“When I was young, I was standing with my dad when someone said to him, 'It's too bad, Mr. Eastman, you don't have a son. Who's going to run your business when you retire?'”
Jennifer Eastman, controller of Merchants Moving & Storage in Racine, remembers that conversation poignantly. She also recalls thinking, "I will."
Studies abound that show companies benefit when women hold leadership positions. A March 2013 report in the International Journal of Business Governance and Ethics found that women who sit on corporate boards are more likely to ask critical questions and collaborate, leading to better decisions and financial success for companies.
[caption id="H3-305109983.jpg" align="align" width="440"] Eastman[/caption]
"I think leaders can be of either gender, but women do lead in a different way," says Cathy Jacobson, chief executive officer of Froedtert Health. "In an era where collaboration and competition both matter, women bring a different perspective and leadership style to the mix."
Hurdles along the path to the top have kept the ranks of women in the C-suite and on paid boards low. Gender misperceptions, work life balance and difficult corporate cultures are among many challenges that turn women away from leadership and, in some cases, out of the workplace entirely.
[caption id="V5-305109983.jpg" align="align" width="440"] Jacobson[/caption]
Insurmountable? No way, say Jacobson and Eastman. Carving a path for women to grow and lead is essential, they say.
Jacobson, Eastman, along with Tonit Calaway, vice president of global human resources at Harley-Davidson Inc., and Debora Allen, owner of Mac Allen Partnership, will share candid advice, tested strategies and personal stories as panelists for the BizTimes Women in Business Breakfast to be held Thursday, May 16, at Potawatomi Bingo Casino.
[caption id="H7-305109983.jpg" align="align" width="440"] Calaway[/caption]
"We all have great talents and abilities resident within us," Allen said. "I truly believe when you tap into those gifts, you are tapping into your purpose in life. "
What role does business play in helping women tap in to that potential? And what steps do women need to take to get on the leadership track? Those will be among the topics discussed at the conference.
[caption id="V9-305109983.jpg" align="align" width="440"] Allen[/caption]
"Business has to recognize what women need," says Eastman. "Having women in leadership is part of a successful business strategy. But if there's one word I learned as a kid that women have to live by it's this: confidence. You can't be intimidated."
The conference will also include the presentation of the Woman Executive of the Year Award to Maria Monreal-Cameron, president and chief executive officer of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin (see accompanying story).