April 21, 2011 by Ilene H. Lang
Kraft Chairman and CEO Irene Rosenfeld made her mark on the business world by constantly challenging herself. As she explained at last month's Catalyst Awards Conference, while at General Foods she volunteered for a role others shied away from: reviving a troubled business division. Although risky, the opportunity offered exposure to higher-ups. “This gave me exposure I otherwise may not have had. It was an important career enabler.”
For more career advice from Rosenfeld, plus the latest round-up of news on women and work, check out today's C This.
Jump for Joy
In January 2011, I wrote about how the International Olympic Committee said it “needs more time” to decide the fate of women’s ski jumping in the 2014 Winter Games. Well, the committee has spoken: welcome women ski jumpers! The decision followed the Nordic world championships in early March, where women jumped in fog and strong wind. IOC sports director Christophe Dubi was impressed by "quality and depth" of the competition—and recommended approval of the sport for 2014. "We worked really hard for this," said U.S. jumper Lindsey Van, the 2009 world champion. "It's just a big relief for me and I'm really excited for the future of the sport."
Between 2001 and 2010, the share of women in high-tech jobs dropped from 25.6% to 23.9%. Why are women unplugging? According to researchers, the answer is two-fold: a steep decline in the number of women pursuing computer science and engineering degrees, and a dearth of mentors in high-tech industries.
Just be yourself. This was among the many insights shared by Kraft Foods Chairman and CEO Irene Rosenfeld at last month's Catalyst Awards Conference. Being authentic "can help to reshape the environment on the job" by shattering stereotypes about how a leader should look and act. Whatever you do, she added, do not be a "mini-man."
Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal convened almost 200 top leaders in government, business, and academia to tackle the question why progress for women has stalled and help chart new ways to increase the numbers. Among the many solutions was a proposal to encourage companies to shift female employees from traditional support roles to jobs with an impact on the bottom-line—an area considered crucial for CEOs-in-the-making.
Eighty-three percent of female finance executives see an invisible barrier in corporate America that prevents their advancement to the top—and Catalyst data on the number of women in finance bear this out. Women were 15.3% of executive and senior level managers in the U.S. investment banking and securities dealing industries in 2009, the most recent year data is available. Some CEOs have worked to reverse the trend. "It's our firm belief that all types of diversity make complete economic sense and best serve our shareholders in the long run," said Seth Waugh, CEO of Deutsche Bank Americas. "It allows us to attract the best and the brightest ...which the last time I checked is a broader universe than just Anglo-Saxon straight men."