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Power Players – Extended Version

They offer a roadmap to get more women to the top

(page 2 of 6)

Bronster: But I think when you’re looking for a mentor or an advocate, you’re not limited to looking at a woman. (General agreement.) I think many of us started our careers when there were very few women. I remember I was at a firm of 500 lawyers in New York and there were only two female partners out of a hundred.

Inouye: You’re lucky you had two.

Bronster: Yes. But the idea of looking to one of them as my mentor was unrealistic; there were dozens and dozens of young female attorneys and they just didn’t have the time. So you really needed to reach out to someone who appreciated what you had to offer and would give you opportunities, and, in my case, a number of them were men.

Lau: Mentoring is wonderful and, fortunately, things are changing where there are women at the top that can mentor younger women. Margery’s story reminds me of my old law firm where there was no woman partner and the only woman was a senior associate and she wanted to have a family, so she had to take herself off partnership track to have her baby. I am really glad times have changed because in those days there were no people to mentor you. I was in a group of women that are all leaders in the banking field and the commonality that a lot of us had was that we didn’t have a mentor. If you wanted to make it, you just had to make it on your own.

Mailer: That point is really important. I find that if you’re constantly looking for a mentor that, in some ways, plays against you because you’re looking for advice or support. Rather, what I say again is, “Step up.” Show what you can do, because you can do so much, and what happens is people then notice you and they want to mentor you. They step up to you. You don’t have to ask them. They’ll give you advice along the way because they see such potential. In fact, in my career I did what I thought I could “do” and all of a sudden I had lots of people and I didn’t have to ask because they saw that I was clearly motivated to “do.” So I would say first of all “do” and then seek advice along the way. People want to help because they see a shining star.

Pacarro: I agree. I don’t think I ever asked someone to be a mentor. Someone comes alongside and suddenly you realize they’re in the shadows helping you in little ways, giving you feedback. Now it’s our time. We have to recognize how much that meant for us, even from the shadows. Now we have to help others, and we probably do that on a daily basis. We can’t forget how important it was early in our careers.

Lau: The point that Dee Jay makes is especially relevant if you’re going to be in the CEO suite because, at the end of the day, in the CEO suite the buck stops with you. (General agreement.) So, you really aren’t looking for advice or mentoring. You’re actually the person who’s got to make those decisions, so you have to step up and just assume that responsibility.

Mailer: At least people have to see that you have that potential and then you get every piece of help that you could ever imagine.

Enay: A lot of women are carving out successful careers in industries that have been dominated by men, such as financial services or construction, science and technology. Which economic sectors and companies do you folks think are pockets of success for women in Hawaii?

Mailer: Development. It was so cool the other night: We went to the Urban Land Institute for speed mentoring and it was really fun. There were young people were in the development field, all facets, and I would say it was 50-50 women and men. Either all the women showed up or that particular industry is wide open to women.

Inouye: I think it’s just starting out for women in that field because I remember times when I was the only female in the room (at ULI). I remember I went to ULI and I was elected to the council from Hawaii. It’s like a football draft – you have to decide what council you’re going to be on and guys fight to get on certain councils. They actually do political lobbying to get in certain councils. I had no time for any of that. I just showed up and these people were fighting over me because they needed to have a female to balance their numbers. I think part of it today might be that women are looking for networking opportunities because, as it was said earlier, women don’t have access to the informal social networks that men do – you know, golfing, cigar nights, whatever – so they have to make their professional networking work for them. Whether it’s professional networking organizations or whether it’s volunteering for charity and nonprofit work. Now, when you volunteer for charity and nonprofit work, the key is to get on a board, not to do work with mailers and things like that because at the board level you are networking with men and women who are executives and that’s where you get in. Then you have the informal ability to give them a call – “Let’s meet for lunch” – and start talking about the charity or the nonprofit, and then move onto other things.

Lau: And then you want to be in a leadership position, not just on the board. You want to be treasurer or secretary, then vice-president, then president.

Bronster: I don’t know about secretary. (Laughter.)

Lau: Sometimes you have to start someplace.

Bronster: We have to be careful when we look at the number of women in an area. In law, for example, about 50 percent of the young lawyers getting admitted are female. But when you look at the partners at law firms or the managing partner or the main partners, there are very, very few women. So there is this glass ceiling and when you look at a lot of the accountants, the same thing happens. So, we have to recognize that the glass ceiling still exists and (ask): What is causing the equal numbers at the entry level to change so dramatically as you get higher and higher toward the boardroom.

Lau: I agree. We (Hawaiian Electric Industries) have a very unusual combination of companies and, on our financial services side, on the banking side, the workforce is three-quarters female. On the utility side, it is three-quarters male, but if you look within each area, there are some areas where there are a lot more women in the management positions. Thinking back to ULI, ULI is real estate, but the reason ULI never had a lot of females was because ULI really represented the most professional ranks of commercial real estate, whereas if you look at residential real estate, you’ll find the reverse, with a lot of women. You would think that in our utility side, which is three-quarters male, you wouldn’t find a lot of women coming through, but you (Hawaii Business) recently did an article on our company that showed we have a number of young women who are coming through even in an industry that is very male-oriented. So I think that goes back to philosophies about companies and how they encourage their young people, whether they are women or men, to develop their skill sets and become leaders within the company and in our community.

Enay: What about financial services? Is that a good industry for women to carve out paths?

Pacarro: I think it’s a great industry. And we’re starting to see we still have a long ways to go. I believe out of the 120 managers within our system, there are 11 women at the level I’m at. It’s not inconsistent because we don’t have as many financial advisors coming through, too. I think it takes a while to try to build up to upper ranks in the company and I’m just really surprised I don’t see more financial advisor applicants. It’s such a great field and I’m very surprised there are not more women and I think part of it is because it’s not a salary position.

Lau: It is that risk element.

Pacarro: Yes, the risk element, yet women are so well suited for it, their total sense of loyalty and trust and developing relationships. Women counsel well, their consultative approach, yet I’m having a hard time finding more women in the community. So, I’m not sure what the answer is. We’ve tried lots of different things and, nationally as a company, we’re spending a lot of time trying to figure out ways to attract women to the field. If you have any answers for me I’d like to know.

Lau: One of Shara’s questions had to do with how do you develop either the educational levels or skill sets, or what areas lend themselves more to women. Usually, analytical and technical fields that are more merit based – any job that is more merit based – normally will be better for women because you don’t have to have the old-boy networking. You can prove your worth, prove your merit in those analytical, technical, performance-based, merit based-jobs, and, as Gwen says, financial services is one of those that has a lot of positions that are, in essence, on commission. And you can succeed and you can do very well as you (Pacarro) did and you built up a whole group and now your daughter is heading that group as one of the heads of the office.

Pacarro: I think that the skill set is there for women. It’s just a matter of women taking the risk, understanding that during their childrearing years it offers great flexibility, too. I think women miss that somewhere along the line. I’m not sure where they miss it, but we obviously need to do a better job educating.

Lau: I always think of it in the sense that the higher up you go, the more flexibility you have, which means that you can fit your personal life in easier. So you just have to make it through the ranks really fast before you want to have kids.

Pacarro: That’s right.

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