This year marks the 25th anniversary of our Women’s Network. For over two decades we've made it our mission to help women build their professional networks and further their careers. These years have marked significant change within the Boston business community, as companies throughout the city have pushed for gender-equity at all levels. As part of this year-long celebration, we wanted to take a look inside what it’s like to be a female leader in the Greater Boston area. To find out, we asked some of the leading women of our Women’s Network Sponsor, Liberty Mutual Insurance, to share their secrets.
Being a woman in a male-dominated field can be tricky. We wanted to know what words of wisdom women in upper-management positions would pass on to those who are just starting out. One of the biggest pieces of advice they had to offer was be open to every possibility. “Don’t be limited by a prescribed career path you may have in mind for yourself,” says Debbie McGonigle, Chief Customer Officer. “There are jobs today that didn’t even exist five years ago and your ‘perfect’ job may be something you haven’t even thought of yet.” Senior Vice President and Comptroller Alison Erbig agrees. “I’ve found that by saying yes to opportunities presented to me, I’ve not only uncovered that I like certain responsibilities more than I would have expected, but that so many new doors have been opened by taking on those roles. In fact, I wouldn’t be in the role that I am today if I hadn’t been open to trying a more traditional accounting job early in my career."
“Don’t be limited by a prescribed career path you may have in mind for yourself.” -Debbie McGonigle, Chief Customer Officer.
Other keys to success? Having a diverse professional network, with mentors who both inspire you and push you to succeed. Janelle Edem, General Manager of Distribution and Service, suggests including people outside your company or industry in your network. “This will increase your exposure to different opportunities as you grow your career, increase your resourcefulness as an effective professional and promote diversity of thought, experiences, perspectives and advice you can benefit from,” she says.
Many of these women have found this kind diversity through the Chamber’s Women’s Network. “The network provides a great opportunity to connect with women that one would not encounter in their regular professional circles,” notes Sheila Finnerty, Executive Managing Director. Deeksha Joshi, Managing Director of Corporate Strategy and Research has also found the Women’s Network to be a strong ally, providing access to senior leaders and role models outside her organization.
Although great progress has been made over the past decade and a half, these women know that real changes takes collaboration. “Women’s advancement is not just the responsibility of women- it’s everyone’s responsibility,” says Deeksha. Each woman noted that men can play a crucial role in creating an inclusive environment for women in the workplace. “I think there are men out there who want to be allies but don’t know how to start,” Debbie commented. "A good first step is to listen to their female colleagues to better understand the challenges they face, and how those are sometimes different than challenges men face.”
“I think there are men out there who want to be allies but don’t know how to start.” -Debbie McGonigle, Chief Customer Officer
And, despite the progress that been made so far, these women noted that there is still plenty of room to grow. “Many companies are facing high rates of retirement, particularly at their senior levels which are often predominantly male,” Janelle notes. “Opportunities are opening up for women to assume some of these roles, creating better gender diversity at senior levels in our business community.” The past 25 years have shown a remarkable shift in the role of women in business, and if the past is any indication, #BosBizWomen will continue to rise.