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By Maura Kelly @maurakellymedia

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This African proverb is a reminder that collaboration, and building the right relationships are key to going the distance in life and in business.

This is especially true when it comes to women in business. The statistics underscore how vastly underrepresented they are in high-level leadership positions in the US. All you have to do it look around the C-suite at most companies and the reality is pretty clear. Fortunately, there are women who have made it to the top and firmly believe that raising each other up and channeling the power of collaboration is truly how we’ll change the status quo.

This February, members of the greater New York Irish diaspora and guests packed into the Moet Hennessy USA headquarters to kick off LEAP, an executive leadership program designed to address the leadership gap and amplify women’s accomplishments. Female leaders from a range of sectors reflected on the evolving role of women in the business, and shared their experiences — good and bad.

The panel included SVP at Viacom Velocity, Lydia Daly, VP of Marketing at PepsiCo., Ciara Dilley, Director at Northwell Health, Jennifer Scanlon, SVP at Moet Hennessy USA, Andrea Sengara, and founder of Rising Tides, Eileen Scully. The moderator was LEAP Co-Director and VP of Allergy Standards, Courtney Sunna. Here’s some highlights”

“So, there may have been a point in your career where you made a big leap. Where you unlocked the next step?” Courtney asked in her opening question. “So how did you find that turning point?”

Lydia Daly, who has spent most of her career in advertising explained that her big leap was not moving from Singapore to New York as one might think, but being recruited from a creative digital agency to lead a new division at media powerhouse, Viacom.

“So, it was a leap because I really wanted something different, but it also was a big risk, because I absolutely could have failed,” she said. “It was a hugh corporation, the terminology was different. I googled everything and did my research. The lesson I learnt is don’t underestimate yourself, because clearly, I knew more about this than I thought. It turned out well.”

How about that turning point? “My strategy on the job was to really be helpful,” she said. “To try to make everyone look good at their job. The more people who want to work with you, and be around you, the more opportunities will open up for you. And that is exactly what happened.”

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Andrea agreed and explained that her current role was created at Moet Hennessy for her based-on relationships she built in the industry.

“I met a number of people in senior positions at Moet Hennessy and had some wonderful conversations about where the marketing industry is going, the opportunities, emerging technology etc.,” she said. “So, when there was a need in the organization for someone to come in and oversee the Center of Excellence, I was their choice.”

Andrea continued, “You’re going to find that this is a critical part of building your network – building your ideas of what you want to do.

What advice do you give women who want to move up the ladder, in terms of pitching yourself and not waiting for someone to call on you. How did you do it?

“As I moved through my career, I never thought about gender diversity, until now. I’ve been a thinker and a doer. I’ve asked for promotions and been given promotions,” Lydia said. “There may be a point where it will become a problem for you in your career. If you overthink it and make it a focus early on in your career, it will hinder you.

“For me it’s all about what you bring to the table,” Andrea added. What gave me a lot of success was just showing up, doing a great job, committing to excellence and being fearless about going after what I believed were great opportunities.

Whether you are in a large or small company, how do you find that tribe of people that you learn from and grow with? Courtney asks the panel. Is it through networking, through mentors?

Jennifer joined Northwell Health after being in a consultancy firm for five years and her COO’s advice was clear – take six months to get to know the people first before you do anything.

“We’re all extremely busy. It’s easy to put the head down but I think taking the time to meet people when you don’t always have a direct ask from them is key. You will need support from colleagues who do not report to you,’ Jennifer explained. “Take time to understand their priorities and what’s going to be in it for them when you ultimately want to get them to do something for you.”

“At PepsiCo, we talk about finding our warriors, so I have this amazing gang of warriors, men and women who just all want to make a difference,” said Ciara. “And I make sure we just get together and sometimes seniority helps, and we just fuel that passion and encourage that passion, and it’s amazing what you can do.”

So, my work is all about making workplaces better for women, or what I say offline, making work ‘not suck’ for women, right? Eileen added.

“Finding my tribe since launching this business has been expansive because what I do draws so many like-minded people into this business of advocacy. Once we have a conversation, I have people that want to be part of this.”

When someone is thinking about the future of work and their career, what is some advice you can offer them? Courtney asked in her closing question.

“I think the future of work is very much linked to how the entrepreneurial world is evolving. People who are agile, who are collaborative, who don’t work within typical structures – who are innovative,” Ciara stated. We encourage an entrepreneurial spirit in our people at PepsiCo. We find women embrace this incredibly well.”

“I would just say that quote, if someone offers you that seat on a rocket ship, just take it and go,” added Eileen. “Just always be open. Just say yes to whatever is in front of you. Ask questions later. You can always step off.”

Good advice all around from our warrior panel. For women to succeed, we need more than a seat at the table. We need to lean in, speak up, and get noticed.

Funding for LEAP is provided by the Irish government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Irish International Business Network. Find out more about LEAP at https://www.leap-program.nyc/.

Maura Kelly is a LEAP Director @MauraKellymedia

 

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