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Advancing Women: What It Takes to Drive Change

Posted By Robert Wray, Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Moderator Nancy Croitoru (President and CEO, Food & Consumer Products of Canada)
Kim Jeffery (President andCEO, Nestlé Waters North America)
Lynn Marmer (Group Vice President, Corporate Affairs, The Kroger Co.)
Kelly Semrau (Senior Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs, Communication & Sustainability, SC Johnson)
David Williams (Chief Executive Officer, Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP)

A bold question opened up today’s Executive Dialogue:

Should women just stop whining and seize the opportunity… or is society against us?

Lynn Marmer offered her view that neither concept is completely accurate. "Two thirds of men have children, a third of women have children. You can have it all, but not all at the same time.”

Kelly Semrau, on the other hand, shared a different perspective. "I think women can have it all, through perseverance, persistence, pain and patience.”

"It’s a matter of the culture of where we work,” said Kim Jeffery. "You can have it all. We can create an environment where everybody can be successful. Are we working for the right kind of people who respect who we are and what we do?”

One issue resurfaced after Dr. Janice Madden’s informative briefing only minutes earlier, the contrast of Mentorship and Sponsorship. David Williams’s answer offered clarity.

"They are different. A sponsor is someone who stands behind you, tells you what not to do, what not to do, to back off. It’s an active, aggressive role… a mentor is someone who would say, you could do this. A sponsor does so because they know someone is going to make the company better.”

Kelly Semrau also offered pointers on finding sponsors in your best interest. "Don’t just go to the highest title, and stay away from bullies. Don’t go for the folks who you think will get you there the fastest.”

David Williams stated a view that drew attention and agreement from the crowd.

"No woman or person of color is going to be 100% qualified for the job in the eyes of implicit bias,” said Williams, citing the common tendency to stereotype, however unconsciously.

The group also discussed the important "next steps” after this discussion. Kelly Semrau urged the group to examine their own thoughts.

"Go back and explore why you won’t work for a woman. Gallup has shown since 1953 that women and men don’t want to work for a woman. If we explore, that may lead to our legacy. My theory is that I grew up when I had to be better than men. I had to be really tough.”

During questions, the group was asked to detail some of the qualities women possess that men should take on, and vice versa.

"The strongest women have strong analytical skills, all the data, and don’t lose intuition or connection,” answered Lynn Marmer. "When women shop, they’re buying things out of love for their family. There’s an emotional connection to the hunter-gatherer part of the female. Don’t be afraid of that part of yourself – that’s part of the richness of being a leader."

(Pictured l-r: Nancy Croitoru of Food & Consumer Products of Canada, David Williams of Deloitte LLP, Kelly Semrau of SC Johnson, Lynn Marmer of The Kroger Co., Kim Jeffery of Nestlé)

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