Women's Leadership Panel Gives Business Case for More Inclusion

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Meg Hargreaves of FiscalNote began Day 2 of the Business Information & Media Summit (BIMS) in Fort Lauderdale yesterday by saying that we should strive not to see a Women in Media panel like the one she was sitting on—meaning that every panel should be an inclusive one without any special tags needed.
We are not there yet, however, so hearing media company executives Hargreaves, Lucretia Lyons of Business Valuation Resources, Christine Shaw of Future and (moderator) Elizabeth Petersen of Simplify Compliance was a pleasure—both for the business strategies they espouse and the highlighting of the issues that still exist. (You can watch the video of this panel here.)
"There's a business, legal and moral imperative for inclusion," said Hargreaves. "Having diversity at our company helps us better understand our customers, who are increasingly diverse and global. [It leads to] access to adjacent markets that we haven't yet penetrated. And it's time; 100-plus women were just elected to Congress. At FiscalNote, we believe we have a moral obligation to create environments that are warm and welcoming of people of diverse backgrounds."
More women at the top "makes for a more well-rounded work environment," said Shaw. But there are stereotypes to be overcome. She told of a time when, after tough negotiations with her old employer PennWell, the HR person told her that they "almost rescinded the offer because we thought you were so arrogant."
Typically, "women are not as good negotiators [as men]," Shaw said, adding that self worth also can be an issue. (Another question dealt with the Imposter Syndrome where someone may be doing a job just as well as someone else but has doubts.) Shaw told a story about a young woman who worked for her for 10 years as her right hand but would say, "My job's not as important as my husband's" or worry too much about what she did not have time to do. "Over time we corrected that," Shaw said, "but we tend to play this narrative out in our heads. Know your self-worth and don't settle for less than the job's value is."
"We are fortunate to be in an enlightened industry, but there is still a dearth [of women] at the owner level," said Lyons. "Some of it is access to capital, a need to be more aggressive, and a need for better financial literacy and deeper educational training. Given that, we also require the opportunities to come into ownership roles based on abilities."
Petersen stressed the importance of women asking questions and not being afraid to step up. The panelists also pointed to women's tendency to deflect credit. "The boss gives you an accolade, and you say, 'Well, it wasn't just me' or 'no problem,'" said Hargreaves. "Take credit where credit is due. How many times in a group meeting does a woman say, 'Let me write down the action items and I'll schedule the next meeting' or 'Oh, I'll take notes'? She stressed that many times women fall into admin task roles, which "takes you out of the conversation a bit."
"Look at your own culture and be brutal with yourself," she added. "You may be doing happy hours once a week but maybe an employee is Muslim and doesn't drink. Or a single mom can't go. Try to make activities—and your language—inclusive."
Having worked for CQ Roll Call for many years whose parent is The Economist, Hargreaves pointed out that companies in the UK have to be much more public about their gender equity efforts. She added that there are ramifications for not having diversity in a company. Stockholders are looking for that today and may say, "I only want to invest in a company that is diverse."
Petersen asked about what having it all means today. The panelists said that people should make their own definition. "Twenty years ago I wanted to change the world and make a difference," said Lyons. "But the key for me today is being happy with my own definition of that." She agrees about the value of taking credit for your successes and believes there's an "obligation to be mindful when we see younger women" to provide mentoring.
"For me, having it all means balance," said Hargreaves. But it's personal. For the younger ranks, having it all may be different. "Our company [FiscalNote] has a good moral compass—it's diverse, and vacation and parental leave policies help employees maintain work-life balance." 

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…