Take the Risk'

Panelists at NEW event detail defining moments

Jennifer Bulat, Group Director of Editorial Production, CSP

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- "Take the risk. Take the risk. Take the risk." That was the mantra of author Fawn Germer as she introduced four successful women executives at the Network of Executive Women (NEW) spring networking event March 5 in Rosemont, Ill.

After an hour of networking, the 220 attendees at the event were treated to a panel discussion with the women, led by Germer. The frank, self-deprecating panelists included Vicki Escarra, CEO of America's Second Harvest, Chicago; Barb Hartman, vice president of customer business development for Procter & Gamble, Rosemont, Ill.; Catherine [image-nocss] Lindner, divisional vice president of marketing development for Walgreen Co., Deerfield, Ill.; and Karen May, executive vice president of global human resources for Kraft Foods, Northfield, Ill.

The women all agreed that risk-taking is a crucial ingredient in creating a successful career. "The single most important characteristic that separates ordinary people from extraordinary is that they bet on themselves and take risks," Germer said. "So what if you hit a roadblock? You're smart enough to figure out a way around it."

Germer asked the women to talk about defining moments in their lives and what they learned from those experiences. The panelists offered advice that is universal for everyone in the workplace, regardless of gender.

"When someone says, 'If you do that, you'll never be taken seriously,' I know I'm on the right track," May said.

Escarra, who within a year quit her vice president job with Delta Airlines, got divorced and moved from Atlanta to Chicago, said the work-life balance is tricky: "You can have it all, but you can't have it all every day."

Lindner stressed the importance of working with a great bunch of co-workers. "Surround yourself with people who are more talented and smarter than you—and who also support you," she said.

"You don't have to know everything," Escarra said. "Leading, building a great team and having a good sense of humor are all important."

Also, don't be afraid to hire someone who could someday take your job, Lindner said; that person might build you up and help you get a higher-level job in the company.

"Make allies, not rivals," Germer said.

May agreed: "You can build new kinds of relationships if you show up to help [co-workers] instead of showing up to get ahead," she said.

Germer most recently worked with NEW to produce the book "The NEW Women Rules," which features interviews with more than 50 high-level women executives in the retail sector.

NEW is a nonprofit organization founded in 2001 to promote diversity and professional development in the consumer packaged goods and retail industries.

By Jennifer Bulat, Group Director of Editorial Production, CSP
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