Advanced interpersonal communication skills enable women executives to scale the career ladder.
By Scott Williams
Hispanic Business® magazine, April 2002
Show up early, work hard, excel at your job. A formula for career success? Not quite, according to career experts and members of this year’s Hispanic Business 80 Elite Hispanic Women. In addition to keeping your nose to the grindstone, they say, moving up the career ladder requires networking – and the higher you go, the more your network matters. “You’re more interdependent at higher levels because you can’t run a company and do everybody’s job,” explains Rebeca Johnson, vice-president of ethnic and urban marketing at the Frito-Lay Inc. division of PepsiCo and a member of the Elite Hispanic Women. She adds that upperlevel positions carry a higher risk, and job evaluation at these altitudes involves a lot more executive feedback – magnifying the importance of having friends in the right places. This year’s directory includes more of those places. Last year’s Hispanic Business Top 50 Women in Business (April 2001) feature listed managers at Fortune 1000 corporations. The new Hispanic Business 80 Elite Hispanic Women directory includes 50 women from the business sector, 17 from government, and 13 from academia to portray a broad range of progress in ethnic and gender diversity. Psychologists have long pointed out that women seem to have an advantage over men in situations that demand interpersonal communication skills. The consulting firm Hartwick Humanities in Management Institute even cites Cleopatra as an example of leadership networking! But Donna Fisher, author of Professional Networking for Dummies, ($21.99, Hungry Minds), says networking sometimes can be more difficult for women despite their natural abilities. “The problem is that most women have not … given themselves permission to use those strengths in their careers,” she maintains, meaning they enjoy helping others but not necessarily helping themselves. Women must learn to be more assertive, to speak up and to ask for what they want, she adds. Patricia Romero Cronin, vice-president of global e-business integration for International Business Machines (IBM) and a member of the Elite Women, recalls how reaching out at the right moment brought her opportunities that otherwise would have slipped away. At a previous position at IBM, Ms. Romero Cronin was assigned to deliver technology for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. She got the job in part because she had built up contacts with other Spanish-speaking employees throughout the corporation. Her Spanish communication skills proved necessary because IBM had chosen a technical group in Madrid, which had worked on the Barcelona Olympics, to write and test 13 million lines of code for the Sydney Games.
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