Archive for the ‘Role Models’ Category

Interview with Odile Robotti, author of Il Talento delle Donne

giovedì, novembre 14th, 2013

PWA Milan interviewed Odile RobottiOdile Robotti, Author of “Il Talento delle Donne.” Read on to learn more about the book, some practical tips, and Odile’s advice to the women of PWA Milan!

What made you decide to write this book?
I saw women around me mostly making the same mistakes and the same limiting career moves (which I had made as well) and I witnessed them paying a high price for this in terms of their advancement in their organizations. I started paying attention, looking for a pattern. When I found it, I thought it would be useful to share it in an easy-to-read book, in the self-help style.

What do you think the biggest obstacle facing professional women is today?
We face two types of problems, quite different in terms of how to fight them, both important. The first is practical: surely, the need to make time for family (children and elderly parents) and home chores is a problem. It’s not only a matter of time, it’s also a matter of “share-of-mind.” Even women who get a lot of help (nannies, housekeepers, tutors, ecc.) still spend a lot of energy coordinating. You can imagine the challenge for those who don’t get that type of help. Note that this problem is not only practical  (lack of nurseries for small children and of support for the elderly), it is also cultural and more subtle. Women who delegate tasks often feel guilty. I talk about these pressures and how to limit them in my book.

The second type of problem is that we are “required” to comply to our gender’s stereotype, which wants us to be caring, nice, never individualistic. Many of these pressures inhibit our ambition and self-promoting instincts. In my book I help women become aware of these mechanisms and suggest strategies to overcome them.

What do you think of the concept of “leaning in?” Do women subconsciously limit themselves?
I agree with Sandberg that we need to lean in more. In fact, in my book, I try to help women understand how to do it, step by step. Screaming out loud “let’s all lean in” is good, particularly if done by someone like Sandberg, but women may need help in understanding just how to do it. Otherwise, it may lead to frustration…You know, sometimes these role models, the Sandbergs and the Meyers, are very distant from the day-to-day challenges of “normal” professional women. Despite their good intentions, they contribute to the superwoman myth which could be very damaging.

To answer your second question, yes, we often limit ourselves because we were taught to. Things learned when you are young may be difficult to unlearn, but it’s not impossible. I try to explain how in my book.

Can you give us a couple of practical tips described in your book?
The book has three sections with ten chapters each. Each chapter helps face a challenge with several tips. If I had to advise PWA women, I’d recommend they start by learning to talk in natural, confident and positive terms about themselves and to treat themselves as a brand. PWA women are already accomplished women, but I’m not sure they take as many opportunities as they could to communicate their value. Another advice I’d give is to learn to negotiate for themselves. I have known very successful women who didn’t like asking for a promotion or a raise because they were taught not to ask for themselves since they were kids. By not asking, you often don’t get and some of these women were very frustrated by this.

This book is described as “for women by a woman.” Do you have any advice also for men?
I wrote it for women, to be honest, but many men are telling me they find it useful, particularly if they manage women. You know why? Because it helps them see things from a woman’s perspective. Many are telling me “I didn’t think this was a problem” or “I interpreted this behavior by women in an entirely different way”. One of my clients told me he was reading it and highlighting it in the parts that surprised him and gave him a new insight. I thought it was a compliment, then I saw it on his desk and did not resist opening it…well, there were a lot of highlights…I thought:  it’s true that  women need to learn how men think, but surely it works the other way around as well!

How do you keep the conversation open with your readers?
I have a website, which gives advice to women primarily, but also to organizations and men. I also have a blog where I write and a Talento delle Donne fan page on facebook where I post regularly.Il talento delle donne

PWA Mentee Interviews

lunedì, febbraio 18th, 2013

My experience as a PWA Mentee

Giovanna Villa
Chartered Accountant and Auditor
PWA member since: 2011

What was your specific reason for participating in the mentoring program?

To outline my career path after 20 years experience in my job

What benefits did you get from the mentoring relationship?

I could face my problem and doubts with a woman with the same responsibilities

What did you appreciate most in your mentor?

She has been really available to give me suggestions and we are continuing our friendship.

Silvia Rigamonti
PWA member since: 2011

What was your specific reason for participating in the mentoring program?

Reinventing my professional career (after 15 years in investment banking, M&A and two fabulous kids), enhancing my strengths and overcoming my limiting beliefs.

What benefits did you get from the mentoring relationship?

It has been a very rich experience of comparison based on mutual respect for each others ideas.

What did you appreciate most in your mentor?

She has been so professional in respecting my timing, my weaknesses and my doubts. She focused her mentoring activities on the exploitation of my talents and my personal and professional qualities and the aaysis of the “next steps.”


Maria Francesca Mecca
Marketing Management Consultant

PWA member since: Jan 2012

What was your specific reason for participating in the mentoring program?

To refocus my professional commitment as manager and reposition my personal/professional life after over a year of full time family and kids ” immersion”.

What benefits did you get from the mentoring relationship?

  • Clearer vision of soft Vs hard/technical skills as key factors for professional success;
  • Sharper definition of my professional and personal motivation and objectives;
  • Professional and personal friendship.

What did you appreciate most in your mentor?

  • Openness  and availability in sharing her knowledge of professional and motivational requirements to support the path to my objectives
  • Constructive criticism and straightforwardness





Truth over Comfort – Speaking with Margaret Heffernan

martedì, luglio 24th, 2012

Why does Catherine prefer Coke while Paula prefers Pepsi? Why do creatives tend to hang out with other creatives? And finally, why are boards all full of people who look the same? (i.e. old white men) Margaret Heffernan, with surprising, tragic, and at times very funny examples, talked to PWA about the tendency of all people to gravitate towards the “known,” and the preference for comfort over truth.

Some lessons learned from our lively speaker meeting:

  • Embrace confrontation. It’s ok to fight with friends and family! It means you think about and respect their opinions.
  • Speak up! Chances are many people are thinking the same thing as you, and will be relieved to hear your opinion.
  • Take the risk of hiring, getting to know, and surrounding yourself with people who are not like you. Do you choose CVs of people with similar educations and backgrounds as you? Try to catch yourself.
  • In schools and the workplace, teach and reward critical thinking.
  • Do not excuse ignorance. As a society we have to put pressure on public figures to take responsibility for what they should know, not what they claim to know.

To learn more, read her book. Thanks Margaret!




Business Planning and Presenting

lunedì, luglio 23rd, 2012

Under the effect of our June 25th meeting we decided it was time  to start organizing all the  information and business ideas in a meaningful way, to present our projects,  and get come feedback. We started our July 18th meeting with a basic test on Business Planning.  Every project needs a road map for meeting the opportunities and the obstacles the future holds. Preparing a business plan is part of the process of preparing for a business: it requires honest thinking about your business concept, the business opportunity, the competitive landscape, the keys to success and the people who will be involved.

We were able to learn from the contributions of two Dottore Commercialista: Silvia Re and Deborah Setola as friendly experts in our audience. Four of our members presented their project and Silvia and Deborah kindly gave their input.  The lesson learned from  our  meeting  is that we have to work on more concise presentations! This is why our next meeting in September will be about “How to present your idea as a business opportunity and pitch it to different publics”. We will exercise as groups with the goal to achieve very brief and efficient presentations. See you in September!

Is the Queen Bee theory a myth?

venerdì, giugno 15th, 2012

Check out the latest research from Catalyst that supports the benefits of sponsoring high potential employees. The Glass Hammer discusses the results here.

Official Start of the Third Edition of the PWA Mentoring Program!

martedì, maggio 15th, 2012

by Gini Dupasquier

2012 PWA Mentoring Program participantsOn May 5th, the third edition of the PWA Mentoring Program officially started with a kick-off workshop. The Program received a lot of interest and will involve around 70 women divided into 35 mentor-mentee pairs this year. The kickoff workshop was also the occasion for the pairs to meet officially, break the ice and effectively start their relationships. Over the next 6 months, from May to December, they will meet to work on professional development objectives defined during the workshop.

Are you wondering how the pairs were matched?
The matching process was long and carefully thought-out.  In March each applicant sent us her CV and the application form, indicating the specific areas in which she desired the support of a mentor: the more details provided, the more likely we were to find a good match with the competencies and / or professional background particularly suitable to that specific mentee. Similarly, mentors sent us their experience and their strong areas in which they felt they could contribute. We read and re-read all the CVs, forms and information and slowly the individual pairs came to light.  When we were undecided between two mentees with similar requests, the mentee with seniority in PWA membership had priority.

When mentee requests were a bit vague, if possible we asked for more details in person, in other cases we applied a little common sense and creativity.  At the end of this process, we are satisfied with the matches; the ball is now in the participants’ court.  In addition to “on paper” compatibility, chemistry and openness will make a huge difference to the success of the relationships.

At the end of the program we will use a feedback survey to understand the extent to which the relationship has helped with the professional growth and objectives, and what has been achieved in the mentoring time frame. Any comments or suggestions for improvement will be used for next year’s program.

Good luck to all our Mentors and Mentees!

For any query please don’t hesitate to contact me, Lee Smith or Karolina Wrobel at the usual address:
Gini Dupasquier
PWA Professional Development Director & Mentoring Program Leader

La terza edizione del Programma di Mentoring è ufficialmente iniziata!
Il 5 Maggio scorso si è svolto il workshop di inizio della terza edizione del programma di mentoring al femminile di PWA. Anche quest’anno il Programma ha riscosso un grande interesse e coinvolgerà circa 70 donne, suddivise in 35 coppie mentor-mentee. Per un periodo di 6 mesi, da Maggio a Dicembre, le coppie si incontreranno e lavoreranno sugli obiettivi di crescita professionale definiti con il nostro supporto durante il workshop.

Il kickoff workshop è stata anche l’occasione per presentare ufficialmente le coppie, aiutarle a rompere il ghiaccio ed avviare efficacemente la loro relazione. Come sono state decise le “coppie”? Il lavoro di matching è stato lungo e articolato. Nel corso del mese di Marzo ciascuna partecipante ci ha inviato il proprio CV e l’application form con l’indicazione delle aree specifiche in cui richiedeva il supporto di una Mentor: tanto più queste indicazioni sono state dettagliate, tanto più probabile è che sia stato trovato un buon match con una Mentor con competenze e/o background professionale particolarmente centrati per fornire un supporto a quella specifica mentee. Analogamente le mentor ci hanno indicato la loro esperienza professionale e le loro aree di “forza” sulle quali poter fornire un contributo.

Abbiamo letto e riletto tutte queste informazioni e piano piano le varie coppie sono venute alla luce. Nei casi in cui eravamo molto indecise il criterio di scelta per assegnare una mentor è stata l’anzianità di associazione a PWA. Nei casi in cui le richieste della mentee erano un po’ vaghe, dove possibile le abbiamo approfondite di persona in altri casi abbiamo applicato un po’ di buon senso e creatività…

Alla fine di tutto questo processo siamo soddisfatte dei match, da adesso in avanti la palla passa alle partecipanti dove, oltre alla compatibilità sulla carta, molto farà anche la chimica e la disponibilità personale.
Quanto i match siano stati azzeccati, quanto la relazione abbia funzionato e gli obiettivi di crescita professionale siano stati raggiunti nell’ambito della relazione di mentoring lo chiederemo alle partecipanti in una satisfaction survey alla fine del programma. Qualunque spunto di miglioramento ci sarà utile per l’anno prossimo.

In bocca al lupo e buon lavoro a tutte le Mentors e Mentees!

Per qualunque necessità non esitate a contattare me, Lee Smith o Karolina Wrobel al solito indirizzo professional@pwa-milan-org.
Gini Dupasquier
PWA Professional Development Director & Mentoring Program Leader

Willful Blindness with Margaret Heffernan

lunedì, maggio 14th, 2012

PWA interviews Margaret Heffernan, who will be speaking on June 20th. For more information and registration, read here.

by Suparna Gupta

Margaret Heffernan is an entrepreneur, chief executive, speaker, professor and author. She was born in Texas, raised in the Netherlands and educated at Cambridge University. Her experience includes running five different businesses in the US and the UK, and writing and producing dramas and documentaries for the BBC. She currently writes, speaks and blogs about business leadership, management, innovation and creativity. She also teaches at several business schools in the US and UK and sits on the boards of three organizations. She has published three books: The Naked Truth, Women on Top, and, most recently, Willful Blindness. See her full biography here.

Thanks so much for speaking to PWA. Let’s start with your most recent book. In this book, you discuss what you call “willful blindness,” i.e. the human propensity to ignore and refuse to confront problems or issues that are unfamiliar and difficult to understand. It’s interesting that you portray this idea in both public and private spheres. Could you give us an example of an institutional change that companies or governments can make to promote confrontation and accountability?

I am working with a number of companies training their people how to speak up and report issues and concerns. 85% of executives report having concerns that they do NOT talk about – this is a great deal of organization silence and represents huge lost opportunities and organizational knowledge. All the evidence shows that when just ONE person dares to ask a question, that alone can open up debate, dialogue and honest discussion. So we have to train people to do this effectively. So far what we are seeing is that every time someone dares to have what we call a ‘courageous conversation’ they gain in confidence and status. They discover there is more give in the system than they knew, they uncover a great deal of hitherto unspoken knowledge, they gain in confidence and competence.

Had News Corporation had a culture in which it were acceptable to speak truth to power, things would be very different today I suspect.

I was struck by a very familiar topic in your 2004 book, the Naked Truth. You say that women start out promisingly and then “weird things start to happen to them.” Here in Milan, at our last Ready-for-Board Women event, this was a recurring topic. Women succeed in university, enter organizations, but at some point their growth is stunted. Have you seen any significant changes in the last eight years? Are companies making structural changes to promote the growth of women? What can women do to avoid this plateau?

Well the first important thing is that when ‘weird things’ start to happen, women need NOT to conclude that they are at fault! These plateaus are systemic not personal. When we take them personally, we lose confidence and the ability to get things done.
Companies are making structural changes to promote the growth of women and sometimes these work and sometimes they don’t. They’re more likely to work when they are systemic – in other words, part of a coherent package of cultural change that impacts both men and women. A few individual tactics will not move the needle. Companies have to be prepared to change themselves if they want to see changed results in their performance.

To avoid this plateau, I’d recommend (although this may sound a little brutal) that women bulldoze their way through it. Honestly recognize that you are a pioneer and blazing trails is tough. If you don’t take it personally and if you make sure that you are bringing other women along with you, you’ll be fine. True achievement is always hard – it wouldn’t be meaningful if it weren’t – but women can forge ahead and are doing so. But it is crucial not to do alone. It may feel easier to travel alone but it is impossible to have true power in isolation.

You have said that women leaders have distinct leadership styles that are less ego-driven. How can women use their distinctive qualities to get ahead? How can less ego-driven leadership benefit companies and society?

I am a big believer that successful leaders do not think about themselves first and foremost: they think about their people and their company and they serve those. So what you do is not about what YOU want but about what the people and the business require.
Women have terrific skills – they’re great pattern recognizers, they’re very knowledgeable about the market, they are empathetic leaders, fantastic coordinators of talent, very good at improvising and highly thoughtful about cultural integration issues. The problem is that, quite often, they exercise these skills so naturally that they fail to take them as seriously as they should – and then others, following that lead, undervalue them. These are CORE talents and need to be taken every bit as seriously as accounting qualifications.

A McKinsey study came out this month showing that diverse companies actually perform better in terms of EBIT and ROI. While the specific correlation cannot be proven, it is positive news. What do you see as the most significant concrete benefits of diversity to companies?

At risk of sounding like a shocking contrarian, I have to say I’ve seen this data and I think it’s great but you can’t prove cause. So maybe it’s true and maybe it isn’t. What I’m more convinced by is that there is NO case against diversity, there isn’t enough talent anyway and no company in its right mind can turn its back on the most educated half of the population.

It’s simple really: good decisions require a wide range of data, thinking styles, experience, insight, talents, background and knowledge. You can’t get those if you hire just one kind of person. You don’t get those if you hire predominantly women, if you hire predominantly men, if you hire predominantly quants or creatives. You need breadth and depth and if you lack those, you make shallow, poor decisions.

Who are your role models? Have you had mentors throughout your career?

I have had mentors – all men! I haven’t really had role models, I’m not quite sure why. I guess I carry a model in my mind. I ask myself: is this work you can be proud of? The answer is not always ‘yes’ and, when it isn’t, I try to figure out what I need to change. That’s pretty consistent, by the way, across the whole of my life: it’s a habit of mind I apply as much to my hobbies (like choral singing) as to my professional career.

You changed from TV to software when you saw that the TV industry was on the decline. As many struggle through the recession, do you have any advice for those who are looking for new career options, either by changing industries or embarking on entrepreneurial activities?

Don’t be afraid of change. Think hard about the transferable skills you have and be able to articulate these. I could jump from TV to software because both require fantastically talented individuals who require a lot of love and attention. They’re both fundamentally talent-driven industries. And in both industries I was serving a consumer market. So it’s important to be able to present a narrative that makes sense to others – otherwise they’re so confused by you they don’t see what you have to offer.

I think entrepreneurship offers women the freedom to do business the way they want to and this hugely liberates energies and talents previously devoted to fitting in. But entrepreneurship is no easy option; as one fabulous business owner said to me, “when you own the company, it doesn’t matter which 80 hours you work.” She’s right! But the fact that you choose them makes them feel entirely different. Nevertheless, entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone.

In this very strange time we are living through, I guess I’d say there isn’t any safe place, no job or industry you know is secure. What you do know is that with skills, talent, energy and the ability to take yourself seriously, you can figure out the next step.

Any last words of advice for professional women?

Watching the News Corporation fiasco with fascination, one lesson I take away is: don’t just be a pleaser. Many people – men and women – think the way to get ahead is to figure out what the boss wants and do it, whether it’s right or wrong, smart or stupid. They think this is how they get power. But the truth is that all they’re really doing is developing dependency, where their power derives from one person or a few people who, when they’re gone (or disarmed) can do nothing for them. Far better to build and develop your own skills, knowledge, networks and capacity because that gives you power you can take anywhere.



La Carriera Rosa Interviews Gini Dupasquier about Mentoring

martedì, marzo 20th, 2012

Find La Carriera Rosa’s Interview with PWA’s Professional Development Director & Mentoring Program Leader Gini Dupasquier. She discusses the mentoring program and its 2012 launch tomorrow, March 21st!

Applying for the 2012 PWA Milan Mentoring Program

mercoledì, marzo 7th, 2012

We are pleased to initiate the third edition of the PWA Milan Mentoring Program!
2012 Application forms are now on line.

Please see below all relevant procedures and dates to apply for this year’s Program.

Step 1) Submit the PWA Mentoring Program Application Form – March 8th  to 30th
The  2012 Mentor application form and the 2012 Mentee application form are now available online.
To apply you need to be a PWA member for 2012.
Choose your role, Mentor ad Mentee (or both), download and submit a complete form during the application period, open from Thursday March 8t through Friday March 30th. This is the only way for eligible members to apply for the program as we need all the information requested in the forms to find you the right match.

Step 2) Attend the PWA Mentoring Event on March 21st
Our annual Mentoring event is open to all women who are interested in furthering their careers through mentoring, whether PWA members or guests.
During the evening you will: 1) learn from Mentors and Mentees of the 2011 edition how their lives were impacted; 2) listen to a presentation held from a very special international guest from IE Business School who will explain “why mentoring is important”; 3) learn all the details about 2012 Program.
Attendance at this event is not a prerequisite for participating in the mentoring program, although it is highly recommended.

Step 3) Receive email notification on the success of being matched – April
After the close of the application period (30 of March) we will evaluate all applications received.
Pairs will be matched based on the level of relevance between objectives stated by the Mentee and available Mentor experience and skills. All applicants will be notified via email during the month of April of our level of success in identifying an appropriate match.

Note about Participation: Given the level of interest expressed in the program so far, we may receive more applications than we can fulfill. Applicants who are not successfully matched will receive priority during the matching process of next year’s edition of the Mentoring program, after re-application.

Step 4) Attend the Mentoring Skills Workshop – Saturday, May 5th

At this half-day workshop, you officially meet your Mentor/Mentee partner. In addition to getting your relationship started, it is designed to impart some of the skills needed to ensure the success of your mentoring partnership. These include: do’s and don’ts of good mentoring, active listening and other communication skills, topics to bring to mentoring sessions, and how to get the most out of being a Mentor or a Mentee. Participation in this event is mandatory for all first-time participants in the Mentoring program.

Step 5) Have Your Mentoring Sessions – May to November
The actual Mentoring sessions will begin anytime after the Mentoring workshop and last for six months. Mentoring pairs will meet for one hour or more per month, in person or via phone/video-conference. In order to ensure a good start to your Mentoring relationship, we strongly encourage you meet at least twice before leaving for your summer vacations.

Step 6) Check-ins and feedback requests – June to December
We will be checking-in with each Mentoring pair at the end of June and at various times during the program as needed to make sure the Mentoring relationships are running smoothly.
We will be asking for participant feedback at the end of the program in December to hear about your takeaways, experiences, and benefits as well as recommendations for improvement.

If you have further questions about the application process or about the program itself, please don’t hesitate to contact us at:

• Gini Dupasquier, 2012 Mentoring Program Leader and PWA Professional Development Director
• Lee K. Smith, 2012 Mentoring Program Coordinator
• Karolina Wrobel, 2012 Mentoring Program Coordinator

Is Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg “lucky?”

venerdì, febbraio 10th, 2012

With news of Facebook filing for an IPO, we wanted to focus our attention on Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s Chief Operating Officer and who the media describes as its “Number 2 executive.”

An interesting New York Times profile came out recently describing Sandberg’s career and her special attention to promoting women in business. Sandberg often speaks about how women must take responsibility for their careers and take credit for their successes in the same way men do.

Following the article, The Atlantic’s Rebecca J. Rosen responded by pointing out how the Times fell into the same traps that Sandberg said women fall into, such as attributing success to luck and mentoring rather than individual excellence. Check it out!