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Gail Romero: "Learn how to lead leaders"

Welcome to the Financial Times live web chat with Gail Romero who features in our Ten Questions Q&A.

Gail Romero, chief executive of MBA Women International, will answer your questions on Thursday, 23 May 2012, between 15.00-16.00 GMT.

Post your questions to ask@ft.com and they will be answered on the day on this page.


What do you think of the EU initiative that could eventually result in quotas for women on boards? Are you a fan of quotas?

Gail: I am not necessarily aligned with quotas per se as it sets a stage for compliance rather than understanding the benefits of engaging qualified females. I think we can look back into corporate history and find other situations where mandatory compliance was initiated and the atmosphere was initially uncomfortable for the first hires.

I would rather see corporations look to the statistics that indicate when women are brought into the leadership pipeline the corporations end up with improved cultures and when the numbers on board of directors increase to the magical number three their ROI improves as does their profitability.

It might also be prudent for corporations to note that more women make the purchasing decisions and are starting to wath the stats.

Ms Romero, you recently spoke at the 2nd Annual Meeting of the Center for Global Dialogue and Cooperation on the nature of leadership. As a non-government organizational dedicated to fostering dialogue between politics and business, what do you think will be the impact of the CGDC on leadership in the 21st Century?”

Joanna Park-Tonks

Gail: I was delighted to be part of the entire three days of dialogue and to see that the audience was attending with the sole purpose of exchanging ideas and building significant relationships to impact in a positive way democracy and education.

President Clinton was there to receive an award for his efforts and had some time to answer a few questions from the audience. When queried on his thoughts about the importance of women in leadership roles in the 21st century he said, and this is not a direct quote, that any business or new venture that didn’t have a significant female/male parity would be putting themselves in jeopardy of not capturing investors. He said several times why would anyone dismiss 50 per cent of the talent pool. I remember reading a quote from then Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, who took it a step further and said they (women) are potentially 50 per cent of the solution.

The question really arises “Did the attendees, policy leaders, corporate giants and academicians hear what Clinton said?” If they did then yes, we will see great change in the coming decades. If not I suspect we will see forced compliance either through quotas or women determining to do business with only those organisations who address parity in numbers and income.

Why do you think there are so few women on MBA programmes and what can be done to change this?

Gail: There seems to be a slow decline in the numbers of women primarily I suspect due to the visual and cultural lack of role models who have attained the same level of success that men have. It is extremely difficult to WANT to work that hard without a clear understanding of return on investment. Additionally, if you suffer being overlooked, spoken over or not heard in meetings you eventually lose interest. Women see these things and hear about them and eventually say why bother?

I think we are doing a great disservice to ourselves by not finding solutions. MBA Women International has decided to take this on. We announced at the CGDC conference that we will launch the first global women’s leadership academy that will help women with global mind set, communications skills, leadership skills and various other educational opportunities that are currently not found in one place but seriously needed. We gathered a cadre of academics, corporate leaders and scientist together to help us find the right tools and assessments as well as professional coaches to help our professional and MBA candidates grow through the certification process to learn how to lead self, lead others and lead leaders.

Let’s face it women think differently and negotiate differently than men so need to understand that different skills will be necessary.

What do you enjoy most about being CEO of MBA Women International? What has been the most memorable experience so far?

Gail: I have been in consulting for 17 years when this opportunity to leave a legacy presented itself. MBA Women International is almost 30 years old and the need to connect and assist women has not gone away. Before agreeing to make such a dramatic departure, I did my homework. I met with several of the corporations who have worked with the organisation over the years and asked them what they needed most. The answer was almost unanimous - a diverse and highly educated leadership pipeline. It didn’t go without notice that the women were not leaving to stay at home, they were leaving to start new companies or find cultures that appreciated their skills and drive to succeed. Some of the interviews went on to say the women had never really complained or asked for more responsibility or income.

At this point, I talked to the board of directors and asked if they would allow me the freedom to go internationally and provide the necessary framework to be a viable resource to corporate partners and universities. They agreed and here we are today!

The best moment, aside from their support to grow, was the validation that we have received from leaders like President Clinton and CGDC. We still must raise the capital to build the infrastructure but the model is sustainable and the need is surely there. We have some farsighted and visionary leaders who are standing with us and incredible corporate partners who are in line to assist.

Will you be working with any business schools to set up your leadership academy for women? What gave you the idea of doing this?

Gail: Last year, at CGI, we met two gentlemen from CGDC and interviewed them. Petar Stoyanov, former president of Bulgaria and Stamen Stantchev, the secretary general. Their story and desire to build leadership capacity in the world with integrity and ethics was inspiring. Then I read The Coming Jobs War by Jim Clifton and it all came together. As with all ideas, it usually happens when good people bring important thoughts to your attention and they stick!

We are working with a number of university professors from various schools and are open to dialogue and cooperation from universities, philanthropists and corporations to bring about the recognised certified leadership designation that will be globally recognised and accepted.

Rainmakers TV sounds very interesting, how did this project come about?

Gail: Rainmakers TV has been a long process that started as the brainchild of a colleague to make documentaries about non profits. We started in 2009 and it has morphed into our own philanthropy. My husband and I travel quite a bit and seem to run into amazing people all over the world, doing great things to change the world. We interview them and find out about their work in their own words.

It isn’t the original mission but we have been to CGI and ended up with press passes, met with the UN Foundation and have been included in a number of great events. We film using a very small HD Kodak zi8 and upload to YouTube within a few days to a few weeks, depending on my work and travel schedule.

I have been on the road for weeks so we are very behind right now. We just left CGDC and are heading to San Francisco for several meetings and then to Washington DC for the joint Executive Leadership Conference with the National Association of Hispanic MBAs, where we will interview several others. I hope to catch Jim Clifton, the chairman of Gallup and the author of The Coming Jobs War, in DC to interview him as well hear about their own mentoring programme. MBA Women International has a Native American girls mentoring programme and I want to find out how theirs works.

When we started we carried 65 kilos of equipment, nowadays, with technology being so advanced, we carry around 17. We post a lot of our recent videos under MBA Women International as they focus on women leaders and leadership.

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