The College of Social Science’s Women’s Leadership Institute hosted a “The Future of Work and Leadership” panel Thursday night, giving attendees a plethora of advice on leadership in the workplace—specifically surrounding being a woman leader.
Susi Elkins, Director of Broadcasting and General Manager at WKAR at Michigan State University, hosted the event.
The panel included three notable women in leadership roles: Brenda Becker, Angela Cinefro and Trina Scott.
Becker is the Senior Vice President of Global Government Affairs for Boston Scientific, a medical device manufacturer. She graduated from MSU in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, and currently works in the field of global public affairs and corporate public policy.
Cinefro is the Chief Talent Officer and Organization Architect at Ankura, a consulting firm based in Chicago. She graduated from MSU with a bachelor’s degree in communication and now specializes in human resources and utilization of human capital.
Scott is the Chief Diversity Officer for Rock Ventures, a holding company for MSU alumnus and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert based in Detroit. Her current professional focus is on equity and inclusion and trying to root out the opposite in her community.
In the nearly two-hour-long event at the Wharton Center, all three women shared numerous stories and practical lessons. Here are three of those lessons that stood out.
1. Genuine relationships and positive feedback are crucial to success
When the panelists were posed the question “What does it mean to take care of those in your charge?”, they all had the same answer: Lead with empathy and grow your relationships.
“Relationships are so important, and building genuine relationships,” Scott said. "That doesn’t mean we’re going to be BFFs ... but it does mean that you at least let people know you care.”
Becker emphasized that part of having such a relationship is being able to share constructive feedback with your employees and leaders. She said that many people are afraid to point out someone’s deficiencies, which she believes is a mistake.
“I was doing nobody any favors by not telling them something — the truth,” Becker said. “It’s something that’s very important because you have a whole team of people that are watching that to increase morale in the office. It creates people’s trust.”
Cinefro added that you don’t have to wait to be placed in a feedback-positive environment. She urged students to create such an environment in even small leadership roles throughout their time at MSU.
“That stuff doesn’t just start when you get your first job,” Cinefro said. “If you create that environment, and it’s not easy to do ... some people will give you that feedback.”
2. Block out the headlines and stay focused — even in a pandemic
The following topic was surrounding the job search in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising unemployment. In response, the three panelists pressed upon students to not pay attention to the intimidating headlines, and instead focus on the first opportunity that comes their way.
Cinefro repeated the importance of perseverance. She said that despite all of the difficulties surrounding the 2021 job hunt, it’s all up to how persistent you are.
“The first thing to do is to not read all the headlines,” Cinefro said. “At the end of the day, you need to find your first opportunity. That’s it.”
Becker followed up and built on Cinefro’s advice, encouraging women that they don’t have to check every requirement to apply for a job.
“As women, the one thing that we are so bad at, we think we have to check every box on the list,” Becker said. “Figure out why you would be good at that job, even if you only get three of the 10.”
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Scott said that the time to start searching for jobs is as soon as possible. She specifically pointed to freshmen to be proactive and utilize the myriad of career services the university offers.
“For those freshmen that are here, I would say don’t wait ‘til your senior year to get an internship,” Scott said. “Right now, you pay for all those great resources on campus, and there are a boatload. You don’t just pay to go to class.”
3. It is imperative that women uplift each other in the workplace
As Elkins moved on to pre-submitted audience questions towards the end of the talk, the first on the docket was “When students enter their professional careers, how can we uplift other women, especially women of color?”
The panelists all said that amplifying female voices in the workplace was imperative. Becker had already touched on supporting fellow women earlier in the talk and refocused on it here.
“We, as women, need to shout out other women and their accomplishments,” Becker said. “When you’re sitting around the table, acknowledge other’s accomplishments.”
Cinefro and Scott both said that it’s important to share your success, and to bring other women along with you as you rise through the ranks of a given career path.
“Success isn’t limited,” Cinefro said. “If you genuinely care about your colleague’s success, I think it gets easier to amplify her.”
Scott called on men to also put in the effort to uplift women in the workplace.
“I would charge all of our men to stand up to those that are in leadership,” Scott said. “It’s not about the Savior Syndrome. It’s really about leveraging that position of power to open up pathways for others.”
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