Continuing the Conversation: Women Leading Change
As part of our ongoing commitment to support women in the workplace, Deltek recently hosted a panel of executives at Deltek Insight 2021, sponsored by Women at Deltek. Moderated by Susan Boers, Deltek's Vice President of Enterprise and Project Portfolio, the Women Leading Change: Pivoting with Positivity panel featured three Deltek customers sharing their stories on making it to the C-suite.
We sat down with Jennifer Felix, President and CEO of ASRC, Federal; Diana Hipp, Deputy CIO of KBR; and Florence Sterlin, President and CEO of DB Sterlin Consulting, Inc. to learn about their personal experiences navigating their careers.
Virtual Deltek Insight 2021
Pivoting with Positivity Panel Discussion
Women on the Rise
Each year, the share of women in senior management roles across the globe continues to climb. According to The Catalyst Group, women in senior management roles in 2020 grew to 29 percent, the highest number ever recorded. Across the board, more women are leading Fortune 500 companies than ever before − and even during the pandemic − more women moved into the top executive positions. Women executives like our customer panelists Jennifer Felix, Diana Hipp and Florence Sterlin are making the journey to the C-suite.
While there has been a lot of progress with women taking top leadership positions in companies, there is still a long way to go! The Catalyst Group noted that women are over-represented in support functions like administration, while men tend to be concentrated in operations, profit and loss, and research and development—all viewed as critical experiences for CEO and board-level positions.
And, once women get to an executive level, there are significant differences between how men and women are viewed in their executive roles. “Most women do not highlight their success or promote themselves,” shared Hipp when asked about the challenges women faced that typically their male counterpoints don’t. “It is more natural for women to let others get the spotlight or have the accolades go to their teams.”
Advocating for yourself and for others, is critical for women to continue advancing into leadership positions. “I think any change has to start with strong advocates,” weighed in Felix. “When I go back to the beginning of my career, I went to work for Deloitte because they were the only firm that had set a clear goal to increase women partners. We're taking a similar approach here at ASRC Federal as we work to diversify our leadership” Felix continued, “We have a women's network that is focused on inspiring and supporting women’s unique challenges. I think being able to pull a team of really phenomenal women across our organization together that have common interests has been very supportive.”
“You can’t be afraid to ask for help,” added Sterlin. “Find a mentor, someone who can work through issues with you, and add to your squad. Think of mentors as partners. They do not need to be seasoned professionals, but individuals who can provide you with insight and help you gain new perspective. We have a lot to learn from each other!”
"At the end of the day, I think that women are much stronger and more successful when we unite to lift everyone up than when we attempt to compete as individuals."
– Jennifer Felix, President and CEO, ASRC Federal
Engaging Others on Your Path to the C-Suite
The workplace of today comes with many modern-day challenges, from work-life balance to political maneuvering. It is not always easy to know which way to turn, especially when rising to the top of a company.
Hipp, Felix and Sterlin all agreed that it is essential to surround yourself with good teams and great mentors when driving your career. Reiterating, it is best to look at your surroundings and your people, find your star performers, your advocates, and build up a strong network to help catapult you to where you need and want to be.
Hipp offered that she has “faced many challenges, between work-life balance, hard initiatives and work changes − and that was just last week! What has always helped me, is surrounding myself with good teams and having support that includes some great mentors.”
Having a solid network is important – even once you have joined the executive ranks. Boers, a seasoned executive that has been a CEO during her career added that, “Building, nurturing and maintaining a network should never stop. It can be a lot of work, but the benefits are tremendous. You should never stop looking for those sources to network with. Recently, I joined CHIEF – an all-female executive club that provides mentorship, coaching and access to peers. There are so many great resources that women have access to!”
"I absolutely believe getting inspiration from and seeking advice from people that you admire – both inside and outside of your organization, is important,” Felix added. “Some of the best advice that I have gotten as a leader is from women who were not aligned to my specific role. They were experts in different fields, but the insights they shared really translated across roles and industries.”
“Building a strong team has helped me reinforce the message of we're in this together, whether I'm the engineer, whether I'm the accountant, whether I'm the president. If we don't work together to accomplish our goals, we don't get there,” said Sterlin.
Surrounding yourself with the right people is a critical step, but there really isn't one path to becoming a C-level executive. “Becoming a C-level executive is not something you major in, in college. In my experience, I never shied away from taking on new challenges. I got involved in almost all aspects of the business. I was always pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, and I worked for great people who kept giving me the opportunities to do more,” said Felix.
"Never forget the power of relationships and human connection. If you win the hearts and minds of the people, then the rest will fall into place. Don’t only be customer centric, be employee centric."
– Diana Hipp, Deputy CIO, KBR
As we all know, no one can truly predict the future; however, with some help, we can certainly do our best to prepare for it. When it comes to advice, our panelists had lots to share, including what they would say to their younger selves. “Be your authentic self. Don’t concern yourself with looking, sounding or acting like everyone else,” said Hipp. “Your differences and unique perspective is your superpower.”
When growing your career and trying to take that next step, Felix noted that “it’s essential to push outside of your comfort zone, find individuals who will advocate for you, and take advantage of opportunities to do more. Then be bold and believe in yourself.”
"Take advice from everybody and anybody that's willing to share it with you. They may not have solved the same problem that you're facing, but they may be able to give you some advice to figure out how to get through the problem."
– Florence Sterlin, President and CEO, DB Sterlin Consulting, Inc.
We hope conversations like these help navigate your daily challenges, foster success and create change in your own life and career.
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