really have to work hard at feeling strong and worthy – even though intellectually I know that I do have strengths.  According to advice in a Business News Daily article, you should also be aware of holding your ground in a male-dominated environment.  I’ve condensed the major points for you here:

    Accept recognition for a job well done
    The success of a woman — or lack thereof — in a male-dominated field is often a self-fulfilling prophecy. Have you ever said: “It was really nothing.” or “I got lucky.”  Would you ever hear a man say those things? Not likely. Next time you are recognized for a job well done, take credit where credit is due.

    Be assertive and precise
    Apply this concept in your posture, your writing and your choice of words. Sit up straight with your arms and shoulders open. Never say a word without looking someone right in the eye.

    Stop talking and start listening
    Women are exceptional listeners. Do not let that skill escape you in the boardroom. Listen intently. Savor silence when necessary to determine your response. You will find your responses more succinct and your contribution more relevant.

    No More Mrs. Nice Guy…
    Feel like you have been kicked to the curb by a male counterpart? Have moral courage to address the situation at hand with passion and without emotion. Trust those who have proven they can be trusted and don’t take losses personally. Learn from your errors and move onward.

    View yourself as a leader
    Powerful people demand respect, are aggressive and yell to get their way. Right?  Not always the case. You can be highly influential and yes, powerful, (don’t be afraid of this word) and still be kind.  Be fair, but firm. Be credible, but direct. Assertively and with grace, you can make your way to the top.

    I believe there is no need to claw your way to the top – think about how much more gratifying is it to use your femininity to gracefully ascend. Here are two of my favorite blogs on this subject: “Women Business Leaders: Use Your Feminine Strengths to Achieve Business Success” and “5 Ways Women Business Leaders Can Embrace Their Femininity.”