North Highland at The Global Women in STEM Leadership Summit

North Highland’s VP of HR, Jennifer Mancuso, spoke at The Global Women in STEM Leadership Summit this week in Atlanta. This two-day summit is dedicated to giving women in scientific and technological fields from all career paths access to powerful tools, strategies and connections to advance their careers and their lives. At the summit, Jennifer participated in sessions and panels discussing the challenges and opportunities women in STEM face as well as tools and techniques for success. The three sessions Jennifer participated in were What’s Your Superpower?, How to Win at Work Without Losing in Life and Negotiating Your Way to the Top. Check out Jennifer’s learnings and key takeaways from each session, below.

What’s Your Superpower?

In my career, my superpowers are translating a high level if empathy into a business setting to drive business results and building relationships easily. Coming to North Highland, these “superpowers” have translated well, as one of our values at North Highland is “Relationships matter”.  Whether that’s client or employee relationships, these connections help drive success. Furthermore, collaboration leads to better ideas and results.

Building relationships is especially important for women in STEM as we must use the relationships we’ve built to communicate practical applications of modern technology to a very detailed, technical audience who easily get entrenched in analytics and technology.  These relationships enable us to demonstrate our ability, have the confidence to question assumptions and find supporting data, and communicate the “why” of our actions and decisions to ensure effective change management.   In order for individuals and organizations to reach their highest potential, leaders must understand the business and human dynamic and how to build relationships that ensure you can drive value for both.

Winning at Work Without Losing at Life: A Modern Day Approach to Work-Life Balance

I view work-life balance as more of a work-life blend. I bring my authentic self to all facets of my life, and therefore, my personal and work life come together throughout my day-to-day experiences and routines.  At work, I make sure my priorities as a mother are known, and I also communicate my work schedule and demands to my family. For me, I truly believe that you must prioritize what matters to you. To me, that means my work days are book-ended by time with my children.  I have chosen a career path and employers that did not require consistent travel or late nights in the office.  I’ve looked for employers that offer flexibility in terms of modes of communication, schedules that align to my personal needs, and measure my performance based upon my results, not my presence. 

At North Highland, we hire for skills and accomplishments. We know people grow through their choices, so we foster a culture of care to enable employees to make their mark to enable both professional and personal success. How you manage your personal paradigm is up to you: as long as you’re meeting client and firm needs, you have the flexibility to balance your needs.

We’re living in a brilliant time where technology is enabling us to have these lives of virtual workspaces and instant communication. There is no lost productivity with travel or life hiccups, and we’re minimizing our carbon footprint. Women leading careers in STEM are on the cutting edge of enabling better lives and have the additional bonus of paying it forward for generations to come.

Negotiating Your Way to the Top

In order to negotiate your way to the top, you must first define your priorities: is getting to the top a priority? Working on an interesting project? You need to understand where you want to go first. This will most likely change throughout your career and your life; therefore, it’s important to reevaluate regularly to ensure you’re position, work, and career is aligned to those priorities. 

Once you know what you want, you then need to demonstrate competence. Those in STEM are educated in a field with so much data and technology to measure impact, demonstrate competence, support decisions and enable a chosen approach. Many STEM careers have more ability to demonstrate competency than other career fields.

Also, as women, we must also ask tough questions, be decisive, and speak our minds. Women are less likely to negotiate salary, step forward for promotions, or take a stand against a decision. We need to ask the tough questions because we have the data, analytics and technology to support challenges.

In my own career, my ability to demonstrate competence in my role and the impact of my work has been furthered by technology. When I began my HR career, we didn’t always have the data to support our decisions, but now we have technology and reporting tools that can demonstrate that HR is a career that can drive significant business results.

I’ve also been thoughtful about the companies where I’ve worked to ensure I work for employers that encourage women in leadership positions.  North Highland is an industry leader for women in leadership positions as our executive team is 35% female, compared to the market average of 25%. Additionally, 46% of the firm’s workforce in the US is female, compared to the national average of 44%. These numbers are encouraging as women in STEM increasingly become empowered to step up to leadership positions, become decision makers and ultimately drive results.