America hit a milestone in 2016 with 27 women at the helm of the S&P 500 companies and now leading companies in just about all sectors. However, at a mere 5.4%, women still have a long way to go. The meetings and incentives industry is fortunate to have more women in C-level roles and outpaces the S&P 500 average. Annually MeetingsNet recognizes the largest and most influential event management companies in North America. M&IW has earned this designation for eight consecutive years and is one of five companies on the CMI 25 list that is women-owned.
As a certified Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE), we believe an organization that values a diverse workforce and makes a commitment to partner with diverse businesses achieves better outcomes. Our clients have told us that the strength, agility, and innovation they see in our products and services continues to draw them to do business with us. Diversity is a critical component in our ability to innovate and adapt in a fast-changing environment. This includes respecting the diversity of perspectives, expertise, experiences, cultures, sexual orientation, race, religion, age and gender. Since we are in a women-dominated field, Anne Zambrano, Manager of Communications and Creatives Services, interviewed our female executives at M&IW to uncover what it means for them to be a woman in leadership.
Jean Johnson, CMP, Chairman, President and CEO, said “I see being a woman in leadership as a responsibility to lead by example; always maintain the highest standards for your career as well as your family; and find the right balance to be successful at both.” It is viewpoints like Jean’s that support the Pew Research Center survey that an overwhelming 78% of women and 62% of men say having more women in top leadership positions in business would improve the quality of life for all women. This is just one of the many benefits, albeit an important one, with the ever-increasing pressure on employees to find the right mix of work/life balance.
But what about in the workplace? How do women leaders impact their company’s productivity and ability to develop employees? According to the same study, it found that most Americans find women to be more compassionate and organized leaders versus men. To that point, Tina Madden, CPA, Partner and CFO, feels it is a privilege to be in a position where she can help young leaders grow in their careers. “I have watched so many talented individuals find their niche and thrive. It is rewarding to see people truly come into their own and succeed,” said Tina.
Lisa Palmeri, VP of Global Enterprise Solutions, echoed Tina by saying, “I see it as my duty to guide and develop emerging leaders. It’s an investment in our industry’s future and advancing the professionalism of the field.” The research bears that women are better at being honest and ethical, providing fair pay and benefits, and mentoring employees. Lisa shares what she has learned and experienced with clients, who may be new to the meeting and event space or haven’t had the breadth of exposure, by showcasing strategies that have worked well in past situations. She feels it is equally important to spare others from the mistakes she has experienced along the way.
Let’s look at this point further. Kris McKinney, CMP, VP of Global Operations said she got her leadership playbook from her mom. “I would say that my mom is the one who blessed me with my planning traits as she had impeccable organizational skills and was a multi-tasking wizard. I often hone in on my nurturing and teaching skills to constantly move our people and processes forward. I can certainly thank her for those attributes, as well.”
But, how does having a women-owned company benefit a service dominated industry, like ours? Jean had some insightful thoughts on the matter and stated, “the service industry is based on intangibles and is emotionally driven. Women have a natural gift of listening and using our emotions as a strength to form meaningful relationships and understand the needs our team members, clients and peers. This is the backbone to any service-oriented company.”
While the pipeline for female leaders has widened, what advice would you give other women to better position themselves for career success? “Whilst leading others, an effective leader is continuously learning and applying new skills, ideas and perspectives themselves. My philosophy on professional development is that one innovates or dies. If I’m not learning something new or trying new things, I don’t feel fulfilled, and even worse, I won’t be equipped to provide continuous improvement opportunities to the teams I lead. Without this type of growth, you lose your competitive edge and risk becoming stale or irrelevant,” said Lisa.
Minority- and women-owned businesses are among the fastest growing sectors of the American economy. According to Glenn Llopis, contributor with Forbes, “diversity management is the key to growth in today’s fiercely competitive global marketplace. Organizations that seek global relevancy must embrace diversity — in how they think, act and innovate.” Tina agrees, “women place a higher emphasis on collaboration, empathy and empowerment. Being diverse and inclusive helps us the most with driving innovation, understanding both employee and customer needs, and casting a wider net to secure the best talent. It is our women-led leadership style at M&IW that will continue to propel our company and this industry forward.”