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HeForShe: If Not Now, When?

October 9, 2014

by Nicole Chacin

On September 20, 2014, HeForShe was unveiled by British actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson, the first ever solidarity movement and campaign of its kind for the United Nations.

The campaign, led by UN Women, is a formal invitation to men all over the world to speak out against gender inequality. The movement uses forms of social networking including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

HeforShe has already amassed over 45,000 male followers in the United States alone by September 30, just ten days following Watson’s speech. This following includes well-known male celebrities such as Harry Stiles, Russell Crowe, Tom Hiddleston, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

In the unveiling of the campaign HeforShe, Watson speaks from the heart about the importance of this movement to her; sharing what it was like growing up with the stereotypes about girls and women being projected on her both in youth and as world-renown actress and model.

She calls the male mentors, teachers, and family supporters who believed in her the “inadvertent feminists” and “gender equality ambassadors” who gave her a strong foundation to flourish in spite of chauvinistic attitudes and behavior.

For the half a year as UN Goodwill Ambassador championing women’s rights and equality, Watson has come to understand the word “feminism” has often been synonymous with man-hating. As a feminist since her teens, Watson notes that she did and does not support man-hating and stands by the true definition of the word “feminism” which holds the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.

“I am from Britain and think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men. But sadly I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights.”

For Watson, these rights are “human rights” which both men and women should acknowledge as essential to gender equality. Watson goes further to note that in order to truly address and call attention to the gaps in gender equality, there needs to be room for boys and men to join the conversation and feel comfortable expressing their opinions and feelings as well.

“Men—I would like to take this opportunity to extend your formal invitation. Gender equality is your issue too.”

Watson feels that men will feel encouraged to join the campaign when they understand gender equality is not a one-sided issue, actually the movement is a joint effort of both men and women to highlight the unfair biases, expectations, and attitudes towards both sexes. Males as well as females can be imprisoned by the stereotypes society and the media circulate.

Watson acknowledges the nervousness she had before coming to speak and presenting this campaign and the fact that the easiest thing is to do nothing and to hide behind the “someday” verbiage so many retreat to. She asks herself, and asks us as well the question: If not me, who? If not now, when?

Not just as a woman, but as a sister, daughter, and future mother I know that I would not want these issues to persist unchallenged. Digesting such a large issue and making a tangible difference is far from easy.

The first big step is to actually acknowledge the problem. My gratitude goes out to Emma Watson for taking this first leap on the world stage to address this issue of many decades in a new light with a refreshing, inclusive format. In a sense, HeforShe is revitalizing and harmonizing a national and global movement by reaching out to both young and old via social media, framing it as a two-sided male and female issue.

The next steps after calling attention to such a campaign, is one of collective action- one that is not dependent on one person or entity- rather one in which we are all called to take part in. Taking Watson’s lead, let us ask ourselves, If not me, who? If not now, when?

Image: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

Nicole Chacin is a Chicago native and student at the George Washington University where she studies business administration. Nicole aims to obtain a dual masters degree in Law and Business Administration by 2017 and ultimately dreams of working in health policy and administration.  This is Nicole’s 2nd year writing for Forté as she had the opportunity to learn about the organization through the first Forté C2B Leadership Conference.


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Reflections on Female Leadership

April 10, 2014

by Nicole Chacin

Due to the immense privilege of writing for the Forté Foundation for the 2013-2014 academic year, I have been able to highlight concepts such as feminine leadership and self-empowerment through a business lens for young, aspiring professionals like myself. The chief inspiration behind these themes comes from the cherished women in my life as well as those in history, academia, government, philanthropy, media, and (of course) business.

It can be disheartening when so many women college age and older shy away from the words “power” or “leadership.” In fact, these very words can seem domineering, masculine, or presumptuous when we apply them to ourselves. It is for this reason I have chosen to bring up these subjects throughout my writing and by taking insight from thought leaders and practitioners in business I have come across and met.

Personally, I do not think it is possible for a female to succeed in business if she is uncomfortable with either exercising leadership or holding a position of power.

In many ways, there are vertical – not just horizontal – pathways to plant the seeds for success in an organization at school and beyond. As a freshman you can start as the Chair of Membership of a student organization and by your senior year, end up as the Chief Operating Officer/ President.

It is these beginner level positions which form our individual, unique leadership styles to become good listeners, motivators, and decision makers when we really need them in high-level positions where our word holds greater weight and consequences. I would say all women can obtain some degree of power in their work, and frankly should, if they are ambitious.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is notable for saying some revealing truths about women in power from her firsthand experience: “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”

As the only woman to hold the office of British Prime Minister and the longest-serving one of the 20th century, she holds a unique understanding of power. What is more telling than anything from her leadership is that she was adamant about showing strength and competence through action, not just verbalizing ideals.

From examining Ms. Thatcher’s remark, it may appear she is saying all ladies are powerful and should not need to say they are. Rather, I believe that Ms. Thatcher is bringing to light that the true indicator of power is when it is implicit, understood, and respected because of the way a lady carries herself and is known through past achievements. Power is not an accessory, but rather the whole outfit.

Another female leader who studied many of her female counterparts to pinpoint power trends is Moira Forbes, president and publisher of ForbesWoman. According to Forbes, the whole dynamic of power has changed today, regardless of gender. Power is more about influence and impact. In other words, it is measured by how leaders can move people, effect change, and shape minds.

To Forbes, there has been a “democratization” of power, meaning it’s much easier to gain access to it in traditional and non-traditional roles, whether that be running a corporation or taking a political office.

Delving deeper into the trends of power in the 21st century discussed by Forbes, I think a powerful women is identified for being influential and impactful when she has a specific agenda and focus in her work – a vision. Women are drawn to powerful positions because they are ready to ignite their vision for the future.

I believe they are fueled by their desire to project one’s authentic self in their work and create something larger than you or me.

For all those skeptical or territorial about females gaining power in the workplace and beyond, its truly hard to argue with the beauty and stewardship that a vision for the future can offer, is it not?

One example of a female using her power to fulfill her vision is Bonnie Wurzbacher, Senior Vice President at the Coco Cola Company. With twenty-seven years of experience within various senior leadership roles, Wurzbacher is currently on board with a new global initiative to economically empower 5 million women by the year 2020 with the United Nations Millennium Goals.

The 125-year old global wealth creation of Coco-Cola is particularly important to Wurzbacher who understands the vast job creation and sustainable economic well-being brought to communities where the company invests and gains their labor pool from. The company is the largest private employer on the continent of Africa – where for every one job created directly, another sixteen are also created indirectly.

From high-class political leaders such as the Iron Lady to the 100+ women who grace Forbes magazine to the personal story of Ms. Wurzbacher at Coco-Cola, I think it is evident that female power and leadership is essential to society and to empowering young women to become the thought leaders and visionaries of the future.

I hope you will join me on this riveting journey of strengthening other aspiring female professionals as well as yourself to partake in the many joys and tribulations of attaining power and leadership in business. I am sure that there are many female role models who have embraced both power and leadership that you can examine for inspiration, aside from the ones I mentioned.

It’s only when women acknowledge our immense capacity and ability to achieve today that we can plant the seeds for tomorrow’s success.

Nicole Chacin will graduate in 2015 from George Washington University with a degree in business economics and public policy with a minor in vocal music. She plans on getting a JD/MBA after college and dreams of working in health policy and administration. She was a part of the first Forté College Leadership Conference and is the creative designer and co-founder of Chicago Boutique.

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A Dialogue with Leadership

July 22, 2013

Pattie Sellers, Fortune’s Senior Editor at Large, and Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc., is back for her fifth Dialogue with Leadership at the recent Forté MBA Women’s Conference. This year, Pattie is joined by Irene Chang Britt, President, Pepperidge Farm, and Senior Vice President, Global Baking and Snacking, Campbell Soup Company, and Kathleen Murphy President of Personal Investing, Fidelity Investments: two women business leaders who are truly at the top of their career game.

Interestingly, both Irene and Kathleen report to women who themselves are on the Fortune 50 Most Powerful Women in Business list. “We’re getting there!” Irene said to the crowd of 400 MBA women assembled for the event.

The Dialogue is always a candid conversation with women leaders willing to share their acquired wisdom. Kathleen (who grew up the third in a family of six kids, with “a lot of brothers”) recalled that after graduating from college, she had no idea what she wanted to do, so she bought time by enrolling in law school at University of Connecticut. She knew she was interested in the intersection of law, economics, and social issues. “As a lawyer, I always gravitated toward the business side of law.” She joined Aetna, where she learned to “get out of my comfort zone and take risks.” In fact, at one point in her mid-twenties, she swore that she’d never work in financial services; yet, today, she oversees the retail business at Fidelity, including a group of more than 11,000 employees in charge of personal investments.

Irene, who grew up in Taiwan, was a self-proclaimed “nerdy cellist” and competitive cyclist as a teenager and studied anthropology at Queen’s University. With her brother, a landscape architect, she opened a high-end bicycle store in Toronto. “It ended up being a profitable million-dollar business,” she noted, with still-evident surprise. At the time, Irene was just a freshman in college. Her mother suggested she get an MBA, and “that started me in business,” she recalls.

“Business school went horribly wrong, at the beginning,” Irene continued. “They probably never should have accepted me. I came in in Lycra. I had ridden my bike 20 miles to the orientation, and I still had stuff under my fingernails from fixing bikes.” She failed her first semester, but eventually graduated on the dean’s honor list. “I finally realized that business was business, and business is people, and I knew selling. It started to make sense to me.”

Both Irene and Kathleen talked about communication, and motivating a team. Kathleen noted: “Communicating to over 11,000 people is challenging from a number of perspectives. You have to get out there. I spend a lot of time on the road making sure I’m close to the field. I insist on candor. To me, candor is a form of respect. But once you invite candor, you have to do something about it. You have to act on the feedback you get.”

Communication with the field flows both ways. When Kathleen joined Fidelity, her team handed her an iPod they had stocked with 20 hours of customer calls for her to review: “It was fantastic,” she says. She still listens to recorded customer calls today, as a way to get closer to the day-to-day business in the field. “You’re learning the business on every single call.” 

Irene, too, responded to the idea of staying close to employees, and identifying the next generation of business leaders: “You have to have lieutenants,” she said. “You grow leaders and they go out and listen too.”

“I absolutely agree,” said Kathleen. “And people want to be part of something bigger than themselves. When you’re out there, you have to paint a picture of something bigger than themselves that they can be motivated by.”

Niether woman shrinks from competition. In fact, in response to a question from our audience about how you navigate sexism, both were frank: “Focus on what matters, which is winning,” said Kathleen. “You can get distracted by a lot of other stuff. But what most companies want is people who can win.”

“Kathleen and I are of an era when a lot of women went to non-line roles. Not enough women ran line businesses,” said Irene. “If you can, go run line businesses,” she counseled. “Have the P&L. In the worst moments, put up your P&L. That’s the argument-ender.”

“When you’re asked to be the expert every day, it’s hard to say what you don’t know, but you have to keep pushing yourself to learn,” continued Irene. “I mentor a lot of women around the world who don’t even work for our company, and I do that because I want to build great people.”

On a similarly reflective note, Kathleen summed up: “I want to look back at the end of my life with no coulda/woulda/shoulda. I want to be satisfied that I committed to excellence: in business, in the philanthropic work I do, and, most importantly, with my family. I don’t have any pre-determined course. I just want to have fun.”

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MBA Women: You Have What You Need

July 8, 2013

Fawn Germer“So much has happened to open the world up for women, and you’re right here to take advantage of that!” began Fawn Germer, the morning keynote speaker at the 2013 Forté MBA Women’s Leadership Conference. Germer is an author and speaker with a background in journalism. One day at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, she got what she called a “brand-new bosshole.” He told her she’d never be a columnist, would never rise above the ranks of reporter. “You have mentors? I had a tormentor!” she recalled.

“The whole magic of what happens to you in the here-on-out comes in the obstacles,” she went on. Not finding a book that could give her the guidance she needed in a time of crisis, Germer set out to write it herself. Today, she’s the author of several well-known books, including Pearls: Powerful Wisdom from Powerful Women, Hard Won Wisdom, Mustang Sallies, and The NEW Woman Rules: More Than 50 Trailblazers Share Their Wisdom, that include interviews with hundreds of women leaders from Hilary Clinton to Olympic athletes, CEOs, and more.

What did she learn? She learned that even amongst the world’s most established women leaders, self-esteem is a perpetual issue. “If I could hear every negative thing you’ve said to yourselves about yourselves, there would be so much noise in the room!” Germer said to the conference attendees. “What matters most is how you see yourself. You are saying things that are meaner to yourself than you would say to a stranger. Yes or no? If you were a mother, and somebody said those things to your kid, what would you do? Understand that your imperfections are fine. You’re fine as you are. Don’t fixate on the negative. Work what you’ve got. You have everything you need; it’s enough.”

Stand up for yourself. Set boundaries. Don’t settle for a bad relationship, with your work or at home. Own up to your ambition and don’t be afraid to win. Advertise your abilities, skills, and achievements. When you see a need, volunteer to handle it. The promotions and money come as you elevate yourself. Don’t let security be your dangerous anchor. Germer gave a frank rundown of the advice she gleaned from women who have already been there, and the lessons she’s learned firsthand.

“I know a lot of people who spent decades learning that they have the power to end a bad situation and make good choices,” Germer said. Today’s MBA women have the opportunity to learn from each other, and from mentors like Germer, to be their own best version of themselves.

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Angel Davis Discusses Why She Decided to Pursue an MBA

Yesterday we talked a little bit about how more and more, companies today are seeking out candidates with an MBA degree — even for positions that historically have had no such requirement.

A great case in point is the Advertising industry. Traditionally, this creative-driven field has been concerned primarily with results not credentials. But, as clients have begun demanding a stronger business case and quantifiable results for their advertising and marketing programs, so have agencies started demanding business backgrounds for virtually all positions outside of the creative team.

In this short interview, former Advertising Media Planner and Buyer and Forté Fellow, Angel Davis, discusses why she decided to pursue an MBA and what you might want to consider as you start planning your own career path.


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Words of Wisdom

“You can’t change your gender. Plus, you are in the good company of 50% of the population. The key is to figure out how you can get what you specifically want with your unique challenges, strengths, and circumstances. The rest is noise.”

-Gina Bianchini
Founder of Mightybell

As quoted in Executive Suite: Gina Bianchini Says Don’t Focus On The Challenges Of Being A Woman
by Meredith Lepore and featured on The Grindstone

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Globetrotting as a Way of Life:  How Kate Shae Built an Adventurous Career with ExxonMobil

By by Amy Heibel

Kate Shae was born in Bendigo, two hours north of Melbourne. She bypassed the travel abroad that is typical for young Australians to pursue her studies and a career. However, over time, she’s more than compensated for any adventures she may have missed, with an exciting career filled with international travel and opportunities to live abroad. 

Kate studied science at University of Melbourne, majoring in statistics. At one time, she thought she might become an actuary, but instead took a position in investment banking. A few years working in the business world fueled an interest to pursue an MBA. “I was fascinated with business more broadly,” she recalls. “My training in mathematics was not as broad as I wanted it to be. Business school was a way to expand my exposure to a range of different business considerations. I was interested in strategic and business development—not just finance.”


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