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4 Benefits for Men Who Support Women All the Way to the Top

In a room full of women the handful of men who attended this breakfast with red ties and red shoes will be remembered by all of them. As the men who support women all the way to the highest levels of their company, these champions will reap benefits unavailable to those who stay on the sidelines.

Let me be clear about my agenda with this post. I’d like to encourage more men to support women’s pursuit of decision-making positions by revealing what’s in it for them. Yes, many of us would prefer for men to contribute to leveling the playing field because it’s the right thing to do or the just thing to do. Or because they actually believe it benefits organizations and society at large. Or because having daughters have changed the way they see the world.

But there’s so much that needs to be done to move the inclusion needle at the highest levels and so much to make any gains stick, that I’m not choosy. Be part of the solution because you’re convinced it’s a win-win for everyone to gain gender parity at the top or because you realize there are a lot of benefits for you in playing an active role. Either way, if you are in, we all win.

We should be treating gender equality like any other business challenge. There's a great opportunity for men who support women all the way to the top.

We should be treating gender equality like any other business challenge. There’s a great opportunity for men who support women all the way to the top.

Here are 4 benefits for men who support women all the way to the C-suite

1Exposure and increased influence

Men who level the playing field have a huge advantage: They are in a minority. As such, you get a ton of visibility. In addition, we all know the power of espousing another group’s causes. It tends to lend credibility to the cause and to you as the one speaking up about it, as you’re perceived as having little to gain from supporting someone else’s cause. It’s why it’s always so effective when straight people support the rights of gay people, when whites stand up against injustices perpetrated on non-whites, and when Jews stand next to Muslims when they’re being discriminated against and vice-versa.

So, whatever you do as a man who supports gender equality in the workplace you will attract attention to the issue and to yourself. You could be a strong catalyst for change (as Sergio Kaufman, CEO, Hispanic South America, Accenture clearly is,) by demanding that the gender issue be treated as any other business issue. With metrics that measure actual progress, by setting up goals for each leader in the organization and by making them accountable for reaching the specific goals. Hopefully 50/50 men and women all the way to the C-suite.

Here’s a list of men who openly support women
Men who support women to the top show their support in many ways. For starters, they support #RedShoeTuesday. From Left to Right: Francisco Rozo, Novartis; Dino Troni, Coca-Cola; Miguel Alemany, P&G

Men who support women to the top show their support in many ways. For starters, they support #RedShoeTuesday. From Left to Right: Francisco Rozo, Novartis; Dino Troni, Coca-Cola; Miguel Alemany, P&G

2Take the credit for achieving the change

Given the state of affairs in most large organizations, if you really wanted to make the achievement of gender equality your legacy, you could probably do it. You could use the large body of research available to make the business case.

The first step, however, should be to find out the real experience regarding growth opportunities of female talent across your organization. Discover areas of improvement, unconscious biases of the current leadership and all talent that may be affecting women’s possibilities to reach their full potential. In other words, do your due diligence as you would with any other business challenge.

If gender equality were treated with the same seriousness as all other business issues, we would’ve resolved this crisis decades ago. Why not be the first in your organization and one of the very few leaders worldwide who is credited for having accomplished equality in a few, short years?

How long must we wait until gender equality is approached like any other business issue?

How long must we wait until gender equality is approached like any other business issue?

3Media opportunities

If your goal is expand your influence outside your organization, being one of the few men who openly talks about this can give you a great story to share with the media. Obviously, you must first walk the walk. Make things happen in your company. Be the change you propose.

Sure, you can talk about the importance of more inclusion at the top and the obstacles that get in the way and that, in itself, will bring you visibility. As I was saying, there are not enough men out there speaking out about this topic. But if you seek real influence, your actions, beliefs and words must be aligned. People, particularly those who work with you, will quickly turn against you if they feel you’re using this sensitive topic to attract attention to yourself while doing nothing to change the status quo in your workplace.

At an in-house leadership training for Novartis Andean Region, men show up in red ties, socks and shoes to openly show support for women's career growth.

At an in-house leadership training for Novartis Andean Region, men show up in red ties, socks and shoes to openly show support for women’s career growth.

4 A large group of colleagues supporting your career ambitions

It goes without saying that once men come out of the closet as open supporters of women career growth those same women along with tend to reciprocate. They can become your strongest allies to help you co-create change in the organization and help you personally achieve your own career ambitions. As long as they see your intentions and actions sincere, they will become your advocates and contribute to building your reputation as a true champion of inclusion.

The secret to develop this strong group of women supporters is to be equal partners. Leave any patriarchal instinct behind. Don’t support women’s career growth with thoughts of them needing your protection out of being weak. Or because you think they can’t do it alone.

Do it from a sense of fairness. After all, you wouldn’t want to win a game of foosball because the table is inclined towards your side, would you? You’d want to claim you won fair and square because you’re the best player.

That’s all women in the workplace have been asking. To have once and for all a level playing field so they can play with equal terms. So they can truly reach their full potential and go as far as they choose to in the workplace.

If you are one of the executives currently leading the way in gender equality, let us know. We are already working on our 2018 Hall of Fame.

 

 

Be A Great Leader: Recognize Women in Your Network & See them Flourish

When I heard my name being called back to the stage after my presentation “Be A Great Leader,” I was confused. “Is she talking about me?” I asked one of the organizers sitting at my table. To my surprise, she was!

The “Be A Great Leader” event

I had just finished doing the keynote at the “Be A Great Leader” event organized by the Latino Networks Coalition (LNC,) a professional association that groups the Latino Business Resource Groups of most major global corporations based in the New York City area. A couple of LNC leaders went on stage right after me to recap the event and do the closing remarks. The final presenter talked about an award they were giving to a woman for her leadership in business and diversity and inclusion.  And then she called my name.

After her keynote at the Be A Great Leader event, the LNC team gave Mariela Dabbah an award recognizing her leadership

After her keynote at the Be A Great Leader event, LNC honored Mariela Dabbah for her leadership. From L to R: Jessica Asencio, Claudia Vazquez, Christian Narvaez, Roberto Peralta, Alicia García, Lisa Concepción, Jaime Fuertes, Hedda Bonaparte.

It’s not out of false modesty that I tell you I was completely surprised and moved. This was not like any other award and it made me think about the value of being seen by your colleagues. Let me explain.

I’ve known and collaborated with LNC members and the global companies they work for, for years. They’ve witnessed my career trajectory and have been impacted by my work as I’ve been impacted by theirs. And although it’s not the first time I received an award, I found it particularly inspiring that my peers would appreciate the value of what I do. In addition, I had been hired to do this presentation and the fact that they felt I still deserved an award on top of my speaker’s fee, made it much more valuable to me.

Receiving public recognition always reminds us that what we do affects others, and it motivates us to continue working hard. It says, “we see you, we see your effort.” And I hardly doubt that I’m the only one who feels this way.

The theme of the event was based on this post.
The leadership event took place at the Prudential Tower in Newark, NJ.

The leadership event took place at the Prudential Tower in Newark, NJ.

Some great leaders lead from behind

So, if I can get so emotional about being recognized by my peers, imagine how the great number of women who lead from behind and are seldom recognized feel? Those who don’t have access to public stages from which to showcase their efforts. Or those who impact their local community. Or the women who have been making things happen for so long that their work has become invisible and it’s being taken for granted. Are you giving them the recognition they deserve? Most likely the answer is no.

Part of being a great leader is to help develop and inspire others to be great leaders themselves. And advocating for women who deserve recognition to actually get it, is a sure way to encourage them to continue on their leadership journey.

The issue here is not building up people’s egos. It’s about the benefits public recognition brings with it. Specifically, exposure, validation, credibility, brand, and reputation building.

The more of all these things you have, the better the opportunities that come your way. So very concretely, when we don’t offer women the recognition they deserve, we negatively impact their careers. Not only because we deny them the chance to gain more exposure and validation but also because lack of recognition of one’s contributions eventually leads to frustration and disengagement. And I talk about women here, and particularly women of color, because they are frequently absent from top lists and awards.

Now, through the course of the year, businesses and professional organizations have many chances to recognize people in their ecosystems: their employees, partners, suppliers, clients, etc. Think about how much more committed and energized all your female (and male) stakeholders would be if they were recognized for their efforts, their influence, and their leadership?

Read about how powerful women lead in many different ways.
As great leaders its our job to recognize women.

As great leaders its our job to recognize women.

Be a great leader by recognizing women

Here is how you can play a pivotal role in increasing the inclusiveness of awards and recognitions being doled out:

  • Nominate women in your network for all sorts of leadership and professional awards and lists
  • Advocate for women’s nominations when you notice an uneven number of women applicants to any award or recognition opportunity
  • Be the first one to give women credit in public when credit is due
  • Elevate women’s achievements by providing larger platforms to showcase them
  • Question editors and creators of “Best” and “Top” lists that are disproportionately male
  • Offer to help editors or creators of such lists to diversify their networks in order to identify deserving women they’ve missed in the past

Most of all look closely at the people in your network who do amazing work and generally go unrecognized. A heartfelt “thank you” goes a long way to making them feel valued.

Powerful women lead in many ways: Adrienne Arsht proves it!

Powerful women are not only the CEO’s of their organizations but also philanthropists and deal-makers who exercise their influence behind the scenes. Adrienne Arsht has led both from the front and from the back throughout her career, depending on what the situation called for. Discover how she became a great influencer!

The making of a powerful woman

Powerful women like Adrienne Arsht use their influence in local and national issues

Powerful women like Adrienne Arsht use their influence in local and national issues

Adrienne Arsht is the daughter of the Honorable Roxana Cannon Arsht, the first female judge in the State of Delaware, and Samuel Arsht, a prominent Wilmington attorney. Upon graduation from Villanova Law School in 1966, Arsht was the 11th woman admitted to the Delaware bar – her mother having been the 5th. She began her Delaware law career with Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnel.

In 1969, she moved to New York City and joined the legal department of Trans World Airlines (TWA). She then became the first woman in the company’s property, cargo and government relations departments.

She moved to Washington, DC in 1979 where she initially worked with a law firm, then started her own title company before moving to Miami in 1996 to run her family-owned bank, TotalBank. From 1996 to 2007, Adrienne served as Chairman of the Board of TotalBank. Under her leadership, the company grew from four locations to 14 with over $1.4 billion in assets. In November 2007, she sold the bank to Banco Popular Español and was named Chairman Emerita of TotalBank.

Powerful women take leading roles in civic and artistic organizations

Adrienne Arsht has been a generous patron of the arts for a long time. Here with Kevin Spacey.

Adrienne Arsht has been a generous patron of the arts for a long time. Here with Kevin Spacey.

But business has not been her only passion. As it’s often the case with powerful women (and men,) over the years she has taken a leading role promoting artistic, business and civic growth in the three cities she calls home: Washington, D.C., Miami and New York.

She is Founding Chairman of the Adrienne Arsht Center Foundation in Miami, Florida where her $30 million contribution to Miami’s Performing Arts Center in 2008 secured its financial footing and ensured quality cultural programming. In her honor, the Center was renamed the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County.

Her support of the transformation of Lincoln Center’s facilities and public spaces was recognized with the dedication of the Adrienne Arsht Stage in Alice Tully Hall. Adrienne has recently spearhead the creation of the Adrienne Arsht Center for Resilience at The Atlantic Council where she also endowed the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center in 2013 to focus on the role of South America in the trans-Atlantic world.

Over the years, Adrienne has generously donated funds and resources to numerous organizations. In 2008 she became the first, and still is, the only woman to join the Five Million Dollar Roundtable of United Way of Miami-Dade.

Adrienne Arsht, lawyer, businesswoman, philanthropist

Adrienne Arsht, lawyer, businesswoman, philanthropist

RSM: You’re a widely recognized patron of the arts. How did art enter your life and what makes it so important?

Adrienne Arsht: My passion for art comes from my parents. There was always music in the house. My mother played the piano.  I took piano and ballet lessons.  Every Saturday we would listen on the radio to the Texaco live broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera. I was fortunate to go to theater in Wilmington, Delaware and New York City to experience Broadway. I cannot imagine a world without the arts. When giving to the arts, you are preserving the essence of civilization for now and for hundreds of years to come. It is thrilling to know that a gift to the arts will be shared by people in a future we can’t even imagine. Art is part of who we are and helps define us. It has been treasured for centuries and will continue indefinitely.

RSM: Could you share the role philanthropy plays in your life?

AA: Philanthropy is not just about giving money – it is about giving one’s time as well. It is the footprint that we leave.

RSM: Many of your signature gifts have been to large performing arts complexes. Why have you chosen those as a focus of your philanthropy?

AA: A performing arts complex offers an extraordinary value to a city. It brings the arts in their many forms  to everyone of every generation and every interest. The Arsht Center has played a key role in the resurgence and transformation of the immediate area, the city of Miami and beyond.

Another powerful woman you should read about: Lisa Lutoff-Perlo!
Adrienne Arsht, one of the most powerful women in America, meets with Mexican president Peña Nieto in the context of her work with the Atlantic Council.

Adrienne Arsht, one of the most powerful women in America, meets with Mexican president Peña Nieto in the context of her work with the Atlantic Council.

RSM: You are very involved with causes in Latin America. What’s your motivation?

AA: In 1996, I moved to Miami to run TotalBank. After selling the bank in 2007, I moved back to Washington, DC. But, it became immediately clear to me that there was a need to find a way to integrate the interests of Latin America with Europe and the United States to shape the global future and create a broad community of common values. In 2013, this became a reality with the creation of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council. This Center is dedicated to forging an effective Latin America-US-Europe partnership of common values and shared interests.  I am thrilled to spearhead an initiative that will embrace Latin America as an integral part of the transatlantic world and give this vibrant region the recognition it deserves.

Two powerful women: Adrienne Arsht and Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund

Two powerful women: Adrienne Arsht and Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund

RSM: Negotiating is an art in itself. What were some of the key takeaways from negotiating the sale of TotalBank, your family owned-bank to Banco Popular Español in 2007?

AA: One Word – Patience!

RSM: How would you describe your leadership style?

AA:

Don’t whine.

Life is not fair.

Just deal with it.

Humor and laughter.

Raised voices and four letter words do not get you anywhere!

RSM: Would you share with us one of the worst mistakes you made in your career and what you learn from it?

AA: I decided to reinvent Casual Friday and make it more a Dressed Up Friday based on our wonderful holiday party where everyone looked simply glamorous and festive. The idea was good but I had not taken into consideration how the employees would be able to do this. Coming to work on subways and buses or dropping children off at school would not work in party clothes. So lesson learned: When wanting to implement a new idea make sure you get full buy in on the project before putting it out there!

RSM: How do you want to be remembered?

AA: I want to be remembered as a good friend and someone who had courage. Our time on earth is a gift. We pay rent for the time on earth and that rent is how we give back. Making the world a better place is the basis for all I do. I learned these values from both my parents.

My Mother was compared to Joan of Arc – someone willing to die for a cause. I hope that I would do the same.

 

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo Leads 7 Seas With Innovation & Soft Touch

She’s as comfortable navigating Twitter as she is interacting with guests from all over the world on one of her luxury ships. Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, is the kind of inclusive, forward-thinking leader needed for the 21st century.

RSM Hall of Fame

RSM Hall of Fame

We met on Twitter, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo and I. A fact that speaks volumes about today’s most effective leaders and their need to stay connected. Very naturally, our conversation about female leadership moved off line. Lisa had hired the first American woman Captain of a mega ship, Kate McCue, and we wanted to interview her, which we did.

But hiring Captain Kate was just one more way in which Lisa Lutoff-Perlo showed her role as an innovator and disruptor in the industry. At work, she’s always challenging assumptions, looking for more creative ways to open up the world through travel, to help bridge the many divides we are facing as people.

That powerful drive to break the rules of her field was behind the development and launch of next-generation cruise ships that Lisa led twice. Most recently, the just revealed Edge-Class, a completely new type of cruise ship experience.

Outside of work Lisa is constantly inspiring girls and women to dream differently. As she shares her own story of self-limiting dreams, you’ll see why she’s adamant about passing on the learnings. Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, a true role model for the Red Shoe Movement Hall of Fame.

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo talks about her job

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President & CEO, Celebrity Cruises

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, President & CEO, Celebrity Cruises, is an innovative leaders who is constantly reinventing her industry.

What is the hardest part of your job and why?  

I have the best job in the world, so it is hard for me to say there is a hardest part. I think, though, it is fair to say that there are things about any job that make it particularly difficult. For me, the hardest part of my job are the things I can’t control. Geo-political events that disrupt people’s desire to vacation in the amazing parts of the world we visit and issues that can arise when something mechanical happens to one of our ships. After all, they are vessels that, like our automobiles and despite the best maintenance in the world, can have something happen. Given that I am also the head of our entire corporate Global Marine Organization as well as President and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, I do have to ensure that our $45B of assets are running smoothly, safely and efficiently. I count myself very fortunate that I work with an amazing team of professionals who make the hardest parts of my job as easy as possible.

What aspects of the job of a CEO did you not expect as you were advancing in your career?

I didn’t expect to feel the overwhelming outpouring of support that I received when I was appointed to this position – both internally and externally. Nor did I expect to feel the immense gratitude each day for the people around me, who support the vision that we share for our guests, our crew and our brand. We live every day to open the world for those who want to join us as we explore each of the seven continents in modern luxury. We open the world so that people can experience different cultures and places. We also live every day to break down barriers that divide us. When I am on our ships and either meet our guests or watch our crew from over 60 countries taking care of each other and our guests I am filled with an unspeakable pride and grateful to know that I have the ability to create experiences that truly change people’s lives. I had not anticipated the magnitude of that. The other thing I did not expect is the opportunity and platform I have as a woman in this role to “pay it forward” and give back. That is another thing I wake up every day determined to do as I take that responsibility very seriously.

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo with Captain Kate McCue and the crew take a selfie

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo with Captain Kate McCue and the crew take a selfie

What Was Lisa Lutoff-Perlo Major Career Mistake?

Tell us about one major screw up in your career and what you learned from it?     

My one major screw up in my career was in limiting my aspirations. See, my professional goal was always to be the head of sales. It’s what I dreamed of and I campaigned for each day. Then my world and dreams came crashing down when the SVP of Sales & Marketing at the time decided to move me into a marketing role. I was absolutely devastated and he knew it. I felt crushed. That I would never achieve my dream of being head of sales. But he also knew what I didn’t know. That it would be one of the best career moves of my life. He saw more in me than I saw in myself. And that’s something very hard to accept at the time when it’s happening. That perhaps this other person sees more potential in you than you see in yourself or that they can see your career trajectory much farther out than you can imagine. The rest is history as I moved from one position to another and finally as the President & CEO of Celebrity. I learned that you have to go where your career takes you, be flexible, be open for change, and never ever limit what you think you can achieve. All of the experience and knowledge I gained along the way gave me the foundation I needed for my current role and has made me a better CEO.

Lisa Lutoff Perlo inspirational quote RSM Hall of Fame

Lisa Lutoff Perlo inspirational quote RSM Hall of Fame

What is the best way to engage the executive men in an organization to support their female colleagues’ growth opportunities?

I happen to work in an organization that values diversity of all kinds. Being the only woman on the Executive Committee gives me a unique opportunity to ensure that we are always thinking about and promoting diversity. I have always said that having a woman at the table enriches and changes the conversation in a way that is powerful. I am fortunate that my male colleagues agree. And I have a VP of Marine Operations who has increased the percentage of women on our nautical team from 5% 18 months ago to almost 20% today. I am fortunate to work with people who share a common vision. And you need to hire for that.

Launching a new ship class- Lisa Lutoff-Perlo does it again!

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo led the development of the Edge Class, a ship that completely changes de travel experience.

Lisa Lutoff-Perlo led the development of the Edge Class, a ship that completely changes de travel experience.

Ten years ago you launched the Solstice Class. This March you launched the Edge Class. What does it take to bring a project like that to fruition?

Launching ANYTHING new has its own unique challenges. For the Edge launch, I had a few key objectives. This new Class of ships had to transform Celebrity and the industry. And it had to transform the financial performance of my Brand. All of the feedback and booking activity has validated that mission was accomplished. From the design to the engineering and technology, we threw away the rulebook and took away every barrier for the sake of creating the most refined ship ever built. It took vision, determination, resilience and a village of outstanding people on my team and across our organization to make Edge happen. And a Chairman (my boss) who supported us every step of the way. We did it, I can’t wait for guests to be able to enjoy the fruits of our labor, and I can’t tell you how.

Follow Lisa Lutoff-Perlo on Twitter.

 

In Historically Male Occupation, Ilya Marotta Leads Panama Canal Expansion

Her pink safety helmet and vest have become iconic in a a historically male occupation. Ilya Espino de Marotta is the Panamanian engineer who led the execution of the Panama Canal Expansion Program. Get inspired!

RSM Hall of Fame

RSM Hall of Fame

The new Panama Canal was inaugurated June 2016. An engineering feat that enables cargo ships with a capacity of more than double the current one, to pass between the Atlantic and the Pacific, which substantially reduces transportation costs of goods. Today we spoke with the leader of the project. An interview that will change your perspective on what you can or cannot achieve even when you enter a historically male occupation or field. This is why Ilya Marotta is in the Red Shoe Movement Hall of Fame.

The first Step towards a traditionally male career

RSM Hall of Fame 2017 honoree: Ilya Marotta, Executive Vice President, Panama Canal Authority

RSM Hall of Fame 2017 honoree: Ilya Marotta, Executive Vice President, Panama Canal Authority

What awoke in you an interest for engineering? How did you start your career?

I had won a Fulbright scholarship to study marine biology in the U.S. The ocean is a passion of mine. I loved to scuba dive and I loved Jacques Cousteau. A year and a half after returning to Panama, when I saw the work opportunities in Marine Biology weren’t the best, I decided to change careers. I gave up the scholarship because it was for that specialty at a specific university. So, I started to look for schools in the U.S. that had careers that would have something to do with the ocean and ships.. I was always very good at math and physics and I chose Marine Engineering because I was going to work with ships. My father told me he would only pay for four years of college and I wouldn’t have the three summers required for the sail practice. I chose a school that wouldn’t require me to sail in order to get my degree. So that’s how I applied and got accepted to Texas A&M University, which would give me the Marine Biology degree without the sailing requirement. So, I ended up studying Marine Engineering not because it was my passion but because it was close to the ocean. Once I graduated and came to Panama and started to work on the Repairing Dock of the Floating Equipment of the Panama Canal, however I fell in love with my career. It was very gratifying to design something in the office, go to the workshops where they built it, and then seeing the ship in operation with design I had made.

We could say then that you came into this career path from the sideways and you found the pleasure in it along the way.

Of course! 30 years ago we had a different mindset. Today we value choosing something that you are passionate about and that you enjoy doing. But at that time it was more like: “You have to get a job”. It was a more traditional system. So I started with what inspired me (Marine Biology), and I changed to a more practical career (Marine Engineering.)

And did you have the support of your parents, especially your father, to pursue what at that time (even more than today) was seen as a historically male occupation?

Yes, 100%. Both parents supported my choice at all times.

In a historically male occupation, Ilya Marotta inspires women in the workplace

In a historically male occupation, Ilya Marotta inspires women in the workplace

The role of sponsors in a historically male occupation

As you progressed in your career, what do you think was the role played by sponsors? Do you think they are an important factor to reach the highest levels in a male dominated profession?

It’s what paves the way, especially in a profession where there are no women. If I had not had the support of my various bosses at different stages, I would not have been able to get to where I am. The way I won the support of these sponsors is with dedication, work, ethics and transparency. Once your boss sees your professional skills, it opens opportunities.

All the people who have given me opportunities for promotion have been men. So sponsors are definitely needed, but their support is earned by the work one does.

Leading the Panama Canal Expansion, Ilya Marotta broke gender barriers in historically male occupation

Leading the Panama Canal Expansion, Ilya Marotta broke gender barriers in historically male occupation

Overcoming obstacles

What were the most important obstacles you had to overcome in your career?

I remember that when I was in the repair dam, a professional diver position for the Canal opened. I was a professional diver. I had done outside diving jobs, and I applied for the job but they did not fill it. Officially they told me that they were not going to fill the post at that time, but I knew they did not want to pick me because I was a woman. But you overcome those obstacles and learn from them. It has happened to me in other positions where I wasn’t chosen because of company politics. You have to make yourself known, because otherwise you do not move. In order to get to my current position I had to have the support of my direct boss, and my boss’ boss, because it was a position ratified by the board. One of the administrators at the time was very candid and told me that these positions are not reached by merit and professional ability. You also have to do a little lobbying. I was fortunate that my boss did the lobbying for me.

Ilya Marotta inspires you to take on challenges to prove yourself

Ilya Marotta inspires you to take on challenges to prove yourself

Advantages of women in a traditionally male profession

The expansion of the Panama Canal must have been one of the biggest challenges an engineer can face. In a male-dominated profession what do you think was your advantage as a woman to carry it out successfully?

You have to have a lot of emotional intelligence. You can’t take things personally. It is a big project, and you have to deal with many people, many contractors, and in this type of projects problems always come up. Things are not easy and simple. So when something happens, you have to look at it from both points of view: Your own and the contractor’s. I think I had the ability not to take things personally. To think that they are just situations and everyone is defending their own interests. Throughout this process of many years that we have been at work on this project, I had the ability to negotiate and be conciliatory.

In a male dominated occupation, Ilya Espino de Marotta has shattered the glass ceiling

In a male dominated occupation, Ilya Espino de Marotta has shattered the glass ceiling

What do you think is the impact of resilience, a trait that is abundant in Latin American people and particularly in women?

It is extremely important because you cannot let failures or errors discourage you. You have to always go forward, have the ability to overcome obstacles. What I always tell people is that they shouldn’t do something to prove anything to anyone. Do it because it is what you want and because you want to prove yourself that you can do it. I did not choose this career to show anyone that women can do it. I chose this career because it was something that caught my attention and I wanted to climb its ranks because I like it.

I have seen some photos in which you wear a pink helmet and vest, which highlights what is evident: that you are woman in a male occupation. What has been the effect?

It has been fantastic! Although in the beginning I did it to prove to myself that I could reach this position. In Panama women in traditionally male professions have proliferated but reaching a high rank in a male dominated career is very hard. So when I was in NY, at one of my son’s medical checkups, I told my husband, “I feel like I should buy myself a pink helmet to show that a woman can get to this position.” I saw it in a catalog and I ordered it. Now it has become an icon and fills me with pride for what that helmet represents for many other women. I get messages from women who tell me that they have sent the photo to their 9-year-old daughters saying, “Look at how women can reach leadership positions.” It was not planned, but the result has been nice. It sets you high standards, because now people expect more from me. I have to show that it’s doable, no longer just for me, but for those who see me as hope for themselves, as an example.

Ilya Marotta supports #RedShoeTuesday

Ilya Marotta supports #RedShoeTuesday

Advice for young people and women interested in entering a historically male occupation

What advice would you give to a young woman today who is deciding on her choice of career or study?

Definitely do something that you are passionate about. I had the blessing that although Marine Engineering was not my first love, over time I found in my profession something that fulfills me and I am passionate about. When you do something that you like, it brings out the best in you. Also, do not be afraid of challenges or changes. Whenever you get a chance, never think that you cannot do it. When I applied to different positions, maybe I did not know everything that they asked for, but I knew I could learn it. Finally, be a transparent person, treat everyone equally, be the same person in all environments where you work.

Any particular advice for those women who are thinking of entering historically male dominated fields?

Don’t take offense at everything in a world of men because they have their way of managing themselves and of being with each other. You cannot expect them to change for you. You have to adapt, as long as they respect you. For example, if they joke in a certain way, don’t get scandalized, unless of course, it’s something that refers to you. I learned how to deal with that, and so I earned men’s respect. It’s not about becoming a man either. I’m happy with them giving me their seat or opening the door for me. It’s about making it so you can coexist like men and women together pleasantly. And trying to be conciliatory, rather than antagonistic, that has also helped me a lot in my professional career.

Connect with Ilya Marotta via Twitter @MarottaIlya