Coffee & Conversations: Women in the Workplace

September 10, 2013
By Maris Cohen

What does it take to succeed in today's intergenerational workplace? At NYWICI’s latest panel on Sept. 10, 2013, five top women in the communications industry provided their perspectives on issues affecting women at every stage of their careers. Jean Chatzky, financial editor for the Today Show and award-winning personal finance journalist, moderated the panel, which was comprised of Cathie Black, former chairman and president of Hearst Magazines; Jeannine Shao Collins, chief innovation officer of Meredith 360º; Dustee Tucker Jenkins, VP of PR for Target; and Debra Shriver, chief communications officer of Hearst.

These wise women shared advice and voiced their real stories on getting ahead, speaking frankly and even acknowledging failures. Here are a couple of recurring themes from their discusion:

Have fun
One central topic of discussion was the pragmatism in having fun on the job, which makes all the difference in how you approach your job. “If you do what you love, it doesn’t seem like work,” Jeannine remarked. “Loving what you do is the most important”, added Cathie. If this is not the case, pick up and move on to a place where your contribution is more highly valued; if a job seems right, you shouldn’t have to ask ten people whether it is.

Communicate transparently
Clear communication was also a hot topic of the morning. Known for her candor, Cathie explained her belief that it is of greater value to her team to be clear, concise, honest and direct. Sugar coating problems does no good in the end goal of achieving results. Jeannine advised that the magic happens when you check your ego at the door and foster collaboration. She agreed with Dustee that risk-taking is the most profitable when an innovative idea isn’t guarded, but shared among many so that the collective group bears responsibility for bringing one idea to fruition.

Bring your A-game
There was an echo among the panel on the value of being engaged and proactive. In Debra’s words — bring your A-game. Whether it’s a meeting or a medial task, give your all to every project and take on your assignments with gusto. There is no job too big or small  — even if it’s answering the phones like Dustee did when she began her career. Don’t underestimate medial tasks, but rather look for ways to improve the process. Be an active participant in every meeting. Otherwise, Cathie warned, there’s no point in attending! And to that end, always speak up. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. With that said, you need a reasoned approach for an ask. “Needing something” is not a valid reason to provide when asking for a raise. You must have a thoughtful conversation with your boss on results and focus on how well you’ve done your job, because it’s really all about results.

Respect trumps like
One concern that surfaced was the pull between wanting to be liked and respected. It can be lonely at the top, and it’s only natural to want to be liked. Cathie dished out some tough love: “It’s not about being liked. Friendship from work is an added benefit, but not the be-all and end-all…find another outlet for friends.”

Embrace failure
“Work is an imperfect paradise”, Debra confessed. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge failures when they happen, encouraged Dustee. Celebrate failures and treat them as opportunities for benchmarking and learning.  Both Dustee and Cathie provided examples of professional setbacks that ultimately led up to success in their careers today.

Reinvent yourself
Reinvention is about curiosity and learning; starting a new endeavor should be 75% of what you know and 25% of what scares you to death. Dustee noted that when she transitioned from Washington to Target, she didn’t change who she was, but rather adapted her style to what the organization needed at that particular time. Per her father’s suggestion, she wrote down everything she observed at the new company when she joined, with a fresh pair of eyes. The clincher — she put her ideas on the shelf and waited for the just the right moment to implement them, even as late as three years down the road. “Great idea, don’t do it,” joked Debra.

Have a 360º life
Have interests outside of your work life. When hiring, Debra looks for a person who is hungry for the job and also has interests outside of work. She stands by the idea that if you’re engaged in life, you’ll be engaged in your work. “I look for crazy…for the person who has a lot of interests…who is curious all the way around.”

Thank you to our event sponsor:

Check out our ALOUD blog entry on the event:  18 Tips Women Need to Get Ahead.
Slideshow images: Jan Goldstoff
Event type: 
Cocktails & Conversations

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