International Women's Day - In conversation with Nina Eisenman

Nina Eisenman, Director of Client Services at MerchantCantos in New York answers our International Women's Day questions on what equality means to her.

What does equality in the workplace mean to you?

Equality in the workplace means that gender doesn't factor into the opportunities and compensation people earn. It means that the balance of senior leaders, department leads and managers isn't heavily weighted in favor of one gender. Roles are not gender-specific or slanted heavily along gender lines. Women are a significant part of the group evaluating the performance of other women, which means that there must be more women in leadership roles.  The fact that we have to have a conversation about equality in the workplace and an International Women’s Day means we’ve got a way to go before we achieve equality in the workplace.

Have you seen the much change in the way that women are viewed in the workplace during the course of your career? Are things becoming more equal?

Somewhat, but we have a long way to go. It’s now less acceptable for women to be openly discriminated against than when I started working. Women in business had to try to act like men to fit into a male dominated business world because all the senior people were men. Performance, leadership qualities and communication styles were judged by men on scales determined by men.  All of these challenges have improved incrementally over the years as more women have entered the workforce but there is still a long way to go.

Can you give an example of where another woman (or man) has done something that’s helped shape the course of your own career?

When I first started building up my agency’s digital practice, I won the opportunity to create PepsiCo’s first website. It was a great opportunity but the real win was the chance to work with Lynn, my client on the project. Lynn is incredibly talented and extremely well respected in her field. After PepsiCo, she went on to lead large IR teams at several leading international companies. Lynn’s professionalism, dedication and street smarts inspired me and I loved working with her. She instilled in me an appreciation for the importance and value of building deep, trusted, loyal business relationships. Over the years, Lynn introduced me to her peers and colleagues, some of whom became long-term clients as well.

What more do you think can be done to promote true balance within workplaces?

Organizations need to do more to build awareness of the differences between how women and men communicate their ideas. Many men mistake women’s’ tendency to communicate in a more collaborative nature as lack of confidence. According to the HBR “The power of talk, who gets heard and why”, this can result in women receiving poor reviews and not getting promotions despite their work being on par with their male counterparts. I led a business for 26 years and was never accused of a lack of confidence. It wasn’t until I sold my business and had a male boss that my confidence was ever called into question. It took me a year to realize that I hadn’t changed. I was as confident as ever but the person evaluating me, my boss, was a man and expected me to speak like a man. My clients, however had never had a problem with the way I communicated, never doubted my confidence and always had confidence that I would deliver for them.

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