Experts tackle issues facing women in business during NJBIZ panel

Women have made great strides in the workplace over the past three decades, but they still face challenges to reach their full potential.

Women make up 47% of the 4.2 million people who make up New Jersey’s workforce. And while women are slightly more likely to have a bachelor’s degree or higher than men (41% to 40.5% for her), they still earn less.

In addition to their high numbers and low wages, women regularly face gender-based discrimination in the workplace and in business dealings.

And while there have been great strides in education, health care, and community services, many industries remain male-dominated (98.8%), such as natural resources, construction, and maintenance, while women are outnumbered in other sectors. Not much progress. Law Enforcement (86.9%); Architecture and Engineering (86.7%); and Transportation (85.7%).

Although the state’s female labor force participation rate has recovered significantly after the pandemic, thousands of people are sacrificing full-time employment, higher wages, health insurance, and other benefits to keep young children and Losing the flexibility to care for an aging parent.

Also, as New Jersey’s economy continues to recover from the COVID-19 crisis, there is more focus on what kinds of changes are needed to better support women moving forward. I’m here.

At the NJBIZ virtual panel discussion on December 14, female executives from New Jersey-based companies shared their experiences and provided guidance for the next generation of women entering the world of business.

Moderated by NJBIZ Editor Jeffrey Kanige, the panel covered:

  • Elene Costan, Chief Human Resources Officer, Berje Inc., Carteret-based flavor and fragrance industry leader
  • Kate Janukowicz, Director of Commercial and Criminal Litigation and Director of Professional Development, Retention and Associate Recruitment at Newark law firm Gibbons PC
  • Masha Sherman, Chief Financial Officer of Greek Development Inc, a vertically integrated industrial real estate company headquartered in East Brunswick, said:

During the 90-minute discussion, the group discussed how companies can bring more women into leadership roles, what can be done to retain women, and how virtual work environments are advancing women in the workplace. Influence or face adversity and delve into how to set and maintain boundaries. work and life balance.

Clockwise from top left: Editor Jeffrey Kanige moderated the December 14th NJBIZ Women In Business panel discussion. Elene Costan, Berjé Inc.; and Masha Sherman, Greek Development Inc. – NJBIZ

One of the biggest pieces of advice was to not only advocate for yourself, but also for other female colleagues. And while each company offers some form of formal mentoring program, executives also spoke about the importance of informal mentoring opportunities.

Gibbons has a small mentor group as well as a large one with members from different disciplines, says Janukowicz.

“It’s really open communication, checking in and always saying, ‘Is this going in the right direction? is this what you want? I got stuck at work and six years later I was like, “What the hell am I doing?” Is this what I wanted to do? ”

“It’s about giving back,” Sherman said. If I can give you a reference and give you practical advice on how to be successful in your career…that’s the least I can do.”

“We need to support each other in life and at work,” Kostan said.

Janukowicz agrees. No competition…it makes you look better. It lifts everyone up…if you’re too ferocious, it doesn’t look good.

Recruitment and Retention

Each executive highlighted the process used to recruit employees, which varies by company.

Janukowicz said: One of the things he starts with in the hiring process with me, as a third-year post-associate, is to ensure that at least 30% of the candidates interviewed for side jobs are an underrepresented population. am. LGBTQ and disability lawyers. ”

At Greek, Sherman said, “Our focus is on making some of our key promotion and hiring processes as objective as possible and setting the same standards for everyone, regardless of background.” .

“We strongly believe it starts with the hiring process. What we have done in our department is develop different tests depending on what the position is. So, we offer the same test to everyone who crosses our door, regardless of where in the real estate industry they came forward or were out of the workforce for a long time,” she said. “Tests are designed. [to measure] Ability to think — analytical skills, critical thinking, resourcefulness. Making the process as objective as possible and putting everyone through the same test works very well for us. ”

Janukowicz urged job seekers to “do as much research as possible and get as much information as they can find” about potential employers and ask themselves “Is this right for me?”

“This is your career too. Don’t get hung up on the fact that you want to be picked. This is your show,” she said.

Replay: NJBIZ Panel Discussion: Women’s Business

Click to register to view the full panel discussion.

Retaining talent is just as important as attracting talent, management said.

“It’s a matter of keeping these people, as is often argued,” Yanukowitz said, highlighting some of the company’s retention initiatives, including offering “more generous and flexible work schedules.” Did. and a flexible working environment.

Mr Costan said: It goes to gender, generation, and race. Many companies seek accreditation to demonstrate their commitment to hiring, retention, and training to ensure diversity. So I think it’s up to partners, both employers and employees. You have to commit to each other for it to work. ”

Sherman agreed that it was “definitely a two-way street.”

“It’s really about communication. Everyone should know and communicate with their manager, especially if they are motivated to reach the next level. It’s our management’s responsibility to truly recognize people who work hard, and we may be hesitant to bring this up,” she said.

Management also spoke about the importance of continuing professional development.

Sherman said: You have to be your biggest supporter. Those in management strongly believe that it is their responsibility to lead and care. It’s a two-way street. ”

Kostan urged women to “find themselves as coaches and invest in themselves.”

“Never stop learning… Know what your skills are and make sure you are open to criticism and improvement. Impostor Syndrome will never go away. No. It keeps you learning,” she said.

Each company conducts some sort of employee review, but executives believe employees should track their accomplishments and how they relate to their overall career goals.

Janukowicz pointed out that in the business world, men generally get promoted “based on prospects and possibilities,” while women tend to get promoted “based on past performance.” .

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How JK Design CEO Martha Marchesi navigated the company through the pandemic. Click here to read the story.

“Early on, it’s more difficult, especially in an industry like ours where associates are assigned what they’re given…they don’t have a lot of latitude,” she explained. One of the things we always advocate is to create a business plan and commemorate everything you do, whether it’s tangible or intangible. You’re meeting people and putting yourself out there, and those are all things you can do on top of a substantial great product.”

She added: Get your company out there. Be a good ambassador for your company. ”

Sherman said: [and] I am very supportive of it. Because this is an opportunity for more than just showing your boss what you’ve done. [or] to your team.It’s really an opportunity to sit down and think critically about what you’ve accomplished in the year… It’s also an opportunity to think critically about setting goals again. [and] Tell them to your manager, boss. ”

Sherman said: We all have our own set of skills, and we all have our strengths and weaknesses. ”

Berger’s approach to review is similar to Gibbons’ process, according to Costain, revolving around questions such as “Where do you think you are?” and “What do you need from us to help you get there?”

“We provide training and mentoring…not everyone wants to be a manager, but if they do, that would be great. “Two-way communication and actually listening and trying to do something about it is very important in developing a capable and aspiring workforce,” she said. will help.”

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