HIGHLIGHTS From Our Signature 12th Annual Fall Empowerment Event

Twice a year, PINK brings to town some of America’s most powerful women in business to inspire and advise other high potential women. Authenticity, getting ahead, sexual harassment and crying at work were a few of the topics on Taking Off the Mask to Authentic Leadership, nearly 350 women attended. Major sponsors including Emory University, The Coca-Cola Company, Dunkin’ Brands, Mighty Leaf Tea and Southern Company, and supporting sponsors GreenbergTraurig, Randstad US, SunTrust, The Home Depot and Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles made the event possible.

The speakers, top women at their companies and in their industries, flew in from across the country. The crowd had the chance to hear from the highest ranking woman at Equifax, Chief HR Officer Coretha Rushing; along with the top woman and only female to report directly to the CEO at Dunkin’ Brands Chief Communications Officer Karen Raskopf; also Yankee Candle CEO Hope Margala; Mightly Leaf Tea CEO Sheila Stanziale; and Women in Cable CEO Maria Brennan. All spoke with candor about their experiences and observations in the workplace.

Highlights on 10 Topics:

  1. Timing is key: Sheila Stanziale, CEO, Mighty Leaf Tea: “It’s about picking the right time to say what you need to say without compromising. Hope Margala, CEO, Yankee Candle: “I don’t think I’m the smartest person at the company, but I was in the right place at the right time.” Karen Raskopf, CCO, Dunkin’ Brands: “I was always going to be an English professor. Then there was a shakeup. I got a call from the CEO to head up the department. I remember thinking, I can’t do the job. But a voice inside me said, Hey if it isn’t you, who will it be? If someone taps you on the shoulder — see it.”
  2. Crying at work: There was some debate about this. Hope said, “A man told me you’re emotional because you are and you’re passionate.” But most favored not crying at the office. Coretha Rushing, CHRO, Equifax said, “I knew if I tilted my head a little bit, all these tears would come out. You absolutely have to manage that. [My boss] said, Don’t go crying. I said, Why? He said, That’s how my wife and daughter take advantage of me. He said, You know where the bathroom is. Go to the bathroom. Then come back and say, ‘Thank you for that feedback. It’s a gift.’” Karen weighed in too, “I’ve cried on the job but never in front of my boss. You’ve got to read the room. When I talk fast and use my hands, my boss takes it as if I’m upset. I learned not to fill in the gaps when he is talking. I had to adapt my communication style to him.” Sheila had the final word on this, “The last word on crying: Don’t do it at work. [If you do] I’ll assume if you’re in a stressful situation, I will worry you’ll fall apart.”
  3. On perfection: This includes the standards women hold themselves to. Maria Brennan, CEO, Women in Cable: “If men think they match 50 percent of the criteria, they throw their hat into the ring. How many of you [women] think you have to match 100 percent?! We hold ourselves to an extraordinary standard. In the workplace you need to give yourself a break.”
  4. On life balance: Maria said there is no life balance only integration, “Be forgiving of yourself. Remember this too shall pass. I had a bad health scare. It was stress related. We need to try our best and let it go. At home we turn on the fireplace. It’s a cue to turn off all the devices; not just to have time for your family but for you. Do your best to disconnect, to give your mind a rest.”
  5. Coaching at work: How to handle it? Sheila said, “I made it easy to get advice and feedback. When someone talked to me about how to improve, I made it easy. It’s hard for men to give women advice. A lot of people saved me from myself. People who have been easy to coach have gotten more from me too, and are able to do bigger and better things. Don’t be a pain in the neck. You don’t have to take all of it, but say thank you and think about it.” Coretha added, “Perception is real whether you think it is right or not. If you hear the same song, the common denominator is you. I’m just saying.”
  6. Success secrets: Maria said, “People who succeed have passion for what they do.” Coretha said, “Sometimes I think I’m very successful and powerful, but sometimes I’m the only one who thinks that. It’s not about what other people think.” Hope said, “No one told me I couldn’t be successful.” And Karen added, “Work hard, love what you do and have a curious mind.”
  7. On conflict at work: Coretha said, “When someone’s values are different, we don’t have to agree.” She told her boss this and after a while “he didn’t look for me to agree.” She added, “You have to teach other people how to treat you.”
  8. Best advice: Karen pointed out, “Fortune favors the brave. Lean in and say it.” Hope: “Do what you love.” Maria said, “If you can’t get out of the way, you may as well get into.” Coretha: “Be your best self, the kind of person others want to work with.”
  9. On authenticity: Coretha, “The only time I wasn’t me was when I didn’t know who I was yet. Once you find out who you are, everything becomes more clear.”
  10. Sexual harassment at work: With so much talk about it lately, Coretha takes a clear stand. “You have to report it or it will crush your spirit.”

Spirits were definitely lifted by the end of the event, beautifully moderated by Emmy Award-winning CBS46 anchor Sharon Reed.  “It was my favorite event in these twelve years,” said PINK founder and CEO Cynthia Good, who opened the program with a surprise flash mob performance of “Thriller,” along with nine dancers.  “It was the most fun I have had.”  And that’s what being authentic is all about.  Questions for you: What makes you authentic, at work and at home?  Tell us on Facebook and Twitter!

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