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     Insights, News & Perspectives from Aspire Ascend

    • 12/05/2017 4:56 PM | Rhiannon Collins (Administrator)

      Coaching Corner

      Our experienced coaching team focuses on helping executive women increase their effectiveness, identify their strengths and development needs, build confidence and support to make bold moves and set and achieve challenging goals.


      Jan Fox

      With more than 25 years and four Emmy Awards to her TV journalism credit, Jan Fox is a popular speaker, speaking coach, and author. She has coached company owners, CEOs, and senior leaders to improve their presentation and speaking skills. Her client list is among the most recognizable names in corporate America including nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Jan is also a highly experienced TEDx Talk coach and has prepared many speakers to appear on television and to deliver industry keynotes.

      As part of the coaching team at Aspire Ascend, we asked Jan to share with us a few insights for women executives on public speaking:

      Tips from Jan:

      The executive women who come to see me usually fall into 3 categories:

      • They don’t speak up at all, because they suffer from a serious case of speaker jitters.
      • They speak up timidly, but they can’t command the room.
      • They speak up often and loudly, but they don’t get the attention of others around the table.  
      Each of the above categories requires a specific approach, and, believe me, I want all of these smart women to see fast results.
       
      THE NON-SPEAKER: I use my ever-evolving list of mind-shifts for the women in first group.
      • We work on the belief that no-one else has their exact set of skills. Definitely, no one else has their personal and professional stories or their list of experiences.
      • I stress how they are obligated by the universe to share with the world. We find their stories that meet their personal and professional purposes. We practice and practice.
      • Then we target the exact moment to bring a story to life, and they tell it. When it’s over, they learn they still have a pulse, and the accolades are enough for them to try again and again. They learn to love sharing what they know.
      THE TIMID SPEAKER:  More often than not, all these women need to do is increase their volume and energy.
      • We use video to show that simply increasing their volume makes them seem bold and confident. They feel it.
      • We immediately see what they need to do to enhance their personal presence.
      • Their home work is to practice speaking louder with that presence in every conversation. I’ve heard story after story of their pride, when the pens and phones around the table plop down and every eye is now on the new bold speakers.
      THE POWERLESS SPEAKER:  This often takes a little more time.
      • If this is you, start by listening better right away. Listen to the questions being asked in your meetings. Notice who comments, for how long, and with how much conviction.
      • The powerful speakers use fewer words but more passion and stronger eye contact. If you’re speaking, but no one listening, you’re often the exact opposite- monotone, passionless with way too many words.
      • Home work is to talk to the organizer of the next meeting where you might have to speak. Ask for the agenda. We mark exactly where you can add something to the conversation. You make a commitment NOT to speak on every point and NOT to speak up first.
      • We practice and practice the places you can speak up. You stick to the plan! Almost every time, someone comments on how important your contribution was. That’s another one off and running with new-found confidence.
      These may seem like small steps, but the results are new-found joy and personal freedom. I love watching it happen! "


    • 12/05/2017 4:42 PM | Rhiannon Collins (Administrator)


      Member Spotlight:

      An interview with Marcia Davies
      Chief Operating Officer, Mortgage Bankers Association

      You are currently the Chief Operating Officer in an industry that still has a stunning lack of women in executive roles. Your knowledge of that lack of gender diversity has been the driving force behind “mPower” - an exclusive network for women in the real estate finance industry. How do you see this network leveraging the power and influence of women? What have been the challenges? Where do you see mPower having its biggest impact?

      The real estate finance industry, like many others, has been slow to recognize women as senior leaders. mPower is designed to help women engage, network and learn both from one another and through professional development opportunities we provide.

      We have seen tremendous success with our mPower events. In one year, we had over 1,000 women participate in eight events. Just last month, we held our first full day of programming for women called mPowering You in conjunction with MBA’s Annual Convention in Denver. Over 350 women participated in the Summit and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. There were women from all stages of a career, from those who were just starting out to experienced professionals who have been in the industry for a while. It was so rewarding to hear the event inspired and empowered everyone – no matter level or tenure.    

      mPower also has a secure online community where women can post questions or share ideas with one another. The community has been active for one year and has over 1,300 members. One challenge has been while the community is large, the number of women participating in posted discussions could be more robust. We have seen an increased engagement, but it would be great if more women shared their comments and opinions. Often I hear women talk about how much the posts from other women helped them but, for whatever reason, they chose not to comment directly.   

      What strategies have you learned about advancing your own career that you could share with other women? 

      First, I would say: “don’t be afraid to take risks.” Stepping out of your comfort zone and taking on new responsibilities is not only very rewarding, but also provides a way for you to be seen in a different light, which most often is appealing to senior leaders within an organization.   

      Second, stay true to yourself. Be authentic. Don’t compromise your values or your integrity. And, make sure there are parts of your job that bring you joy! 

      How do you think being a woman impacts your leadership style?

      I strive to lead by example, treat people the way I want to be treated, empower my team and be an active listener. Those qualities are not unique to women but they describe my leadership style.

      You exude confidence in your abilities and career path.  Where did you get this confidence? 

      For me, building confidence was an evolution. It took time, making the right decisions and choices and producing a lot of beyond expected results.   

      What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

      I’ve read articles and hear a lot about the differences between men and women when considering applying for a new opportunity. Women will often hold themselves back when they don’t have 100 percent of the job requirements when men will more often take the risk and apply for that opportunity.
       
      I had a boss who encouraged me to take a position that was well outside of my comfort zone and one that I did not have direct technical experience. He indicated the position needed a strong leader with excellent instincts, who had the ability to influence others, who was decisive and a proven track record of creating high performing teams. He told me I had all of those skills and the technical expertise comes from my team. 
       
      So, I took a leap of faith and stepped in that job. It changed the course of my career in ways I never envisioned. In addition to expanding my resume, I became known for my expertise and success in an entirely new area.


      Where is your career heading? What will your next career challenge be?

      I see my career continuing to grow. Over the next few years, I will devote more of my time to expand mPower and its impact in the industry. I want to see mPower thrive so MBA can continue supporting women in the real estate finance industry.

      What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?

      It’s my hope that there will be more women in leadership so the next generation of women will have role models and leaders that help them navigate the challenges women face.

      What advice do you have for women aiming for a senior leadership position?

      Put yourself out there. Take on new assignments, stay actively engaged, participate in meetings, demonstrate quality decision making and be visible. Let management know who you are and how capable you are!

      What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?

      I always try to learn from mistakes and make sure I ask my management team what they need from me. Leadership isn’t a one-size fits all so it’s important to understand strengthens and weaknesses within yourself as well as your team to become the most effective management team possible.

      What haven’t we covered that you think is an important message for women? 

      Women need to support one another. Share your successes and failures with one another. Step up if you see a woman struggling in the workplace and see if you can coach or help her. Working together is so powerful. 

      Why did you decide to join Aspire Ascend and the Executive Edge? How does Aspire Ascend support your career and/or personal goals?

      Networking with other senior executive women is so important, and I wanted to expand my network beyond my industry. Aspire Ascend Executive Edge membership provides great networking events and provides timely information. In addition, the executive coaching provided – I chose to hone my public speaking with the help of Jan Fox – has been very helpful.


    • 11/08/2017 12:57 PM | Jan Molino (Administrator)


      courtesy of Daily Mail

      How Much Are You Really Worth?

      I recently had the privilege of speaking to a group of women pulmonologists at the American College of Chest Physicians’ annual CHEST conference. I was asked to speak on the subject of contract negotiations. Since all physicians at one time or another in their careers must master negotiating skills or leave significant money and other benefits on the table, I thought this would be a fairly routine talk. So routine, in fact, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to hold their attention through my 20 minutes at the podium.

      But, as I spoke, I noticed how quiet the room was, heads bent taking notes and a focus on what I was saying.

      We usually think of physicians, women doctors included, as being in charge and able to control any situation. And, here I was, speaking to 300 accomplished professionals, many of them leaders and trailblazers in their own right, absorbing my advice on how to master the art of negotiating…for themselves.

      Following the talk, many in the audience who wanted “real world” advice and guidance on their specific situations surrounded me. They all voiced one major concern: the lack of financial opportunity and advancement for women in medicine.

      Among all physicians, women earn an average of 74 cents for every dollar a man makes, according to a new report from Doximity, a social network for healthcare professionals. That translates to female physicians earning roughly $91,000 less a year than their male counterparts, and they are promoted less frequently to leadership positions in their practices, hospitals, and academic centers.

      That’s an even worse track record than the average full-time woman worker who earns an average of 82 cents for every dollar a man made in 2016 – up from 77 cents.

      As I flew home from the conference, I asked myself, if these women were having difficulty navigating contract and salary negotiations, how much more difficult must it be for a woman with far fewer letters following her name?

      Read the rest of story on Huffington Post



    • 10/20/2017 12:51 PM | Jan Molino (Administrator)


      I never thought I would be writing about sexual harassment! I don’t know why I thought it happened to others but not me.  I am a product of the 70’s & 80’s where blatant sexism was pretty much the norm, according to Harvey Weinstein.

      It is an age-old problem that is still with us. Despite policies, despite the lawsuits recently won by some high-profile women against some very powerful men…it continues.

      The Equality Act of 2010 defines sexual harassment as ”unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.” But it also includes what appears to be vague legislation that suggests it is hard to tell the difference between humiliating remarks and banter.

      It isn’t.

      The new ABC News-Washington Post poll made the point that over half of all American women - 54% - have experienced “unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances” at some point in their lives.  According to Fortune magazine, “ thirty percent of women have endured such behavior from male colleagues and 25% identified men with sway over their careers as the culprits.”

      I have always thought of myself as a strong, independent woman.

      And yet, I am one of those 54%. 

      When I think back to my early professional career and over the years, I remember instances now where I ignored, or didn’t recognize, clear signs.  But as I read the stories of other women under the banner of “Me, too” I realized that there were at least three instances of straight up sexual harassment and over the course of my professional life, many, many instances of sexism.

      I guess I thought it was something you put up with, as you needed that male supervisor’s reference and advocacy to move up the ladder. 

      As women, we all have learned to minimize situations that make us uncomfortable.  We have all laughed at offensive remarks, comments or off color jokes about women.  Or we have taken ourselves out of the situation so we didn’t have to deal with it. 

      It is uncomfortable, but that is how sexual harassment continues.  How many times have we swallowed a sharp retort when we were belittled? “Laughing it off” was a way to de-escalate the situation.

      I once heard it said, “It is the reality of being a woman in our world.  It’s laughing off sexism because we felt we had no other choice.”

      After all that has been written this week and the past year regarding sexual harassment, I now know I can’t watch from the sidelines. I have to take a stand and make a big deal about it. 

      That is what it means to be a woman today!  We need to help each other and really listen to what is happening to other women around us. 

      When you read an article about another woman who has been belittled for calling out sexist remarks, don’t belittle her for her remarks.  Empathize with her, and support her. Speak up for her and stand up with her.

      We have all heard those sexist remarks.

      Believe women when they tell their stories!

      After all the dialogue and hashtags and stories this week.  After reading all the responses on your news feed to “Me, too” and joining in.  After all of this, it is now time for all of us to do something about it!


    • 09/25/2017 12:10 PM | Jan Molino (Administrator)


      .........It is your leadership edge!

      Even today, many women executives are skeptical about social media. Many are even uncomfortable articulating their understanding of how to use social media to advance themselves or their company's business interests. More often than not, they don’t fully understand how powerful social media can be to growing their business and executive profile. Think about Arianna Huffington as a role model! 

      But, as a female executive, you need a well-crafted social media strategy or you will be left behind in the race to the top!

      At Aspire Ascend, we know that the executive development of top leaders has a direct impact on the business. We also know from experience that social media is a bona fide leadership tool! 

      By expanding your leadership toolkit to include social media, you are accomplishing two of the most important aspects of leadership: strengthening your reputation as a leader and enhancing your company’s brand. 

      Women executives who are social media-savvy are perceived as more accessible, transparent and trustworthy business leaders. Engaging in social media is a true investment in your personal brand.

      It has been proven to be especially useful for CEOs, providing opportunities for employees to know their personal side and to demystify the myth around their executive role. 

      Crafting a strong and authentic personal brand is key to executive presence.  If you don’t take charge of your online brand, search engines and third party tweets will do that for you. 

      And here’s one more key reason you need an online presence: It is the skill set that will set you apart from the competition for CEO positions

      This is the primary reason that I added a new social media coaching program to our arsenal of executive career tools for senior women. The one-on-one social media coaching can help position you as a thought leader, complement your existing messaging arsenal, prepare you to engage with diverse audiences, and prepare you to respond instantly in crisis situations. 

      In short, we help you up your game!


    • 09/14/2017 9:06 AM | Jan Molino (Administrator)

      Please join Aspire Ascend CEO,Jan Molino, when she presents career-building strategies during her presentation - "Keys to Power: Surround Yourself With Powerful People" - at the Virginia Women's Business Conference on Friday, Dec. 1, at Lansdowne Resort and Spa. Learn more and register here --> http://buff.ly/2vHdVid +VaBizCon +VisionPassionPower +VAevent



    • 09/12/2017 8:22 AM | Jan Molino (Administrator)



      Women need to make their corporate board interests known in the first place. It takes research and preparation to get a board seat. Here are a few tips:

      • Promote your career through non-profit board involvement, political connections and company activities, so you meet people who are themselves on boards.
      • One of the key credentials for board members is experience being accountable for the profits and losses of a company.  Since women have held fewer P&L roles than men, you have to work that much harder and your network needs to be that much stronger
      • Be strategic.  Acquire marketable expertise. Knowledge of digital technology, the regulatory environment and executive compensation are in high demand.
      • Parlay those skills into a board membership through stronger and strategic networking.  
      • Create a digital footprint. Online connections can lead to pleasant surprises.
      • Go global. International experience is in demand. Depending on the company that could mean: an international posting, extensive overseas business travel, or responsibility for foreign markets; or deep understanding of the culture and consumers, or the executive have “on-the-ground” experience. 
    • 08/23/2017 8:32 AM | Jan Molino (Administrator)


      What are we celebrating?

      On August 26th, we celebrate ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, granting women the right to vote. And, since 1971 when the U.S. Congress designated that day as “Women’s Equality Day,” people across the country gather for special activities, lunches, speeches and programs ranging from the silly to the somber to recognize this achievement.

      It is appropriate to recognize, celebrate and remember the sacrifices and hard work resulting in the 19th Amendment. The right to vote opened the door to women’s participation in the political process, and other civic activities, leaving their mark on legislation at local, state and federal levels. We even came within a hair of moving into the White House.

      But, as we celebrate this major achievement for women’s equality, let’s also remember that while we’ve made undeniable strides in the world of politics, in other sectors – particularly the business world – women have not fared as well. 

      Today, women run 27 of the S&P 500 companies (about 5.4% of the total) according to research group Catalyst. And, while the proportion of women-led Fortune 500 companies reached its highest level in the history of the Fortune 500 list in June 2016, it represented only 6.4% of the total. When Marissa Mayer left Yahoo, it dipped to 6.2%. The recent departures of Mondelez International, Inc. chief Irene Rosenfeld and Avon Products, Inc.’s Sherri McCoy shrinks the slim ranks of women in command of the biggest U.S. businesses even more.

      Certain business sectors, especially those working in the STEM arena, are experiencing particular difficulty finding, mentoring, and promoting women to leadership positions.

      Google is currently undergoing an investigation into alleged gender pay inequality and it is not alone. The tech sector has been the focus of numerous media reports focusing on the lack of gender balance in hiring and promoting practices.

      How do we turn this around, not just in STEM-focused businesses, but in the wider workplace universe as well?

      As women, let’s begin by supporting, not undercutting each other. Let’s stop being the woman who made it but doesn’t see the need or responsibility to support those women who are coming up in the ranks; or the “ boss” unreasonably piling on the work and then complaining about the resulting work product; or the executive demeaning the efforts of and cutting down other women who they might see as competitors; or the “catty colleague” complaining about other women to executive colleagues.

      Oh yes, these “types” exist and, in my experience, are more numerous than you might want to believe.

      What can we do to move past these roadblocks to workplace gender balance? 

      First, let’s recognize that women need to play a more positive and aggressive role in recognizing, mentoring, sponsoring and when possible, moving potential women leaders forward in their organizations. 

      Then, let’s work with our male executive colleagues to ensure that our HR policies and practices encourage gender balance. We need to pay particular attention to hiring and training practices, and work-life balance issues. We should also speak up for the establishment of formal mentoring and sponsorship programs and pay equity policies.

      In fact, it’s a good idea for organizations to review their hiring and promotion policies routinely. Are they gender neutral? Is gender diversity ingrained in all corporate practices and cultures? Does merit drive hiring and promotion decisions? Is talent being developed properly? Are gender gaps in corporate culture and mindsets being addressed with inclusiveness programs? Are senior staffs encouraged (even incentivized) to mentor and sponsor promising executives…especially women?

      Not only is this way of thinking good common sense, it also makes good business sense.

      According to a recent McKinsey & Company study, companies with the highest gender diversity, as compared to the industry average, see a much greater return on equity (10%), a higher operating result (48%), and a stronger stock price growth (70%) when women are in senior executive positions, or on boards. In addition, having at least one woman on the board decreases bankruptcy by a full 20%. 

      While we recognize the good start we’ve made on our journey toward workplace gender balance, women still make 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man. By 2018 there will be 1.4 million open technology jobs in the U.S. and only 61% of those openings will be filled-and women will fill only 29 percent. 

      So yes, we have a lot of work to do and a long way to go before workplace equality is fully achieved, and we all need to work towards gender equity in the workplace. No one person or group will break the glass ceiling for good, but it is imperative that top executives make it a primary concern in order to make a real difference in closing the gap. 


    • 08/02/2017 2:51 PM | Jan Molino (Administrator)


      Mentoring other women to succeed

      Let's make the "Sisterhood" work!

      You’ve made it to the top. You’ve paid your dues, put in the time and suffered the disappointments and frustrations that come with climbing the career ladder as a woman. And it has finally paid off.

      Your peers recognize you as a role model; your family and friends applaud you for being a savvy and smart businesswoman. You are a recognized SUCCESS.

      CONGRATULATIONS!

      Reflect for a moment on how you came to be in this position. Of course, you worked your butt off and made the kinds of personal sacrifices that high-achieving women still have to make to get to the top. But, if you’re really honest with yourself, you know that you didn’t make it on your own…you had some help along the way.

      Whether it came formally through a mentor or sponsor providing guidance and advocating for you when promotions and key assignments were handed out, or informally from a colleague in a more senior position or at another organization helping you navigate professional landmines or internal politics, you probably had help and support. 

      Now, you’re in a position to help other women trying to climb the career ladder. What will you do for them? If you think “not much,” you’re not alone. Research shows that many successful women – maybe even most – pull up the ladder after they break through the glass ceiling. Maybe that’s why, while the percentage of women in the workforce has grown tremendously over the last decade, their representation in the c-suite and boardroom hasn’t kept pace…not even close.

      A major reason, according to a number of studies, is women’s reluctance to help other women.

      Read the rest of Aspire Ascend's article at Thrive Global





    • 07/27/2017 10:57 AM | Jan Molino (Administrator)


      Courtesy of "Mad Men" AMC series

      The facts:

      In the Wall Street Journal today, Index-fund giant State Street Global Advisors, which oversees more than $2.5 trillion in assets, found of the 468 companies it owns shares of in the U.S. lacked a single female board member. Of that group, about 400 companies failed to address gender diversity in any meaningful way. State Street Global Advisors then voted against the re-election of directors charged with nominating new board members at each of these companies. 

      Progress has been slow. Nearly a quarter of the companies in the Russell 3000 index lack a female director, according to ISS Analytics, a unit of Institutional Shareholder Services.

      Health-care companies were the worst performing group, accounting for about a quarter of those with no women on their boards. 

      Companies may talk a "big game" about gender diversity, but there is little follow through.

      Boards have been slow to add women for various reasons, including their infrequent turnover and preference for experienced chief executives. But there also has been limited pressure from big institutional investors.

      So what can women do to get a board seat?

      Women need to make their corporate board interests known in the first place. It takes research and preparation to get a board seat. Here are a few tips:

      • Promote your career through non-profit board involvement, political connections and company activities, so you meet people who are themselves on boards.
      • One of the key credentials for board members is experience being accountable for the profits and losses of a company.  Since women have held fewer P&L roles than men, you have to work that much harder and your network needs to be that much stronger
      • Be strategic.  Acquire marketable expertise. Knowledge of digital technology, the regulatory environment and executive compensation are in high demand.
      • Parlay those skills into a board membership through stronger and strategic networking.  
      • Create a digital footprint. Online connections can lead to pleasant surprises.
      • Go global. International experience is in demand.

      Get smarter and prepare with Corporate Board Development through Aspire Ascend. This is a highly customized one-on-one approach to Corporate Board Training.   Hone your skills crafting and delivering your value proposition for a board seat, learn how to utilize your network, develop a board bio and pitch, and gain the skills and practical tools that will help you on the path to the boardroom.  

      Read the rest of the Wall Street Journal article here.


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