Article – Four Big Questions

Four Big Questions Professional Women Need Answered
By Carmen Cusido, © 2005 Diversity Inc.

January 11, 2006

Professional women who embarked on six day-long workshops over the course of five months had four questions going into the program: Why, in the year 2006, is there still a need for a program on women’s leadership? Are there still structural barriers to women’s leadership? Do women bring something to leadership? And finally, how is research on women leadership helping to create change?

Some of those women, who “graduated” Tuesday evening from the Senior Leadership Program for Professional Women (SLP), still may have those questions, but they increasingly are finding answers to them.

At an informal panel discussion at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University in New Brunswick , N.J. , recent program graduates spoke about what they learned, and how they hope to apply it to their jobs.

Denise Beckles, manager for diversity, education and learning for Johnson & Johnson, said, “I rediscovered my voice and realized that, no matter who I received input from, my voice would have the last say. Instead of relying on other people, no one knows me better than me.”

Brigid Moynahan is the founder and president of Montclair, N.J.–based The Next Level, a consulting company with clients that include some of the companies on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list, including JPMorgan Chase (No. 25), Verizon (No. 9) and Wachovia (No. 31). She partnered with Rutgers University ‘s Institute for Women’s Leadership and The Center for Women and Work in creating the SLP, now in its sixth year. The intensive program is designed for and by women in top leadership roles who want to promote women’s leadership in the work force.

Besides the workshops, the program is composed of extensive one-on-one executive coaching sessions with Next Level consultants, peer group co-mentoring, and presentations by experts, corporate leaders and scholars.

A theme of the 2005–2006 leadership initiative, Moynahan said, was that sometimes, women leaders are waiting for things to happen. People have to allow each other to have their own voices, instead of giving each other the answers, she said.

Samia Bahsoun, account director for the Northeast region for Nokia and a program alumna who has studied engineering, at first thought her self-doubt had to do with her background. She was born in Africa , has Lebanese parents and says she speaks English with an accent. But when she participated in the program, she discovered some of the other women felt the same way. “The telecommunication industry is very male [dominated]. It has an enormous impact on our politics, the way we vote … It is a woman’s responsibility. It’s a matter of integrity for us to create leadership positions.” She also suggested the recent graduates get a coach. “You cannot do it alone, especially as you move up the ladder.”