Shattering the Status Quo

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Jenny Lee sitting on a panel at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco

From a city’s youngest elected mayor to a country’s first billionaire, these Asian women don’t see obstacles—only opportunities

Otsu Mayor Aims to Use AI to Prevent Bullying

Naomi Koshi is the Mayor of the city of Otsu in the province of Shiga in Japan. She became the youngest woman elected mayor of a Japanese city. The city of Otsu announced plans earlier this year to use artificial intelligence to predict the potential consequences of suspected cases of bullying at schools. This would be the first such analysis by a municipality in the country. “Through an AI theoretical analysis of past data, we will be able to properly respond to cases without just relying on teachers’ past experiences,” Otsu Mayor Koshi told The Japan Times of the planned analysis, set to begin from the next fiscal year.

Source: The Japan Times

Vietjet Founder is Vietnam’s First Woman Billionaire

Vietnam’s Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao has made history as the only woman to start and run a major commercial airline, Vietjet Aviation. Her success has also made her very wealthy. She is Vietnam’s first self-made woman billionaire and the wealthiest self-made woman in Southeast Asia, with a net worth of $2.5 billion.

Source: forbes.com

GGV Capital’s Lee Ranks High on Forbes Midas

Jenny Lee is one of the highest-ranking women on the Forbes 2019 Midas list. Her portfolio at U.S. and China-based GGV Capital – where she is a managing partner – includes 11 unicorns, with some valued as high as $56 billion. A former fighter jet engineer with Singapore’s ST Aerospace, Lee has taken 11 of her portfolio companies public, including three IPOs in 2018. Her 2012 investment in Chinese social network operator, YY, netted GGV a 15-fold return.

Source: forbes.com

Grab App Co-Founder is Southeast Asia’s First Decacorn

Tan Hooi Ling is the co-founder of Southeast Asia’s first decacorn, super app Grab. The 35-year-old Harvard MBA graduate has led the company with cofounder Anthony Tan in raising over $9 billion dollars since launching in 2012. Nearly half of that sum came last March when the Singapore-based startup raised $4.5 billion in a funding round led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund, Alibaba, Microsoft and 26 other investors, valuing the company at $14 billion. This Series H round aims to raise another $2 billion before the end of the year.

Source: egradio.org

Awkwafina Makes Golden Globes History

The Farewell star Awkwafina is the first performer of Asian descent to win a Golden Globe Award in a lead actress film category. She’s only the sixth woman of Asian descent to be nominated in the lead actress in a musical or comedy category. Awkwafina joins a small group of performers of Asian lineage who have won Golden Globe awards since the show started. The Farewell, which features a predominantly Asian cast, tells the story of a young woman named Billi (Awkwafina) whose family decides to keep news of a terminal diagnosis from the family’s elder matriarch, Billi’s grandmother Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhao).

Source: cnn.com

Johnson & Johnson Names Gu and Huang Among Women STEM Scholars

Johnson & Johnson’s WiSTEM2D (Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Manufacturing, and Design) Scholars Awards program, designed to increase the representation of women in these fields and support the development of women leaders, named Grace X. Gu and Shengxi Huang among its six recent Scholars Award winners. Grace X. Gu is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research interests include composites, additive manufacturing, fracture mechanics, topology optimization, machine learning, finite element analysis, and bio-inspired materials. Her current project focuses on developing a more efficient 3D printer that can self-correct during a print job.

Shengxi Huang is an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Pennsylvania State University. Her research interests include biomedical devices and systems, electronic materials and devices, and optical materials, devices, and systems. Currently, she is developing a device to measure potential disease-causing biomolecules, such as cancer cells.

Source: wiareport.com

MiMi Aung Awaits Summer Launch of Helicopter on Mars 2020 Rover

Burmese-born MiMi Aung is very familiar with uncharted territory. She tackles it as part of her job: overseeing the building of a helicopter to fly on another planet. “What I find most rewarding and challenging about the work I do is the chance to develop never-been-done-before autonomous systems for space exploration,” the JPL project manager for the Mars Helicoper shared by email. The miniature 4-pound, solar-powered helicopter is designed to fly for up to 90 seconds and is scheduled to travel with the Mars 2020 rover. And when it attempts to fly on the Red Planet in 2021 (and hopefully succeeds) it will solidify Aung’s place in the history books.

Source: kcet.org

Ex-Chemistry Teacher Becomes Richest Self-Made Woman in Asia

Former chemistry teacher Zhong Huijuan has become the wealthiest self-made woman in Asia with a $10.5 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The bulk of her wealth comes from her stake in Hansoh Pharmaceutical Group, China’s largest maker of psychotropic drugs, which soared 37 percent during its first day of trading in Hong Kong. Zhong, who founded Hansoh in 1995, overtook Longfor Group’s Chairman Wu Yajun to claim the self-made title. Zhong is the second-richest woman in Asia, trailing only Yang Huiyan, co-chairman of Country Garden Holdings, who inherited her fortune.

Source: bloomberg.com

Photo: PHOTO BY STEVE JENNINGS/GETTY IMAGES FOR TECHCRUNCH

Meet the Woman Behind Space X, President and Engineer Gwynne Shotwell

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Gwynne Shotwell smiling for the camera

This past weekend, the United States made history when Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched the Dragon Crew capsule into space, the first U.S. mission from U.S. soil since 2011. SpaceX is primarily associated with Musk, as he was the founder of the company, but many people don’t know about the company’s president and chief operating officer, Gwynne Shotwell.

Now responsible for SpaceX’s operations and growth, Shotwell has been working with SpaceX since the company was founded in 2002 and was immediately put on the board of directors. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mathematics from Northwestern University and previously worked with The Aerospace Corporation and Microcosm Inc. in El Segundo, California. Wanting to apply her skills in engineering in a hands-on environment, Shotwell worked with The Aerospace Corporation in military space research, technical work, spacecraft design and thermal analysis. She spent much of her time specifically studying small spacecraft design and how to navigate such a spacecraft in and out of the cosmos. She later went on to work Microcosm Inc, a rocket building company, where she oversaw business development.

Having both the skills and knowing the ins and outs of spacecraft and business, Shotwell’s expertise at SpaceX still stands. Under her supervision, SpaceX has launched five billion dollars’ worth of crafts with the Falcon vehicle family and has now become the first privately owned business to send astronauts into space. Additionally, Shotwell recently became a member on the board of directors for Polaris, an automotive vehicle manufacturing company, and serves in many STEM-related programs. Her work in these areas have earned her several awards, including a spot in the 2012 Women in Technology Hall of Fame and as one of Forbes’ Magazine’s Top 50 Women in Tech.

Through all of her successes, it seems as if Shotwell has more large-scale accomplishments to come. As part of a multi-billion dollar deal with NASA, SpaceX will continue to work on a transportation system to take the first humans to Mars.

The Mental, Emotional, and Physical Comeback for Women in Business

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MBDA promo poster featuring Taraji P. Henson as the featured speaker

Join our speakers as we discuss how to ensure emotional, physical and mental self-care as we embark on the new normal for professional and home life.

Featured speaker Taraji P. Henson, Nic Cober Johnson, Author and Business Strategist; Jenniffer González-Colón, Congresswoman of Puerto Rico and Dr. Sherry Blake, Therapist and Mental Health Expert, discuss this important topic on June 3, 2020, 1-3pm EDT.

Get the details and how to register here.

Meet Brittney Nicole: Navy Veteran Turned Fashion Entrepreneur

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A clothes rack with women's coats hanging on it

Transitioning from military life back into civilian life is a challenge for any veteran. While there are many different approaches in choosing a career, one U.S. Navy Veteran decided that she would approach her career choice by following her passions.

Always having a love for fashion, Brittney Nicole decided to open her own clothing business, Coco’s Wardrobe, upon her retirement from the U.S. Navy.  The New Orleans based boutique designs, manufactures, and sells women’s clothing that is meant to look as good as they feel, blending comfort with style. All of the clothing in Nicole’s shop has a women’s desire to feel confident and comfortable at the forefront of everything that is produced.

In addition, Nicole has also began selling uniquely designed face masks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Negotiate Like a Pro

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By Le Anne Harper

Study after study confirms that the gender wage gap in this country persists. According to PayScale, women earned 79 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2019 (“The State of the Gender Pay Gap,” 2020). Decades earlier, The New York Times reported that in 1980 women earned 70 cents for every dollar earned by men (“Women’s Roles vs. Social Norms,” 1986).

In nearly 40 years, the wage gap has only decreased by 9 cents! Sadly, it could take another 40 years to reach pay parity. The good news is you can change your personal earning power now.

Let’s pull back the curtain to share these ten insights that can help you negotiate like a pro:

  1. Your gender matters. Babcock and Laschever’s famous 2003 study of graduating master’s degree students found 57 percent of the men negotiated their first job offers while only 7 percent of the women did. Despite many collective gains, women often find salary negotiations challenging on a personal level. Generations of limiting gender norms have shaped you and can influence how you handle job offers. Will you be “agreeable” even if it means settling for less than you’re worth? Be aware of this insidious legacy so you won’t be limited by it.
  1. Don’t accept…yet. What’s the first thing you feel when you receive a job offer? Typically, it’s gratitude. By the time you’ve interviewed and showcased your myriad talents for a potential employer, you’ve often adopted a “please, pick me” mindset. If you finally get to an offer, it’s easy to ride that momentum (and relief!) to a fast “Yes, I accept,” especially if you’ve interviewed for several jobs without receiving an offer. Whatever you do, don’t accept…yet. With an offer in hand, the power shifts in your favor slightly, so press pause and assess the offer’s merits.
  1. Don’t overshare. When it comes to job offers, companies historically used a candidate’s most recent salary as a baseline and added approximately 10–30 percent to make an offer. This approach keeps people who have been underpaid in the past underpaid even as they move into new, more senior roles. California is one of 17 states (and counting) that has enacted protections to address this problem by prohibiting companies from requesting salary history; instead, companies place a value on a position’s responsibilities and set the budget accordingly. Instead, ask what the budget for the role is and decide if it aligns with your expectations.
  1. Negotiating can bridge the gender gap. Another significant finding of Babcock and Laschever’s study was that the women who did negotiate were able to increase their salaries by approximately the same percentage as the men who negotiated. This means that failing to ask for a higher initial offer is a key factor in their lower starting salaries. But don’t let the historical collective figures discourage you. You have the power to bridge the gap. As with the adage Closed mouths don’t get fed, you can learn exactly what they’re willing to pay if you open your mouth and ASK.
  1. The first offer is rarely the best offer. If you’ve ever been a hiring manager, you know there’s almost always wiggle room on an offer. In fact, we’re so used to being countered that we often factor that into our offers. We might propose $190,000 to our final candidate, so that when s/he suggests that $210,000 will seal the deal, we can all feel good about compromising in the middle at $200,000. Companies typically set a target range for a role, but exceptions are pretty common. The policies vary, but there’s usually some flexibility. Someone in the hiring hierarchy has the power to shuffle their budget to give you a little more.
  1. Know your value. There’s power in understanding your value to the companies where you interview as well as to the specific business unit/hiring manager you’ll support, since that’s usually who has to go to bat for your bigger offer. Get clear about how the company makes or saves money and be able to directly articulate how your skills fit into those equations. Bonus points if you can share specific examples of successful past efforts that demonstrate your expertise and quantify the business impact (e.g. reduced supplier spend by $1.5M, increased employee retention by 40 percent). Use a salary tool like PayScale, Glassdoor, Salary.com, or Indeed to calculate your desired salary. Adjust up or down for significant factors like supply/demand of your skillset, cost of living, a terrible commute (or lack of one), company benefits, culture/values, lifestyle (frequent travel, long hours).
  1. Toss any baggage. Examine and release any emotional baggage you may be carrying from prior interviewing or work experiences, such as insecurities about being laid off or resentment about feeling underappreciated. This isn’t about invalidating your feelings; it’s about sidelining them so you can be effective in salary negotiations. You can’t afford to convey any hint of resentment, entitlement, or desperation. Work through any lingering feelings, get grounded, and approach your negotiations with a clear, confident state of mind and well-researched data.
  1. Be the key. Most for-profit companies are constantly assessing how to grow, which basically means saving money or unlocking new revenue. If your expertise addresses one of these objectives, then you become the key that unlocks the solution. Do some research beforehand so you can precisely target companies that most need and value your key. For example, you wouldn’t try to sell steak knives to vegans. One way to figure out who needs you is think about what keeps a company’s leaders up at night. When you can solve that company’s problems, focus your sights on them. That’s how you can command top dollar during negotiations.
  1. Get creative. There are many elements to a job offer, and salary is only one facet. If a balanced lifestyle is what you seek, think about asking for a remote working schedule or unlimited PTO. Companies have a range of creative perks, some of which might add more value than cash. These fringe benefits are not to be overlooked; it can be fun, like ordering from a restaurant’s secret menu. You can get creative in your asks but consider the cost and possible upside. For example, asking to leave early on Wednesdays for three months so you can complete your MBA will benefit the company and make you look smart.
  1. Practice poise. Especially if you’re not an experienced negotiator, this process can be awkward or downright panic-inducing. It’s nerve-wracking for most people, so now is not the time to wing it. Practice out loud with someone you trust and keep practicing until you can convey your salary request with clarity, supporting data, and confidence without ego, apology, or entitlement.

Now you’ve got some tools for getting into the right mindset and making a sound business case for your ask. Be bold and remember that negotiating works most of the time (89% according to Inc. Magazine)!

Le Anne Harper leads the Diversity & Inclusion practice at Katalyst Group, a talent advisory firm that finds unicorns and purple squirrels for industry-leading companies like The Gap, Samsung, Nike, and Sony. She is a talent consultant and diversity evangelist who has spent 20 years helping companies transform and thrive by recruiting and cultivating the world’s best talent.

 

Latinas on the Rise

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Selena Gomez smiling at the camera at a red carpet event

From the arts to activism, here are five Latina Woman that are making strides, breaking boundaries and that you should be paying attention to.

Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez

Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez is an American labor organizer and author. On August 12, 2019, Ramirez announced her intention to challenge incumbent United States Senator John Cornyn in the 2020 United States Senate election in Texas. Tzintzún began organizing with Latino immigrant workers in 2000 in Columbus, Ohio, and then moved to Texas. At graduating from University of Texas, Austin, she helped establish the Workers Defense Project (WDP), serving as its executive director from 2006 to 2016. Following the 2016 election, Ramirez launched Jolt, an organization that works to increase Latino voter turnout. Her bid for the Senate has been endorsed by New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Texas representative Joaquin Castro, and actor Alec Baldwin.

Mariah

A rising star in the male-dominated world of urbano (Ozuna, J Balvin, Bad Bunny), Mariah Angeliq, who goes simply by her first name, is here to prove that the girls can be bosses, too. On debut single “Blah,” the Miami-born and raised singer of Puerto Rican and Cuban descent lets the men know that their money (and their bragging) don’t impress her much, while her latest track “Perreito” is dripping with swag as she boasts about stealing the show with her flow as the one that shoots and never fails.

Lineisy Montero Feliz

Lineisy Montero Feliz is Dominican model known for her work with Prada. She is also known for her natural Afro hair. She currently ranks as one of the “Top 50” models in the fashion industry by models.com, including Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Roberto Cavalli, Versace and Céline.

Rico Nasty

Rico Nasty is one of the leading voices in the current style of hip-hop that adopts elements from hardcore and punk rock. Rico released a new song in January titled “IDGAF;” it’s built around softly echoing electric piano sounds and finds the DMV rapper in melodious sing-song mode.

Selena Gomez

The singer announced the summer launch of her cosmetics company, Rare Beauty, via Instagram on Feb. 4. The cosmetics company shares a title with her most recent album of the same name.

“Guys, I’ve been working on this special project for two years and can officially say Rare Beauty is launching in @sephora stores in North America this summer,” she captioned in the Instagram video.

“I think Rare Beauty can be more than a beauty brand,” the singer says in the video. “I want us all to stop comparing ourselves to each other and start embracing our own uniqueness. You’re not defined by a photo, a like, or a comment. Rare Beauty isn’t about how other people see you. It’s about how you see yourself.”

Selena Gomez Photo: TIBRINA HOBSON/GETTY IMAGES

3 Ways to Spark Business

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Pamela Prince-Easo smiling for the camera

By Pamela Prince-Eason, President and CEO of WBENC

“Does this spark joy?” That is the question pre-eminent de-clutterer, author, Netflix star, and the latest cover feature of Professional Woman’s Magazine, Marie Kondo, recommends you ask while determining which possessions in your home to keep and what to give away.

The premise is to only keep items that truly spark joy, allowing you to focus on and appreciate the things that matter most – and get rid of extra clutter in the process. This has proven to be a successful way to tidy up a house, but Marie Kondo’s approach to organization has broader lessons for all of us in how we network, prepare, and do business.

As the nation’s leading certifier of women-owned businesses, WBENC is a conduit for thousands of business connections made between certified Women’s Business Enterprises (WBEs) and leading corporations and government entities. Throughout the year, we work with women business leaders around the country to expand their capabilities and scope, strengthen their leadership skills, and ensure they have the tools and resources to grow and succeed.

With that experience and perspective, here are some pieces of advice to help women entrepreneurs take the lessons of Marie Kondo and apply them to their business.

Simplify & Focus

Decluttering your house is one thing; decluttering your to-do list is another. But Marie Kondo’s message is a helpful reminder – is what you are doing truly providing value? Are you focusing on what matters most to your business? In our executive education programs, we frequently remind women business owners to work “on” their business, not “in” their business. This helps reshape the perspective, allowing these talented entrepreneurs the space to focus more on strategy and growth.

Stay Organized to Fuel Opportunities

Staying organized is not about keeping a tidy desk – it’s about putting yourself in a position where you are prepared to pitch your business and discover business opportunities at every turn. At our two national events – Summit & Salute in March and the National Conference & Business Fair in June – business opportunities await around any corner. Many WBEs spend weeks, if not months, getting organized and prepared to meet with potential clients and buyers, understand their needs and challenges, and customize their business pitch and differentiators.

Innovate & Lead

Marie Kondo took the world by storm because of her innovative approach to organization. She identified a unique challenge, developed a specific and tailored solution, and now has achieved great success and notoriety as a pre-eminent organization expert. There is a lesson in this for all business owners as well. Innovation and leadership, when paired together, often beget success. Whatever your business, ensure you are providing a unique, innovative solution to a problem your clients or customers are trying to solve, and then demonstrate that you are the leader in that area. In other words, become the Marie Kondo of your industry. Another way to spark joy and business? Join us in Atlanta from June 23–25 for the 2020 WBENC National Conference & Business Fair, the largest event of its kind for women business owners. Learn more and register at conf.wbenc.org

Pioneer, Settle, or Get Out of the Way

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By Tammy Cohen, SHRM-CP: Founder & Chief Visionary Officer, InfoMart

I’ve heard many of my entrepreneurial peers say there’s no opportunity for innovation in their industry, and I want to shed some light on ways to identity those opportunities.

Businesses have been evolving through innovations for thousands of years. And before modern industry, there were simple, life-changing innovations like fire, the wheel, and the kitten heel.

Most entrepreneurs plan to disrupt an industry, not birth one. At 25, when I started InfoMart, I was young and inexperienced. I had no idea I was pioneering an industry. Over the past 30 years, I have seen all sides of innovation – from pioneering to missing the boat through bleeding edge innovations, and I have found great success built on a strong foundation of lessons learned.

Pioneering

InfoMart was founded in 1989, at the beginning of the modern era of HR technology. At the time, I had to convince employers there was a reason to invest in background screening.

Five years later, companies took pride in listing “background checks” as required criteria in their job advertisements. The basic background check processes we established in the infancy of our company are still largely in place industry wide. Our operations team crafted sound, compliant practices while our development team launched the first client-facing, paperless background screening platform. Had we focused only on the technology engine, we would have missed the need to develop the policies that would drive it.

Bleeding & Leading-Edge Innovations

I have stood on the edge of bleeding and leading many times. Timing is everything, as they say, particularly when it comes to being the first to market with a product or waiting for others to be first and learning from their mistakes. Leading edge innovations are the ones we all hear about – disruptive technologies and products that provide an organization a significant competitive advantage. Bleeding edge innovations don’t have an immediate population of adopters.

When we think of leading-edge innovations, we often think of technology or products that simplify and improve consumers’ lives. But some innovations that solve huge problems are just simple enough that we collectively say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Such is the case with SeeHerWork, a company that creates workwear specifically for women in commercial, industrial, and emergency response jobs. Founder and innovator Jane Henry solved a problem for women whose “unisex” clothing options were really designed with men in mind (think workwear that buttons on the wrong side, eye & ear protections made for male proportions, etc.). Henry’s solution not only makes women feel more comfortable and confident on the job, but most important, makes them safer at work.

Here’s a cautionary tale of bleeding edge innovation: I invested in the technology to develop a job board in the early 1990s. Turned out most people didn’t have a computer and had no idea what I was trying to do. I could have been Monster.com had I timed it better.

Pets.com is an example of bleeding edge, underestimating consumer adoption, launching their online-only service a full decade before anyone would be ready to buy online and have orders delivered. Had they waited for Amazon to redefine the way we shop or gone to market with a combination online + brick-and-mortar strategy, perhaps my dog’s food would come from Pets.com instead of arriving in a Chewy.com box.

Bleeding edge innovation doesn’t always have to be based on immediate adoption and can grow into leading edge innovation. In 2016, InfoMart disrupted the industry by adding ASAP ID, our mobile ID and biometric authentication tool. We were first in our space to deploy an onboarding service built on AI and biometrics. And while we may have been out early, we knew that adoption would be slow as we pioneered a new way of doing background checks.

Innovating for Change

Some innovations arrive out of a response to societal need or change. These innovations serve the greater good.

Already a successful business leader in the materials handling industry, Patti Massey, president of MYCA, responded to personal tragedy by starting a company focused on corporate learning and development courses designed to improve safety, prevent violence, and reduce incidents of harassment and abuse in the workplace.

Today’s socially conscious consumer will push for the proliferation of this type of innovation – from the TOMS Shoes model of one-for-one giving (you purchase, they give) to BetterWorldBooks, which has raised more than $18M for global literacy and local libraries through the sale of new and used books. Innovators are looking for ways to turn a profit while also making the world a better place.

Hidden Innovations

Have you been reading this article and saying, “But there’s nothing new in my industry!”? Because if so, step back and look again. There’s always something new, and it’s often hiding in plain sight.

Annette Springer, CEO of Springer Equipment Company, saw an opportunity to bring innovation to her customer base by expanding her product line to include autonomous forklifts. Companies that require such industrial vehicles invest far more in the operator than in the equipment and its maintenance.

At InfoMart, hidden innovation came in the form of a compliance-related enhancement to an industry-standard database search. We re-developed the search and are still the only provider in our space to sell a more compliant product. Last year, a federal court decided a case that will now force other screeners to take the same step, but because we looked at the trees instead of the forest, we were able to launch it as an innovation, not a response to caselaw.

As your business matures, you often don’t realize which of your processes is revolutionary. Find the parts of your business that others would consider innovative, even if they’re just part of your day-to-day. You may find a whole new business line, just like Cathy Koch, president & CEO of K-Tec Systems, an industrial equipment provider. Cathy created training modules for her products using augmented and virtual reality simulations. They proved so effective that she now also markets the training simulators themselves for other businesses to apply to their own products/services.

Futureproofing

I hired a CEO, and yet I still wanted my own C-level title. I left it to my C-suite and they promoted me to founder and chief visionary officer. My responsibility as CVO is to futureproof InfoMart and our clients. Most commonly, future proofing involves innovating in your space and ensuring that your business can keep up with changing demands. However, new innovations aren’t limited to the development of technology. Innovation is just finding a better way of doing things.

Look around you. Look in all the deepest recesses of your business or industry; look at the most superficial processes. Listen to the problems and pain points of your buyer community and supply chain. For you, innovation can be as simple as a unique differentiator or as complex as pioneering a new industry and blazing a trail for competitors to follow.

So, what will you do: pioneer, settle, or get out of the way?

Acker & Shah: Making Their Mark on Screen

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Movie Poster for Jungle Cry with Emily Shah running

Tanya Acker, judge on CBS’s popular court show Hot Bench, and Indian American actress Emily Shah, starring in the Indian film, Jungle Cry, each bring a strong feminine perspective to their individual roles—both on screen and in their passion projects; Acker with the Boy Scouts of America and Shaw with UNICEF, both among others.

Professional WOMAN’s Magazine (PWM) caught up with Acker and Shaw and spoke with each on their backgrounds and interests as well as their latest endeavors.

Tanya Acker

Tanya Acker serves as one of three judges on CBS’s syndicated court show Hot Bench, created by Judge Judy’s famed Judy Sheindlin. The program returned for its fifth season last September, and was the #3 first-run program in daytime television, delivering 3.2 million daily viewers, during its 2017-2018 season.

Acker, who is a Yale School graduate, is an experienced civil litigator who has represented a wide array of clients, from major automobile manufacturers in high stakes product liability litigation to media companies in hotly contested trade secret disputes. While at Yale, she represented low-income women in family law cases and served as a teaching assistant in Constitutional Law and Civil Procedure courses.

Today, Acker serves on the boards of Public Counsel, the nation’s largest provider of free legal services; the Western Justice Center, which promotes alternative dispute resolution; the Western Los Angeles County Council of the Boy Scouts of America; Pacific Battleship Center, which operates the Battleship USS Iowa Museum; and Rainbow Services, which provides shelter services to victims of domestic violence.

PWM: How did you first become interested in law?

Acker: I’ve always been interested in how systems work. Law school was a great opportunity to decipher the world while at the same time ensuring I’d be able to make a living and support myself.  My parents used to say that they lost the trust fund I never had 😊 I think it’s key that women have a plan for handling their lives.

PWM: What led you to be cast on Hot Bench?

Acker: CBS called me, Judy (Sheindlin) picked me. It was very exciting.

PWM: With more than 1,000 episodes finished, what has been your most memorable case/moment?

Acker: There are so many. Frankly, I never cease to be amazed at the attempts that people make to avoid doing something they should or to try to extract something from someone else that they don’t deserve. By the same token, I’m often pleasantly surprised by how generous people can be, both with their resources and their hearts. I think there are far more good people in the world than bad ones—it’s just that the bad ones make so much noise

PWM: How did you first get involved with the Boy Scouts of America? What inspired you to participate?

Acker: A local council (the Western Los Angeles County Council) had adopted an inclusive, non-discriminatory policy before the national body had, and they needed some legal and communications help and reached out to me.  Since then, the Scouts have become more inclusive nationally and I’ve become involved nationally. I’m so proud of their work—the Scouts provide youth leadership training like no other. Scouting doesn’t just inspire young people to get involved and make an impact in their communities, it provides them opportunities to do that. We offer experiences to young people that they often wouldn’t have unless they come from really privileged environments, and I’m excited to be a part of the work.

PWM: How does it feel to be working with America’s first graduating class of female Eagle Scouts?

Acker: It is a moment that inspires me. Girls have long been a part of the organization—now they will have the opportunity to attain the rank of Eagle. It’s magnificent.

PWM: Why do you feel it’s important for women to be part of the Boy Scouts of America?

Acker: Because opportunities should be open for women to do what they want to do!

PWM: In your opinion, conversely, should men be allowed to join the Girl Scouts of the United States of America?

Acker: I’ll leave that to the Girl Scouts, another great organization. Smart women let other smart women make their own rules 😊

Emily Shah

Emily Shah is a 24-year-old Indian American actress and the daughter of famed Bollywood actor and director Prashant Shah. The Chicago-born, New Jersey-raised actress grew up on set for her father’s films and always felt an infatuation with both production and acting. She has been preparing for her big break since the age of five by training in dance and theatre classes. Her first film, Fortune Defies Death, premiered in 2018 in which she played one of the lead roles, Mona.

As a teenager, Shah started working in local pageants, commercials, and doing print work for Indian American brands. She got a job on the set of Jersey Boys as an assistant to Clint Eastwood and later assisted in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Monster Trucks, and Fast & Furious 7. A former Miss New Jersey in 2014, Shah is also the youngest contestant in the state’s history and the first Indian American at a Miss USA pageant.

Currently, Emily stars in the Indian film, Jungle Cry, which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and received acclaim at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Based on a true story, the film follows a young team of rugby players who grow up in the slums of India and made worldwide history after winning the 2007 Rugby Nations Cup in England. Shah plays the team’s physiotherapist.

PWM: You have an extensive background in dance and working in local pageants, among others. You also mentioned you’re influenced by your multicultural background. Can you tell us more about that and what inspired you to pursue acting?

Shah: I always loved performing since I was a toddler. I got into dance at a very young age which lead to theater. I did local plays within my community and absolutely thrived whilst acting. I knew that it was my passion to perform for an audience and as I got older, I realized that because of my background, I wanted to reach an audience on an international level…what better way to do so then film? Especially in today’s digital age, the global audience is highly accessible and that excites me even more.

PWM: Can you tell us about Jungle Cry and your character in the film? What inspired you to take on the lead role?

Shah: Roshni is not only the sports physiotherapist. She is a mentor, a leader and a strong woman taking on a career in a male dominant field. Women in sports tend to have to deal with proving themselves in ways men don’t have to and we catch a glimpse of that in Jungle Cry. My character is the element that breaks down barriers while shining a light on the potential that these tribal and orphan boys have. I wanted to play Roshni because I knew that the film needed a woman’s dynamic. It gave me the opportunity to own my power as a female lead as well as giving a voice to women in the sports industry.

PWM: Jungle Cry is based on a true story. How was your experience portraying your character, how did you prepare?

Shah: Roshni is actually the only fictional character in Jungle Cry. The writers and director wrote her in specifically because there were no females in the original story from 2007, but that is not the world that we live in today. Today, women absolutely have a stance in the sports field and that should not go unnoticed. The film was also very male driven and it was missing the element of a feminine touch. I shadowed a rugby sports physio who was Canadian-Indian and studied/ worked in the UK with rugby players after graduating. That’s exactly what my character did as well. She studied in the UK, specifically focusing on rugby. I also did a lot of research about the actual sport, its origin and the most common injuries. I would prep with the on-set medic before a scene to make sure I was physically taking the correct steps while treating players.

PWM: Tell us about your experience as an upcoming actress in a typically male-dominated field. Do you face any challenges, and if so, how do you overcome them?

Shah: In almost any industry, women, especially of color, tend to face more challenges than males do. We live in a unique time where women are generating a voice and are standing their grounds on equality. It is inspiring to be an actress with everything going on in the entertainment industry at the moment, but I know my generation needs to do more to have actors of different ethnicities represented. I already notice the changes happening but I think we can do more. I hope one day, I can be in the producer’s chair, creating content that gives opportunities to diverse actors and talent.

PWM: We read you’re a UNICEF, Autism Awareness, and Alicia Rose Victorious Foundation ambassador. What have you accomplished through this, and are there other organizations you’re partnering with?

Shah: During the year that I campaigned with UNICEF’s End Polio campaign, India became Polio free. That was a huge accomplishment and I know UNICEF continues to strive to make other countries Polio free. I have worked with several charities over the years but during my time at The Alicia Rose Victorious Foundation, we raised over $2.5 million dollars and set up lounges in 38 different states. These lounges are able to make teenagers feel more comfortable while being treated at a pediatric hospital. We were also able to hold a “Prom Night” at the North Central Bronx hospital for the teenagers who couldn’t attend their own prom. It was a beautiful event. Working with several platforms has always been a goal of mine. Also, I hope to continue my work with UNICEF, specifically focusing on helping women in India.

PWM: What are some of your upcoming projects or films?

Shah: I am reviewing a few scripts at the moment, all which cater to international audiences.

How to Find Your Dream Mentor

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A headshot of Kim Churches, smiling at the camera

By Kim Churches

When I was starting out in the working world, I benefited from fabulous mentors who helped me grow. I played the role of an anthropologist, carefully observing the actions and qualities that made leaders successful.

I tried to emulate them, going so far as dressing like they did in double-breasted blazers with shoulder pads (it was the 80s!) even when I didn’t need to.

Fashion aside, I learned a lot from these people, and now, as a leader myself, I’m honored to be in a position where I can help guide other women. In many ways, I’m learning as much from them as they are from me. But having been on both sides of the mentor/mentee equation, I know what makes the relationship work:

Be mindful in your approach.

I can’t count how many times I’ve served on a panel or spoken at an event and, afterward, someone comes up to me, thrusts a business card in my hand and says, “Hi, I’m so-and-so. Will you be my mentor?” Nope. Hard stop from me. It doesn’t work that way. You’ll need to do some homework first.

Here’s another example: One day after I’d given a speech, a young woman approached me and said, “I want to have your job someday!” When I asked why, she replied, “Because I’d like to do what you do.” Well, what does that mean? What part of my job did she like? The title I have on my card? The responsibility of managing a big team? The mission of my organization?

You need to be able to answer the “why” before you approach a prospective mentor. Learn as much as you can about her work and about what you hope to learn from her. And remember: Rather than simply approaching someone out of the blue, it’s a good idea to get to know them a bit before making the request.

Expand your horizons.

Yes, it makes sense to seek out mentors who are at higher levels in the same field as you, as most do. But don’t stop there: You can learn an amazing amount from people in different lines of work. I’ve worked in the nonprofit world for the past 25+ years, but some of the most important mentors in my career have never worked for a nonprofit. And they’ve helped to give me invaluable perspectives and counsel.

Before seeking out a mentor, have a specific idea of the kind of help you’re seeking. Then think beyond the usual suspects. For example, if you’re aiming to be a CEO, but don’t have any financial experience, consider connecting with a vendor you’ve worked with who started her own company. She may have good advice on how to gain some business and budgeting chops. Or say you’re eager to learn how to sensitively manage people in the face of organizational change. Reach out to a family friend who works for a company that was recently reorganized or downsized. Whatever your need, think creatively about who can help fill it. Show more than a little respect.

I realize the goal of seeking out a mentor is to advance your career—and that’s just as it should be. But in sessions with your mentor, don’t make it all about yourself. Instead of asking what you should do or seeking suggestions on solving your latest problem, ask your mentor questions about herself and her career. Who were her favorite bosses? What were her biggest mistakes?

What was the best career advice she ever got? Most people like talking about themselves, so take advantage of that and listen, listen, listen. Trust me: You’ll learn a lot by doing so. And always show respect for your mentor’s time. If you ask to meet for coffee, plan on 30 minutes, unless your mentor suggests doing more. If it’s a lunch, find out how much time she has then stick to it.

We are all busy in our day jobs, so remember your mentor is giving up time she could be using to kill it in the office. As far as other communications, brevity is important. Edit your emails to make them succinct, and keep phone calls direct and to the point. A big thank you every now and then never hurts. Gratitude always wins.

Keep your word and follow through.

I’ve had several mentees who sought me out. After what seemed like productive meetings, we agreed on certain action items and made plans to reconvene in a couple of months. Sadly, some didn’t follow through, or if they did, they failed to act on the next steps we discussed. That made me feel as though I’d wasted my time, so I didn’t feel guilty for cutting things off.

But those bad experiences were the exception: More typically, I’ve had rich and rewarding relationships with mentees that continue to thrive. I see how eager these bright and ambitious women are to grow in their career and how hard they are working at it. I love when they tell me about the ways my advice has helped them – and even about ways my suggestions haven’t worked out. I value their honesty and I know they appreciate my time. I’m happy to give more to them.

After all, I wouldn’t be where I am today without all those mentors who helped me along my path – and continue to do so! I feel honored and privileged to be able to do the same…ahem, minus those double-breasted blazers with shoulder pads.

Kim Churches is the CEO of the American Association of University Women, a national non-partisan nonprofit that works to advance gender equity for women and girls through research, education and advocacy. Take AAUW’s free salary negotiation workshop at WorkSmart Online.

 

Is this Pandemic Changing Gender Roles?

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Female medicine doctor working on table with consulting patient.

When the United States joined World War II in the 1940s, women stepped up and went to work as many of the men had been drafted to the battlefield.

The switch allowed for women to break gender roles and step into the positions that were typically held by men. Now, among the COVID-19 outbreak of 2020, there is a strong possibility that a similar role reversal is taking place and changing expectations.

Researchers at Northwestern University, UC San Diego, and the University of Mannheim predict the virus could normalize the idea of a male being the primary, at-home caretaker.

Most of the essential jobs in the medical field are held by women. Ninety-four percent of nurses, 74 percent of healthcare workers, and more than 60 percent of pharmaceutical professionals are all women. While the idea of a “stay-at-home dad” has become more normalized, it is still not fully accepted, as many of these women continue to take on a majority of the caregiving and household work, along with handling their jobs. But, with the increase of work hours and the need for these medical professionals increasing, this leaves the newly home-schooled children to be at home with their fathers.

Breaking the stereotypes of gender roles, though hugely effecting personal lives at home, are predicted to influence a shift in economic and government issues. Many companies have been forced to make their schedules more flexible for employees with families, namely the men who are becoming the primary caregivers of their children while their wives are on the frontline of the virus. The exposure to this new experience could also affect how social issues are handled in government, as more lawmakers and government officials will have the experience of household duties and the expectations put on women, once the pandemic is over.

Whatever the outcome may be from this time, the role reversal being experienced between women and men will at least give new perspective into the expectations of the different pieces of the family system and hopefully inspire a more equal distribution of duties as a result.