Women

8 lessons from the women on Wall Street Conference

The Women on Wall Street conference, hosted annually by Deutsche Bank since 1995, is one of DealBook´s favorite shindigs of the year. (As we said Wednesday, it´s the only social event on our calendar that is teeming with hundreds of intelligent, successful women, all contractually obligated not to talk to us.)

Last year, we took note of the many red-soled Christian Louboutin shoes and immaculate pantsuits worn by attendees. And this year, we were promised an even better time, thanks to confirmed appearances by some of the biggest female names in business: among them, Anne Marie Petach, the chief financial officer of BlackRock, and Katherine Garrett-Cox, the chief executive of Alliance Trust, the Scottish investment firm.

This year´s blowout, held at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square, didn´t disappoint. Here, a list of eight things we learned:

It´s lattice, not a ladder

Sharon L. Allen, the former chairman of Deloitte, told attendees that the traditional idea of a career ladder was outdated. The new metaphor? "Career lattice," which reflects the fact that professional progress isn´t always an up-or-down climb, but rather an multidirectional web of decisions and movements.

Another speaker, Ms. Garrett-Cox, echoed that sentiment: "Sometimes you have to move sideways to move up."

Mirror your clients

Ms. Petach of BlackRock said that there was a business case for having female executives on Wall Street. (In addition to that whole, you know, basic gender-equality case.) "In today´s world, our clients are women," Ms. Petach said, noting that BlackRock had been able to relate more closely to its client base as a result of its increased female presence.

Don´t be a shrinking violet

Several speakers talked about the need for women in business to toot their own horns. Ms. Allen said that no matter how impressive a woman´s accomplishments were, "at the end of the day, it doesn´t matter unless you promote yourself."

But it can´t be all promotion. Ilene H. Lang, the chief executive of Catalyst, noted a recent study that showed that "women are paid for performance," whereas men are paid for their potential.

But maybe be an actual violet

Ms. Garrett-Cox, the Scottish investment chief, said that she had taken an unusual step to assert herself among colleagues after being tapped for the chief executive position: she redecorated her office in purple. Now, she said, men at her company "wear purple ties when they want to suck up."

Make friends, not just contacts

Donna Milrod, the deputy chief executive of Deutsche Bank Americas, told the audience that she thought the notion of keeping your business contacts and your friends separate was outmoded. "It´s O.K. to have professional relationships that turn personal," Ms. Milrod said, noting that female financiers who know one another personally may find it easier to help in the business setting.

Wall Street is war

Near the end of the panel, which was held on a stage in a talk-show set-up reminiscent of "The View," the speakers were asked for their reading recommendations. Ms. Garrett-Cox listed Sun Tzu´s "The Art of War" among her top picks, adding that it was helpful in navigating the battleground of the workplace.

Don´t short teen-age girls

In lieu of swag bags for attendees, Deutsche Bank, citing "considerations to the economy," decided to give a charitable donation to Girls Inc. of New York City, a nonprofit organization that focuses on empowering young women. While accepting the gift, a representative of the organization noted that the conference wasn´t its first brush with Wall Street. A group of high school girls in the Girls Inc. of New York City program, she said, had been given $20,000 by ING to learn how to invest in the stock market; the team produced 37% gains since January 2009.

It´s all about the food

For some attendees, the main draw of the event was the post-panel buffet, which included seared sea scallops, short rib sliders and something called a "Caesar salad shot." One panelist, Ms. Garrett-Cox, noted that food was also an important part of her leadership style. On hot days, she said, she hands out ice cream to her employees.

(Published by NY Times - October 20, 2011)

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