Fashion Intelligence Symposium 2018: Fashion in the Workplace

Fashion Intelligence Symposium 2018: Fashion in the Workplace

By Maria Buckley; Photo credit: Mia F. Antonio   

Once again, the last weekend in April brought a respite of sunshine and the fourth annual Murray Hill Institute Fashion Intelligence Symposium. The theme that MHI and the Fashion Institute of Technology used to build this year’s program was especially timely: Fashion in the Workplace. In a culture where the dynamic and standards in the workplace are changing faster than ever, this theme offered a moment to pause, reflect, and reassess. 

The topic of fashion and work has universal appeal as all women work, and many work at more than one type of job. What was so helpful about the Symposium was the emphasis on the specific needs of the individual. Each woman needs to look at and define what her workplace (or workplaces) are and what is required of her in each. A woman working in a bank is going to build a different wardrobe than a woman who works at home with her children throughout the day. Increasingly, more women need to build a wardrobe that will let them do both and seamlessly transition from one role to the other. Regardless of your job, you can argue that traditionally women have had more freedom and flexibility in their attire than men. Even the most conservative dress codes leave room for the elegant details of jewelry, nail polish, or a silk scarf on a briefcase. Women have the unique opportunity to use fashion as a tool in the workplace, as a way to teach without words. Every detail and every choice are ways to communicate who you are, what you stand for, and the standards you expect. 


A huge thank you is owed to the Fashion Institute of Technology for partnering on this event and adding so much from their rich and varied experience. FIT has seen the industry change and evolve and has adapted in response. Joanne Arbuckle, Deputy to the President for Industry Partnerships and Collaborative Programs, shared how the focus remains on the future as the school seeks to educate and shape the next generation of leaders in the industry. Ms. Arbuckle commented that the current moment finds the fashion industry collaborating with different industries and focusing on applying new advances in technology. 


Ms. Arbuckle also confirmed and explained two trends that you’ve likely experienced. First, consumers are demanding experiences to bring them into a brick and mortar store. When you can find anything online with just a few clicks, there needs to be something more exciting than the products themselves in a store. This is just one example of a perfect opportunity to collaborate with different industries, whether it is musicians, artists, or charities. Secondly, purchasing is down even though spending is up. Whether people are conscience of the environment or the size of their wallets, more and more individuals are starting to see the value in paying more to invest in something of higher quality that will last longer. (Click here for a longer summary of Joanne’s talk). 


On this same note, Taly Russell, Founder and CEO of SilverChair Partners spoke about the importance of investing in a few staple pieces, including: shoes, a black dress, and a quality rain jacket. After five years running her own executive search firm, Taly’s advice to dress simply and elegantly, so your colleagues or clients can focus on you, was very well received. Taly took the time to address several questions from the audience reminding everyone that while there are a few standard guidelines, no uniform set of fashion rules can fully apply to an individual situation. Questions ranged from what size earrings are appropriate in the office, if it is ok to dress more formally than your boss, and if nude pantyhose are really necessary or still in style. 


Karen Tai, founder of OnePointSix, built on the theme of the individual, encouraging consumers to demand more of the industry. She started her womenswear brand that “brings reimagined classics to today’s discerning and dynamic woman” as a result of her time working abroad where she saw the customizability of suiting available to her male colleagues. Believing that women deserve the same quality and function in their clothes, not shortcuts, she set about to found a brand for women that focuses on cut, proportion, construction, and quality. Getting these elements right is the key to dressing with confidence, which is paramount in the workplace.

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Attendees were reminded of the importance of the symposium’s theme when Melissa Norden gave testimony of how clothes and image really do communicate and reflect confidence, especially when it is most needed: Not that clothes themselves validate or give confidence, but they can and should reflect an interior confidence. Norden is the Executive Director at Bottomless Closest, a non-profit that “provides professional clothing, shoes, and accessories; resume help and interview preparation; workshops and other resources to women in need.” Without proper interview clothes how can you expect to nail an interview? But, the clothes are just one step in helping Bottomless Closet’s clients see themselves in a new professional position. Bottomless Closet builds on that initial confidence to provide the other necessary training and skills needed, accounting for the needs of the whole person. 


Carla Vázquez Jones, Director of Communication at Delpozo, closed out the afternoon by bringing us back to the top. She has worked at the international level of the fashion industry, with top luxury brands, and shared how the major fashion houses still shape and influence fashion in the workplace. This was a great transition out of the auditorium at FIT and back onto the streets of Manhattan where their influence is seen at nearly every turn. 


Attendees from all over the city, country, and even Canada, left the symposium with a better understanding of why fashion in the workplace matters, plus lots of practical advice. As spring warms up into summer and you change over your wardrobe, it is worth casting a discerning eye over all your various pieces to see how they fit into what you want to communicate and the confidence you feel and project. And, as was repeated many times, it is always ok to ask for help. 


The Future of Fashion Education


The keynote speaker at Murray Hill Institute’s April 28 Fashion Intelligence Symposium was Joanne Arbuckle, Deputy to the President for Industry Partnerships and Collaborative Programs, Fashion Institute of Technology. Joanne gave an engaging account of the future of Fashion Education. She has kindly given us permission to include a shortened version of her talk here on our website. Her talk gave us a chance to step back and look at the big picture of where fashion is today and how the educators of new fashion entrepreneurs are preparing them for the years to come. Joanne began by giving a brief but entertaining walk through history, beginning with prehistoric humans who were making clothing from animal skins, tree bark and leaves, and took us up to the Industrial Revolution, with the onset of clothing manufacturing. 

“With the Industrial Revolution, mass manufacturing was born and fashion as an industry was transformed. By 1850, the US alone had over 4,000 clothing manufacturers. Macy’s opened in NYC in 1858 and soon after, a parade of grand department stores arrived on what was called New York’s Ladies Mile—B. Altman, Arnold Constable, Lord & Taylor. These stores introduced two changes: first, the concept of merchandising, and second, a whole new kind of retail experience for the customer. They became a destination not only for purchasing but also for connecting to fashion. For the affluent female shopper or even the aspiring shopper department stores came to define a way of life, sharing the latest trends. There were weekly fashion shows to anticipate as well as lunch and afternoon tea in elegant settings. By the 1920’s and 30’s, designers and department stores were intimately intertwined and the marketing and promotion of fashion took on a whole new level of importance. Then came World War II. More and more women were entering the workforce, creating a need for simpler, more utilitarian garments and this also provided a unique opportunity for American designers. It also provided a unique opportunity for fashion education.”

At this time FIT was founded by a group of tradesmen, manufacturers, and labor leaders who realized the need for a trade school to educate high school graduates for careers in fashion.

“Collaborative in approach, FIT’s pedagogy blended theory with hands-on practice. Internship programs sent students into nearby plants and studios and faculty were all practicing professionals, as they are to this day. Even though FIT was founded as an advanced trade school, its curriculum included a strong liberal arts component because its founders wanted their future employees to be ‘cultured and enlightened.’ 

FIT’s evolution reflects the evolution and expansion of the fashion industry. Today, FIT offers almost 50 degree programs in fields such as textiles, cosmetics, packaging design, toy design, advertising, home products development, accessories, computer animation, fashion business management, illustration, photography, entrepreneurship, international trade, film and media, fine arts and of course, fashion design. FIT reinvents itself all the time, adapting to changes in the industry. Indeed, by its very nature fashion exemplifies change. And in today’s fashion industry, the change is dramatic. Globalization and the revolution in technology have transformed our world and certainly the world of fashion education.  

For decades, marketing has played a leading role in fashion trends. Then there is street culture: the flower children of the 1960’s…mod…grunge, punk and hip-hop. All of these fads quickly infiltrated the industry and the clothing that we wear not to mention, fashion education.”

Joanne then turned to the revolution in technology, describing ways it has affected aspects of the fashion industry and fashion education. 

“Until the turn of the 21st century, you and I shopped in stores department stores, boutiques, mom and pops or from catalogues. Technology the internet has changed that forever. Not only did the internet provide a front-facing portal for fashion houses to advertise and promote their brands, but the emergence of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat directly connected brands with the consumer. Luxury and mainstream brands have evolved their social media channels to meet the needs of the current consumer. Fashion influencers such as the Blonde Salad, Bryan Boy and Leanne Medine of the Man Repellar begin to make an impact in the way only print publications could in the past. Brick and mortar stores are in such peril today that the recent opening of a Nordstrom’s branch near Columbus Circle is being treated like a supreme act of bravery.

Just as social media has forever changed how fashion engages with customers, all aspects of the fashion industry have been forever changed by the breathtaking, constantly changing tools that technology makes available. Designers, for instance, now regularly engage with tools that provide 3-D images of new designs. They use 3-D animated story boards instead of the old-fashioned real-life models to test fit and movement. They use augmented reality and virtual reality to see the way their bridal gown, for instance, really looks as it glides down the aisle on the bride. These are such important new tools that hiring for positions in virtual reality and augmented reality has skyrocketed by 350 percent since 2012.

Along with technology, there are two other dynamics having a major impact on the fashion industry and with it, fashion education. One is globalization and the other is sustainability.

Today, a designer located in Brooklyn might work for a French brand whose garments are made in Mexico from fabrics developed in India and sold in Asia. And if the designer’s brand is socially responsible as some are starting to be today then every aspect of sustainability comes into play. The public doesn’t necessarily think about the back end of the fashion industry, but today’s designers and others in the industry do and must.  

There is a whole world of fashion professionals who do not work in the studios with those animated story boards, but rather are involved with what we call the “supply chain”—the raw materials, the development of textiles from those raw materials, the factories where the textiles are turned into garments, the distribution network through which the garments are delivered to stores or customers. Each of these are critical steps leading to the clothes that all of us are wearing right now. And again sustainability is an issue every step of the supply chain.”

Joanne described ways that educators are preparing students today to lead the complex fashion industry of tomorrow: first, by shifting to a newer pedagogical model—from teaching to learning.  Rather than focusing on lecturing, the professors strive to create environments and experiences that allow students to discover and construct knowledge for themselves, becoming active participants in their own learning. They also are striving to integrate design thinking into their pedagogy so that, through critical thinking based on logic, empathy, and imagination, the students can better understand customer needs.  

“It is a way of thinking that can be applied in every area of the industry design and business and should be taught in every discipline. While we want our students to develop the skills called for in their majors, we know that fashion design is no longer a siloed vocation. Indeed, the industry has benefitted by partnering designers, engineers and architects, textile and traditional scientists to create the textiles and clothing of tomorrow. As educators, we must introduce more and more interdisciplinary courses into the curriculum and ensure that our students have ample opportunity to work in teams which is a common practice in fashion and collaborate with others across disciplines.”

Joanne concluded by talking about social responsibility.

“Today, when we talk about social responsibility and the fashion industry, we almost automatically think of sustainability. We understand too well fashion’s dire impact on the world’s resources and the urgent need to change the way we make and use our clothes. The synthetics we have all grown to love and to consider a necessity pass through our filtering systems and pollute our oceans. If we continue with a business as usual model, by 2050, the industry will have released over 20 million tons of plastic micro fibers into the ocean. The time has long come for the industry to focus on exploring new materials, pioneering new business design and technology to work to achieve these goals. 

Students today know this. They are passionate about the environment and actively embrace the challenge sustainability presents. Our textile students have developed and nurtured a natural dye garden. Others have created campus-wide compost systems; still others have created a digital bookscan station in the library that has saved hundreds of thousands of pages of paper. In the last few years, teams of FIT students banded together to make shoe leather from organic matter; they used algae to develop yarn which they then knit into a garment. With this growing awareness of the impact of fashion on the environment, I believe that careers never conceived of before will be developed and we want our students to be ready for them.

As passionate as students are today about the environment, we must remember that they are also consumers—fashionistas who are easily overcome by amnesia when they walk into Top Shop or H&M. They want the latest, they want the least expensive and they want it now. So it is also our job as educators to keep them alert to this ethical paradox and to help them navigate its contradictions so we do not end up producing what one educator has called ‘non-reflecting highly competent technicians.’ It is imperative for us to help our students make sense of the world and to galvanize them into becoming caring citizens who can contribute to a productive society. That is why it is important that career-oriented students such as those at design and business schools like FIT be exposed to liberal arts learning: history, economics, literature, science, world affairs. They will be working in a global economy and must learn to be knowledgeable about and sensitive to people and cultures other than their own. It is through the liberal arts they learn to analyze, interpret, synthesize information and communicate. It is through the liberal arts they become critical thinkers. It is through the liberal arts that we broaden their intellectual awareness and prepare them to make informed judgments and choices as citizens, as consumers, and as professionals faced with profoundly important responsibilities, including those we are discussing today.

We send our graduates out into industry hoping that they will leave us as nimble thinkers—able to take advantage of the unknown adventures ahead—hoping too that what they have learned is an appreciation of all they do not yet know, and a lifetime love of learning. Because that is what they will need more than anything to confront the complexities of an ever-changing industry and to identify and contribute to its future.

Women in Music: Celebrating Women Composers

Reported by Alice Trimmer

Over the years, women composers of concert music have been neglected when it comes to the usual means of recognition: concert programming, inclusion in music histories, textbooks, and general scholarly acknowledgements. With very few exceptions, they have been mostly acknowledged in footnotes or causal mentions, as wives or sisters of famous composers who were their husbands (Clara and Robert Schumann) or brothers (Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn).     

In recent decades, more efforts have been made to program works by women composers, partly out of social pressures, and partly because of the outstanding achievements of the composers themselves—for example, the awarding of the 1983 Pulitzer prize to Ellen Taaffe Zwilich for her “Symphony No. 1: Three Movements for Orchestra.” Although substantial gains have been made, the percentage of works by women composers programmed on concerts remains appallingly small, somewhere between 1 and 3%.

This situation is certainly not for lack of superb music, as was demonstrated so forcefully on January 24, 2018 at the “Women in Music” concert, Bruno Walter Auditorium, Lincoln Center.  Murray Hill Institute was honored to support this event, which was initiated by Anna Tonna, mezzo soprano, and Isabel Pérez Dobarro, pianist. Anna and Isabel met at the Música en Compostela Festival (Spain) in the summer of 2015 and created a project which they titled “Women in Music/Mujeres en Música.” The idea behind this project is to showcase works by living women composers, at the same time opening opportunities for discussions and cultural exchanges around the globe. Through support from New York Women Composers, Inc. as well as Asociación de Mujeres en la Música (Spain), two concerts were planned, one which took place in Madrid in the spring of 2017 and the other in New York on January 24, 2018.  

The New York concert had the added collaboration of the New York Philharmonic Very Young Composers program and Young Women Social Entrepreneurs. Anna and Isabel were joined by guest artists Nan-Maro Babakhanian, mezzo soprano, and 2Flutes: Pamela Sklar and Laura Falzon. The music spanned a wide range of contemporary compositional styles with works by Alexa Babakhanian, Consuelo Díez, Mary Ann Joyce, Diana Pérez Custodio, Marga Richter, Rosa María Rodríguez Hernández, Pamela Sklar, and Mercedes Zavala. Thanks to the innovative programming of Anna and Isabel, each song and instrumental work on the program was based on the texts of either Shakespeare or Cervantes, thus incorporating a literary connection as an additional point of interest.   

The concert began with two works for flute and piano composed by high school women who have studied composition through the New York Philharmonic Very Young Composers (VYC) program. Jon Deak, founder of VYC, explained its inception and goals. The program gives public school students an opportunity to compose their own music. Madeline Schmidt and Cassandra Stevens, the two students whose music was performed that evening, gave brief descriptions of their works. It is clear that the future of women composers is a bright one indeed. 

The audience included guests from the Rosedale Achievement Center, a supplementary educational center in the Bronx that offers academic tutoring, leadership training, and music lessons to young women of middle school and high school age. Murray Hill Institute has been in partnership with Rosedale since MHI’s beginnings, and we were happy that some of the students were able to join us for the evening.

The Women in Music concert had as its theme “A Musical Conversation between the United States and Spain.” The evening brought together many positive themes—achievements of multiple generations, the ties between great literature from the past and contemporary music, and most of all, an opportunity to hear such dynamic and powerful works, all written by women.   

The following video and photos are by Aisha Kamara.

 The reception desk

The reception desk

 A Rosedale student and her family await the concert.

A Rosedale student and her family await the concert.

 Cassandra Stavens (left) and Madeline Schmidt (right), members of the New York Philharmonic Very Young Composers program

Cassandra Stavens (left) and Madeline Schmidt (right), members of the New York Philharmonic Very Young Composers program

 Jon Deak, founder of New York Philharmonic Very Young Composers

Jon Deak, founder of New York Philharmonic Very Young Composers

 Pam Sklar and Isabel Pérez Dobarro

Pam Sklar and Isabel Pérez Dobarro

 Laura Falzon

Laura Falzon

 Anna Tonna

Anna Tonna

 Anna Tonna and Isabel Pérez Dobarro

Anna Tonna and Isabel Pérez Dobarro

 Isabel Pérez Dobarro

Isabel Pérez Dobarro

 Nan-Maro Babakhanian

Nan-Maro Babakhanian

 Nan-Maro Babakhanian and Isabel Pérez Dobarro

Nan-Maro Babakhanian and Isabel Pérez Dobarro

 The composers and performers take a bow

The composers and performers take a bow

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Personal Brand Workshop

Personal Brand Workshop

The 2017-2018 programming season at Murray Hill Institute opened with an inspiring workshop that challenged us to think hard about more effective ways of presenting ourselves in today’s information-laden professional and cultural environments. Our Personal Brand workshop was held at the Global Brands Group headquarters in the Empire State Building on September 13, 2017. The Board of Directors of Murray Hill Institute is most grateful to Deneille Dewar, Vice President of Global Brands Group, for her warm welcome.  

Katharine English, President and Founder of Transformer-in-Chief, LLC, began by introducing the concept of branding in general, then moved on to define personal brands, which by shining the spotlight on one’s unique value, move far beyond the information traditionally found in a resume. As she defined it, “A brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.” Katharine led the participants in a series of interactive activities and worksheets that helped everyone to think of what constitutes their authenticity, vision, unique value, and persona. She also gave some valuable tips on the most effective use of social media. 

Katharine has generously sent us her presentation slides so that those who attended will be able to review the points we discussed, and those who were unable to come can get a glimpse of the ideas and considerations that she presented in order to help each person define themselves as they reach out to new professional opportunities. Click here for the presentation.


MHI 2017 Fashion Intelligence Symposium: Fashion and Social Impact

THANK YOU to all who participated in the recently concluded Fashion Intelligence Symposium, with the theme, Fashion and Social Impact. We were delighted with the turnout, the feedback, and the suggestions for the 2017 symposium. We welcome any additional comments you may have.

Murray Hill Institute is grateful for our on-going collaboration with the Fashion Institute of Technology Center for Continuing and Professional Studies, represented by the managing coordinator, Joan Volpe, and Arthur Dunn, the assistant coordinator, and with Villanueva University, represented by Paloma Diaz-Soloaga. A special thank you to the speakers who shared their vast experience and helpful advice: Jean-Emmanuel Shein, Director, Global Corporate Social Responsibility, UNIQLO USA, Laticha Brown of the Fashion Institute of Technology, Mary Sheehan Warren, Owner of ISYFashion and Adjunct Professor, CUA Business School, Jenny Chen of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Kara Eschbach, Co-Founder, CEO & Editor In Chief, Verily, Alida Boer, founder of MARIA’S Bags, Judi Limbers, Social Entrepreneur and Founder, The Dress Shoppe, Manuela di Prima, founder of Maison Di Prima.

Fashion and Social Impact    
April 29, 2017

Paloma Díaz Soloaga, Complutense University

The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world, just after the oil industry. Production of raw material, textile manufacture, clothing construction, shipping and finally, retail: besides other contaminants, all those phases mean a big carbon footprint on the environment.

But today we have heard so many professionals who are conscious of this impact and want to make a difference. This has given us a renewed awareness of how important it is to change the way we have been doing things for decades.

As a matter of fact, there are many initiatives around the world that are trying to look at fashion from a different perspective. In particular, many young designers and entrepreneurs are paying attention to all these facts and applying their knowledge to this amazing industry, creating new concepts and business which give priority to not only to what benefits themselves, but also to what helps them make a positive contribution to society.

As Jean-Emmanuel Schein from UNIQLO has said, our mission in this moment of history, is not only to be “nice people” but to understand and apply social responsibility to solve problems. Their vision at UNIQLO is to "make the world a better place through our business." Solving problems, as Laticha Brown explained this morning, has also to do with the way digital technology is solving problems for the consumer (for example, designing slacks with phone chargers built in). On a deeper note, Mary Sheehan Warren pointed how shopping for fewer quality items or vintage clothing—as opposed to fast fashion which has little staying power—can be a smart response to the negative impact that too much fashion consumerism can have on our personal life and happiness. 

This means that we must each try to find new ways of realizing that we are part of a whole and that it is necessary to look at the big picture rather than merely looking out for our own personal interests. This is not only an emotional reaction but also a realization that our actions affect the common good and that we all have a responsibility to work together to make a better world for everyone. 

I want to give thanks to all the speakers for their contributions that made possible the Third Fashion Intelligence Symposium and to the Fashion Institute of Technology and Murray Hill Institute for their efforts in continuing the collaboration of three different institutions with same interests and goals (FIT, MH and Villanueva University): to form students and young professionals and prepare them to become the next generation of leaders in the fashion industry.

And special thanks to Teresa Carale, the President of Murray Hill Institute, since she is the real soul of this wonderful event that has as its main goal to mentor young professionals and encourage them to make a positive impact on the fashion industry. To all of you, many thanks and see you here, next year, at our Fashion Intelligence Symposium 2018!

Women's Leadership Conference 2016

A short video about our November 5, 2016 conference, Reinvention, Retooling, RePurposing: Leading Your Career in a World of Change is now online. 

Thank you to Arko Creative for the filming and production of this video.

Paint Night

In February 2017 we enjoyed Paint Night with Jenny Chen. 

Construct a Quick Personal Purpose Statement

Construct a Quick Personal Purpose Statement

Reported by Alice Trimmer

In October 2016 MHI was pleased to host Christine B. Whelan, author of The Big Picture, for a lecture and book signing. The Big Picture is geared primarily to young adults of college age. It contains a wealth of interactive strategies to help them uncover their personal sense of purpose. While this is a critical undertaking when one is choosing a course of study and professional path, developing a personal purpose statement is a good exercise to undertake at any point in one’s life. At this time of year, as one’s enthusiasm for New Year’s resolutions starts to lag, it is a good moment to consider whether I have a clear sense of my overarching purpose in life, and how the projects and plans for self-improvement that I plan to undertake fit into that. Constructing a personal mission statement can be a short road to complete mental paralysis, as most of us have many interests, talents, duties, responsibilities and pending projects. How do we meld all of these into a coherent path, and what is our basis for prioritizing them? Often we can think of short and long-term goals that we want to achieve, but Christine reminded us that goals are interim steps towards accomplishing our larger life’s purpose—not ends in themselves.  

In the workshop, Christine gave us a quick and accessible method to create a personal purpose statement. We wanted to share it with you so that you could try it. It is best not to over-think the answers, but just put what arises spontaneously as you go through the three steps. No one needs to see it but you, and you can always change it!  Here it is:   

  1. Think of three of your personal strengths, or things that you are good at. (These can be skills you have acquired over the course of your life, or qualities and talents you were born with.)  
  2. Think of three personal core values. (What values underlie your actions? What is most important to you?)
  3. Think of three persons, situations, or groups of people that you would like to impact. (What or who would you like most to change or influence?)  

These will be your building blocks for your purpose statement. Put them together into your personal purpose statement by filling in these blanks:

I will use my strengths in _______, _______, and _______ to promote my values of _______, _______, and _______ in order to  impact _______, _______, and _______. 

That’s all there is to it. Try it and find out how close to the mark your purpose statement turns out to be!  

The Road to Authentic Leadership

The Road to Authentic Leadership

Chinwe Esimai, Managing Director, Chief Anti-Bribery and Corruption Officer, Citigroup, Inc., gave the MHI Fall Leadership seminar that inaugurated our 2016-2017 mentoring year. Her topic was “Women and Authentic Leadership in a Globalized World.” While the advice to “be true to yourself” has been repeated so often that it has almost become a cliché, Chinwe gave it bones and muscle with her account of first-person experiences in the highly competitive environment of global finance. Her talk was filled with sound and practical advice about keeping your balance and maintaining a values-based approach to your career. She has kindly shared her lecture notes, which are reproduced in abbreviated form below. 


According to a report on Women in the Workplace published in The Wall Street Journal on September 27, 2016, women still face significant challenges in the workplace in terms of balancing priorities outside of work, access to opportunities and promotions, and inequality in pay. 

While Chinwe believes it is helpful to be aware of these challenges, she would rather focus on the solutions, and authentic leadership can help serve as one of the proposed answers to the challenges women face in the workplace.

Chinwe noted that often when people speak of leadership, they speak about the expressions, applications, or manifestations of it, such as having a vision, being a person of influence, having vast responsibilities, building a team, being strategic, being courageous, or pursuing justice.

These don’t, in her view, necessarily get to the core of leadership. Leadership starts with each individual. At its very foundation, leadership is the ability to understand and utilize your innate talents. With that as the foundational definition of leadership, she believes authenticity in leadership is vitally important.

According to the Center for Creative Leadership, the five defining characteristics of authentic leadership are: Clarity about one’s values, priorities, and preferences (including virtues, such as justice, integrity, and loyalty); Willingness to work toward aligning one’s values and behaviors (authentic leaders work towards growing core values in themselves and also bringing those behaviors to the workplace); Acceptance of the necessity for choices and trade-offs (including daily choices in balancing one’s responsibilities outside the workplace, as well as leaving the workplace in the short or long term, in order to focus on family needs); High degree of comfort and satisfaction with decisions made earlier in life; and Sense of self-determination (including the ability to make career decisions, big and small).

As Chief Anti-Bribery & Corruption Officer at Citi, Chinwe oversees Citi’s global anti-bribery program, which develops and maintains a framework for adherence to anti-bribery regulations set out by the US, UK, and countries around the world where the bank does business. Beyond adhering to legal and regulatory requirements, it is about doing business ethically, building and maintaining an ethical culture, embedding that culture in systems and processes, and giving employees the tools to mitigate potential bribery risk.

Chinwe truly enjoys anti-bribery work. Growing up in Nigeria, she began thinking and speaking about bribery for as long as she remembers, long before she had the opportunity to focus on it professionally. She’s passionate about her work because it has meaning to her, and more broadly, it has a positive impact on how communities and countries around the world do business. 

The six lessons in authentic leadership Chinwe shared are: (1) Tune in; (2) Follow what interests you; (3) Embrace each work experience as a learning opportunity; (3) Be intentional about building relationships within and outside your organization; (4) Whenever you have an opportunity to do something outside your comfort zone, take it; and (5) Have a voice; speak up.


“The human being is single, unique, and unrepeatable, someone thought of and chosen from eternity, someone called and identified by name.” Pope John Paul II

We are acutely aware that we live in a globalized world, from the prevalence of social media—Facebook, Twitter, Google—to the increased globalization of our economies. Today’s workplace can encompass remote work or work from home, conference calls, and online meetings. The world is getting smaller. Positive aspects of this include increased avenues for communication and easy access to information. Yet, in some cases, there are fewer in-person interactions. As a culture, we can get distracted by non-stop flow of communication. This often creates anxiety, stress, and a sense of being overwhelmed. 

Awareness of the continual flow of communication leads us to a simple conclusion—the busier you are, the more important it is to take quiet time to tune inwards. For each person, it’ll look different, based on schedules and responsibilities, but such time should be both sacred and non-negotiable.

If you’re not spending quiet time each day, it’s very difficult to know what your unique expression in the world should be. 


People may find discussions about finding one’s passion to be too difficult, even too weighty, so it helps to focus on interest. In her career, Chinwe followed her interests by spending time studying anti-bribery developments, and being open to continually learning, reading and speaking about anti-bribery developments before she formally worked in the area, and telling mentors and colleagues that she was interested in anti-bribery work. She sensed that it was an area in which she could add value because she found it fascinating. 


While each role should be evaluated from the perspective of how well it taps into your unique skills and talents, be willing to view your career as a journey. Each job has its role in the journey and teaches valuable lessons.

For example, at one point in her career at another company, Chinwe was asked to help cover non-routine options and derivatives inquiries. As an attorney, she had had very little formal training about the stock market and trading, let alone complex products such as options and derivatives. She sat through ten interviews in which each interviewer was convinced that she could master it. 

When she took on the role, she completed a number of courses that were offered on options, derivatives, and hedging—the same courses the traders themselves were required to take. She also sat on the trading desk with the traders to build relationships and learn more about what they did day-to-day.

Her experience handling inquiries has led to a deeper understanding of these matters, and supported her experience in other compliance risk management roles, skills she utilizes till this day.


Focus on the quality of relationships, and have a preference of quality over quantity. When possible, meet colleagues in person or have a phone conversation. People appreciate being heard, so whenever possible, bridge the gaps in time and space.

Take advantage of formal mentoring programs within your organization, but also seek out informal networking opportunities. She values diversity in mentors (as it can be enriching and complementary), and recommends having a broad range of mentors, where each person plays a different role. A trait she often appreciates in mentors is directness, particularly when they provide frank advice, while respecting that she is ultimately responsible for her career.

The key is to allow such relationships to develop organically, and seek to maintain them over time, even when one changes roles or organizations. Mentors can be invaluable in helping to navigate change. They understand organizational dynamics that one may not have access to early in the career journey. 


Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly.
— Barbara Haines Hewlett

Chinwe shared a story about a time in her career when she had the opportunity to take on larger responsibilities, but feared that she was not ready. One of her longtime mentors, who had observed her career for a number of years, told her he knew she was ready for it, and would, in fact, excel in the role. He offered the following advice: “What you don’t know, you will figure out.” 

While to some, this may seem like common sense advice, it led to one of the most important mindset shifts in her career. She was previously convinced that if a role required ten competencies, she needed to have all ten, or eleven and a half, if possible. She soon learned about the 2008 Hewlett Packard study, confirmed by other research, which revealed that on average, women only apply for a job if they meet 100% of the criteria. Men tend to apply if they meet 60% of the criteria. 

Roles outside our comfort zones help us grow, learn, and tap into yet unexplored innate talents. If we remain true to who we are (including our values, priorities, and preferences), such roles also enable us to serve those around us in a more impactful way.


Practice speaking up often; you only get better with practice. It is not unusual to believe that we should only speak up when we have the most brilliant idea. What a daunting proposition, if every idea we share must be profound or world changing. Speak up to clarify understanding, confirm agreement, summarize expectations, ask questions, or just to be a part of the conversation.

Refine your communication skills. Communicate with confidence. Programs such as Toastmasters can help you gain experience. The TED Talk by Amy Cuddy, entitled “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” is also a terrific discussion on body language and communicating with confidence.

Unique and unrepeatable: standing firmly in your authenticity, know that there is no one else in the world that can bring to your interactions the same thoughts, experiences, and insights you bring. Don’t ask for permission; know that your voice is needed.

Who Owns the Environment?

Who Owns the Environment?

Reported by Alice Trimmer.

As the summer winds down, we have all doubtless been reminded of the beauty of nature, whether it is through a hike in the mountains, a cool dip in a lake, or watching the late afternoon sun shining through the trees in a city park. We are all also doubtless concerned that future generations will be able to enjoy such simple pleasures for many years to come. Of the many aspects to the very large and complex topic of environmental protection, one that perhaps we do not often think about is the question of ownership of and responsibility for water, forests, and fisheries. We invited G. Tracy Mehan, III, Executive Director of Government Affairs for the American Waterworks Association, to share with us some of the ethical and legal complexities of this question in his talk at Murray Hill Institute on February 19, 2016, entitled "Who Owns the Environment?”  

Mehan began by laying out two contrasting principles, the universal destination of goods on the one hand and the right to private property on the other. The common good of society requires respect for both of these principles. He posed the questions: “Can we, should we recognize property rights in it or to it [the environment]? And what benefit can be derived from doing so, not just of the individual who holds the right, but for the environment, the ecosystem, or the commons?” He pointed out that the theoretical or philosophical challenges of harmonizing the universal destination of all goods with private property have preoccupied philosophers for millennia.

Nonetheless, “The environmental or ecological issues [that we now face] represent a more perplexing problem because of the genuine challenges of protecting, while benefiting from, the earth’s resources and beauty. The project of designing or defining a property rights regime, relative to the commons, is of recent vintage.” Mehan quoted scholars Henry N. Butler and Christopher R. Drahozal on this issue: “Because of the common ownership of these resources [e.g. water and air], no one has adequate legal rights to protect against them.” He pointed out that without well-defined property rights, regulation, or some communal management arrangement, each person has an incentive to exploit the resource he or she has access to. Furthermore, without a property interest, a person “has no incentive to improve the economic productivity of a piece of land if they do not own it, by the same token, a natural resource is unlikely to be cared for if there is no property interest.” In other words, people tend not to care for things that they do not own. Mehan described several situations in which unclear or defective property titles have impeded private economic growth as well as development of sustainable resources such as forests and fisheries.  

Drawing on the ideas of the philosophers Aristotle, Cicero, and John Locke, Mehan concluded that “Discerning and establishing the respective rights, prerogatives, and responsibilities of the common and private spheres demands prudence, an essential virtue, necessary to effectuate appropriate governance and optimize human freedom and prosperity. The aim is to harmonize environmental and ecological values and the rights of property.”  

Initiatives such as the land trust movement in the United States, which gave rise to nongovernmental institutions such as The Nature Conservancy, aim to actively protect the environment and natural resources. This type of movement relies on free market transactions between consenting parties. The Nature Conservancy acquires land by buying it and also works with local communities to protect biodiversity, water quality, and wildlife in partnership with private and public entities.

Mehan pointed out that no matter how carefully we craft the new approaches, we must accept that we do not know what works all the time, every time. It is necessary to balance freedom, cost-effectiveness, and environmental protection, and we can never guarantee that property owners will behave in the way we might deem optimal. Conservation or ecological values are not inherent in the functioning of the market, hence a person has to bring those values to the marketplace, having learned them from some other source. Strong ethical supports are needed to preserve both market and competition from degeneration. This is especially important as it affects common pool resources such as rain, water, and fisheries.

Mehan concluded “Without something like a conservation or land ethic, a sacramental regard for creation, a concern for future generations beyond one’s short life span on this planet, or some other moral and ethical North Star to guide and motivate citizens, farmers, ranchers, woodlot owners, and other actors, I am not optimistic that we can succeed on the basis of free-market principles only. There will always be a real need for reasonable regulations.” Purely economic drivers have their limits, hence family tradition, culture, and other motives can play an important part in how landowners make decisions about the use of their land and other resources.