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Developing The Next Generation Of Female Leaders, With Dr. Rosina Racioppi

Women continuously strive to break barriers and reach leadership positions, but the journey can be challenging. That’s  where developmental relationships come in. It’s a powerful tool to help women navigate their careers and achieve their full potential. Dr. Rosina Racioppi, President and CEO of WOMEN Unlimited, sheds light on the importance of developmental relationships in developing the next generation of female leaders. Today’s conversation acknowledges the existence of unconscious bias and equips women with strategies to overcome the obstacles. Gain practical tips for building strong developmental relationships and creating a more inclusive and empowering work environment for women today. Join Rosina Racioppi now!

Check out the full series of “Career Sessions, Career Lessons” podcasts here or visit pathwise.io/podcast/. A full written transcript of this episode is also available at https://pathwise.io/podcast/dr-rosina-racioppi

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Developing The Next Generation Of Female Leaders With Dr. Rosina Racioppi

CEO Of WOMEN Unlimited

My guest is Rosina Racioppi. Rosina is the President and Chief Executive Officer of WOMEN Unlimited, which is a women’s organization for mentoring, education, and networking. She has led this organization for many years. In this capacity, she spearheads initiatives to partner with organizations across a wide range of industries to develop their high-potential women and build a pipeline of diverse and talented leaders.

Prior to joining WOMEN Unlimited, Rosina held executive management positions and human resources at a variety of firms. She has many years of experience in organization planning and development, compensation and benefits, training and development, safety, quality management, staffing, and employee relations.

She earned her Doctorate in Education from the University of Pennsylvania and also holds a Master’s of Science and Education from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Michigan State. Additionally, she serves on the advisory council of the University of Pennsylvania CLO alumni network, the advisory board of New Historia and the advisory council of the Women’s Business Collaborative, where she also chairs their training and development committee. Rosina, welcome. Thanks for doing the show with me.

I’m looking forward to the conversation, J.R.

Me as well. Tell us a little bit about WOMEN Unlimited.

WOMEN Unlimited for many years has been working with corporations to help them grow their pipeline of female leaders. We provide experiential development programs for women at key inflection points of their career, early career, mid-career, and executive level. The women attend programs with other women from other companies. Imagine being in a room of 35 women. Each woman was from a different industry and functional background. For their development journey, either six months or a year, they learn with and from one another. It is a leadership development program. We like to think about it, as well as broaden their understanding of business.

You do this through their organizations.

The companies select the women to attend our programs. Our programs are designed for high-potential women, women who are ready for that next step, either broadening their scope of responsibilities or moving to the next level. You can think of our programs as preparation for thinking about how to recalibrate your skills as you move to that next stage in your career. We know the skills that allowed us to be successful at one point in our career are not the same formula that allows us to be successful at the next level.

As Marshall Goldsmith said, “What got you here won’t get you there.” Is everything cohort-based?

Everything is cohort-based. The framework of our learning design is mentoring, education, and networking. You’ll notice that the topic is focused on the competencies that are relative to those various levels. It’s bookended by two relationship skills. Mentoring and networking are critical skills for women to understand how that becomes the strategy that creates momentum in their careers.

When they get nominated for these programs, how long do the programs typically run?

It depends on which level. The early career programs are six months. The mid-career and the executive levels are a year. The women come together once a month with various topics but it’s not what we would think of as a traditional training program, where they come in and we dump a lot of knowledge. It’s more facilitated learning to spark the women’s understanding around in this area. Maybe it’s communication or influence.

“What are the things that I’m doing that are working for me and helping me? What are some of the things I need to think about doing differently?” It’s the subtlety of their understanding. It’s the way that we create a catalyst for understanding that they can then apply when they go back into their organization. When they come back, we talk about what worked and what didn’t. The development becomes very ingrained and because of that, it’s very sustainable.

How To Keep Yourself Differentiated

Learning experientially and reflecting on it is a more powerful way than having a bunch of information dumped on you. There are others out there doing similar things with a focus on women. You’ve been at this a long time. How do you differentiate or keep yourself differentiated?

There are many other organizations that are out there that serve women directly and provide resources to corporations. What we do that is somewhat unique is that we work with the entire organization. We work with the women’s manager throughout the development experience and that’s done intentionally to help them understand what’s happening in this development program. More importantly, what’s their role as the manager to allow the organization to reap the benefit of the learning that’s occurring.

How can the manager help the women apply the learning back into the organization? How can the manager maybe help the women stretch out of their comfort zone to maybe take on a challenge and get ready for that next assignment? We think of it as partnering with the organization more fully. We also have senior leaders who participate as mentors, senior men and women. That helps them get a more intimate understanding of what are the challenges women are experiencing in organizations. They mentor not women from their company but from other organizations. It expands their understanding and in the end, the organization benefits.

I’ve done programs like that where the deal is you can be in the program but you got to bring somebody with you to be a mentor to somebody from another company. It’s a good way to do it. It’s a way to solve your problem by getting mentor-type people into the mix of things.

Think of it as senior leaders. The development you need is to understand what’s going on outside of my organization. The mentors have access to other senior leaders from other organizations. That’s a great way to expand your network. It also helps them understand some of the nuances that they need to be aware of so that they can create a better environment for women to learn and grow inside the organization.

What’s the shape and size of your organization?

We do programs primarily in the US but also outside the US. We’re a small organization that serves larger organizations. We have a team of about 50 women who have a strong background in business and organizational facilitation. The key to the impact of our programs is having individuals who can help the women get comfortable and be a little vulnerable but facilitate their understanding of what they all can do differently.

You’ve been doing this since the late 1990s. What led you into this space in the first place?

To be honest with you, the woman who founded WOMEN Unlimited, Jean Otte, I met when I was head of HR in a chemical business. She was talking about this company that she was starting to help women step up into leadership. At the time, I identified women in our company to participate. I became a mentor. Jean and I became professional colleagues. After our youngest daughter was born, I left the corporate world and started my consulting practice.

Jean and I remained close. Eventually, she asked me to join her business as it was growing so rapidly. It was more than what she alone could manage. Over time, she decided to retire and I bought the business from her. It allows me to do two things that I love to do. I’m intrigued with organizations and how I can help them be stronger and better. I also love working with people to help them figure out what is the role that brings them that joy in the work that they’re doing.

A lot of people, especially women, end up in roles that they are functionally capable of doing but tired of doing it. They don’t know how to get out of that career corner that they seem to find themselves in. In the work that we do, we help women understand, “There’s a whole set of skills that I can do. What’s that subset when I’m using those skills? I’m excited to go to work and do that work.”

Landscape Shift For Women

The time that you’ve been involved in a business environment, has it changed for women a lot, a little, or not at all?

It’s changed since we started many years ago. The pandemic certainly added more challenges for women in general. There have been incremental shifts in the landscape for women but certainly not as strong a momentum as you would think in 2024. I remember when I was inside organizations. People were like, “There was title seven so that’s going to take care of everything. Women will be fine.”

There’s so much bias in the system within organizations and the way women also understand how they need to navigate. It’s not just the organizations or the leaders. It’s also the biases women have about themselves and their capabilities that need to get unwound for things to work. We often hear, “Meritocracy should work.” It would work if there were no bias in the system but there’s bias in the system so we need to recognize how we get around that.

No such thing certainly is a perfect meritocracy. It’s an ideal that we try to work toward. It probably says a lot. If you ask most people, “What’s the first thought when I say, ‘Envision a leader?’” Most of them are going to think of a White man. Until that stops happening, there’s always going to be that undercurrent of bias. Maybe not in a malicious way but in an unconscious bias as the term is described.

We believe that while all those things can be true in organisms, you don’t know. You don’t know if your leaders have that unconscious by it. There are things women can do to help mitigate that bias. How do they self-advocate? We heard this when Jean started the business many years ago and we consistently have heard it. Women are uncomfortable speaking for themselves. They feel their work should speak for them.

If you go back to what I said, if you’re doing a job that you are functionally capable of but you don’t enjoy, what’s it saying? Is it saying what you want? What we focus on a lot in the work that we do with women is first let’s assess your skillset and then let’s diagnose those skills and your capabilities. What is that subset that you want to use as the springboard for your career?

What’s the story that you need to tell? Who do you need to tell it to? Who are those leaders in your organization that need to understand what you’re bringing to the table? When I’m talking to women in our programs, I’ll say to them, “Your leaders are constantly scanning the resources available to help the organization solve its problems. If they don’t know what you’re bringing to the table and what you have currently to offer, they can’t call on you and put you in as part of the solution.”

Mentoring

Let’s shift gears and talk a little bit more specifically about mentoring, which is a big part of your program. You believe pretty strongly in the benefits of mentoring. Why is it so valuable to personal and professional development?

We don’t have a true understanding of what our capabilities are or what they can be by ourselves. We need to have that thought partner who can help us create the plan to move forward. Developmental relationships are a crucial thing for all individuals. They help us think through the things that will help us move forward.

We need to have that thought partner who can help us create the plan to move forward. Developmental relationships are a crucial thing for all individuals. Click To Tweet

I did my research when I was getting my doctorate on how mentor relationships informed women’s development and allowed them to progress in their careers. What we saw is that when women have a clear sense of, “Here’s what I’d like to accomplish. I’d like to maybe get promoted to the next level,” they can be more explicit around, “Here’s what I’m looking for.” A mentor can help them map out some strategies to accomplish that goal. It helps us not just to have that thought inside our head but also to have that developmental conversation that allows that breakthrough understanding of what we can do to move forward.

Was there a particular mentoring experience that you had yourself?

I’ve been so blessed to have leaders who invested in me and my development. I would say the most impactful one was with Jean. When she and I met and then I started working with her, she truly took me under her wing to help me understand the business and how to think about growing the business. It allowed me to step into the role of buying the business and running it so seamlessly after she retired.

It’s great when you have those mentors particularly in the earlier part of your career because at that point, they can be a bigger accelerant, if that makes sense. It doesn’t come until at some point later. It’s good that you had that relationship with her and it helped make the transition into your ownership of the business seamless, as you describe it. What do you think makes for a good mentoring relationship?

A few things. From an individual, if you’re looking for a mentor, be intentional about what it is that you’re seeking. Even if you’re not sure, it doesn’t have to be a role. I’m not sure what the next step is in my career. I need to have the conversation to help me get that clarity. You don’t need to have a specific destination in mind but coming with an intention of what you want to gain from the conversation is pivotal.

Otherwise, you’ll have some interesting conversations but you’re not going to get anywhere. From a mentor’s perspective and what we work with mentors to understand, one of the things that is so critical is to ask good questions. Not only questions about what they want to accomplish but to listen for what they’re not saying. Are you hearing some hesitancy? Are you hearing uncertainty about what they want and questioning about that to get underneath what might be some of the blocks for the individual to move forward?

The best mentors are good askers of questions. To your point, they can hear what you’re saying and hear what you’re not saying, poke at things, and go deeper with you. If you get a mentor who wants to jump right to tell you what to do, it’s not nearly as helpful. There’s so much more power and you’re realizing things for yourself than having somebody else tell you.

I often hear, “I need a mentor who’s in my industry or is very similar to me.” I don’t think that’s so necessary. I often think that you’re better served if you have a mentor who’s very different than you because if they’re in different industries with functional backgrounds, they don’t understand your world so they’re going to ask very specific questions to unpack. Oftentimes, when we’re with people who have similar perspectives and roles to ours, we talk in shorthand and step over what might be some of the critical elements of what we’re looking to address.

If you’ve got a mentor from another industry, if they’re good, they can bridge that gap because they can overcome the lack of familiarity. They can use their lack of proximity to what you do as an advantage. If they’re not as good, they may struggle with it more, which may be why people will say to you that they’d like to have somebody in their industry just because there’s going to be more commonality or shorthand. It lowers the bar for a successful mentoring relationship. You may also lose something in that respect.

Sometimes, we can but we’re not comfortable in this type of conversation with people. We can default to being judgmental. “I don’t want to talk to J.R. because he doesn’t understand my world and company.” I can put those barriers to engagement and that’s why the way that we structure mentoring in our programs, we set the stage not only with the mentors but also with the participants. By the time they meet their mentors, we’ve cut through maybe some of those things that could block engagement.

Chemistry matters, too.

I don’t know. Sometimes, we over-index to chemistry. I don’t always like everybody that I work with. I don’t always have great chemistry with everybody that I work with. Yet, I need to be effective with everybody that I work with. I remember one woman who came to me right after she met her mentors and said, “This one gentleman reminds me of all the men who are at the senior level and are so difficult.” She was not happy.

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Dr. Rosina Racioppi | Female Leaders

Female Leaders: You may not like everybody or have great chemistry with everybody you work with. Yet, you need to be effective with everybody that you work with.

 

I talked to her a little bit and I’m like, “Do you need to be effective with those leaders that you find so off-putting?” “Yes, she does.” “Might not this be a great way for you to learn? If this mentor is giving you that as an example, you can use it to build your ability to be more comfortable when you’re dealing with people with whom you are not feeling that chemistry.

I don’t want to dismiss it completely. It’s an element but you don’t have to have it because mentors always give you something to learn. I can remember as a young child coming home from school and my mother saying to me, “What do you think about your teacher?” I’m like, “I don’t like her. She’s whatever.” My mother said to me, “You have a lot to learn from her.” We need to look at mentors that way. They all give us a gift if we’re willing to learn.

We need to look at mentors as teachers. They all give us a gift if we’re willing to learn. Click To Tweet

With some, it will be easier than it will be with others. That goes two ways. You and I have been on both sides of this equation. Some of them are much easier to develop. Some of them are much harder. The matching programs that many companies do have a lot more variability. At the end of the day, both parties have to come in committed to have their ears open, bridge the gap, and do their part. A lot of mentees look too much to the mentor to carry the load for them. The mentee is the one who needs to carry the load. They’re the ones who are trying to get something specific out of it.

The way that we design our program is the mentee owns the relationship. They drive it and declare the focus of it. That’s done with intention so that the women step up and lead the process. It’s important for them to declare what they want. It’s not for the mentor to tell them what they should get.

Do you have particular tools or frameworks that you recommend to people as they’re trying to develop those mentoring relationships?

There are opportunities around them. Before you pursue a mentor, take stock to assess what is it about the work that you’ve done and the experiences you’ve had that you enjoyed. What is it about it? Is it, “I like when I’m interfacing with a client. I like when I’m deconstructing an issue and can solve the problem?” What is it about the work that you’ve done that you enjoyed? What are those things that you don’t want to do anymore?

Do that reflective exercise to understand what is at the heart of this that you want to build the mentoring relationship on. You need to look for people who are comfortable having that dialogue with you. One of the things that I’m fascinated about is once you’ve had a mentor, how does that shape or inform how you build relationships moving? What I’ve heard from a lot of the women that have been in our programs is that they start being more forward-thinking about who might be a potential mentor for them.

They may approach someone when they’ve completed a project or a presentation and ask a leader for some feedback. Not just say, “May I have some feedback?” Ask some specific questions. Based on how comfortable and forthcoming they are with their comments, then they may schedule another conversation. I don’t think you can go up to someone and say, “J.R., will you be my mentor?”

We could have a conversation and I may ask you some questions and see how forthright you’re going to be and how comfortable you might be in giving me some guidance. I might say, “Can we follow up and have another conversation? Would you be open to that?” Sometimes that informal approach helps you create a cadence of conversations with some potential mentors.

Lifelong Learning

Education is another part of your program, the E in WOMEN. You’re a big believer in the idea of lifelong learning. How have you applied that in your life?

If I could have figured out how I could have earned a living going to college my whole life, I would have done that.

You went for a PhD so you gave it a good long run.

I did do it a long time. I always look for opportunities to meet with people outside of my normal group. Since we work with a lot of organizations, I talk with people in academics, people who I went to grad school with and are in different industries so that I can get an outside view of the work that we’re doing. What are some things we should be thinking about maybe that we’re not thinking about in the work that that we’re doing? I have a network of people both in corporations and outside that help broaden my understanding of the work that we’re doing. I’m part of a couple of different Think Tanks that challenge my thinking. Those are the things that helped me. It’s Stephen Covey who talks about sharpening the saw. I’m always looking for those experiences that help me do that.

It was funny, for me, when I started doing this show because I’ve always been interested in people’s career journeys. I started with people that I had worked with in some capacity or gone to school with. It’s people I knew. Some of them I hadn’t kept up with in a while but I at least had some level of connection to them. As it’s evolved, the more people that I meet come to me typically through a PR agency. I get to meet people like you and others who I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

It’s turned into a great way for me to expand my network and hear perspectives from people who are in a very different space than I am. I hadn’t thought about where this might ultimately go but it’s been an unexpected bonus to be able to talk to people who do such different things than what I do and have had such different career journeys. You can learn something from everybody, even if they do something different. For me, that’s been useful.

It’s exciting. It also helps you go back into the work that you do with a little bit more renewed energy.

Women’s Biggest Learning Needs

Certainly, a fresh perspective. Even if you don’t consciously think about applying them, they’re in there one way or another. What are the biggest learning needs of the women that come into your programs?

What we hear most often and what I see most often is understanding with the roles that I have, what are the most important things for me to focus on? I don’t need to do everything but I need to do those things that are going to be aligned with the organization’s goals. I don’t need to do things perfectly. It’s funny because we had a graduation of one of our programs and that was a theme.

I’ve realized I’m too much of a perfectionist. I remember in one organization, we embraced a quality philosophy. One of the elements of the quality philosophy is whatever the customer wants, you deliver that with excellence. What I see often happening with women is that may be what the customer wants but I can do this much more. They end up over-delivering and then getting frustrated when people don’t acknowledge that bonus effort.

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Dr. Rosina Racioppi | Female Leaders

Female Leaders: One of the elements of the quality philosophy is that whatever the customer wants, you deliver with excellence.

 

If the customer wants X, give them X and make it on point. Don’t give them more because you’re giving them more energy than what they’re paying for. When women can hone in on that need to do everything perfectly, they’re going to have the bandwidth to take a step back and say, “Everything that’s on my plate, what are the things that are going to be important?” They can manage their effort more strategically.

It’s almost impossible to give an A effort on everything. Some of this also is agreeing like, “Where is it most important that I give that an A effort? Where can I turn it to B?” Women more than men struggle with that sense of needing to be perfect and go the extra step. I’ve seen that as a common theme with people that I’ve worked with over the years.

The other thing is their comfort and capability to self-advocate to talk about what they bring to the table, what they’re excited about, and advocate for those other opportunities in front of them. People aren’t going to come knocking on your door and hand you the package. You have to be pursuing it.

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Dr. Rosina Racioppi | Female Leaders

Female Leaders: People aren’t going to come knocking on your door and hand you the package. You have to be pursuing it.

 

There’s also the tale you hear often that men will apply for positions that they aren’t qualified for. Women won’t apply for a position and then they meet every single bullet point on the job description. I was having this discussion with my daughter who’s a PhD student. She’s like, “They say they want a postdoc. Do I have to go get my postdoc to be able to get this job when I finish my PhD?” I’m like, “No, let them turn you down.”

It’s just a guideline. It’s not necessary. It’s interesting. I did a project in this one organization. We were looking at women who were at the C-Suite or president level in organizations. We interviewed them to understand what were some of the experiences that helped them get to that level. This one woman who is now president of an organization for a Fortune 50 company shared a story early in her career.

She had small children at home and she was offered this job. She said to her boss, “I can’t take this job. That guy is out every night of the week with customers. I have small children at home. I can’t do this. It’ll turn my life upside down.” Her boss said to her, “Who said I wanted you to do the job the same way he’s doing it? I want you to do the job the way you think it needs to be done.”

That’s what women miscalculate. They look at jobs and say, “I can’t do what he’s doing.” At the end of the day, the job is meant to create an impact. How could you step into that role? What would you do? How would you approach that job? Those are the things you should be thinking about. Not, “I don’t have the 29 things on the checklist.”

You opt yourself out. There are times you’ll look at a job and go, “There’s no way I could do that.” There’s a difference. Women need to be more open to putting their name in the hat and advocating for themselves in places where they’re not perfect in every way for the role. They’ll do it differently than the person before them and after them. That comes with the territory.

There was a woman in our program who shared a story. She saw a position open in her company and applied for it. She looked more deeply at the position description and withdrew her name. She was talking to one of her colleagues, a gentleman she worked with, who did not even have half of the qualifications she did but he applied for it.

The leader whose position this was came and said to her, “I saw that you applied and you withdrew your name. Why did you do that?” She said, “I looked at the requirements. I wasn’t sure.” He said, “No, we want you in this job. Put your name back. We want to go through the process. We put this in place because we want you in this job.” Anyone who’s reading this who is doubting themselves, take a second look because you shouldn’t be taking yourself out of the running.

Networking

Let’s talk about networking. What are some of the unique needs that women have when it comes to networking?

The challenge that women have is that they often do not have the relationships that keep them informed. Research tells us this. I hear this from the women in our programs. They get more transactional information about the work that they’re doing but they don’t get enough information that helps them understand what’s around the corner. What are those opportunities?

When you think about networks, you need to think about who are those people that are in your span of relationships. Who are the people who fall in the bucket of those personal relationships that will give you feedback about how you’re showing up, maybe what you’re doing well, or maybe what you can do differently? Who are the people in your network that help you understand how things get done in the organization?

When I talk to people, especially women, they tend to have a few people on the personal and a lot on the operational. What they fail to have are people in what I would call in a strategic bucket. Who are the people who help you understand the opportunities in the business, the themes, and what’s going on in your industry?

My career has always been in HR. I’ve always had a broad group of people. Not only that we’re in HR but also in a lot of different companies that helped me be informed about what was going on. To be effective as a leader in HR, you have to have a relationship with all the senior leaders in your organization so you understand what they’re dealing with so that you can better serve and support them. I also had to work with other people outside organizations and other functions so that I was better prepared as a business person to understand how I could shape HR for the needs of the business.

I’m curious though, there’s a limit to that circle that you’ve described, whether it’s personal or operational, people who are 1 step or maybe 2 steps removed from what you’re doing. Where does that fit into your thinking about what’s important for women and building their networks?

Women tend to get comfortable with the people that they know. If you have a network where it’s people who are very similar to you and are not challenging your thinking, then it’s going to limit your view of what opportunities might be. One of the women in graduation said, “I learned to build a network of people that challenged the way I think.” That’s what is so important. I’ve always had the benefit of having a network of people that expanded my thinking. If your network is an echo chamber of similar thoughts and beliefs, then you’re going to be limiting what might be opportunities for you.

If your network is an echo chamber of similar thoughts and similar beliefs, you will be limiting what might be opportunities for you. Click To Tweet

When the women come through your program, what practical things are you doing with them to help them develop their networks?

As part of the framework of the learning that occurs in our program, we help them expand it within the program. They’re put in peer teams. There are different ways that we frame the learning. They’re interacting with people that they wouldn’t typically interact with wouldn’t it not be for the program. We also ask them to do different things, network, and have conversations with people inside their organization. It helps them expand their network inside the organization as well. What’s interesting is that the women then are like, “Oh.” First of all, when you ask people to meet with you, they’ll meet with you. Even when the program’s over, they’ll continue those habits of meeting with people so that they’re better informed about what’s going on in their company.

Do you offer some form of ongoing community network for people who’ve gone through your programs?

Yes. Once the program is completed, we have an alumni group. We have quarterly meetings and newsletters. There’s a way for them to stay connected. Many of the women that have gone through our programs and advancing their careers come back as mentors. There are ways to stay connected with us for the longer term.

For people who are more introverted, what advice do you give them about getting into the networking game because it feels uncomfortable to them more so than to an extrovert?

It feels artificial, which is why it feels so uncomfortable. For someone more introverted, start small. Whether you’re introverted or extroverted, the fact remains that you need to build relationships with people. Push yourself to meet with someone maybe that you haven’t talked to that much but they know your name. Have a conversation. Keep building it out a little bit broader. The way that we break out of our comfort zone is by little steps but you need to act your way into it. Just do it. Once you do it the first time, you’ll get a little comfortable and you’ll be even more comfortable the second time you do it.

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Dr. Rosina Racioppi | Female Leaders

Female Leaders: Whether you’re introverted or extroverted, the fact remains that you need to build relationships with people. Push yourself to meet with someone.

 

You have a lot going on. You’re running an organization and on multiple advisory boards. How do you keep all of this going?

Each element of the things that I’m involved with feeds into and supports my core business. As a leader and someone who’s running a business, I know where to spend my time to achieve the goals that I have for the business. Everything that I do is very purposeful. When I’m working on an external board, a lot of the relationships and the insight I get from those boards help me think differently about the work that I do at WOMEN Unlimited and vice versa. It’s a matter of having boundaries, knowing where my value is, and being purposeful about my day.

Would you describe yourself as having a high degree of self-discipline?

I do. I have standards around my time. I don’t like to waste people’s time and I don’t like it when people waste my time. I’m very judicious about what I do every day.

Habits That Bring The Most Value

What are some of the routines or habits that help you stay focused on the things that are going to bring the most value?

I listen to a lot of podcasts or different masterclasses to extend my understanding or think about things differently. I’ll spend time every day. I’ve done this throughout my career identifying those buckets of things that need my attention and that’s where I’ll spend my time. The hardest thing is you start evolving your career where you’re not doing and executing the work. A lot of the work is gathering insight and information so that you’re able to make decisions to move your business forward. That means you’re talking to a lot of different people and doing a lot of that gathering.

It’s probably harder when you’re an entrepreneur and you are the face of the business as you are. You have to think about, “What’s important that I do myself? What would I prefer to delegate?” There’s a lens in that of like, “What’s important that I show that I’m doing myself?”

The other secret is I am blessed with a wonderful team of people that I’ve worked with for many years. Their expertise adds to and augments my perspective. We’re able to achieve a lot, even though we might be a small team.

Is there a time of day when you’re most productive?

I like to use the morning for reflection because once the day starts, you hit the ground running.

When you look back, what strengths would you say have helped you consistently over the course of your career?

Being open to feedback and not being defensive. When someone gives you their perspective, be curious about why they see things the way they do so you can decide what you do with it. I had to learn. The difficult transition for me was moving from the person who did it all to the person who was leading others who were doing it. That was a difficult transition because I was good at what I did so I expected people to do it my way. Once I understood that there was more than one way to get things done, then that was easy for me to let go.

When someone gives you their perspective, be curious about why they see things the way they do so you can decide what you do with them. I had to learn. Click To Tweet

That’s a tough transition for a lot of people.

We see a lot of people getting stuck, men and women. If you’re being told you’re great because you do X so well, then it’s hard for you to let go of that and let other people do it.

You see these progressions and I’ve gone through them certainly in my career where you go from being an individual contributor to a manager. You have to learn how to delegate work, how to trust others to get things done, and how to coach them. You go through that transition and the letting go part that we were talking about, and then you move up. You realize at some point that the breadth of your organization means you no longer can know everything that’s going on every single day across the group.

It’s not possible. You move up even more and realize you might not even know everybody who works for you. It becomes about how you create the system, the people systems and the management systems. Those are all tough transitions. You mentioned at the outset that you work with women at different levels. I’m sure you see all of that in the different levels that you work with.

It’s also important to be open to thinking, “There’s something new for me to learn. There might be a different way to approach it. I certainly know that I don’t have all the answers but I’ll be curious to find the answer together with others.” That’s that transition. It’s not just about me finding the answer. It certainly is much better when we get a group of smart people working on the same thing and coming up with the answer together.

Last question, what’s one thing you know now that you should have learned or known at the beginning of your career?

It’s not just about being right. It’s about getting things done in the right way at the right time.

It’s very true. It’s like applying the political lens or practical lens on things.

It would have saved a lot of arguments that I had with people.

For you and probably a lot of other people, too. Thanks for doing this. I appreciate it. It was a nice conversation. Good to hear what you’re doing in the work that you’re doing with so many women and the companies that you support.

Thank you, J.R., for the conversation. I enjoyed it immensely. Good luck to your daughter as well in her journey.

She’s got to get that PhD done first. That’s her priorities for the moment.

One step at a time.

Take care.

I want to thank Rosina for joining me to discuss WOMEN Unlimited, mentoring, education, networking, and a little bit about her career journey and how she manages. All of this is consistent with the idea of taking control of your career. If you’re ready to do that, visit PathWise.io. If you’d like more regular career insights, you can become a member. It’s free. You can also sign up on the website for the PathWise newsletter and follow PathWise on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. Thanks. Have a great day.

 

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About Dr. Rosina Racioppi

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Dr. Rosina Racioppi | Female LeadersDr. Rosina Racioppi is the President and Chief Executive Officer of WOMEN Unlimited, Inc., which is the Women’s Organization for Mentoring, Education and Networking. She has led this organization for the past 26 years, and in this capacity, she spearheads initiatives to partner with organizations across a wide range of industries to develop their high-potential women and to build a pipeline of diverse and talented leaders.

Prior to joining WOMEN Unlimited, Inc., Rosina held executive management positions in human resources at Degussa Corporation, Nextran (a division of Baxter Corporation) and Beechwood Data Systems. She has over 25 years’ experience in Organization Planning and Development, Compensation and Benefits, Training and Development, Safety, Quality Management, Staffing and Employee Relations.

Rosina earned her doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania, and she also holds a Master of Science in Education from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Michigan State University. Additionally, she serves on the Advisory Council for the University of Pennsylvania CLO Alumni Network, The Advisory Board of the New Historia, and the Advisory Council of The Women’s Business Collaborative, where she also chairs their Training and Development Committee.

 

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