Joan Eischen is the director for advisory services with KPMG LLP, a U.S. audit, tax and advisory firm. She has more than 20 years of experience as an international business development specialist and has traveled to Europe, North and South America selling complex products and services. Now with the publication of “Energy and the City,” a career guide for women offering raw advice from leading female energy executives in Houston, Eischen adds “author” to her resume.
HW: Please tell our readers about your new book, Energy and the City.
JOAN EISCHEN: “Energy and the City” profiles 31 senior executive women in the energy industry. This book is not an exhaustive study, rather a fireside chat with the women who lead in a male-dominated industry. These corporate pioneers entered the industry at a transitional time — in the 1970s and 1980s — when women were hardly present in energy companies. The women I interviewed talked about the changes to both the workplace and home front. These brought, for those who followed, better work environments and more personal choices. The book focuses on the challenges women faced as a minority in a room full of men and how they overcame obstacles. Some may think the issue of female career advancement is no longer valid, but the experiences of these women, and my own experience, show that this is not true.
HW: Were there any themes that emerged in the interviews you conducted?
EISCHEN: Yes, three. Visibility leads the discussion on the first major areas: creating your own personal brand and finding your voice in the shift from team player to leader. Sponsorship is required for advancement. Mentoring is valuable for personal development and networking is essential, but women need sponsors to get ahead. Work/life balance or what I prefer to call “personal choices” is the largest obstacle for career advancement and the women interviewed share their experiences on how they managed career and family. Most of the advice is equal for men and women.
HWM: Where did you get the idea for the book?
EISCHEN: I am an international business development specialist who has lived in six different countries on three continents in very male dominant industries like manufacturing, defense and energy. In 2005, I was a managing partner for a global energy magazine. One of my responsibilities was to interview industry leaders. After several months, I realized that I wasn’t talking to any women. I reviewed 10 years of publications that focused on energy, and I saw women were not featured as prominent players. Women are still few in the industry. When I moved to Houston in 2007, I joined Women’s Energy Network and served for over three years as its program director. I started meeting women who were breaking glass ceilings in the energy industry. Even then, we found it difficult to find 18 women each year to serve as role models for our luncheons and special events.
HW: How did you select the women featured?
EISCHEN: My first interviews were with the women who gave their time to Women’s Energy Network; they came to speak to the organization as role models and mentors for our membership. They recommended other women, and the list got longer and longer. It really took off. Executives like to share their experiences and advice. There are so many amazing and accomplished women working in the energy industry in roles that were once deemed “for men only.” It is very exciting to read their stories.
HW: What is the target audience of your book?
EISCHEN: The target audience is a wide range of young women (and men) — from high school and university students to new hires and mid-level talent. It is a powerful read for the new hires who are entering the energy industry and needing some guidance, as well as for those at mid-level, stuck in the talent pipeline.
HW: How are you reaching this audience?
EISCHEN: It’s been a mixture of using the book as a discussion platform and mentoring tool. Prior to the book being published, I was invited to Florence, Italy to speak to Valore D’, the Italian women’s group. This group of executive women is leading in some of the world’s largest corporations. Last year I participated in the “Young Women Energized,” a high school program developed by Women’s Energy Network that educates young female students about the industry and the careers available. It is interesting that young women today who are good in math and science are still being guided to study medicine rather than other fields like engineering, math or technology. We are able to provide our experiences working in energy. I presented to the Rice LEAD (Leading through Empowerment Affiliations and Development) group of women, and I will be speaking to a coed group for the new Petroleum Engineering program at the University of Houston. And, of course, I am invited to speak at company woman’s groups’ lunch and learn, internal book clubs and annual women’s summits. I was the keynote speaker for the first inaugural women’s resource group summit for Baker Hughes. That was a lot of fun.
HW: What bit of advice did you receive from the women that stood out the most?
EISCHEN: I learned that senior executives are available, and they want to share their experiences and give advice. What we need to understand is they are very busy and have many demands on their time. If you want their time, you need to have a plan and purpose and provide feedback. In my book, I give examples of how to be a good mentee. One topic that came up that I didn’t expect (and I have included as a main chapter) was “Choosing Your Partner and Lifestyle.” All the married women I interviewed acknowledged the support they had at home.
HW: Where can our readers find your books?
EISCHEN: “Energy and the City” is now available at www. Amazon.com and at Barnes and Noble. Brazos Bookstore on Bissonnet also has the book in stock.
Annette Santos is a journalism major at the University of Houston and intern at Houston Woman Magazine.
Sarah Weddington is a nationally known attorney and spokesperson on leadership and public issues. She gained worldwide fame when, at the age of 26, she represented “Jane Roe” in the landmark Roe v. Wade case in the U.S. Supreme Court. Her argument made her the youngest person ever to win a case there. Weddington’s experience and charisma make her a highly sought- after speaker. So, when I heard she would be presenting at The Junior League at the annual meeting of the Federation of Houston Professional Women, I jumped at the opportunity to go hear her speak. As it turned out, I was granted an exclusive, one-on-one interview with her just prior to the big event. Below are some of the things we talked about.
HW: Most of our readers know you are a Texan but know little about your upbringing. Would you tell us about it?
SARAH WEDDINGTON: I was born and raised in Abilene, Texas. My father, Herbert Ragle, was a Methodist minister. From a very early age, I loved to talk. I was also someone who wanted to change things.
HW: Please tell us about your education.
WEDDINGTON: I graduated from McMurray University in my hometown of Abilene and then went on to Austin to earn a J.D. degree from The University of Texas School of Law.
HW: What attracted you to the legal profession?
WEDDINGTON: I think I was always interested in law, but the Dean at McMurray discouraged me. He said being a lawyer would be too tough for a woman.
HW: What exactly did he mean by that?
WEDDINGTON: He said he didn’t see how I would be able to work as a lawyer and still have enough time for a family - to take care of children, clean the house, cook meals, etc.
HW: You’re kidding, right?
WEDDINGTON: No, I’m not. It was the 1960s. Times were very different then.
HW: So, how did you end up in law school?
WEDDINGTON: I moved to Austin and went to work as a clerk typist in the Texas Legislature. The more I watched what was going on there, the more I thought, “I can do that.” So, I applied for law school. There were 125 students in my class. Only five were women. One of the five was U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.
HW: Was it difficult to land that first job after law school?
WEDDINGTON: It was difficult for a lot of women back then. At the time, law firms weren’t willing to pay travel expenses to and from interviews, as they did for the men. Law partners didn’t view the expenditures as wise investments. They just assumed all women lawyers would get married, have children and quit.
HW: So, what did you do?
WEDDINGTON: I went to the Placement Office at the law school and complained about it. The Dean was told, and he agreed “it wasn’t fair.” So, he started making calls to the law firms.
HW: What happened next?
WEDDINGTON: I was interviewed by a law firm in Dallas, and the travel expenses were paid. I wasn’t offered a job, however. The partner said he wasn’t sure the wives were ready for a female attorney in their midst.Thirteen years later, while I was working in the Carter Administration, that same partner was considered for an appointment as a federal judge. I was one of those asked to make recommendations for or against his appointment.
HW: May I assume that man did not get the appointment?
WEDDINGTON: Yes, but not for the reason you might think. He never called and asked me to help him. Instead, he had one of his assistants call for him. If he had called me himself, I would have given him the nod.
HW: A few years after the Roe v. Wade case was settled, you were elected to the Texas House of Representatives, the first woman ever elected to represent Austin. You served two terms, and I understand you had an administrative assistant of note.
WEDDINGTON: Yes, I did. An amazing young woman named Ann Richards. The same Ann Richards who later became our governor.
HW: The two of you were founding members of the Foundation for Women’s Resources. Would you tell our readers about that organization?
WEDDINGTON: I’m very proud of my involvement with the Foundation for Women’s Resources - as one of the first board members and helping with the creation of Leadership Texas and Leadership America. The founding members of the Foundation felt more women were needed at all levels of Texas life, both in business and politics. We wanted women to be able to meet more people and get a statewide perspective on things. The Foundation’s key programs accomplish that.
HW: You have been such a great leader and now you speak often on the subject of leadership. How do you define leadership?
WEDDINGTON: Always the same. Leadership is having the willingness and ability to leave your thumbprint. That often means stepping out, speaking up and taking risks.
HW: You will be retiring from your adjunct professor duties at The University of Texas in Austin at the end of this school year. What’s next for Sarah Weddington?
WEDDINGTON: I believe life is best lived when looking forward, but it’s best understood by looking backward. I think that’s why the rearview mirror in an automobile is smaller than the windshield. It’s what’s ahead that is most important; I know there will be new chapters in my life. I’d like to write a book on leadership, travel and speak more.
Beverly Denver is the executive editor and publisher of Houston Woman Magazine.
From a shotgun house in New Orleans to owner of a $16 million business, best-selling author Vickie L. Milazzo, RN, MSN, JD shares innovative success strategies in her new book, “Wicked Success is Inside Every Woman.”
Milazzo is a Houstonian and the owner of Vickie Milazzo Institute, an education company she founded in 1982. Recognized as the pioneer of a new profession, she built a professional association of approximately 5,000 members.
HW: Despite status quo statistic — women early 75 percent of what men earn and hold only 15 percent of the C-level positions — you believe there is an opportunity-filled future for women. Why?
MILAZZO: Because the qualities that are valued in today’s socially driven culture — participation, engagement, collaboration, relationship-building, and appreci- ation for the greater good — come naturally to most women. Women simply need to be willing to reach out and grab the coming opportunities.
HW: It sounds like you believe women in the workplace have the advantage over men right now.
MILAZZO: Men certainly exhibit many of these qualities, but women synthesize these strengths into a potent energy that is distinctively female. We should not be afraid to express them. Women do have every advantage right now. We’ve never been better-positioned to make our mark.”
HW: In your book, you tell women to “negotiate like you mean it.” Why do you think some women need help when it comes to negotiating?
MILAZZO: Many women aren’t comfortable dealing with negotiations, even when something they really want (and deserve) is on the line.Some think, “The economy still isn’t great so I’d better lie low. No, it’s not what I was hoping for, but if I get too pushy I’m sure they’ll pass me over for one of the other candidates. I should just be grateful to have made the cut.”This might seem like common sense, but settling for less than you’re worth is a big mistake — even in the wake of the Great Recession. In fact, it might even cost you the job.
HW: How could “settling for less” cost someone a job?
MILAZZO: When I’m hiring, I actually weed out candidates who underprice themselves; I assume they won’t perform at the level I expect. In my eyes and in the eyes of many other CEOs, job candidates actually lose credibility when they underprice themselves.
HW: A recent article in The New Yorker, might prove your theory right. It found that only seven percent of women negotiate their salaries up-front when entering a new position…compared to 57 percent of men.
MILAZZO: Those statistics are pretty telling, and I want them to change. Women can and do negotiate all the time outside the workplace — with spouses, with kids, with teachers, with friends — and we can do it in a professional setting, too. It’s just a matter of changing the way you think about asking for money.”
HW: In your book, you give women nine tips to help them ask for the money. First, you say, “never let them see you as a commodity.” What do you mean by that?
MILAZZO: Commodities are easy to obtain and easy to replace. And, that’s certainly not how you want to be perceived at your job. I tell women to do what they need to do to stand out. Get in the middle of everything and bring new ideas to the table. Build relationships throughout the company. If you’re able to make yourself invaluable and leverage the things that make you unique, you’ll also make yourself impossible to replace.
HW: You also tell women to “distinguish ambition from greed.” Would you elaborate on that idea?
MILAZZO: Prior to launching yourself into a negotiation, it’s a good idea to take a step back and ask yourself why you’re working toward this particular goal. For example, you’ve been in your current position for two and a half years without a significant raise, and you think your skills are worth much more. Before you march into your boss’s office, ask yourself: Why do I want a raise? Do I just want more money, or am I honestly interested in advancing in this company?
HW: You also tell women to “be your own number one fan.” Do you mean it’s okay to toot your own horn?
MILAZZO: To a certain extent, we’re actually wired to nurture and care for others and to put the good of the whole over our own personal interests. While these impulses aren’t inherently bad, it’s time for a news flash: if you don’t announce your own achievements, you can bet that no one else is going to do it for you. With humility, make sure you’re keeping your name, your accomplishments, and your skill set in front of everyone.
HW: Another tip of yours is to “ask for everything at the beginning of the negotiation.” I can just learn some of our readers saying, “But, that would be coming on too strong!”
MILAZZO: This can also be a difficult strategy for women to adopt. We don’t want to appear overly aggressive, so we don’t put all of our cards on the table at the beginning of negotiations. We think we’ll get the other person used to the idea gradually. But especially in business, adding on as you go along generally isn’t a good idea; it makes you appear unfair.
HW: You also tell women to “ask for more than you think you can get.” But, isn’t that being greedy?
MILAZZO: Remember the old adage: Nothing risked, nothing gained. Don’t jump too fast to say “yes” to the first offer, even if you think it’s fair. It's always smart to assess the situation, the person making the offer and how far you might be able to go before signing your name on the dotted line. Chances are, if your request for more is denied, you’ll still be left with the initial offer.
Editor’s Note: “Wicked Success is Inside Every Woman” is available now at bookstores nationwide and from major online booksellers. To learn more, visit www.wickedsuccess.com.