Michele Siekerka

Live Blogging from NJBIA’s Women Business Leaders Forum

Today, New Jersey Business magazine’s Managing Editor George Saliba was live blogging from NJBIA’s Women Business Leaders Forum. See below for a detailed recap of the day’s happenings.

1:41 p.m. – In the realm of crisis communications and reputation management, Kessler is exploring: “How do we protect ourselves?”  She says that every organization must designate a person who is responsible if there is a crisis. Moreover, she explains that the media often locates business leaders before they are prepared, sometimes via cell phone.  Kessler recommends not saying, “no comment,” which is the equivalent of saying “guilty as charged.”  Instead, she advises responding with something akin to “I don’t have an answer right now,” but will return the call later.  She cautions not to let phone queries remain unanswered.

More broadly, in an age of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, she advises that people “use the telephone,” which is more confidential.  Social media posts and e-mails can easily be shared, and damage a person’s and/or company’s reputation.  She added that in this day and age, “there is no such thing as privacy.”  In this vein, employees can write incredibly offensive statements (which may be intended as poor jokes), but that nonetheless severely damage the employee and/or the company.

Kessler also states that it is important to “turn on a Google search” for yourself or you family, so that if anything is posted, you will be notified.

On the topic of the Internet and reputation management, she concluded, “The world has changed dramatically, and if you are not on top of it, it will be on top of you.”

1:20 p.m. – Karen J. Kessler, principal, Evergreen Partners, Inc., has now begun delivering the keynote speech.  The topic is “Reputation Roulette – Improve the Odds.”

1:15 p.m. – Michele N. Siekerka, president and CEO of The New Jersey Business & Industry Association, is now regaling the audience with her success story, as well as offering tips and advice for aspiring professionals.  When she was nine years old, Siekerka was “fixated” on eventually becoming an attorney, and she did indeed attend college and law school – and become a lawyer – before progressing to roles at AAA (the automobile association), a chamber of commerce, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Regarding overall advice, Siekerka says, “You need to be ready when opportunities come along.”

She adds that women need to “be proactive, but don’t be too aggressive.”

Also, professionals should: be in the “right” environment; again, be ready for opportunities; and have “passion and urgency.”

She adds, “People want to align themselves with people who are passionate.”

Among other tips, Siekerka says, “don’t be afraid to put yourself in a man’s world,” and she detailed how she was able to successfully navigate a men’s luncheon by “relegating” rather than “delegating.”

12 p.m. – The panel discussions have concluded, and the Women Business Leaders Forum is taking a lunch break for approximately 45 minutes. New Jersey Business magazine / NJBIA will resume this live blog, at that time.  For those just joining this blog, we are live from the Hilton Parsippany, in New Jersey.

11:58 a.m. – The panel is now discussing the substantial time commitment associated with being a board member, with, for example, educating oneself, etc.  In this vein, Candy Straight says it might not be worth the time to serve on three boards that only pay $50,000, when one can sit on another board, which pays more.  The time commitment may be equal, regardless of the pay.

11:50 a.m. – Erin Hamrick explains that boards conduct assessments examining the companies’ strategies, who are the current board members, and where there are skill gaps, in the board.  The companies then seek to fill those skill gaps. She adds that years ago, “boards were more friends and family, and [about] networking.  While networking is still important, skills sets are critical, too.”

11:45 a.m. – Joanne Pace says it is important to “choose a [board] where you know you can have an impact.”  Meanwhile, she says boards seek former CEOs, current CFOs, and others.  Knowledge of technology is also key to serving as a board member in today’s business climate.

11:38 a.m. – Candace L. Straight, private investor, investment-banking consultant and movie producer, notes, among other points, that “you need to know what to do, to position yourself.”  Meanwhile, she adds, “Don’t be afraid of failure. If you pick yourself up and move forward, people will respect you even more.”

11:25 a.m. – Joanne Pace, independent board director and senior advisor, notes that being a board member “is really about forming relationships, maintaining them, and deepening them.”  She adds that networking is also key.

11:20 a.m. – Caren S. Franzini, president, Franzini Consulting, LLC, also had a long tenure as head of the New Jersey Economic Development Association (EDA).  Overall, then and now, she is able to use her expertise and passion in her field to advise the boards on which she sits.  She notes that it is important to sit on boards for which one has a “passion.”

11:04 a.m. –  The “Becoming a Board Member” panel discussion is now underway, with Erin M. Hamrick, founding partner at Sterling James, serving as the session chair.

The panel discussion has concluded, and the Women Business Leaders Forum is taking a brief respite. New Jersey Business magazine / NJBIA will resume this live blog in approximately 30 minutes.  For those just joining this blog, we are live from the Hilton Parsippany, in New Jersey.

10:40 a.m.  – Wells Fargo’s Ross-Dulan is answering an audience question about how leadership connects with customer service.  In part, Ross-Dulan says it is important “to lead with the customers’ [well-being] in mind, and the dollars will then follow.”  She underscores how important this philosophy is, opposed to simply focusing on money.

10:30 a.m. – Celestina Quintana is responding to a question from an audience member regarding how to prepare for the “jobs of the future, that don’t exist yet.”  Quintana underscores the importance of learning another language, and how that “will open doors.”  She adds that once a person learns one new language, it is easier to learn another.

10:18 a.m. – Johnson & Johnson’s Wengel is now responding to a question about “the difference between being aggressive and assertive [at work].”  In perhaps much broader terms, Wengel says that it is a given that high-level workers are technically qualified for their jobs, but they are “more than the content in their brains.” Wengel likes to understand “what makes a person special.” What is her leadership style? How does she does things, for example?  Again, many aspects must be taken into account.

10:00 a.m. – Wells Fargo & Company’s Ross-Dulan is talking about her move from L.A. to New Jersey, and that, in effect, while that was an important career advancement, women must also talk about the “real story [regarding] the fullness of their lives.”  For example, at that time, Ross-Dulan discovered that her daughter was crying each day, at home, in New Jersey.  She “wanted to make sure that her daughter was” okay.  Today, Ross-Dulan’s daughter and son are doing very well, including educational graduations, but Ross-Dulan is underscoring the importance of speaking about the totality of one’s life, and not just its business aspects.

9:55 a.m. – The CEO Panel Discussion continues, with Kathryn E. Wengel, vice president, Johnson & Johnson Supply Chain, explaining how she worked for many years in Puerto Rico, and then moved to Italy, “where nobody spoke a word of English.”  The topic is risk-taking, and Wengel is talking about expanding one’s risk-taking.  Among other things, she notes that it is important to be a “life-long learner.”

9:50 a.m.  – As part of the CEO Panel Discussion, Celestina S. Quintana, owner operator of McDonald’s Restaurants, is regaling the audience with her rise to success.  Years ago, Quintana took a risk to open her own clothing store, and – fast forward to today – now owns 11 McDonald’s restaurants in New Jersey.  Offering great encouragement to the audience, she believes that in the United States, “anyone” can be successful.

9:35 a.m. – The CEO Panel Discussion is underway.  Brenda Ross-Dulan, region president, Southern NJ Wells Fargo & Company, is exploring “what separates those who are really good at their jobs, from those who get to the next level.”  She believes, in part, that strategic thinking, how women understand how they fit into the “broader picture” and “emotional intelligence” are all critical to success.   Overall, she notes that the skills that get a person to a particular job position are not necessarily the skills that advance them to the “next level.”

9:10 a.m. – Ann Rybak, Director, Head of Citizenship, Investment Bank at Barclays, is speaking about the Women in Leadership Index.  Overall, women make tremendous household and other spending decisions, and, separately, they comprise 50 percent of the labor force.  However, as mentioned, they only make up 4.6 percent of CEOs.  The Women in Leadership Index focuses on 88 companies; 37 percent have female CEOs, and the remainder have 25 percent or more women on the board of directors. When there are three or more women on a corporate board, Rybak states that there is a “change in dialog” that is “extremely impactful.”  The “Women in Leadership Index” is a successful example of socially responsible investing.


Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno encourages the audience.

8:45 a.m. – Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno – the current speaker – notes that, in effect, the challenges women face must be talked about, so that those challenges can be overcome.  She says that “there is opportunity is this room,” and that attendees should “get to know” each other.  Regarding specific advice, she said, in part, that women should strive to obtain the best education possible. Moreover, women have an obligation to share their “wealth of experience” with others.

8:30 a.m. – NJBIA President Michele N. Siekerka is giving welcoming remarks, noting that 4.6 percent of CEO positions at S&P companies are held by women, and today’s “dynamic speakers” will explore the importance of being a leader, and how attendees can learn associated skills.

registration is underway

Registration is underway at NJBIA’s Women Business Leaders Forum.

Today, September 25, New Jersey Business magazine is live blogging – from the Hilton Parsippany – The New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s 2015 Women Business Leaders Forum.

Refresh this page for updates on the speakers’ comments.

Though women continue to comprise more of the Fortune 500 CEO positions each year, they still have a long way to go.  This event brings New Jersey women together to network, exchange ideas and identify how we can help women make headway in corporate leadership, and build the next generation of women executives.

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