I was thrilled and humbled to be selected to attend the recent Fortune Most Powerful Women Next Gen 2017 Summit. 40% of Fortune100 companies were represented, along with many other business leaders, entrepreneurs, and leaders in sports, music and politics. Each attendee was an accomplished woman with an inspiring background.
I learned so much in a few short days. For example, Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest shared a fascinating overview of the ways in which financial planning is catered to the typical career cycle of men rather than women. And Megan Smith, the third U.S. CTO and CEO of shift7 discussed the role of automation and technology in improving not just your business, but your life.
The biggest takeaway from the conference was that female leaders can have a major impact and influence on future generations. Because there are a relatively small number of women in the upper ranks of business, it’s important for those in that position to use it for good.
Empowering Women at Conduent
Reflecting on the year at Conduent – our first as an independent company – I’m incredibly proud of the steps we’ve taken to support and empower women in the workplace.
We’re fortunate to count a number of accomplished female professionals within our leadership ranks. For example, Conduent chief information officer Carol Kline is overseeing the company’s transition to becoming a technology-first company.
Mentoring programs, lunch & learn sessions and other activities all play a role in empowering women in business. But diversity and inclusion is one of Conduent’s core values, and it’s prioritized accordingly. In fact, the first Employee Impact Group created at Conduent is our Women’s Impact Network.
Set to launch in early 2018, the group will focus on leadership development, training, collaboration and networking – all with the intention of providing women with the tools they need to progress in their careers. It will also work directly with human resources to position Conduent as a supportive organization in order to attract top female talent into the company.
The Conduent Women’s Impact Network will launch globally and will include members from North America, Mexico, Guatemala, South Africa, Jamaica, Asia, Europe and India. I will lead the executive sponsorship of this group, and I’m excited to see it get off the ground and grow.
My own career began on the bottom rung of the corporate ladder. As an entry-level young professional, I worked as a telemarketer before moving into the payroll department. After a stint in IT as a programmer, I eventually moved into a management position. Young female professionals with ambitions of rising through the ranks should know three things right away:
- You need to invest in yourself before anyone else will invest in you. Spend time and energy learning new skills and educating yourself in new fields.
- Progressing in your career does not always mean moving up. Sometimes, moving sideways within an organization will help you gain different skills, and make you more valuable in the long run.
- Your work day will only start at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. in your imagination. Your career will demand a great deal of hard work and perseverance, and the only thing that will be handed to you is the occasional birthday card.
Companies that bring women into the fold and empower them are generally more successful, efficient and creative. As with any event like this, those of us in attendance need take what we’ve learned and help our organizations implement the ideas.
Personally, I will engage with the Conduent Women’s Impact Network to ensure employees throughout the company understand the value they can bring to both their organization and their lives by driving success and creating jobs for our future generations. As a younger professional, I could not have predicted that I’d become a Group Chief Executive for Conduent, but I took control of the decisions I could make at every turn. I have constantly challenged myself to learn and grow in new areas, and each of those experiences have helped me to be the person I am today. I’m fortunate to have a wonderful husband, two fabulous, intelligent children, and a career that I love with a team that inspires me every day.
If we make developing our workforce a priority, the conversations had at this year’s Fortune Most Powerful Women Next Gen event are sure to advance the role women play in business in 2018 and beyond.