At this year's ACC conference, Lisa Tavares, a co-chair of Venable's Business Division, a partner in the Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Practice, and a co-chair of Venable's Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, moderated a dynamic fireside chat on enhancing female power in the workplace. The panel, organized by the ACC Foundation's Women in the House (WITH) network, featured several highly successful women, including Susan Duarte, director and senior counsel at Sprint; Juanita Harris, assistant VP and senior counsel at AT&T; Janet Langford Kelly, former senior VP and general counsel for Conoco Phillips; and Nona Lee, EVP and chief legal officer of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who shared anecdotes and advice on how women can leverage their strengths and influence to support and promote each other.
The discussion began with definitions of workplace power, one of which is "occupying a position that gives a person great authority, influence or responsibility." The panel agreed that while this definition is the same for women and men, women tend to use their power differently, and ideally to help create opportunities and exposure for others who may be overlooked. Juanita said she is always looking for opportunities to "put the shine on women," especially women of color, inside and outside the company, and frequently reminds her colleagues "to seek out those who don't look like them to do the work."
The panel also examined their journeys to power and the myriad challenges and hurdles they faced along the way. Janet said that when she started her career, women weren't allowed to wear pantsuits. As she became more senior, she realized that advancement sometimes means letting women be themselves and turning the tables – like when she wore a favorite pink suit to work.
All of the panelists were in accord that the key to achieving true power is being authentic. Nona said that it took her a long time to realize the power in bringing her true self to the table, and noted that it was tennis legend Billie Jean King who taught her to find her voice while they were both board members of the Women's Sports Foundation.
The panel concluded with some helpful tips on getting ahead: never accept the salary that's offered; never eat lunch alone at your desk, or you risk missing out on daily opportunities to grow your network; and never forget that the best way to grow your own power is to use it to empower others.