Key takeaways from historic NEW Executive Forum 2020

Last week, Network of Executive Women hosted an historic NEW Executive Forum, our annual conference for senior level leaders. At Forum every year, leaders connect and take away strategies to transform their organizations from the top down for equality and inclusivity. Forum was fully virtual this year and also boasted our highest attendance to date – a record 441 registered attendees!

Much of the day revolved around a few themes: supporting women of color, engaging men in the movement for equality, and leading teams with grace and empathy. The day began with a compelling conversation between Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer, P&G, and Monica Turner, EVP Sales – North America P&G and NEW Board of Directors Chair. Their discussed taking action for equality, and also screened their video the Choice – which encourages us all to choose action over observation!

Arming you with actions that you can take to drive change in your companies is always a top priority for us here at NEW.  Below, we’ve assembled a body of key takeaways and action items from the speakers themselves.

And by the way – NEW Leadership Summit, an annual event open to our full membership, is right around the corner! Summit will be held virtually on September 30th & October 1st. Registration will open any day now and we hope to see you there – so keep an eye on your inbox, social feeds and the NEW website for that upcoming announcement.

Key takeaways from our speakers

Beyond the Business Case – Influencing  Your CEO for Equality’s SakeJanet Foutty, Executive Chair of the Board, Deloitte

The Job isn’t the Job

Be a space filler. What I mean by that is someone who identifies, and grabs hold of the problems that they see that no one else is tackling. A willingness to jump in regardless of whether it is something that is at your level, above, or below, jump in and do it. Especially during this time of heightened complexity and uncertainty, your CEO has mega challenges to solve for, likely centered around fundamental decisions to transform the business for what the new normal will be. Now is the time to look around and see what might need an extra lift. In my experience as a leader, I tend to gravitate towards those space fillers when sponsoring an individual – I highly value that attribute in a future leader.


As leaders we focus on the importance of using our role and influence to advocate for others. But, we can’t lose sight of the importance of self-advocacy. Especially during this time of incredible complexity and uncertainty, a focus on mental health and well-being needs to be an agenda-item. Be courageous in what you share, because, you never know who is taking their lead from you, who is watching you and deciding they can be a little braver because you have been brave.

Beyond Sustainability – The Future of Social Impact

Bea Perez, SVP & Chief Communications, Public Affairs, Sustainability and Marketing Assets Officer, The Coca-Cola Company

Take a public stand on key societal issues which is reflective of your values, while at the same time remain open to the spectrum of views.

Christal Jackson, Founder, Head and Heart Philanthropy

We can all add more value to society when we recognize that we have more in common than what divides us.

Beyond Disruption – Managing Today, Leading Tomorrow

Stephanie Mehta, Editor-in-Chief, Fast Company

My number 1 take away for attendees is that Social Impact – the intersection of business and society -will be the new lens though which nearly every business decision will be made, and it will dramatically change the way executives lead.

Beyond the Day Job – Women on Boards

Kim Villeneuve, CEO, Centerstone Executive Search and Consulting

So often we put our heads down and hope things will come our way. It’s important to proactively manage your board search by recognizing you don’t ‘light up your network’ the day you decide you are ready to serve. Next, find both mentors and sponsors. A mentor is someone who listens, provides insight, and shares advice and counsel. A sponsor is a leader who is a highly regarded influencer operating in circles that exceed your own and can use their positional power to refer you for board seats. Both will be important to you and will help as you shape your career overall.

Beyond Artificial Intelligence –   Delivering AI Responsibly

Michael Ljung, Senior Managing Director, Intelligent Software   Engineering, Accenture

Artificial Intelligence is real and ready for prime time. The videos, including the one for driverless cars, should have driven that point home.

AI neural networks and engines are trained on data. If that data is biased, then the AI engine will simply propagate that bias into the future. This is a problem for all sorts of decisioning systems, ranging from reviewing resumes, underwriting loans, diagnosing diseases, and even recommending parole.

This does not mean we should not use AI. When used properly, AI can do great many things – like drive cars!  The question is how we use AI safely.

So we need to be smart to combat the bias. There are many ways to do that, including testing or auditing for bias, using statistical tooling to find unintended factors that have undue weight, (re-)introducing humans to review results, hiring diverse teams of data scientists, and using diverse data sets. We need to be aware of bias, we need to look for it, and we need to eradicate it when we find it.

Beyond Our Borders – Global Economic Trends

Dr. Ira Kalish, Chief Global Economist, Deloitte

The crisis is not yet over, will likely involve another downturn in the US, and will involve a slow recovery.

Even after the immediate crisis ends, there will be many structural changes in the economy.  These will include severe disruption of some industries, rising income inequality, changing geopolitical relationships, and increased reliance on information technology to drive business.

Businesses should focus on most effective usage of technology and intensive investment in human capital.


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