FORUM: What do you hope to accomplish in your
role as Executive Director at C200? What unique
challenges does C200 face as an organization?
It's an exciting time at C200: The organization is
celebrating its 35th Anniversary this year at the
same time that the C200 Foundation rings in its
30th. The board has a new strategic plan focused
on three key areas: 1) Strength of the C200 peer
community 2) How we can help advance members,
and 3) How we can continue to advance women in
business. I’m excited to shepherd C200 through the
implementation of this plan and our next organizational life stage.
In terms of challenges, when C200 was founded
in 1982, it was the only organization for high-level
women in business. Today, there are several from
which to choose. Our challenge will be to continue
to grow by clearly communicating our point of difference: That C200 is an unparalleled peer community of the world's most successful C-Suite women
executives and entrepreneurs who are committed to
helping the next generation of women in business.
Shared success is a driver—and responsibility—of
FORUM: What are some of the key lessons you have
learned in your 25+ years as an association CEO?
How has the industry changed in that time and how
do you see it changing over the next decade?
Being nimble and forward-looking is now an imperative for all association staff, not just the CEO—
and on a daily not just an annual basis. Planning
horizons and business plans have a much shorter
life cycle. At PIMA, we redesigned our business
model twice in the past several years in response to
unexpected changes in our members’ industry and
business environment (and the insurance industry
is not known for dynamism). Volunteer time has
diminished also, as we know, but new tech tools
have helped replace some of that staff gap and
provide accessible, effective resources from a cost
FORUM: The difference between the percentage of
the association workforce that is female versus the
percentage of female CEOs is staggering. How can
associations work towards closing this gap?
The female CEO count, compared to the female
staff count, is finally starting to change with retire-
ments and fewer “lifers” who spend their whole
careers at one organization. In terms of closing the
gap, CEOs have to support staff pursuit of profes-
sional development and networking opportunities.
In terms of the hiring decision-makers, more organizations are using recruiters who, in my experience,
truly do use objective qualification criteria. After
that, the culture of the board and organization will
dictate the final decision. I’ve been pleased to see
more female CEOs, particularly at trade associations
that were male-dominated in the past (compared to
professional associations). The compensation gap
also seems to be improving.
FORUM: C200 has multiple initiatives aimed at
mentorships and providing scholarships. What is the
message that C200 wants to convey to young women
who aspire to lead?
Our members want young women to know that it’s
within their reach. The organization operates under
the idea that success should be shared. Through
college and MBA-level Reachouts, the Protégé
Program, Scholar Network and new C-Ahead Program (for high potential corporate women), C200
members serve as role models for women who, even
today, may not have access to successful women in
business. Our members provide deep mentorship to
high-potential entrepreneurs and corporate women
preparing for the next steps in their careers, in part
by sharing their stories, insights and advice.
FORUM: Describe the importance of young women
having female mentors and role models in the industries in which they want to work.
There's a saying that, "You can't be what you can't
see." Many C200 members were pioneers in their
industries without any female role models— though
it helps to have successful women in your field to
emulate and who serve as role models. The truth is
there still isn't gender parity at the top. In addition
to serving as mentors and role models, our members
are working tirelessly to tip the scales—by putting
their resources, time and money into supporting the
next generation of women in business. The Association Forum is also proactive in leading that charge
within our Chicagoland community.
“I’ve been pleased to see more female CEOs, particularly
at trade associations that were male-dominated in the past
(compared to professional associations). The compensation
gap also seems to be improving.”