TO be a good leader, Filipino American Loretta Adrian, president of Coastline Community College in Orange County, says one must be open to criticism, be a good listener, and love people.
“If you don’t love people, you probably won’t succeed in being a good leader,” she said.
Adrian was among panelists who spoke at the third annual Orange County Global Women’s Conference on Friday, May 29 at the Hilton in Irvine, Calif., where dozens of business leaders, community leaders and entrepreneurs from Southern California offered inspiring and motivating words for women.
In four sessions, panelists discussed what it takes to lead a business as a female chief-level executive, the power of the woman’s purse, how women are perceived in international business, and hurdles in workforce diversity.
Other speakers included Lilliana Cino de Silva, consul general of Peru in Los Angeles; Carmela Ma, founder of CJM Associates; Betty Lo, vice president of community alliances and consumer engagement for Nielsen; Beth Krom, Irvine City councilmember; and Parisa Khosravi, former vice president of CNN Worldwide and founder of Payam Global Strategies, LLC.
In addition to panels, attendees were also able to indulge in a beauty lounge where they were able to receive complimentary massages, beauty consultations, and shop for jewelry and makeup, among other things.
What it takes to Cover the World
“One’s EQ is just as important, if not more important, than one’s IQ. The way you handle yourself, the way you treat people, the way you interact … these are all keys to how things can happen,” said Khosravi, who was the keynote speaker of the event.
Khosravi told those at the event that she did not have leadership or management training, particularly in her earlier years at CNN, so she relied on her upbringing to treat people right.
As an Iranian woman, Khosravi encountered challenges that came along with her status, but she never dwelled on her ethnicity or gender. Whenever she was thrown curve balls in life, she said she never resorted to asking, ‘Why me?’
“I actually said, ‘Wow me. I was chosen. This is a lesson that I can get from this experience. And I can grow … and become hopefully a greater person and a more compassionate human being,’” she said.
“I think it’s really important for all of us to keep that in mind and just rely on your womb wisdom to make those bigger decisions and continue to wow yourself,” she added.
In her speech, Khosravi also cited words her mother had said: “If you think you can do it, go for it.”
Cultural perception of women in international business
Similarly to Khosravi, Ma, who has done business in more than 30 countries, said she doesn’t dwell on the fact she’s an Asian female when doing business.
She also told women not to be afraid of being underestimated and to understand high context cultures before conducting business with individuals from such backgrounds, so as not to have doors close in the beginning. Ma added that women should never step down or move aside if someone does not give them the proper respect.
Silva said women should observe and learn the language and about the culture of another country before conducting business there, as it demonstrates an interest in the country. Additionally, she said women should seize the opportunity to socialize whenever it exists: Women should go everywhere, talk to everyone and connect.
Other advice offered by the two panelists for this session included that women should be cautious about drinking with other businessmen they meet for the first time, as it could be taken negatively; and that it is important for one’s business card to include the name of the business and the title in certain countries.
Women in leadership: leveling the playing field
With more men than women in leadership positions, four female leaders shared what factors have contributed to their success and the hurdles they have encountered along their journeys.
Sharrell Jackson of accounting firm Squar Milner said she has never worked for a woman and has been the odd woman out for most of her career. Authenticity and honesty have contributed to her success, and she advised women to believe in themselves when nobody else does.
While women are known to be compassionate and soft, Cynthia Abercrombie, executive vice president, deputy chief risk officer of Banc of California, said leadership comes from within and employs the traits women are known for when necessary.
Adrian, who was part of the panel, shared with attendees that being a good listener is critical when it comes to being a good leader, as it helps one in making better decisions.
“I learn the most from people who disagree with me,” she added.
Silvia Ichar, founder and publisher of Para Todos Magazine, pointed out that in Latin America, there are many women presidents.
“We need to start doing something in [the United States,]” she said.
She added that women should value themselves. “See what you have inside and go out with that. Open your bubble There’s so much more out there to give and receive,” she said.
The power of her purse
It is a widely known fact that the way most disposable and non-disposable income is spent depends largely on the decisions women make, and Lo from Nielsen and Betty Uribe, executive vice president of California Bank & Trust, discussed the power and influence women have in this area.
Lo cited physiological differences between men and women, which leave women with better intuition and make them better at multitasking. She added that women are better when it comes to bigger picture connections, which make them better strategists. Lo also told women to examine a company’s products when buying, and to see if they serve the needs of women. And because women have such power, Lo told attendees to understand their buying power and to be informed about the power they have as consumers.
Uribe offered advice for women with businesses, including protecting their brand, finding their own voice and being comfortable with it, trusting their instincts, seeking out champions and leaving a legacy.
“Leadership is about inspiring other leaders,” she added.
Uribe also said that successful individuals should be thankful to those who helped them get where they are.
“Don’t ever forget where you came from,” she said.
Presto, chango! Change agents promoting diversity & inclusion
The final session of the conference delved into the obstacles certain businesses and organizations face in promoting diversity, among others.
Walter Rodriguez, manager of diversity and community relations at Hyundai Motor America, the only male panelist at the conference, shared that one of the hurdles the auto industry faces is the lack of minorities and women in management. He said that Hyundai has taken steps toward diversity inclusion through an employee resource group initiative, as every individual possesses a different perspective on situations and how to approach problems.
About four years ago, the company launched a women’s council and a group for millennials. The groups experience much success that the company will be opening up spaces for other communities, including ethnic minorities, LGBTs and veterans.
“We understand by bringing in all those ideas and different perspectives … by having those differences, we become a better and stronger company,” Rodriguez said.
Rhonda Johnson, national director of retail sales and service at Comerica Bank, said one of the company’s diversity best practices is through outreach efforts. One of the ways it does this is by building relationships with the communities it serves and getting involved with diverse chambers. Like Rodriguez, Johnson said diversity makes the bank stronger.
Irvine City Councilwoman Beth Krom tied corporate diversity to the public sector, citing that a diverse workforce will need to live in a place where they can access good education, opportunities and cultural resources.
“In order for the business community to thrive, the public sector needs to be working in collaboration whether directly or indirectly,” she said.