Women’s History Month – Client Spotlight

Since March is Women’s History Month, we decided to ask several of our clients to share their thoughts about what it takes to succeed in their respective industries. Click on the names below for their answers. 

NAME: Jackie P. Taylor
TITLE: Partner, US Alliance Leader-Govt & Public Sector
COMPANY: Ernst & Young LLP (EY)
BRIEF BIO: Jackie is EY’s Alliance Leader for the Government & Public Sector. She also serves as the Lead Partner for State of New Jersey and The King Center. She serves as the Executive Champion of the EY Entrepreneur Access Network (EAN) and most recently was appointed by EY firm leadership to their External Anti-racism Advisory Group.

Jackie has over 20 years’ experience in Organizational Performance Improvement and Technology Enablement. Over her career Jackie has partnered with large, complex organizations to ensure their workforce, operating/service delivery model and technology enablement initiatives are aligned with their organizational strategy. Her work has aided in advancing the institutional mission of Higher Education and Government organizations across the country.

Jackie provides industry insights and perspective to cross functional teams leading enterprise wide operational improvement programs resulting in cost conservation, significant process improvement and workforce optimization.

In addition to distinguishing herself professionally, Jackie has a sincere commitment to service in her community. Since 2018, she has served as Commissioner of the New Jersey State Martin Luther King Jr. Commission and co-chair of the annual NJ Dr MLK Jr Youth Conference. She is an executive mentor and member of Women In America, a professional development and mentoring program whose goal it is to enable promising female executives to fulfill their highest potential, active member of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens and a Founding member of The National Coalition of 100 Black Women-Central NJ Chapter.

What is the best piece of advice you received when entering the workforce, and how did it help you become successful in your industry?
The best advice I received early in my career was from my dad. He’d always say, “You’ve got to work hard and pay your dues”. He let me know as a youngster that I shouldn’t expect instant success and promotions just because I wanted it badly enough. Success was the reward for hard work. This advice is the basis of my work ethic and also successfully quelled my youthful impatience!

What advice do you have for women entering any male-dominated industry?
Today you may be the exception, but you are also EXCEPTIONAL! Walk in your unique gifts. Lift your head up and keep achieving!

Given the disproportionate impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on women in the workforce, what do you think are the best ways that companies can attract women candidates for leadership positions, and the best ways to support them in those positions?
The best way to attract women candidates is to ensure your organizational culture is genuinely inclusive and welcoming. No ‘smoke and mirrors’ or window dressing. The focus should shift from ‘attraction’ to ‘engagement and retention’. Conduct pulse surveys, provide benefits that address the unique and varied needs of women professionals. If an organization works earnestly to ensure their current women employees are engaged and supported, developed, recognized AND well compensated, they will easily attract and retain other talented women professionals.

Throughout your career, did you see women in positions of leadership in your field, and if so, what impact did seeing women in those positions have on your own career?
Over the years, I’ve had a number of women leaders as role models. Seeing successful women and particularly Black women who successfully navigated their career, personal and community roles was empowering. My examples weren’t plentiful in the management consulting or technology industries, but it was clear that what it took to become an accomplished women in other fields was absolutely transferable. The sheer grit required to overcome the challenges were the same! Being able to see myself in others who looked like me was profoundly impactful on my own decision to have a family while pursuing my career goals. The pressures of work life balance are very different as a woman. Knowing fearless women who paved the way before me confirmed that it wasn’t easy but it was possible.

What advice would you give to the new generation of women looking to enter your industry, specifically?
Be clear on what your purpose and passions are and stay true to them. You can absolutely do it all…it just may be asynchronous. This industry can be like a moving walkway and sweep you up in its flow. Years will go by and you’ll wonder where the time went and perhaps even entertain regrets. Avoid regrets by having clarity on your personal purpose. This will prepare you to be in the moment, take advantage of the amazing opportunities in this career and to craft your experiences to align with your purpose. That’s real success.

NAME: Darcy DaCosta
TITLE: Senior Director, Government Affairs
COMPANY: Molson Coors Beverage Company

BRIEF BIO: Darcy is an accomplished government affairs and business development professional with a concentration in regulated consumer goods. Expertise includes government relations, business development, procurement, customer relationship management, lobbying, and public affairs. A dynamic leader who has earned a reputation as the ‘go to’ person based on valuable insights, strong customer focus, business acumen, and ability to sustain high energy under extraordinary pressure.

Ms. DaCosta joined the Molson Coors Beverage Company (MCBC) in 2018 after 22 years in the gaming industry. She manages all Government Affairs (legislative, executive lobbying, advocacy, coalition building, etc.) activities in the Northeast. In addition she works with her business partners in the region to create an environment for MCBC products to thrive in the marketplace.

 

What is the best piece of advice you received when entering the workforce, and how did it help you become successful in your industry?

The Girl Scout motto is a good place to start. Be Prepared. Know your role and know the material inside and out and you will shine in any professional setting.

What advice do you have for women entering any male-dominated industry?

Be confident in your surroundings, even if you have to fake it at first. Remember that you are there for a reason and that just because the setting may be dominated by men does not mean that you don’t belong there.

Given the disproportionate impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on women in the workforce, what do you think are the best ways that companies can attract women candidates for leadership positions, and the best ways to support them in those positions?

Molson Coors Beverage Company was an incredible place for women to work, even before COVID. During this pandemic crisis they truly supported all of their employees in a number of ways, making all sorts of online tools and resources available to the thousands of us who were working to find a new work/life balance from home, with everybody home! For women specifically the company supported a number of women-only workshops where we covered not just traditional professional development issues but also held panel discussions on how we were managing through the crisis sharing all sorts of tips and strategies as well as a place to share our favorite things to do, outside of work and hobbies that brought us joy.

Throughout your career, did you see women in positions of leadership in your field, and if so, what impact did seeing women in those positions have on your own career?
Women in leadership positions is, to me, the proof that a company is walking the walk, not just talking the talk. Molson Coors is a great example of that with smart, strong women in all levels of leadership. Even in my role, girls run the world. I am one of 5 on the state government affairs team and two of my peers are women.

What advice would you give to the new generation of women looking to enter your industry, specifically?

First and foremost, the beer/beverage business is a lot of fun and there are lots of women thriving in this industry. My advice to women entering this industry or any industry is do what you love and you’ll love what you do and that delivers the opportunity for a rewarding career and a happy healthy life.

 

 

NAME: Althea D. Ford
TITLE: Director of Government Relations
COMPANY: New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association
BRIEF BIO: Althea D. Ford is the Director of Government Relations for the New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association, Inc. Working directly with the Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director, she implements the NJSFDA’s public policy, legislative and regulatory agendas and contributes to the NJSFDA’s content development process.

Recently Ford coordinated with stakeholders to ensure the uninterrupted operation of New Jersey’s funeral industry and secure top-tier designation for funeral directors, as essential workers, to receive access to the COVID-19 vaccine. She was also instrumental in the creation and implementation of the NJSFDA’s web-based continuing education for funeral directors during the pandemic.

Ford earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Human and Organizational Development from Vanderbilt University and a Master of Arts degree in Politics and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

 

What is the best piece of advice you received when entering the workforce, and how did it help you become successful in your industry?
The best piece of advice I received: Don’t talk yourself out of an opportunity because you do not have the exact experience or credentials for the position listed. It is unrealistic to have the exact experience needed for a job. It is more important to market the experience and credentials you do have and demonstrate how you are the person the employer or opportunity never knew they needed. You should not be your own stumbling block and the reason you do not take a chance.

This advice has helped me take chances with opportunities that have arisen throughout my career. It is also an ingredient for success in my industry since there is no singular formula to being successful in the government affairs field. Mastering transferable skills, leveraging networks, being teachable and not counting myself out have fared me well in my career.

What advice do you have for women entering any male-dominated industry?
Make no mistake — YOU BELONG! And do NOT let anyone tell you anything different. You belong in every room, at every table, in any seat around that table, and definitely at the head of it! Your perspective is valuable. Your voice is needed and necessary. As women, we may not always get a standing ovation or even an acknowledgement when we enter male-dominated spaces. But any arena where there are decisions to be made, women need to be present with a voice and a vote. Also, when you get in these spaces, do not settle for being the first or the only, but make room for other women to join you!

Given the disproportionate impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on women in the workforce, what do you think are the best ways that companies can attract women candidates for leadership positions, and the best ways to support them in those positions?
For many women, our resources are devoted to the invisible workload of caring for others and we are concerned about how this duality of caretaker and employee will affect our prospects for growth and development within our chosen fields.

Employers can utilize strategies that demonstrate to all their employees, and women in particular, that the organization’s priority is ensuring that a physically, mentally and emotionally healthy employee has the tools to consistently provide a quality work product. Initiatives such as flexible work schedules, dependent care benefits, comprehensive healthcare with mental health services, a robust paid leave policy (sick time/vacation/family leave), and respecting the boundaries associated with leave are all beneficial to ensuring that the basic needs and concerns of employees can be met so that they are able to respond to the organization’s objectives.

Throughout your career, did you see women in positions of leadership in your field, and if so, what impact did seeing women in those positions have on your own career?
I have been fortunate to see and engage women in positions of leadership within the government affairs arena. Their presence reaffirms my earlier comment that women belong in spaces of influence and decision-making. I am inspired by the wealth of knowledge and expertise these women possess and the level of respect given to them by their colleagues. Not only are they breaking through barriers, but they are engaging in mentoring and developing quality peer relationships with other women, which will result in more of us not only entering but being successful in this field.

What advice would you give to the new generation of women looking to enter your industry, specifically?
Make it a habit to regularly engage people in your network. Your next opportunity may be the harvest reaped from cultivating your network. Do not be afraid to be professionally personable. Do not share everything, but it is okay to be human. Never negotiate your integrity – period. Strive to bring your authentic self to every situation. If you need to make yourself small, you are in too small a room.

NAME: Blenda Pinto
TITLE: Director, Corporate & Government Affairs – Northeast Region
COMPANY: United Airlines
BRIEF BIO: Blenda Pinto is a seasoned government affairs specialist with over twenty years-worth of combined federal, state and local public policy expertise. She joined United in 2011 holding a leadership role at the Newark hub overseeing state legislative & local policy issues; managing relationships with key external political and business stakeholders to advance corporate/business and policy interests for the airline throughout the northeast region.

Prior to joining United, Blenda spent five years as Associate State Director handling federal policy issues, all statewide elections and grassroots activities for the AARP, New Jersey state office in Princeton. She also served as a Senior Associate with the DC based government relations lobbying firm Cassidy & Associates, where she assisted a host of vanguard clients from 1999-2005. From 1995-1999, she worked for U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, as a Constituent Services Rep. in his Newark office for two years then as his Chief Legislative Correspondent in Washington, DC.

Blenda is Chairwoman of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey’s Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and proudly serves on the Board of Directors, Executive Committee and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council for the CCSNJ as well. She also serves on the Board of the Greater Newark Convention & Visitor’s Bureau and is PR/Communications Chair for United’s uIMPACT Women’s Business Resource Group. She was recently appointed to the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Blenda received her B.A. in Women’s Studies & Puerto Rican Hispanic Caribbean Studies, with concentrations in Political Science from Douglass College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1994.

What advice do you have for women entering any male-dominated industry?
You’ve earned that seat at the table and are as deserving, capable and smart as the next person. Don’t be afraid to speak up and assert yourself.

Given the disproportionate impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on women in the workforce, what do you think are the best ways that companies can attract women candidates for leadership positions, and the best ways to support them in those positions?
One of the best ways women have felt supported throughout the pandemic is flexibility. Many women shoulder the primary responsibility for childcare responsibilities in their homes – both married and single alike. Allowing for schedule adjustments has been a huge help for those navigating work from home or in person, school from home and lunch lady. As far as recruitment and retention, there is a wealth of untapped talent out there and corporate leaders have to accept the responsibility to increase diversity and women in the workplace head-on by actively recruiting the talent at all levels of their organizations. Helping hiring managers identify where to look should be a strategic conversation. Everyone is responsible for c-suite diversification, racial equity and inclusion. When change comes from the top, it sends a clear signal that everyone is accountable. Finally, supporting women in their leadership roles by not just mentoring but also sponsoring them for advancement on their career journey is critically important.

Throughout your career, did you see women in positions of leadership in your field, and if so, what impact did seeing women in those positions have on your own career?
I’m lucky to have been surrounded by women in leadership positions in government affairs and aviation. At United, company-wide, we are 36% female. Our frontline workforce is 35% female, and our leadership (officers and managing directors) is 33% female. While this certainly isn’t the majority, it’s impactful and we look to continue to grow these figures in a field that are still very male dominated. But seeing even one woman is hugely impactful. Representation matters. When you see someone who looks like you doing something you aspire to do, it makes your goal seem more attainable and improves your chances of succeeding. That’s why I’m so passionate about United’s Girls in Aviation Day program. We host it jointly with Women in Aviation at our airports systemwide for the past few years. We expose and encourage girls to consider a multitude of “non-traditional” careers in aviation – besides the traditional ones that people are most familiar or mostly associate women with like Flight Attendant. We take them up to the tower to see the flight operation and over to the hangars to speak with maintenance mechanics and engineers, as well as talk to women pilots and the business department etc.

What advice would you give to the new generation of women looking to enter your industry, specifically?
Dive in the deep end and believe in yourself. Study your craft. Seek out women/people who are doing what you’re interested in pursuing. Remember men can be allies too. Aviation is fascinating. No day is the same and you’re constantly learning. Working in a global industry that connects people is so gratifying. I can’t promise you all the days will be easy but I can promise you the challenges will be worth it!

 

NAME: Leah Mallon Popoff
TITLE: Head, State and Local Policy and Government Relations, Cloud
COMPANY: Google
BRIEF BIO: Leah Popoff leads State and Local Government Affairs and Policy for Google Cloud. In this role, Leah plays a key role in Google’s policy work, partnering with state and local governments across the United States on efforts to drive rapid IT modernization and improve constituent engagement. Leah has 15 years experience providing policy and advocacy support to public sector partners. Prior to Google, Leah was an associate at the Portland, Oregon law firm Kell, Alterman and Runstein and most recently managed the State, Local and Education Government Affairs team at VMware. Leah holds a B.S. in Political Science from Oregon State University and a J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School. She resides in Menlo Park, CA with her husband, Evo and daughter Ella.

What is the best piece of advice you received when entering the workforce, and how did it help you become successful in your industry?

Don’t offer to take notes in meetings – it empowered me to participate more fully in the conversations and also helped reframe roles and responsibilities in group settings.

What advice do you have for women entering any male-dominated industry?

Seek out a few other women at your work, even if you don’t work with them directly, that you can regularly connect with and lean on each other for support!
Given the disproportionate impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on women in the workforce, what do you think are the best ways that companies can attract women candidates for leadership positions, and the best ways to support them in those positions?

This is a concerning issue and the best way to support women is offering flexibility and consistently reinforcing the ability to leverage the flexibility offered.

Throughout your career, did you see women in positions of leadership in your field, and if so, what impact did seeing women in those positions have on your own career?

At my first job out of law school, there were other female lawyers at the law firm but none of them were full partners. Subsequently, I have been fortunate enough to work at places like Google where I get to see women in leadership positions across the company – it definitely contributes to a greater sense of belonging.

What advice would you give to the new generation of women looking to enter your industry, specifically?

I would say don’t underestimate the power of competence in your field. I have often found understanding the issues enables me to match the confidence of male colleagues and quickly create a more inclusive environment. Also, always try to find opportunities to amplify the voices of the smart women around you.

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