Cobalt Group employs over 900 people and 40% of the workforce are women, many who hold high ranking positions of leadership. 135 women employees who contribute to the success of Cobalt in a wide variety of roles attended their first annual Women's Summit & Luncheon and a few guys were there, too, including CEO John Holt who co-founded the Cobalt Group in 1995. I was so honored to be invited by Julia Pizzi who is the Vice President Human Resources to take part in the event as member of a panel of executive women.
John kicked off the event with an inspiring talk on the leadership model that Cobalt works to incorporate into the organization and encouraged the women attendees to reach high and higher. He spoke about his daughters and his determination to raise them all to feel like they can break through all barriers, including gender to reach their goals. He is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with his 14 year old daughter this month, what "higher goal" is there for a father and daughter to experience together!
Cobalt has become a major partner to the North American automotive industry, providing marketing services to more than half the auto dealers in North America and nearly thirty automobile manufacturers under his leadership. I felt so honored to be a part of this first Cobalt women's summit and send BIG kudos to CEO John Holt for being a leader who has stepped up to seriously support women working in an industry that frankly is still Very male dominated. (Hope some other other automotive industry CEO's take notice and follow suit!). By the way they are always looking to hire more talented women in the Seattle area!
There were female friendly products on hand in a vendor area, a beautiful view of Mount Rainier, the harbor in Seattle's port, great food and of course so many interesting women to meet and network with. Eileen McDargh was the main speaker and WOW does she have energy, enthusiasm, humor , charisma and really packed a powerful punch during the entire session to inspire all the attending women, including myself, to think out of the box. We were all energized by her energy! She recently hiked Mount Whitney so there must be something to this mountain climbing...I just got back from Mount Whitney myself but will save that story for another post. Check out her blog and website!
Eileen McDargh and the four esteemed women panelists who joined me on stage were Robin Pisz, National Marketing Director for Lexus, Connie J. Adair, CEO of Winfield Taylor, Anna Zornosa, Executive Vice President and General Manger of Dealix, a divison of Cobalt and Gayle Crowell of the Technology, Media and Telecommunications Group of Warbury Pincus LLC. You can imagine it was a wonderful, insightful and lively panel. These women are all powerhouses and as we shared dinner the night before, our stories and spent time together at the event I realized again how important it is for women to support one another and spend time lifting each other up and encouraging young up and coming women leaders. The entire event was first class and a delightfully refreshing experience for me as well.
The panelists were asked to discuss, comment and share on the following questions:
1. What are the top 3 things you did that you think allowed you to advance to the position you currently have?
2. Give us your best advice for how to increase our credibility and opportunity within a male-dominated environment. (Have you ever been in a situation where your felt your competency was questioned because of your gender and what would be the best way to handle this?)
3. Hindsight being 20/20, what is one thing that you wish you had done differently? ( a version of this is: What is the biggest mistake you ever made and what happened as a result?)
4. What , if any, are the trade-offs as a woman for ascending to your position? Do you have a family and if so—how do you handle it all without putting your family second—without hiring someone else to do “it” for you?
I would love to hear how YOU would answer these questions, please leave me your answers as a comment to this post.
President and CEO
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