A Seat at the Table
Executive Alliance Promotes Board Leadership for Women, One Woman at a Time
By Emily Parks
Feb 01, 2018
Years ago, Patricia Lambert was looking to become involved in an organization that focused on the career advancement of women at a high level as well as promoted leadership skills. Lambert, Principal at Pessin Katz Law, P.A. (PK Law), is a successful lawyer who currently has over 35 years of experience in handling complex commercial litigation and insurance matters. “At the time, as for the leaders of my generation, there weren’t that many women leaders,” she explains.
She found what she was looking for with Executive Alliance. Formerly known as Network 2000, Executive Alliance is nonprofit organization whose mission is to accelerate the success and leadership of accomplished women by expanding their impact and influence through advocacy, education and mentorship. To do this, Executive Alliance educates its members through programs, workshops and events supporting leadership development. The organization also mentors its participants through their mentoring program for emerging leaders and networking opportunities for its members.
Karen Bond was also looking for opportunities to improve her leadership skills and had been an admirer of the organization for some time. Bond, who currently serves as the Executive Director of the non-profit organization Boys Hope Girls Hope of Baltimore, loves how the organization has made increasing the number of women on corporate boards a priority. “It is this priority that has provided a real synergy within a women’s organization that is a vital component of a vibrant city such as Baltimore,” she adds. In addition to her seasoned, significant experience in non-profit and board management, she currently serves as the President of Executive Alliance. Bond is also the first African-American woman to serve in the role and while she is honored to be the first, she does not take that honor lightly. “It’s important that we call businesses in Maryland out on the number of women on their corporate boards,” she explains, “as well as ask where are we on diversity.” She looks forward to driving policies that incorporate diversity as well as “continue to ask the questions of businesses (on ways) to build diversity in an effort to build a strong city and state.”
Both women have found that they appreciate the different leadership styles of so many different female leaders. Lambert notes her style is to give her mentees that necessary “push” to accomplish their goals where Bond feels she is more collaborative. Both women agree that Executive Alliance has been a great place for them to discuss potential solutions to career obstacles. “The ability to have that mentorship is invaluable,” Lambert adds. “I felt like it was important to give back through my service as a mentor with Executive Alliance.” Bond agrees that she has been fulfilled by her role as a mentor and is intrigued by the work on behalf of Executive Alliance to get more women in board seats. “It’s not an everyday conversation (regarding getting women on boards),” she says.
According to the 2020 Gender Diversity Index by 2020 Women on Boards, a nonprofit group that is focused on increasing the percentage of women directors to 20 percent or more by 2020, despite making up half of the population, women in the United States make up only 25 percent of senior executive positions at Standard & Poor’s 500 companies and 20.1 percent of corporate board seats. Executive Alliance conducts its own research yearly by analyzing data from companies on the major stock exchanges (AMEX, NYSE and NASDAQ) that are headquartered in Maryland, which is reported to be 26 companies.
Those findings are published by Executive Alliance in a document titled “2017 Census Woman Board Directors in Maryland.” According to this document, the number of companies in Maryland with 20 percent or more women executive officers increased to 37.8 percent, up from 35.5 percent in 2015, with the number of women holding board seats increasing by three to 94. The report goes on to note, however, that Maryland continues to lag the national average when it comes to the percentage of companies with women directors.
In an effort to boost those numbers, Executive Alliance sponsors two key initiatives, their Effective Impact Mentoring Program and their Board Leadership Forum. Since its launch over 20 years ago, Executive Alliance has shepherded the professional growth of 170 women in Maryland through the mentoring program. Tammy Schneider, CPA and Founder and Managing Director at Taurus CPA Solutions, credits the mentoring program with giving her the confidence to co-found her own accounting firm. Schneider worked closely with Lambert as her mentor to focus on her career goals. It was through these coaching sessions with Lambert that gave Schneider the confidence, and that needed “push,” to approach the partner at the accounting firm where she worked at the time to create a niche practice within the partnership. That niche practice catered to women business owners regarding their accounting needs. Eventually she made the jump to co-found her own accounting firm with another partner. “Having my own firm allowed me to pursue my passion,” Schneider explains. “It allows me to share information and teach other women in addition to providing accounting services.” She fully intends to come “full circle” and mentor women through Executive Alliance in the future.
Bond feels that her leadership skills have served her in her role with Executive Alliance, as “leadership itself can be such a service role, through opening your office, your time, your schedule and your week to mentor,” she explains. She was also willing to talk about what hasn’t worked for her in her career when dispensing career advice. She sees mentoring and leadership as not having a beginning or an end, but the start of building a long-term relationship.
She also feels that being part of Executive Alliance has helped her by providing a place for “good days and bad days.” She goes on to say that “leadership is the courage to say what isn’t easy or popular, but what you must say.” She remembers how one of her closest friendships came from when she respectfully disagreed with another woman about remarks she had made about diversity, which led to a dialogue and eventually her friend hosted a conversation on women and diversity at Executive Alliance.
Lambert notes she has been able to share her leadership skills through her role as a mentor, as well providing the opportunity to work with members of the Maryland state legislature to increase the number of women on boards. “We’ve introduced as an aspirational goal, not a mandate, for corporations in Maryland to have 30 percent of board seats to be held by women,” she explains. She goes on to cite that currently women hold only 14 percent of board seats in Maryland. “Increasing gender diversity is good business as it is good for morale,” she says. “Companies that are more gender diverse see a better return on investment (ROI.)” An Executive Alliance report cites that according to Aperion Global’s post, “Leaders in Diversity and Inclusion: 5 Lessons from Top Global Companies,” companies that are more diverse are 15 percent more likely to experience about average financial returns. “Increasing diversity is just good business,” says Lambert.
In addition to the mentorship program, Executive Alliance also hosts the Board Leadership Forum every May. The Forum covers topics such as how to get yourself ready for a board seat, generating awareness regarding gender diversity, demystifying regarding what it takes to get on corporate boards as well as developing a board-ready résumé.
When it comes to giving one piece of advice to a woman regarding furthering career goals, Lambert stresses the importance of staying the course. “It’s a marathon not a sprint,” she says. “Things are not always going to be easy.”
Bond encourages women to talk about their career goals and to reach out, noting most opportunities come through networking and telling your story. “Don’t be silent about your interests or hesitate to ask for help as well as reaching out to help others,” she advises. “Our role is to open the doors.” I95