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Female execs urge women to support each other

Tuesday, October 22, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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Women will advance in the consumer products and retail industry when they support each other, according to a panel of senior executives at the NEW Summit, Oct. 22, 2013 in Los Angeles.

Moderator Debra Langford, CEO of The Langford Company, was joined by Lyné Brown, vice president of sales, customer capability development for The Clorox Company; Kim Newton, vice president strategy and planning, North America for Hallmark Cards Inc.; and Annette Dennig, vice president of strategic accounts, Walgreen Company, to discuss the importance of women supporting other women and the unique experiences of women of color.

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Asked who her male or female influences have been, Newton cited Carol Hallquist, president of Hallmark Corporate Foundation, who asks about Newton even when she’s not in the room, and her male mentor and advisor, who provides consistent support. "He doesn’t let me go in the room without context,” Newton said. These two supporters "don’t just deliver the good news, they deliver the hard news,” she said. "They’re truth tellers.”

Constructive candor is important, Brown agreed. "I didn’t always want to listen to my mentors, because I didn’t always agree, but sometimes they were right.”

Women still are not supporting each other enough in the workplace, the executives agreed, but emerging leaders and senior leaders can remedy that.

Rising leaders, for instance, should take a self-inventory and ask themselves if they could be and should be publicly supported. Then, they should ask for support.

One challenge: finding widespread support among different groups of women: those who are married, single, mothers and women without children.

There were times when Brown had to prove she could be effective, no matter the circumstances outside the office. "[The key was] producing great results and asking people what I needed, [saying] I will be delivering with excellence, but I will be doing it from home.”

Being supportive of other women does not necessarily mean directly mentoring or working with them. When a team member’s personality and work style caused conflict, Dennig found another role for her, where she could thrive. "I got her out of my department and moved her on to something else,” Dennig said. "Life is too short to work with people that you cannot work with well. In my experience, [her participation] did not support my team. Now she is in a much better place.”

The panel also shared their insights on support for and among women of color.

"When you think about the challenges that women have, I do believe it’s elevated [for women of color],” said Newton. "There are a lot of culture changes that need to happen. It’s not about conforming. It’s about doing it your way.”

Langford cited a study that examined different workplace approaches among different groups of women. "Asian-American women use a strategy of ‘blending in,’” she said. "Latinas blend in and stick together. African-American women use a ‘stick-together’ strategy” with the majority of their network being other African-American women.

Newton said she understands the "sticking together” approach. "As African-American women, we are only two generations away from being considered institutionally different.”

"Two of my mentors were an African-American female and an Indian female,” said Dennig, "but it didn’t really hit me that one was black and one was Indian until we were just now discussing it. I always thought of them as my ‘women’ network.

Ultimately, support is a shared responsibility. "You have to relate to other people, but they also have to relate to you,” Newton said.


(From left) Moderator Debra Langford of The Langford Company was joined
by Annette Dennig of Walgreen Company, Kim Newton of Hallmark Cards Inc.
and Lyné Brown of The Clorox Company for the "Women Supporting Women"
breakout session.


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