Sergio Kaufman of Accenture, leading the way in female leadership

For a CEO, Sergio Kaufman is as easy going as it gets. He’s an Industrial Engineer by training but he’s definitely a people person.  A champion of inclusion and diversity and a strong believer in female leadership. It’s leaders like him that move the needle faster in gender equality in large organizations. Find out why he’s so successful.

RSM Hall of Fame

RSM Hall of Fame

Leveraging 100% of the talent pool is Sergio Kaufman’s goal. And to that effect he’s been instrumental in designing and supporting policies that make it easier for everyone at his company, Accenture, to progress in their careers. And given that Accenture is a consulting firm that works with many large corporations around the world, their success serves as a model for the rest of the world.

At a recent presentation in front of a conservative audience of mostly male executives, Sergio Kaufman talked about men as the weaker sex. Needless to say his comments made more than a few people uncomfortable. But Sergio says he likes to shock. To disrupt. To get people to discuss the important issues. And today, he sits with us to talk about what it takes to promote female leadership, the advantages of gender equality, and a lot more.

Sergio Kaufman, Country Managing Director & Leader of Hispanic South America

Sergio Kaufman, CEO, Hispanic South America, Accenture

Sergio Kaufman, CEO, Hispanic South America, Accenture

What are the traits of an effective leader?

An effective leader has two interesting variables. The old model of leadership was based on power (I tell you what you have to do) and knowledge (even when your boss was a complicated person, you respected him/her because he/she was knowledgeable.) Today, knowledge changes every 6 months so it’s difficult for leadership to be based on knowledge. And power has been transformed into influence. The new organizations clearly have much more respect for an influential leader than for a powerful leader. And that has an interesting effect.

If I work with people based on power, the day I leave my job, everything returns to the previous situation because once the leader changes, the power changes. If I work with influence the change is much more permanent and effective. That “old knowledge” changes into “values” that are much more permanent than knowledge that changes all the time. We went from a leadership based on power and knowledge to one based on influence and values.

And why do I mention this in connection to gender issues? Because the first two attributes I mentioned are much more frequently adopted by men, while influence management is much evenly distributed between genders. I would even say that in public life, there are more examples of influential women and powerful men. It is a different leadership model that allows for a completely different dynamic in business. It encourages and it will continue to encourage the inclusion of women in decision-making positions and positions of increasing responsibility.

The second point is the issue of diversity. Very likely, many of the attributes of empathy required for an inclusive leadership are also more balanced in women.

Read more about Integrated Talent Management in this interview with Marcelo Fumasoni of Novartis.
Accelerating female leadership is one of the areas where Sergio Kaufman, Country Managing Director and Leader of Hispanic South America, Accenture, excels

Accelerating female leadership is one of the areas where Sergio Kaufman, Country Managing Director and Leader of Hispanic South America, Accenture, excels

Given that you are a man who firmly believes in gender equality, what is happening in terms of female leadership at executive levels in the region of Accenture you lead?

Diversity is an operational necessity. We operate in a large region with about 10,400 people. We interact with the world, with diversity. Trying to manage a diverse organization connected to the world with a scheme where I think I can choose people, train them, and expect for them to all fit into identical little bottles of talent, leads to a serious loss of richness. That richness is our innovation. So it’s about having diversity in all aspects. We have people who think differently to solve different problems. And definitely leveling the playing field for women is part of the success we are having in terms of talent development and innovation. When you level the playing field male and female leadership emerges equally. 

Sergio Kaufman surrounded by his diverse talent

Sergio Kaufman surrounded by his diverse talent

Sergio Kaufman’s suggestions to involve more male leaders in promoting female leadership

What is the best way to involve more male leaders on the issue of female leadership in Latin America?

It’s a virtuous circle and when you see it in others you become someone who sees the result. What the Red Shoe Movement does in disseminating this information is useful and I think it is also useful for companies that have gender equity initiatives to tell their story. My role in this is to share transparently our experience. One could say that Accenture has an advantage because it has active policies for women and diversity in general. And that if we share them openly we lose the market advantage that attracts distinct talent. I think sharing these stories helps improve society as a whole and also it helps position the organization. I think you have to compete to make things better and not hide what you think you’re doing well and that is working for you.

Sergio Kaufman, Country Managing Director and Leader of Hispanic South America, Accenture, is a strong proponent of verbalizing the inclusion and diversity priorities of an organization.

Sergio Kaufman, Country Managing Director and Leader of Hispanic South America, Accenture, is a strong proponent of verbalizing the inclusion and diversity priorities of an organization.

More on talent strategy in this interview with Arturo Poire of Erickson.

What are some practices that you think inadvertently affect women negatively?

There’s a behavior that many men see as something positive. It is looking after women, taking care of them, protecting them. So you tend to protect your female team players more than your male talent. And it seems like a good thing to do until that additional protection ends up, inadvertently, being a problem.

For example, say I have a fantastic project that can speed up a career trajectory, but is in another country. And I say, “I’m not going to offer it to this woman because I am going to complicate her life. So I give it to a man. The appropriate thing to do would be to tell the woman, “Look, I have this opportunity, you’re the right person for it. I will support you. We will figure out together how to manage the travel required. Do you want to take it?” Sometimes we don’t offer opportunities to women not out of selfishness but because we think we are offering something that is not fair to her. And actually, the best thing to do is to offer every opportunity and let women choose. In addition, when you offer the opportunity you must support the person appropriately. Sometimes one tends to give men more straightforward career advice and to be more careful with women.

Sergio Kaufman tries virtual reality technology

Sergio Kaufman tries virtual reality technology

Pursuing female leadership

What advice would you give to a woman interested in career growth who is forced to turn down opportunities due to lack of flexible policies in her organization? 

There are three choices: you can change the organization, you can sacrifice your expectations, or you can move to a different organization. But first I’d try to change the organization by being very outspoken about what’s not working. Be vocal in a positive way. I believe in saying things assertively with good manners.

But don’t give up on shedding light on any problems you notice in the organization.

Go and talk to your bosses and let them know they are not giving you the opportunities you seek. That is what helps change organizations. Because if you leave you end up contributing to the self-fulfilled prophecy. The organization is left with the idea that women have family concerns and that’s why they leave. So you as a woman end up reinforcing that stereotype.

Leaders like Sergio Kaufman are key to moving the needle in gender equity in large organizations

Leaders like Sergio Kaufman are key to moving the needle in gender equity in large organizations

In a recent conference you talked about an article in “The Economist which talked about men as the weaker sex. Why do you think future employment presents a challenge to men?

The new economy is ripe for female leadership. According to this article, we should start worrying about men's future job opportunities.

The new economy is ripe for female leadership. According to this article, we should start worrying about men’s future job opportunities.

First, the evidence is academic. You look at any university in the world except in a few careers and men are outnumbered in quantity, they take longer to graduate, and have lower grade averages than women. These are important facts to consider. And it’s true, demographic waves move slowly but the effects are already starting to be felt. In addition, in the past many jobs required physical skills, something in which men had an edge, but with technology, that becomes less important. Those are two strong trends. There is still a difference in careers like economics, engineering, and technology where there are smaller percentages of women. Our challenge is to encourage more women to enter those fields.

There is a McKinsey study that says that in itself, the fact that there is a greater proportion of women than men graduating college is not enough to move the needle at the highest positions of decision-making. That the needle moves when this becomes a top priority in an organization. Your thoughts?

I fully agree that gender diversity has to be an explicit priority. I believe in what is verbalized and that the organization has to express how important diverse talent is. When you tell the women in your company, “I hope that the future leadership of the company emerges amongst you and I will actively look at that,” it changes attitudes and expectations.

You can follow Sergio Kaufman on Twitter.

Innovative packaging helps manage women’s periods at work

Cora has designed a chic and smart packaging to help manage women’s periods at work. Never again hide a tampon up your sleeve on your way to the bathroom! Their sleek black clutch could be a cosmetics case. And with a 100%  organic product, there’s one less stress factor to worry about at work!

Molly Hayward, founder of Cora, a company that offers an innovative method to take care of women's periods

Molly Hayward, founder of Cora, a company that offers an innovative packaging to help manage women’s periods

Meet Molly Hayward, the female founder of Cora. As in, yes, there’s also a male founder. When I first heard about a company focused on how to manage women’s periods with a 100% organic product wrapped in the most stylish packaging I’ve ever seen, I was struck by the co-founders. A man and a woman who, as I’d learn later, didn’t know each other before they got into business together. Today we interview Molly to find out what inspired her to create a product to better manage women’s periods wherever they happen to be. We then talk about the stress connected to women’s periods at work and we ask her about what it took to get investors to buy into such a female-oriented idea.

Molly is a young entrepreneur with a strong social conscience. She practices business with soul. In the last ten years, her travels through five continents became the springboard for her interest in how to manage women’s periods. The seed of a brilliant idea for Cora, a business that favors the circular economy. A business that helps professional women manage “that time of the month” fearlessly, openly, and with style.

I’m sure you didn’t grow up thinking, “When I grow up I’ll found a company focused on how to manage women’s periods.” How did you stumble upon this as a need?

The idea for Cora originated from my travels throughout the developing world, meeting girls who were missing days of school each month because they couldn’t access or afford safe and effective menstrual products. I had the idea to create a brand and a company that could offer women in my own society a better period experience, while also helping girls in need.

For too long women's periods have been a source of stress at work. Molly Hayward is set to change that!

For too long women’s periods have been a source of stress at work. Molly Hayward is set to change that!

What’s different about the product itself?

Cora offers only 100% organic tampons, made from premium cotton. This is vastly different from conventional tampons, which are made from non-organic cotton (one of the dirtiest crops in the world) and synthetics like rayon and polyester (which have been linked to higher risk of toxic shock syndrome.)

Cora is also one of the first companies in the U.S. to offer an organic tampon in a compact plastic applicator (BPA free.)

Is there any research regarding the stress at work women feel due to the stigma surrounding women’s periods?

Research in this area has been primarily focused on the effects of stress in the workplace on women’s menstrual cycles, as opposed to our menstrual cycle’s contribution to stress at work. But there’s no denying that the workplace isn’t always the easiest place to easily manage our periods. From shoving tampons up our sleeves to walking to the bathroom from our desks to forgetting tampons altogether to the anxiety of wondering if we are leaking through our pants in the middle of a meeting, periods definitely bring stress into our working lives.

That’s why Cora created high-performing organic tampons, as well as accessories for stylishly and discreetly storing and carrying them whether you’re at home, the office, or out on the town.

How much are people attracted to the product because of the chic packaging that looks like cosmetics and jewelry cases? Do you think this contributes to a more seamless work-life integration?

Cora's products chic packaging makes it easy to manage women's periods at work. Gone are the days when you had to hide your tampon on the way to the bathroom.

Cora’s products chic packaging makes it easy to manage women’s periods at work. Gone are the days when you had to hide your tampon on the way to the bathroom.

I think the sophistication of Cora’s brand and products makes women feel confident at work—a place where we all want to feel more confident. We want women to feel like wherever they are, they can manage their periods without fear or shame.

You met your business partner while seeking investors, right? How did it happen? Did you think that a man would be a good partner for a company selling a product for women’s periods?

Yes! We were introduced by a mutual colleague. She knew that we were both working on similar concepts independently and suggested we meet. After our first conversation, we knew we would work together because our value around organic products, sophisticated design, and giving back to women and girls in need.

Walk us through the process of getting funding for an idea. What did you need to show your investors in order to receive your first round of funding? And how hard was it to get funding for a product that dealt with women’s periods?

With unique packaging like this black clutch, Cora makes it easy to carry your supplies as any of your other accessories, reducing stress at work.

With unique packaging like this black clutch, Cora makes it easy to carry your supplies as any of your other accessories, reducing stress at work.

Early on, we showed investors the positive data and reviews from our early Beta customers, and shared our future vision for the brand and everything we were doing to prepare and execute to make the vision a reality. We laid out our plan and showed where we’d already accomplished goals.

Can you share any negotiation strategies that you used during the meetings with investors to get to a Yes?

For us, it’s never been about negotiating. When seeking funding, we bring investors into the story and mission of Cora. We show them the negative experience that women currently have because other brands on the market don’t actually solve the pain points of having a period. When they consider the magnitude of the problem, it becomes a logical decision to join us.

You can find out more about Cora via social media:

Instagram: @corawomen

Twitter: @corawomen

Facebook: www.facebook.com/corawomen

Skills and Talents of Pianist Make for Great Perfumer

So many of us grew up thinking that you need to have specific skills and talents to enter a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.) That unless you are a nerd with a highly analytical and logical mind, you couldn’t enter the field. Today we interview a mother and daughter who prove our assumption wrong.

For the past 24 years, Judith (Jude) Hollingshead has developed perfumes for Olay, Pantene, Herbal Essence, Fabreze, Pampers and other P&G brands. Mind you, there are only around a thousand perfumers in the world.

Judith Hollingshead had the skills and talents of a pianist. She ended up studying Chemistry and entering a career as a perfumer.

Judith Hollingshead had the skills and talents of a pianist. She ended up studying Chemistry and entering a career as a perfumer.

When I first met her I was curious about what skills and talents are required to be a perfumer and how does someone even decide to become one. The answer surprised me and I wanted to share it with you. See, Jude is not the stereotypical nerd most of us imagine would choose chemistry as a career plan. She was a piano player who studied Chemistry and became a perfumer. And most of it happened because someone saw skills and talents in her that she didn’t yet see.

Because she was always curious and willing to try new things she explored the possibilities presented by others and has had an incredibly successful career as a result. Along the way she has raised, as a single mother, two children. Her daughter Shealyn, a very artistic child, is now finishing her sophomore year as a student of Chemical Engineering at Ohio University – Russ School of Engineering. We talk to both of them about their unusual experience.

Skills and talents required for the job

MD- You are currently a perfumer at P&G. What skills and talents does your job require?

Judith Hollingshead in the P&G lab

Judith Hollingshead in the P&G lab

JH- Perfumery is a blend of Art and Science. A perfume is made up of a blend of

100’s of individual ingredients. A perfumer needs to understand how the ingredients’ smell and how they blend together to form specific odor. For example, an orange is made of materials XYZ, and an Apple is made up of materials ABYZ. A perfumist needs to understand how all the 1000’s of materials smell and how to combine them to achieve a specific and pleasant odor.

So the skill necessary to become a perfumist is, first and foremost, an excellent sense of smell. Another skill that is a close second in importance is the joy of smelling, and desire to constantly want to push out on the boundaries of what is possible. Most perfumers are never satisfied with the perfumes they make, they are constantly working on making them better.

MD- Did you grow up wanting to be a perfumer?

JH- I grew up in the Midwest in the USA. I had a very traditional family. My mother was a stay at home mom who managed the family and my father was a banker

Some of the most important skills and talents Judith Hollingshead transferred from being a talented pianist into chemistry were her perseverance and drive to achieve perfection in her work.

Some of the most important skills and talents Judith Hollingshead transferred from being a talented pianist into chemistry were her perseverance and drive to achieve perfection in her work.

with a 9-5 job. I was not even aware that the career of perfumer was a possibility. In fact, I grew up not even thinking about having a “career” because I did not have very many role model females in my life for this. Throughout my childhood I studied piano, and as I got into my teen years I began to think about what I would do for the rest of my life. Since piano was such an integral part of my life it made sense that continuing to study music, specifically as a performance major in college, would be my course of action. And I pursued that thru about my senior year in High school. It was that year, that my High School Chemistry/ Physics teacher approached me to discuss my high aptitude for Chemistry, Math and Physic. And encouraged me to investigate this as career and major in College.

I am always up to trying new ideas so I began to investigate this direction as an alternative. I found the world of science that year and while I still play piano today and love classical music, I have never regretted becoming a scientist/Perfumer!

We can help you explore your interests and passions at any level of your career! Sign up for our Step Up Program!

MD- Which of the skills and talents needed to be a concert pianist could you transfer to a career in Chemistry?

JH- The most important skill that transfers from music performance to chemistry/perfumery is hard work, tenacity and the pursuit of perfection

As a performer you must work hard and practice constantly to get a piece to perfection. This is the same for perfume experiments. We are constantly reworking the blend of ingredients to make the perfume the most perfect execution of the idea that we have in our head.

Both represent a sensorial experience. A piano performance is an auditory sensory experience and a perfume is an olfactive sensory experience. And both should give the receiver of the experience a sense of pleasure and enjoyment.

Sometimes people see in you things you still don't. The interviewer at P&G saw in Judith's extra curricular activities something they were looking for. A creative person with a hard science background.

Sometimes people see in you things you still don’t. The interviewer at P&G saw in Judith’s extra curricular activities something they were looking for. A creative person with a hard science background.

MD- What exactly did you think you’d do in this field?

JH- My high school teacher was a huge influence to help me understand I had an aptitude for the hard sciences and the job opportunities that were available.

I realized that while I could always have music with me, that science was a new pursuit I would have to learn.

In college, I fully immersed myself into my science studies, I was not sure what I wanted to do, but as I went to Graduate school to pursue my doctorate, I started working in the area of superconductors and semi –conductors. This was an emerging area, and I loved the research.

It was only after I finished graduate school and started to investigate potential companies that the idea of becoming a perfumer became an option.

Definition of perfumer

Definition of perfumer

As part of the job placement services at Iowa State University, our resumes are posted for recruiting companies to review and request interviews.   Procter and Gamble chose me to interview. I had no intention of seriously considering working for P&G because they did not do work research in the area I had focused on in my studies. I was frankly surprised that they even wanted to interview me.

The interview took a strange turn as the interviewer did not ask me about my research or my work in chemistry, as was the case with all my other interviews. He continually probed me on the hobbies I listed on my resume: playing piano and needlework.

I finally asked him about this and he told me that P&G was interested in someone with a strong scientific background and with a strong interest, skills and talent in artistic, creative endeavors. He explained the job of perfumers, and I was immediately intrigued by the idea of being able to use both my creative, artistic side and my technical work. I loved the idea so much I took the chance and shifted my career to perfumery.

Here's a post about an orthopedic surgeon "I find my passion in the most unexpected places."

Like mother like daughter

MD- Shealyn, you are finishing your sophomore year in college. You’re studying Chemical Engineering but you also have the skills and talent to follow an artistic career. What made you decide to give engineering a shot?

Shealyn Holligshead

Shealyn Holligshead

SH- My mom was very persistent in showing me that I would exceed in my academic endeavors as a woman in STEM even though she knew I would be successful in the art field. What really persuaded me to turn my attention to STEM was that she showed me a Ted Talk by Debbie Sterling about a woman in the engineering field. This Ted Talk was about how Debbie created a children’s toy for young girls that will inspire them to build and create like most boy toys that are currently sold today. Her point was that most girl toys, like Barbie’s, teach girls at a young age to focus on building relationships not physical things.

Deb’s talk discussed her struggle to get through school as a woman in STEM, and then on getting her toy design to the market. This Ted Talk really caught my attention, and I decided that I should give STEM a shot because I have the creative ability to innovate. I just needed to apply this ability to a more advanced curriculum to create/innovate more practical inventions that I believe can have a larger impact on the world.

MD- Jude, what are some of the aspects of your career that you love the most?

JH- In my job I get to develop a perfume that is used by millions of consumers. I consider myself very lucky to be able to touch peoples live and make them more enjoyable. I love the ability to work on perfume design for our products. A tremendous amount of effort goes into making sure the right perfume gets combined with the right product at P&G. In addition to that, in other parts of my job, I get to also work on technical upstream research this allows me to use my technical scientific talents. I have the best of both worlds.

Skills and talents needed to enter a career in STEM

MD- From your own individual experiences, what recommendations do you have for young women and their mothers regarding careers in STEM? Do people need to have a specific set of skills and talents or should a wider range of women give careers in STEM a try?

JH- Having a career in the STEM field can be exceptionally rewarding and I believe we need more women to bring their viewpoints to the problems of today. So many women are brought up to believe that they are nurturing, caring or creative and that this is the direct opposite of STEM. It is a misconception that STEM careers require highly logical and analytical mindsets. In reality, we need MORE highly Creative people to be trained in STEM to develop new Inventions and solve today’s problems in NEW and CREATIVE ways.

If you have creative skills and talents you (or your child) may find great satisfaction in a STEM career. Make sure to explore the possibilities!

If you have creative skills and talents you (or your child) may find great satisfaction in a STEM career. Make sure to explore the possibilities!

Another post on finding your passion with your nose you'll love.

SH- When I talk to young women who are considering going into the STEM field, the first thing they ask is, “how hard is the schooling and the work?” It took me aback the first few times I heard this because I never considered this when I chose Chemical Engineering. Maybe this was because my mom is a woman in STEM and my whole life I saw how possible it was to succeed in this field. I never considered the difficulty. But being asked this many times has given me the chance to really consider how to answer this question. It has led me to my most common recommendation for young women:

Whatever you choose to do for your education and/or work life is going to be difficult whether it is STEM or not. It is going to take a lot of work and effort to be successful in any field you choose. So, if you are interested in STEM fields, go for it!

My experience has been that every class I have taken has been nothing but foreign and intimidating to me. The only way to get through it is to just apply yourself and do the work. Eventually, it won’t be so foreign and intimidating. After working thru a class for 15 weeks, by the end, you will be close to mastering the material if you put in the work. I strongly believe that a wider range of women should give STEM a try, especially if you have any interest in science, math or technology.

I would never recommend it, however, to someone who has no interest in these topics.

 

You can connect with Jude Hollingshead via email at Hollingshead.JA@pg.com or on Linkedin: Judith Hollingshead.

She shares her artistic endeavors (weaving, sewing quilts, knitting and other lace making techniques) on her Instagram: Judeh22

You can reach Shealyn Hollingshead at: ShealynHollingshead@gmail.com or on Linkedin under Shealyn Hollingshead.

 

Women mentors: A group of surgeons like no other

In a heavily male dominated field like surgery, women mentors don’t abound. Yet this group is showing that together women can support each other take on any challenges they might face.

Always interested in women mentors and role models in fields where women are substantially underrepresented, I was excited to discover #ILookLikeASurgeon on Twitter. A movement of women ready to prove that surgeons come in all sizes, shapes and genders, they are fashioned after the #ILookLikeAnEngineer movement which seeks a more diverse and inclusive work environment for women in engineering.  Once Heather Logghe sent out the initial tweet on August 5, 2015 proposing the hashtag #ILookLikeASurgeon, an informal team emerged to champion tweets, blog posts and conversations, right away.

#ILookLikeASurgeon first tweet

#ILookLikeASurgeon first tweet

The initial team included Kathryn Hughes, Paula Ferrada, Ainoha Costas and Marissa Boeck. All surgeons ready to become women mentors and role models to women and girls around the world. There have been over 55,000 tweets by 10,000 participants since that initial tweet. (Source: Symplur.com) Together they are changing the face (and the feet, I should add!) of surgeons around the world.

A powerful statement by Dr. KMarie, a GI Surgeon

A powerful statement by Dr. KMarie, a GI Surgeon

What follows is a must-read interview with most of the initial team. (Women mentors by default!) You’ll find a brief bio for each of these surgeons as well as their Twitter handles at the end of this post.

An informal group of women mentors is formed

Do you function as a group of women mentors?

Paula Ferrada (PF): #ILookLikeASurgeon started as a tweet and became a community of women helping each other, a forum of men and women that recognize gender disparity as an issue and wanted to be part of the difference. As a consequence, many organizations have supported these efforts. The main champions being the Association for Women Surgeons (AWS) and the American College of Surgeons (ACS). The involvement of these organizations created some influence in increasing possibilities of mentoring and networking. In fact many very well known women mentors, innovators and women leader surgeons joined! This was very inspiring for resident students and for all of us young surgeons in training.

"A huge part of changing culture starts with believing we are deserving of a better environment," Paula Ferrada, MD

“A huge part of changing culture starts with believing we are deserving of a better environment,” Paula Ferrada, MD

The movement was broadcasted at the last AWS conference, resulting on a New England Journal of Medicine forum, and was included in the ACS women in surgery committee interviews. Since the first tweet, the movement has been international, with a strong following in Ireland, England, Australia and articles in German, French, and Spanish. In November, a panel of women surgeons was broadcasted live in Bolivia. Many of the tweets are highlighted by the newly organized Women in Surgery Africa organization.

We believe that by opening a space and encouraging our voice, starting discussions not only pertinent to gender disparity but other disparities in surgery and in medicine, we have started at least asking the thought questions.

A huge part of changing culture starts with believing we are deserving of a better environment.

The medical field is notoriously male-dominated and the surgical specialties even more so. Did you have women mentors and role models growing up?

PF: I have been very fortunate in having women mentors and man mentors. I have mentors for every part of my life too. Mentors that help me academically, mentors for research, mentors that keep me grounded and balanced.

I believe mentoring is multidirectional. It is very rare that a mentor will come to you and offer help out of the blue, but most of accomplished professionals will not deny help when asked. In occasions when I have found myself in difficult situations or when I want an opportunity and I can’t find my way to get it, I seek help, call friends, make connections with professionals around me. Many of these connections have grown into amazing relationships that have lasted years.

Reaching out to other women in your field can make it harder to be ignored.

Reaching out to other women in your field can make it harder to be ignored.

Ainhoa Costas (AC): I actually never had women mentors or men mentors, until the last couple of years. I have, though, had an amazing role model in my mother, who I admire and always look to for advice. I have also met several people over the years, not necessarily in medicine, who have impressed me with their approach to life and work. I try to find the best characteristics in them and use them as a model for myself.

Heather Logghe (right) of #ILookLikeASurgeon

Heather Logghe (right) of #ILookLikeASurgeon

Heather Logghe (HL): I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin with very few role models with professional degrees. I was introduced to a male surgeon by a teacher in high school and he was actually the only surgeon I had the opportunity to personally speak with until I attended medical school. I think that having more mentors with college degrees and particularly in the field of medicine would have helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin professionally and prevented some of the challenges of “impostor syndrome” I have worked consciously to overcome.

Marisa Boeck (MB): Throughout my life I’ve had a mixture of both male and female role models across a variety of disciplines. Mentors have definitely been harder to come by, until recently. On beginning general surgical residency, the gender imbalance, especially in leadership roles, was difficult to ignore. Yet I’ve never felt gender has dictated whether I look up to or want to emulate someone. I have found women and men alike who have provided examples of what kind of physician, surgeon, teacher, mentor, and person I do (and also do not) want to become.

Challenges Women Surgeons Face

As surgeons, what are some of the biggest challenges you faced along your career and which ones do you continue to face?

PF: Finding a balance for me is more like a tilt; an all or nothing approach. The most challenging aspect of my career has been learning to know myself, understanding what makes me truly happy; and going for it. Not what makes my boss happy, or what others expect of me. Rather what fills my heart with passion, my mission. In other words, learning to say no to projects that do not interest me and going full force with tasks that I am passionate about.

Personally, the most challenging thing is scarce time with my family. It took me a while not to feel guilty when leaving my son at home. I understand now, this time allows for quality time with his father, and developing my career helps me feel complete, happy with whom I am, so I can be better for myself and my family.

Ainhoa Costas Chavarri (right) of #ILookLikeASurgeon

Ainhoa Costas Chavarri (right) of #ILookLikeASurgeon

AC: Although there is still a lot of sexism in medicine, I was lucky to have trained in a surgical residency that had a high percentage of women and therefore this was not a problem. It is only now that I work in low resource settings like Haiti or Africa that I realize how far behind other countries still are in terms of gender equality. Having grown up in Puerto Rico, with a culture of machismo, this is not a challenge, just something you unfortunately are used to and know how to deal with. I would say my biggest challenge has been not fitting into the expectations of what a typical surgeon is supposed to look and act like. And by this I mean more in terms of personality and attitude. I consider myself a calm, quiet, friendly person and have found my career choice questioned by people who don’t realize that surgeons can come in all shapes and sizes and don’t have to fit a particular mold. While their questioning in the past led me to have moments of doubt, in the end it only served to reinforce my belief in myself and my own style of practice.

HL: Having children during residency, I have faced challenges with family planning and securing a position for residency training. Overall, I have been exceedingly happy with the choices I have made and opportunities that I have had, yet taking the “road less traveled” has a lot of uncertainty that is not always comfortable.

These surgeons wouldn't change their careers for the world. As they know the road is still tough for women surgeons, they support each other on a daily basis.

These surgeons wouldn’t change their careers for the world. As they know the road is still tough for women surgeons, they support each other on a daily basis.

MB: As a surgeon-in-training, I know many challenges await on the path ahead. However I believe one that will persist is time, or more appropriately a lack of it. There never seems to be enough hours in the day, with self-care, be it sleep, healthy eating, exercise, family, a social life, or other interests, getting pushed aside by seemingly more important professional activities. However numerous studies continue to show the error of these ways, with a quote I love from the New York Times Well Blog stating the “Paradox of self-care: The more energy you give to caring for yourself, the more energy you have for everything else.” In essence, both professional and personal activities warrant our attention to make us complete.

Another challenge has been my delay in recognizing and fully taking advantage of the value of mentorship. Women mentors and men mentors serve an essential role in professional development that cannot be overstated. I think this is something medicine and surgery can and should do better. To encourage trainees and practicing physicians alike to “collect mentors.” There are many types and each offers something unique that, when combined, help a career take flight. No one should feel she or he needs to go at it alone. Which is why I love the hashtag #LiftAsYouRise. It is usually used in the context of women mentors but applies across genders, and suggests we can all lessen the challenges of the next generation, with the hope that mentees meet or exceed a mentor’s success.

Coaching and Mentoring Resources in the Medical Field

Do you feel women in your field are exposed to enough career and leadership development resources and to coaching and mentoring?

HL: I feel that both female and male surgical trainees would benefit from instruction in professional development. This is something that I actively sought out on my own in medical school through the office of professional development. I have heard from many women that they did not realize the importance of networking until residency and wish it had been stressed to them earlier.

If you’re ready to move forward, check out our Step Up Program. The best and most cost effective leadership development program!

PF: Leadership training is lacking for both genders in surgery. There are many resources for mentoring through organizations such as the American College of Surgeons, Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma, Association for Women surgeons, but locally it depends on the resources and on the emphasis that the administration places in mentoring and career development. In many cases it is a “build your own path” or trial and error approach. This is not wrong, but a planned method could help save time and to capitalize on young talent.

AC: I think over time there has been an increase in the interest in career and leadership development and because of this more opportunities and resources are starting to become available to both men and women in surgery. In fact, if you look at the schedule for the Women In Surgery conference in February, a large portion of the program is dedicated to these topics. As far as mentoring, it seems that people are starting to realize the importance and impact that it can have on someone’s career. Now more than ever I feel that trainees are actively seeking out mentors for all the different aspects of their lives and senior folk are willing and expected to be those mentors for them.

That's why members of groups such as #ILookLikeASurgeon play an important role as women mentors

That’s why members of groups such as #ILookLikeASurgeon play an important role as women mentors

"As a woman surgeon-in-training I feel I’ve previously lacked exposure to opportunities for career and leadership development, and coaching and mentoring," Dr. Marisa Boeck of #ILookLikeASurgeon

“As a woman surgeon-in-training I feel I’ve previously lacked exposure to opportunities for career and leadership development, and coaching and mentoring,” Dr. Marisa Boeck of #ILookLikeASurgeon

MB: As a woman surgeon-in-training I feel I’ve previously lacked exposure to opportunities for career and leadership development, and coaching and mentoring. Yet I can’t specify whether this is gender or profession specific, or a mixture of the two. Being a physician is difficult, and even more so a surgeon. The hours are grueling, the stress level is high, and the work, endless. Speaking as a resident, it can be difficult to focus on anything other than making it through your day, interrupted by necessary bodily needs and functions. To focus on a seemingly abstract concept as professional and leadership development, when you have a patient in front of you that demands your attention, frequently seems impossible. Yet through my experiences over the past year and a half of research while away from clinical responsibilities, I’ve come to recognize how critical these areas are for all physicians.

In a broader sense, I think the numbers speak for themselves in that leadership roles held by women in medicine and surgery continue to trail those of men. By a lot. This could suggest a gender imbalance in resources and opportunities, or also other life choices. But it is definitely something that warrants attention, which has been one of many topics under discussion in the #ILookLikeASurgeon community.

Advice to Women in Male-Dominated Fields

What would you say to women who are in other male dominated fields and having a hard time being heard? Would having women mentors help?

HL: I would encourage them to connect with other women in their field. This can be invaluable for validating one’s concerns and finding empowerment to take action. I would also encourage them to read books such as The Confidence Code, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, and Ask for it: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get what They Really Want.

PF: I believe the world is changing and there is positive pressure to avoid gender disparity, and to ensure diversity in every field. But there is still work to be done. Speaking up when necessary and finding our own authentic voice can help. This is the perfect time for change and I think we are on our way!

Finding time to spend with the family is a challenge many women surgeons confront daily.

Finding time to spend with the family is a challenge many women surgeons confront daily.

AC: I would say that, often, it is easy for a single voice to be dismissed. I would encourage them to seek out other women in their profession or even in other fields. Being able to talk to others who are undergoing the same or similar experiences can be extremely validating. Creating this kind of support network (including men who are sympathetic to the cause) not only helps through the difficult times but it can also be empowering and the beginning of positive change. A group of voices is less likely to be ignored and can be the catalyst for change. I would also say never give up on doing what you love.

MB: Social media and technology are powerful. You are not alone, and there is strength in numbers. There are undoubtedly others, if not within your own work environment, then definitely across the globe or within other professions, who are struggling with similar issues. This is how #ILookLikeASurgeon started, based on a young female in an entirely different field sharing her voice. Speak up and form a community. Together, you will be impossible to ignore.

You can follow these amazing women on Twitter

PF: Paula Ferrada, @pferrada1

AC: Ainhoa Costas, @ainhoac63

HL: Heather Logghe, @LoggheMD

KH: Kathryn Hughes, @DrKathyHughes

MB: Marissa Boeck, @KickAsana

Brief Bios

As you can imagine these amazing surgeons have a long and accomplished resume. We are only including here some highlights. Please feel free to reach out to them if you’re looking for outstanding women mentors.

Paula Ferrada MD, FACS, is an Associate Professor of Surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University, the formally Medical College of Virginia. She also holds the title of Director for the Surgical Critical Care Fellowship and the Director of the Trauma and Surgical Critical Care Units at that institution. She trained in general surgery at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. She completed a fellowship in surgical critical care at the University of Pittsburgh and spent an additional year of fellowship training at Shock Trauma Center, University of Maryland as their first Acute Care Surgery Fellow. She is committed to medical education, particularly in the subject of surgeon- performed ultrasound.

She is an active member of the American College of Surgeons National Ultrasound Faculty (NUF) and the International Director for Ultrasound Courses Development (USET courses) for the Pan-American Trauma Society. She is also the Chair of the Education and Research Committee for the PTS. These roles have allowed her to become an accomplished teacher in this subject locally, nationally and internationally. She has been a Councilor for the Virginia Chapter of the ACS, and is currently the Secretary-Treasurer of the chapter. In addition, she is the immediate past president of the Association of Women Surgeons, Virginia Chapter.

Heather Logghe, MD with extensive experience in the intersection of social media, technology, patient advocacy and medicine. Two years experience as a general surgery resident at a Level I Trauma Center at an academic institution. Served as course coordinator for an innovative online course presented by Stanford University and aimed at fostering an international community for mobile health entrepreneurs around the world. Served as assistant director for a free massively open online course (MOCA), Mobile Health Without Borders, designed to foster an international community for mobile health entrepreneurs. Lectures presented at Stanford and streamed live to global participants.

Marissa Boeck, MD, MPH is a general surgery resident at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia, and is in the second of two research years away from clinical responsibilities. The first was spent at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the Master of Public Health program, pursuing studies in health systems, policy, epidemiology, biostatistics, and global health. She is currently living in Santa Cruz, Bolivia working on furthering the development of the city’s trauma and emergency response system, and spearheading the implementation of hospital-based trauma registries. She plans to pursue a trauma and critical care fellowship after completing her general surgical residency, with an ideal career involving a mixture of both domestic and international clinical and research activities.

Ainhoa Costas Chavarri, MD, MPH, FACS is a General Surgeon and Hand Surgeon doing full-time global surgery work. She has been living and working in Rwanda for the past three years through the Human Resources for Health Rwanda Program, teaching and training Rwandan surgery residents and medical students at Rwanda Military Hospital. She trained in general surgery at the University of Illinois at Chicago and completed a Hand Surgery fellowship at the Christine M. Kleinert Institute for Hand and Microsurgery in Louisville, Kentucky. She also undertook an additional two years as a Paul Farmer Global Surgery Clinical Fellow, during which time she worked extensively in Haiti and Liberia and obtained a Masters in Public Health degree from the Harvard School of Public Health. Her international experiences have led her to focus her work on education, breast cancer in low resource settings and global oncology. She is currently the secretary for the newly formed Women In Surgery Africa group. On a personal note, she was born in Spain and grew up in Puerto Rico.

How to negotiate with confidence for what you want

The successful story of Elaine Del Valle

One of the best ways to learn how to negotiate in your career is to ask those who have done it successfully. Enter Elaine Del Valle. Award-winning actor, writer, producer and philanthropist.

You think you can’t have your cake and eat it too? Think again. When you are multi talented like Elaine Del Valle, it’s not really about how to negotiate for the roles you want but how to create them. And these roles are not only on stage or on screen but also as a writer and producer of the material she really cares about.

Elaine Del Valle headshot

Elaine Del Valle, actor, writer, producer and philanthropist is a great example of how to negotiate with confidence

Trained as an actor under the legendary Wynn Handman, Elaine wrote and developed her multiple award winning off-Broadway one-woman play “Brownsville Bred“– her true coming of age story set in the tough neighborhood of Brownsville Brooklyn NY. She’s been featured on films such as “Elliot Loves”, in comedies such as the web series “Los Angeles” and in the short film “Stereotypically Me.” Recent television appearances include CBS’s Blue Bloods opposite Donnie Wahlberg Elaine. She has hosted the Annual Hispanic Choice Awards taped for broadcast on CBS. And she also enjoys a long, lucrative voice-over career. Most recently, she licensed the series “Gran’pa Knows Best” to HBO. As a philanthropist, Elaine has raised over a million dollars for children with autism through the charity cycling event she founded The Mansion Ride for Autism Charity Cycling Event.

Having a career as an actor is not easy. When did you learn how to negotiate your roles?

I learned that being an actress, especially an ethnically ambiguous, commercial-looking Latina Actress, yielded little power. It wasn’t until I took on the role of writer that I yielded power. The question for me was not so much how to negotiate a role but how to create a role that fitted my interests and talents on the stage and on screen, and also behind the scenes.

I am best known for writing my autobiographical one-woman play, “Brownsville Bred.” The play has led me down more paths than I can state and is still creating inroads for me. Because it was my true Latina coming of age story, my audiences were privy to me and my life philosophy. It created powerful connections between me and those who saw it.

One such connection was with the Multicultural Media Forum and Time Warner Hispanic Employee Group, Viva. The groups invited me to perform my life story several times…I had the gift of being seen by network people and later being able to call them my friends.

I learned that my Latino community was hungry for a voice, especially a female voice telling a true story. I also learned that the voice was so strong that people remembered it.

Inspirational quote on how to negotiate by Elaine Del Valle . "I went into the meeting with a basic trust. The dealings were never adversarial. We all wanted the same thing."

To learn how to negotiate, you first need to know what you want.

I knew that I had to continue to write and so I created a web series, “Reasons Y I’m Single”. Writing, producing, directing and acting in the series became an impressive feat that marked me as a proven player in what we, in the NY Latino Entertainment inner circle, call “The Latino Media Mafia”. I built my reputation with hard work, fairness, helping others, appreciation and a very Latina Point of View. And getting to that point enabled me to negotiate projects that were always close to my heart.

These days I wear the hat that I need to in order to accomplish my to do lists. Every morning I wake up and say “I run my own studio. Del Valle Productions, Inc.” It has many divisions, and I act on the needs of each division as they arise. It also means I’m constantly negotiating.

Don't miss 3 Key Negotiating Strategies for Women

Where did you learn how to negotiate larger and larger contracts like the one you just signed with HBO? Did you have mentors and coaches that guided you through the process?

When I was going into the negotiation for HBO to license “Gran’pa Knows Best” I did my homework on the network and how to negotiate with it based on its past negotiations. I spoke with three people who had had former dealings with them. They acted as my mentors and coaches. I felt this was important to get a foundation, so that nothing would take me by surprise.

I was reassured each time that HBO was the very best network to deal with, especially for first timers. I went into the meeting with a basic trust. The dealings were never adversarial. We all wanted the same thing: For the series to air on HBO. I didn’t bring in an attorney until the very end, because I learned long ago that attorneys make money when there is conflict and I didn’t want anyone to mess up a relationship that I worked so long to cultivate. I went to the attorney with the contract that I was happy with and consulted with her to ensure that I understood the legal language correctly.

In a way HBO held my hand through the process. They spelled out what they needed and I worked my way through to the fulfillment of their needs. It was a great example of how to negotiate by focusing on the outcome both parties want rather on what only you want.

Read more about coaching and mentoring here!

Tell us a little bit about the series. It’s a first of its kind on HBO, right?

Elaine Del Valle and William D.Caballero, director / creator of "Gran'pa Knows Best", the new HBO series

Elaine Del Valle and William D.Caballero, director / creator of “Gran’pa Knows Best”, the new HBO series

Yes, it is. I am currently in production of Season 2 of Gran’pa Knows Best—A comedy web-series starring a 4 inch 3D printed likeness of our Director/Creator, William D. Caballero’s 87 year old grandfather, Victor Muriel. Originally from Puerto Rico, Muriel voices the character and offers his real advice on various subjects. The series offers viewers an interactive experience as advice seekers. The questions that grandpa answers.on each episode are selected from social media users who post tweets tagging @ask_granpa and using hashtag #GranpaKnowsBest. Those whose questions/topics are selected get featured in an episode by way of their first name and social media profile photo.

The Gran’pa character poses are modeled by Chang Kim, using the computerized Zbrush program, and are printed in polymer resin using 3D printer technology. Each one is hand painted by Amy Yamashiro and Kate Keisel. They are then placed in a miniature model home designed and 3D printed by Seth Burney. Graphic design and text animation by Chris Cookson accompany the voice and real advice of Gran’pa Victor Muriel. William D. Caballero directs the series, filming in macro perspective, alongside dozens of miniature and life size props. B roll is added to enhance the visual and comedic effect.

Elaine Del Valle and William D. Caballero film HBO series GKB

Elaine Del Valle and William D. Caballero film HBO series GKB

Were you nervous about meeting with HBO about how to negotiate with a large media company?

As anyone could imagine the idea of sitting in the offices of a huge, respected network such as HBO could be intimidating. While I was nervous, my years of stage performances afforded me the luxury of being able to work through the nerves. Of reaching a relaxed center that gave me the ability to focus and more importantly, LISTEN. I think listening is the most important thing you can do in any meeting. Active listening allows for organic reaction. Knowing what you want to accomplish in a meeting is important. But being overly rehearsed, can make you anxious to get your point across and never leads to the openness that the best working relationships are built on.

More on negotiation: 3 Sure Fire Negotiating Tips

What were some of the lessons that can help others learn how to negotiate with a much larger counterpart?

Know what you are willing and able to give before you enter the meeting. Click to Tweet
Never over promise. Get a baseline on what to expect, so nothing shocks you out of sorts. Take notes. Use those notes to follow up with. In my case, we negotiated terms and I sent an email that spelled out the agreed upon terms. They were happy to have them and used my notes to develop the contract.

Elaine Del Valle Headshot

Elaine Del Valle has succeeded in her career thanks to finding her voice and letting it be heard

Listen to the needs of the company. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. For a licensing deal, there are insurance requirements, deadlines you have to be able to make, Trademark and copyright, clearances, etc. It is a long and arduous road that I learned a great deal from accomplishing. And I’d add that if you have never negotiated anything important before, seek mentors and coaches who can guide you on how to negotiate.

For many women it’s hard to negotiate salary and contracts. Particularly difficult for women who are in the arts and social sciences. Do you have any suggestions for them?

Research. In my case, I reached out to a friend whose attorney had many negotiations with the company, another colleague who had a deal that did not reach fruition and a friend who had successfully licensed a film to HBO. I learned from listening to all those experiences.

 You can connect with Elaine Del Valle at:

Tweet her @BrownsvilleBred or @Ask_Granpa

Instagram users can follow her on @DelValleProductions. Follow her on Facebook @DelValle Productions & Casting and @GranpaKnowsBest

And Best of all WATCH GRAN’PA KNOWS BEST on HBO Latino, HBO GO, and HBO NOW! New episodes are on every Wednesday at 7:55pm and also air in between programs on HBO Latino.