She is even taller and magnetic in real-life.
And for the record, her struggle with cancer has made her even more powerful and determined. So, imagine the nerves I felt when I got the rare opportunity to interview Robin Roberts from the Good Morning America show. As the keynote speaker at McGraw-Hill’s WINS leadership conference in NYC this past summer, Roberts gave a room full of professional women a deeply profound and positive look at what it takes to succeed in a man’s world. Let’s face it, broadcasting is tough – and she started in the man-town of it all: Sports broadcasting! But Robin Roberts is tougher, deciding that in order to win, she needed to play hard – and by her own rules. That was just one of the many insightful topics discussed at this two-day conference designed to give up-and-coming female leaders in The McGraw-Hill Companies a chance to learn and be inspired to climb their corporate ladder.
WINS gives female employees a roadmap to drive their career upward.
For the last two years, I’ve participated in McGraw-Hill’s WINS leadership conference in NYC. It’s not your typical leadership conference. It’s an energetic meeting of 200 women from all over the world. It is part of their WINS program – a professional development membership program that has chapters in their offices around the globe. Throughout the year, the local groups host monthly workshops designed to help women in the organization find the confidence, communication skills and focus to drive their careers upward in the company. The leadership conference is an “invite-only” event, bestowed upon those individuals at each chapter that have displayed exceptional leadership qualities in the past year. It is one of the most effective women’s development programs I have seen in corporate America.
Surprisingly, it’s the male-dominated leadership team pushing for WINS to succeed.
What I think has made this program grow and start to become a game-changing part of McGraw-Hill’s corporate culture is that the company at the highest level truly endorses it. Each year, I’ve watched key executives, including CEO Terry McGraw himself, come to the event and sincerely encourage the women in the room to not shy away from bigger leadership roles. These executives challenge them to work through their concerns and fears and to network their way to a role that will enable them to stretch themselves professionally. What makes that ironic is that the key executives I’ve seen speaking at WINS events are male. Now, given that 80% of corporate America is run by white males in their 50s-60s, that’s no surprise, but what’s powerful about this is that they aren’t paying lip-service here. They really are trying to get more women to join them at the higher level.
Yet, it’s the caliber of women who founded and promote the WINS initiative that have made it succeed where other corporations have failed.
In a time when studies show women are giving up on corporate America, I am encouraged when I see quality organizations like McGraw-Hill working towards keeping their female talent on-track for growth. The core groups of women who founded and nurtured the WINS initiative are always present at the leadership conference. They openly discuss how to deal with ‘mean girls’ in the office and the politics that come with it. They don’t shy away from any topic and they push the attendees to network like crazy at the 2-day event so that they can return to their offices with a bigger female support network. In short, they get the secret to women succeeding in corporate America: Developing working relationships with more women! While I own my own business, I always leave that conference feeling like I work for McGraw-Hill. The women I connect with are powerful, smart, passionate and supportive of one another. For those of you who have never felt that in your workplace – you are missing out on something special.
In the coming weeks, I plan to write more on the subject of women in the workplace and why we need to re-write the corporate rules so we can play hard AND win. Stay tuned my fellow female professional – your shot at a WINS experience is coming!