“What Glass Ceiling?” A Guide for Women Leaders



Andreea Popescu

Senior Manager, Digital Finance Transformation,
Ernst & Young (EU)

Ellen Cnudde

Senior Consultant, Performance Improvement and Finance Transformation,
Ernst & Young (EU)

Kimberly Erickson

Founder/Principal Consultant,
Optimize Consulting


[0:01] Kendall:

Alright, thank you, everybody, for joining today’s panel discussion based on women and leadership. The moderator for this discussion is Elaine Nowak, who is the Director of Product Management and Marketing at HighRadius. Today we also have two speakers from EY (Ernst & Young), which is one of the largest professional services firms in the world. Andreea Popescu, who serves as a senior manager of digital finance transformation and Ellen Cnudde is a senior consultant and performance improvement of finance transformation at EY. We also have with us Kim Erickson, who is the owner, senior principal at Optimize Consulting. Kim has worked with the AR space for nearly 18 years. She spent 12 years at Hormel foods and held various AR positions, most notably managing the centralized Support Service Center where the HighRadius DMS cloud solution was first implemented. Now that housekeeping is out of the way, Elaine the stage is all yours.

[01:00] Elaine Nowak:

Thank you, Kendall. Welcome, everybody, glad you could join us today. So I’m just gonna ask a series of questions of these lovely ladies to my left. And then we’re going to kind of get a little conversation going. If you’d like to ask questions, I encourage you to do so. And we’ll just make it more interactive and engaging that way. So first off, I’m going to adjust this to all of you, but I’ll call on each one of you at one point. So taking risks, and coming out of your comfort zone is necessary for every business. Do myths exist around women not being able to come out of their comfort zones? Do you think that this is the case? Have you encountered this in your workplace? So let’s start with Ellen.

[1:40] Ellen Cnudde:

So I think firstly, that’s exactly the myth, right? I think women are as likely to step out of their comfort zone as men are if they’re given the right opportunity. And I think that’s exactly the point. We need to give women more the opportunity and asked and then we’ll see what happens. So I think personally the experiences I’ve had when something was asked, and it was outside of my comfort zone. Sure, it’s not easy, but I think it doesn’t limit in any way because we’re a woman that we should be afraid to tackle that. So I think personally, it’s a myth, but everybody’s different. But that goes the same for men.

[02:17] Elaine Nowak:

Right, Andreea? Yeah.

[02:20] Andreea Popescu:

So I think the myth is there, and it’s well-founded because it’s also in our brains, instilled that and probably know the story, right? A woman needs to be 99% sure that she can do something before she would say she would do something. A man would typically be like, “Okay, I’m 50% kind of confident I can get that done. I’m going to go just go ahead and do it.” So we cannot completely ignore this. But indeed, stepping out of the comfort zone is more of a personal thing. I don’t think it’s very different if a woman takes the chance to act upon her being outside of our comfort zone or not, but yes, opportunities have to be in a way, available for you to actually make the right step in that direction.

[03:08] Elaine Nowak:

So sort of thinking it’s it’s partly a gender thing, but because it’s a cultural shift that has to be made exactly for us to change that.

[03:19] Kimberly Erikson:

Yeah, I would agree that it is definitely, in fact, the study, I just happened to stumble upon it, not even preparing for this. The statistics said that it had was 60% of what men think, that they think they might know, for example, if they were going for a position, they would go for it, and they would charge forward, whereas the women would be like, “Oh, I don’t know I’m not good enough. And what if and I think I need to study that a little bit more, and maybe I should do this.” And that is totally me and what I resonate with, and so to me, I’m thinking okay, is it easier to change like that, maybe what might be like a cultural norm or maybe somebody is not bringing an opportunity to me. I think, okay, now it’s much easier for me to swallow, I need to work on myself, I need to recognize the fact that I have all these tendencies, maybe because it is I’m a woman and so forth. And I have to step out of my comfort zone and it’s not as easy for me. So I need to learn some skill and to develop in that way and follow those that have done that before me by listening, by engaging with them and saying, Okay, how did you work through this because I can’t get myself this take the leap. I’m currently in that position right now with some of the things that I’m working on. Like I’ve had something I’ve been working on for a number of months and I can’t push go, yeah.

[04:42] Elaine Nowak:

Yeah. Anyway to get to the end. But I think that those last 10 yards at the same for anyway, the last percent, that last mile, ticket it over the finish line. I don’t think it matters if you’re a man or a woman. That’s always the hard part.

[04:52] Kimberly Erikson:

And I think it’s easier for me to say, “Okay, what can I work on?” Because I can’t change everybody and I can’t change how the situation is, I can change how I approach things that I can change, how I think about things and recognize things about myself and then follow those that maybe have done it before me. Because it can be done. We just have to go about it may be in a little different way.

[05:10] Elaine Nowak:

Yes, true enough. So let me ask this question the matches to Andreea and Ellen. According to the 2018 women in the workplace report that was released by McKinsey and Company, it was founded on the 68% of women face microaggressions, so and what a microaggression is a little bit of a long definition, but it’s a term used for brief and commonplace, daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative prejudicial insights or slights and insults towards a group, particularly culturally marginalized groups, so a microaggression.

[05:56] Elaine Nowak:

Again, it’s just this commonplace where someone makes an offhand comment about something. And it’s reflective of. So 68% of women face these days. So have you in your workplace seen instances of this or felt it in your role that you’ve been or maybe been mistaken, because of your being a woman for someone much junior, let’s say, for example, I mean, I recall in my career, we were having a management meeting, and I was sitting at the table, I happen to be the only woman at the table. And they turned me in, they said, Elaine, can you just take notes? And I said, well, why am I taking notes? I’m not the admin. They’re like how about we call someone in and we can have someone take notes? Whose role is to take notes, not just because I’m the woman and I definitely felt like it was because I was the woman in this situation that I was called upon to take notes. So do you have examples of where you’ve seen that? Kim, let’s start with you.

[06:59] Kimberly Erikson:

Well, I would definitely say that I have definitely experienced that, especially when I was in a more corporate environment all the time. And one in which was when I was there was a solution that I was trying to get some buy-in for in the organization. And I had a counterpart of mine, we did different things, but we’ve worked together and we had a great relationship up to this point. I believe he started feeling maybe some threat about what I was trying to do and I was in a room with him and we sat down and we were talking about this and I think he was trying to get me out of moving forward and he said, “Now look here you little lady” I’ll never forget that day. And I think that happens in different ways, different things. Maybe he thought he could have control over me in that kind of way and maybe even changed my course of actually pushed me further to do some other things to make it work because I saw even more what I was I was up against. So it was an enlightening time, I think we do all that and I think we have to sit back and think, “Okay, look beyond it and not respond in anger or frustration or this or that, there is a situation before me, and how do I respond to it?” And sometimes you don’t get it that time because in that case, I think it was almost paralyzed. I’m like, oh, my God, it just happened. It was like it was somebody that I had such a great working relationship with before and even you know, so I mean, certainly, I think we all have that, men too have it in different ways. And certainly, I think in the case of women that can happen maybe a lot.

[08:42] Elaine Nowak:

Yes, I think culturally marginalized groups, so, not necessarily women, it could be any kind of derogatory or slight comment that’s made, right? Culture, whatever it might be. Andre, you have some ideas or examples?

[08:54] Andreea Popescu:

I do and I want to reflect back to not just women but groups because I have actually a very strong background in management because I became a manager very early in my career. And when I was 25, and I was very often found in rooms where I literally was the youngest person in the room. And in some situations, I was the only woman younger in the room. And you do observe them. Sometimes it’s overlooked. And I think it’s also a cultural background of how sensitive you are to some of them. Some of them, I didn’t even perceive them, somebody else could help. But it’s a matter of how you choose to react and respond to that, or how you what that means really, because as you said, when you were put in that situation, you were like, “Okay, I’m paralyzed now, but what can I do about it?” And it pushed you to become able to do more, it would be better, right? Yeah. I think the reaction is very important in the sense. You know, fight or flight, you can freeze and just, “Okay, this happened, I need to try to step out of it.” Or you can say, “Okay, I understand your position. But that behavior said more about that person than it’s about me.” So if you keep this in mind, then you can still continue on your journey, on your path and do the best version of you, regardless of what different people believe with you.

[10:23] Elaine Nowak:

Yes, very true. And Ellen?

[10:25] Ellen Cnudde:

So I think I definitely second way, Andreea. So I think there’s still some education there that needs to happen, because indeed, it’s very personal, how you perceive things, sometimes you might perceive it as a microaggression. And sometimes not. And it just slipped by and it happened and you didn’t even know and I think having open conversations about it and also talking to your colleagues, etc, about “Oh, what that person said there, that was not okay” It is very needed because sometimes I’ve even been appointed to the fact that “Oh, this person said that, did you see that other person’s reaction?” They did not perceive that well, and I didn’t notice it. So even noticed from yourself that you need some etiquette education on it. And it’s very important to realize that everybody’s different and everybody perceives things differently and is sensitive to different topics.

[11:12] Elaine Nowak:

Yes. And I think even sometimes they started gets ingrained in some of our language, some of our culture. I just recently use the word, “I got chipped”, if anyone’s familiar with that phrase, meaning I got shortchanged, and then someone said to me, you know where that comes from? And I was like, no way. I mean, it just means you get shortchanged. It’s derogatory towards gypsies. And it’s something where you’re saying that you’re getting gypped because you are being cheated the way the gypsies cheat you. And I was like, “Wow, that’s really not what I was intending or how I was using that particular phrase or expression.” But I think that we don’t even realize, and they can get into our language in the way that we talk and the words that we use.

[11:56] Ellen Cnudde:

Yeah, I think, sorry, I’m that one. I actually had a conversation with a colleague about that, because we use words like this all the time, the word drama queen is used all the time. But is that really a word we still want to use, right? Why? I mean men can be a drama queen in that sense? So it goes far. And we really need to think about it on indeed how it’s instilled in our language.

[12:17] Elaine Nowak:

Yes, I absolutely agree. So here’s the next question. Lately, we have come across campaigns such as the #Me too, and #TimesUp, which have given people a platform to stand up and raise their voices against sexual harassment. Do you think that these hashtags, these movements have had an impact in your workplace? We’ll start with you, Ellen. Do you think you’ve seen as a result of having these campaigns and the movements that have taken place, anything that’s changed?

[12:51] Ellen Cnudde:

So I think there’s definitely more sensitivity around the whole topic, something that we’ve received even back in Europe, in Switzerland, let’s say. And it goes pretty far, I had a colleague that came up to me with a story that she works very closely together with a partner. And they were in the office very late. And there were still some people around, but it was quiet. And she walked into the meeting room, she wanted to close the door, and the partner said, no and I’ll leave the door open. And she instantly felt that that was because he did not want anybody to perceive the situation in any way that it shouldn’t be perceived. And that just makes it very clear that it is a sensitive talk topic. People are very aware of it. And I think we still need some conversations on how to deal with these situations. Because is that really the right reaction? They can have a normal conversation in a meeting room and can close the door.

[13:51] Elaine Nowak:

Yeah. And where do you draw the line? When you get back from overly done or being overly sensitive to it. But you need to have a conversation and it needs to be private. So can you close the door? Or do you have to leave that door open? Where do you draw that line? And do you have some thoughts on this?

[14:08] Andreea Popescu:

Yeah. So I think I totally resonate with Ellen. I mean, we are in the same office. But what I would add to this is basically, what I would interpret this movement is a hypersensitivity rather than a sensitivity. It’s definitely out there in the open and it’s in everybody’s face right now, because it was not so much brought up in the past. And I think what we aspire towards or where we’re going to see much more of in the future is this balance at the moment. There’s no balance and everything is either super hyped, and that’s why I also have this exaggerated reactions because yeah, I would say the lady who was in that situation most likely felt completely uncomfortable and we don’t want to put people in an uncomfortable situation just because of specific hashtags and trends in the social media. But balancing it out making an environment safe enough for women to speak up if they’re found in very strange situations or uncomfortable situations that affect their integrity, affect their work, affect their state of mind. This is definitely something we would aspire to do. But I think it needs to level out at one point.

[15:18] Elaine Nowak:

I agreed. We talked about the pendulum swing, right, swings up, and you’ll go much more extreme, you’ll get more drastic reactions, and then eventually, the pendulum will get to a more balanced point. And we’ll see less of this hypersensitivity. Yeah, I agree. So here we are, 2020. And with the onset of this new decade that we have, have you seen changes over the past 10 years you might have noticed? When you look at women as industry leaders now as compared to 10 years ago? Let’s have Andreea come.

[15:54] Andreea Popescu:

I do definitely perceive it because, for me, it’s very important to have mentors or coaches or people that as I aspire towards. Whether it’s remote or whether I actually am able to have these kinds of conversations. And I think right now, compared to 10 years ago, women have already built a very strong track record of being successful leading businesses in a successful and impactful manner. And them doing so actually gives them a better position to say we’ve done it. Look, we have proven that we got to this state where women are maybe better at this specific role.

[16:34] Andreea Popescu:

It’s better to have a mixed or it’s better to have an inclusive board. It’s better to have a mixed group of people who make the decisions because then you’re assured that the decision is going to be again balanced or leveled. And all opinions will be taken into consideration. So I think compared to 10 years ago, we definitely have that, it was very hard to achieve because I think we had to also kind of shake off this -“Women have to be put in leadership positions because we need to have women in leadership positions.” I think right now we’re at a safe ground where women in leadership positions are there because they’re capable because they have the competence to be there. And because they have the leadership to drive their teams forward. And that is as important.

[17:22] Elaine Nowak:

And she got the job because as women, we needed to fill some kind of prescriptive percentage or something we need to tick the box for. Yes. or something to that effect. Yeah. So thoughts? Kim, do you have thoughts on this one?

[17:35] Kimberly Erikson:

Yeah, not in particular, beyond I think what you said.

[17:41] Elaine Nowak:

So let’s talk about, is there a big change that you’ve brought to your workplace as an industry leader? All you ladies are leaders where you are, so do you have any examples of changes you’ve seen in the workplace as an industry leader, Ellen?

[17:57] Ellen Cnudde:

So I think on a personal level, what I always try to do is to be flexible around any situation, everything is argumentative, everything can be discussed. And I think also and I think this goes a little bit more towards how we organize our day, how flexible we are working hours. I mean, I think we’re all three of us in consultancy. So I think is very well aware of flexible work hours. But that’s really what I always try to do, is organize your day as it fits, right? If there are certain things you need to do at home, or you need to be home for certain reasons, that’s totally fine. I do that myself all the time as well.

[18:37] Ellen Cnudde:

Also when I work together with colleagues, so that being flexible and being adaptive around somebody today, I think is the core and one thing that actually a female partner or leader that I talked to that at an event, at a powerup event like this was that she blocked her calendar standard from four to seven or eight in the evening. And whenever somebody, a colleague would want to book a meeting, she would say, no, I’m sorry. That’s the time I have to pick up my kids from school. And we have dinner together with the family and then later I pick up my work again. And if you really want to speak to me this day, you can book it from eight to nine. I’m online at that time, so maybe you can be online then as well instead of at six. And if it’s not urgent, let’s do it tomorrow.

[19:25] Elaine Nowak:

Any other thoughts?

[19:27] Kimberly Erikson:

Yeah, when I think of change, I think this will lend itself to maybe being a woman, especially at the time that this happened, largely male-dominated leadership as far as roles are concerned. I started a trajectory of my career that I wouldn’t have even anticipated then like I did now but it was actually selling in HighRadius into the organization 10 years ago, and And it was at a time obviously when the when HighRadius is very new, right? Like, especially in the production space no one was using the cloud at that time. But for the interesting thing, I think that made the difference and how that worked. I just knew and I don’t know if any of you have this, but since I’ve done a lot more studied, a lot deeper in this but I think this is one thing that women can tap into more men have the ability to I think women can maybe do this easier sometimes than a man can. But we all can because you have to just tap into that. And because when I had that knowledge, even though I didn’t have all the facts and all this right, because no one had been before us, I knew I there was something that from what I had been exposed to and the things that I have been learning. And like now I think oh my gosh, I hitched my wagon to the right horse. I had no idea what was before me. At the time, I was just thinking, no, we just need this solution. But over time what’s happened and how that’s progressed and all of that came from something that was far deeper than what facts and figures and so forth went into.

[21:11] Kimberly Erikson:

And I think if there’s something I can leave you with today that I personally I’m trying very hard in my own life is learning that there actually is a heart-brain, we think that heart is following a gut, heart, whatever you want to call it, we think it’s fluffy, it’s just feelings, it’s just this it’s got no bearing. Some could totally wipe that off. But actually, the heart has a very sophisticated nervous system and is 5000 stronger than the mind and it’s where this gut really kind of tells us and lands us in a certain direction. And then later we fill in all the facts and figures and do the things that we need to do to sell things in and whatever but if you don’t have that first kind of knowing that like that time and that little lady, that those are the things that you can come against and you can encounter because it goes so much deeper than what one person can tell you because I think women can tend to be like somebody would say something and we might choose to like, “Oh yeah, maybe they’re right.” And we second guess ourselves and we hesitate, we pull back. But if you have somebody that’s stronger than that, that goes much deeper than that, you’re not swayed by that stuff as much. And I think especially as women if we can tap into that more and go with that, and then of course, obviously do all the due diligence and so forth. I mean, that just comes with the territory, you must because you’re dealing in a world that they don’t understand that and you think, Oh my god, you’re just fluffy. I’m like, no, no, I’m not fluffy. Anyway, that would be my big thing that comes to mind.

[22:37] Elaine Nowak:

How are we doing on time, Kendall? Three minutes. Okay. Beautiful insight. Thank you, Kim, for that. We talked about this fine line between having our gender define us and our decision making and how we position ourselves and our perceptions and saying that we want to be seen in a neutral way. Right? But there are gender differences. There are things that women do differently than men. And that should be recognized. But again, keeping it at some kind of balance, where you can take that what you know as a woman, what you as a female bring to the table. Different, right, but yet still valid. So, there is a book. “Lean In” is a book that was written by Sheryl Sandberg, anyone here has heard of this book? I would highly recommend it. It’s women’s work and the will to lead. And she talks about getting a seat at the table. And making sure that you as a woman, go and sit at that table and be a part of whatever leadership, whatever conversation, whatever is happening within an organization. Don’t be afraid to sit down and be a part of what that looks like. So do you believe that when you consider your gender and you look at yourself and you say, “Okay, I want to get a seat at that table, with the other ones.” Do you think when it comes down to mentoring, would you prefer a male mentor or female mentor? So if I asked you this question, I say, Ellen, if you had someone who had a lot of knowledge and wisdom to pass down, where do you think would you prefer if it was a male or female?

[24:26] Ellen Cnudde:

I mean, it’s hard to answer. I think it really comes down to what do you believe in and who do you look up to and who do you believe fits at that point in your career, and personally, thus far it’s mostly been men in my life. So one of my biggest mentors is a man. And it’s not that it’s because he’s a man. I think it’s really because the situation was right and because we really connected and it’s been working out thus far, and I haven’t perceived any issues in the fact that he’s a man and I’m a female. He maybe doesn’t really understand this glass ceiling concept because he really does, he’s very in tune with that. So I think maybe that’s the extra help for me. But I wouldn’t have a preference necessarily.

[25:12] Elaine Nowak:

Fair enough, Andreea?

[25:13] Andreea Popescu:

I have to say I have a mixed group of mentors. I have both men and women that I look up to and we basically bounce ideas and they have supported and support me throughout my career. What I have to say with respect to choosing in full fairness, for me, what matters is competence and personal connection, much more than whether it’s a male or female. And that’s how I tend to also choose the mentors. They are the people that I would go to for advice or that I would go to for guidance. It’s more around this person’s experiences and knowledge and expertise and background, does that help me in what I’m looking to get? Or is this just because I don’t know we have a lot of coffee and it’s great. And she’s a woman and so on now, so for me, it’s always going to be competence and relevance for my professional and personal growth.

[26:11] Elaine Nowak:


[26:12] Kimberly Erikson:

And for me, when I was in Corporate America, my strongest mentors were definitely men. And because they were the ones in leadership positions, and they were helping me to navigate and the interesting thing is, I think that was different for me, and maybe why I think it was so effective for me at that point in time, is they could just call a spade a spade, like they’re like, Kim you’re getting emotional about this. And I’m like, “Oh, am I?” And so I think, maybe a man has a tendency to recognize some of those things and help to navigate that I appreciate it so much, they were my fans and my biggest supporters. As I progress in my careers, I did a business I hired out for my own coaching and so I’ve used females generally in that regard, just like actually formal coaches, and I probably tend to lean towards that as I have preceded, and those that have, as I kind of mentioned before, gone before me in different ways, but gone before me that can help me kind of equip myself and get the tools that I need and the skills that I need to do that. And it’s all in my view mindset, at least for me. And I think most could resonate with that, because we again, tend to be more reserved and pull back. And if we want a seat at that the table, we can’t blame anybody else most of the time, right? You’re gonna run into situations where things are like that, oftentimes, it’s because we all choose to take that seat at the table, because we’re like, “Oh, I’m not good enough. I’m this I’m that I don’t like myself today.” You know, “What do I look like?” Whatever. I mean, we tend to pull back more often. I think because of that. Not everyone is like that. I think though, generally speaking, that that’s definitely true for many.

[27:49] Elaine Nowak:

Any questions before we wrap up?

[27:53] Audience:

Yeah, so my question is kind of related to your last panel question is how much you think as a woman leader, you can stay true to herself is you’re trying to break that glass ceiling and reach your full potential. You know, how much at deputation you need to do, to kind of reach to a senior executive level. And because there’s a book called in a Nice Card doesn’t get a corner office, right. So let’s say if authentically, you are a very nice, warm person, and you just really love, to connect with people, help people. And sometimes you do seem to be a little reserved, personality-wise, and I’m just saying that, are those things you just have to adapt and change to get to that senior level where you actually have a way to stay true to yourself and still reach your full potential?

[28:47] Elaine Nowak:

This goes back to this idea of a balance and to be able to hold yourself in a professional way, but also for me because I am a very warm, I love giving hugs. I’m just that kind of person. You do have to be careful. I think it comes back to this concept of balance. And then I actually think that I like having a woman mentor. Because having a woman mentor means they’ve achieved a certain level, they’ve gotten to that experience, and I love to have them share that with me. And I think a woman’s perspective is going to be a little different than most of my male colleagues and peers, or even the mentors that I would have in my life. So I think you have to be true to yourself. That’s the only way you’re gonna enjoy the things that you do in your daily life, in your professional life. And sort of use that if that’s your strength to help get you to the next level. We had a question. Yeah, Kim?

[29:50] Kimberly Erikson:

Yeah, I want to come to this in a very different way that some of you might think. I think it’s all about mindset. And I think it’s beginning to picture what you want in your reality to come before you and start living it and breathing it in your mind first, and it may not come to fruition in the place that you’re at that moment in time. But I really do believe because things like that when you set your intention in that way, things start coming before you and if you kind of start living it and breathing it in your mind, honestly, like if you study any millionaire, anybody that’s made any level of success, most everyone will tell you, it’s mindset. And it’s about that and yes, you’re going to come against different things. As I said, maybe your doors are going to open somewhere else totally different that you didn’t even think like I don’t aspire for a corner office. But I have other aspirations. But the longer that I have been, especially in the position that I have been and continue to try to do things. I’ve had to study these things because I keep getting stuck in my own mind. Obviously. Yes, you have to get more knowledge and skill and exposure and experience and different things. But I do think some of those things, the doors start opening when you set your intention a certain way. But there’s a skill about even just how you go about doing that. But that’s one thing I think to study, to learn could help anybody in whatever they want to accomplish.

[31:13] Elaine Nowak:

So you’re saying visualize a goal and set yourself to go towards that goal?

[31:17] Kimberly Erikson:

Yes beyond a goal. It’s like starting to live it breathe it, I’m gonna go I might start cleaning that corner office and pretend I’m sitting that chair I might even sit in that chair. What’s all so like certain people that want a certain piece of property. Like there’s this one person that I follow closely like he literally wanted this particular home he literally started showing up to mow the lawn. A few years later, that house was his. I think that can be with a position or with any area of our life, I think our mind is our biggest factor. And so every day you work mindset, you don’t just work your skills, you have to work mindset and skill. 20% and 80%, 80% is us the day stuff that you got to learn to do 20% on your mindset every day if you can if you want to really keep moving forward. Because when I don’t do that, I find I’m stagnant. And if I’m stagnant, I’m actually dying. Really? There’s no in-between. It’s black and white to me. That’s what I would offer.

[32:18] Ellen Cnudde:

I think just to add to that, also be very vocal about what you want. Because that’s what I’ve always been told is, “Ellen, you need to say in the office, what you want, if you want a promotion, and you introduce yourself to somebody” You just say, “I’m up for promotion this year.” So people know.

[32:48] Elaine Nowak:

Perfect. Do we have one more question? Do we have time? Probably not. But yeah, we’re okay. It’s just happy hour from here on out, ladies.

[32:35] Audience:

I just had a quick question and I was curious honestly about your story being with the males and them asking you to take notes, yes. If another female would have been there and she asked you to take notes, we have taken the notes.

[33:09] Elaine Nowak:

No, I still wouldn’t have taken notes. Because I didn’t want the perception that even as a junior person if let’s say, that I was more junior than I was if you see what I’m saying with the note-taking because other women seeing you the same way, it’s very real nowadays. And I loved it and I didn’t think anything of it until somebody pointed it out. And just for the fact that “Oh, she’s a female like me”. But it’s very real.

[33:47] Elaine Nowak:

I think that about wraps it up. We do have another question. Okay. Multiple great, sorry.

[33:52] Audience:

I realize it’s a happy hour. As a professional woman and leader. And having gone through some experience of marginalization that I’m sure we all have, what are some of the initiatives that many of you have gone through in your own career to help uplift and maybe balance things out for other marginalized groups, recognizing that, as stated earlier, women are just one marginalized group, but we see it across other people we work with there are other marginalized groups. So what are some of the initiatives that you’ve done or that you’ve contemplated to just kind of level the playing field or, or create that camaraderie for other groups?

[34:52] Elaine Nowak:

I think we heard Ellen say, be vocal. Make your position known, right. And we’ve had the visualization and sort of make sure you have that mental as well have that mindset. I think it’s interesting that here we are in cowboy Stadium, right? And a team with a very storied history, a lot of success. And you hear about that it is will over skill. When you hear coaches talk about their players, it’s the ones with those mindsets that let them kind of be successful and to achieve higher-level things. So I think we have to be mindful of our mind and where our mindset is. Ladies, your thoughts on this?

[35:37] Andreea Popescu:

Yeah, I think it’s also very important to create and to foster an environment with other women but I don’t differentiate, to be honest with where other people feel like they have the right space and the safe space, feel empowered to voice their wants to become leaders there. So for me, this is this was very important because I want to believe I’m doing it, I mean, I would probably not be the best person to say I do it. Maybe people who are around me would say it. But I see it as a tribute that I pay to the people I had around me at the beginning of my career, who have done this for me who were there and who supported me and enabled me actually to become authentic to keep. I liked your question about how much can you be true to yourself, I think it’s very important that you are true to yourself, because otherwise, it’s going to be very difficult to be authentic. And for me, at least, the leaders that I like and that I appreciate are all authentic, and that’s just part of the whole package. So coming back to that- I’ve been trying to create this environment around me, with the people I work with, with my friends who may be in difficult situations at their own jobs, or who have this self-doubt of should I be promoted? Should I ask for that promotion? Should I take the other job or should I aspire for a different career and so on? So I think that’s something that I’m actively trying to I’m not sure if it works, but I’m actively trying to pursue. Sometimes it works sometimes maybe I could do better, but at least it’s part of my action plan to do that.

[37:22] Elaine Nowak:

Because I think it comes back to self-awareness. Yeah. And being willing to take a seat at that table. Another question?

[37:31] Audience:

Just one more. So I know we talked about having female mentors and kind of just creating these spaces of uplifting of other women but there’s also the ugly side of it, where women aren’t always so supportive of each other and just kind of your advice on how to handle conflict like that, especially if it is people you work with. If you do get a promotion and people aren’t so happy about that, or jealousy, different things like that, and just how you handle things.

[37:59] Elaine Nowak:

We could have a whole session on how to handle co-workers and other colleagues. But I’ll just tell you, from my perspective, actually talk a little bit about this. In another session I had, from a psychology background, I know, I’m corporate, I do marketing, but I have a psych degree. I actually have a master’s in psychology. But I think that if you call people out in a way that is professional and say, if they make a comment, and you say, “The comment you just made me uncomfortable” Or “I don’t know if I’m taking this the wrong way. But I feel like when you commented or you said this, that it made me upset or hurt.” I think you have situations that come up, the best thing to do is to first try to work it out with that person. And then if you can’t work it out with that person, then you do need to escalate. If it gets to the point where you’re in an environment that you don’t feel either safe, or you don’t feel like you are valued or it’s difficult for you to do your job. So, anyone has any thoughts on this as well?

[39:12] Kimberly Erikson:

Yeah, I would just say there’s usually something more that’s often behind it. So I love just the power of asking questions and going deeper and getting to the root. If it’s something that really bothers me, but I would answer this question differently. If I had to work in a department I had certain people around me that I could help or not help. I might answer that differently in the way I can answer it best in the way I approach it today, to me, people around me like that their noise at night. I don’t entertain it. I don’t listen, I treat it like a record and I just let that record not play. And I just let it go. You know, one thought and sometimes a certain people, it’s harder than others. And the organization, it would be like okay, “How do I develop a relationship?” Because usually there’s something that you can connect with a person. I’m thinking, “Okay, how can I ask questions? How can I seek to understand because there’s something maybe more behind this maybe it’s something I could have personally said that maybe set this in motion that I had no idea that I said”, and so I always drawback to me trying to say, “Okay, what did I do to maybe cause this and may or may not event, but it could have been something unintentional or intentional, doesn’t matter.” And so asking questions, seeking to understand, I don’t care who it is and family and work and doesn’t matter. Because often there’s something else that marks driving it that I want to get to the heart of, if it really matters to me, if it’s something that I don’t need to worry about, I just let it go. I don’t associate to the best of my ability.

[40:48] Andreea Popescu:

Maybe to add just a very short note because I have seen other hands raised, I think, completely agree that you have to kind of go through this introspection and take this journey with yourself. And see what you could do better to avoid this in the future. But you also have to be very mindful of when a work environment is becoming toxic for you because in the situation times and if it’s somebody who’s hindering you from really doing the best you can do at work, then you need to make a decision on how important it is for you to build a relationship with that person and try to get past that conflict versus finding the right environment where you would be supportive, supported by your team in a different way or by that person around you in a different way. There’s that saying if the “If the flower doesn’t bloom, you don’t change the flower and change the pot.” Yeah.

[41:43] Audience:

So first of all, I just wanted to comment and I’m very happy to see that this panel is very young. I mean it as a compliment. But I also mean it as a fact that usually when I see sessions like that, it’s usually a little bit more mature women having this kind of conversation. So I’m glad that we have brought very successful young women. And my question is actually around something that you said earlier, Andreea, about the fact that you’ve been very young as a manager, and I’m guessing for some time, this has been the feeling, right? So my question is really, how long did it take you to kind of kill the feeling in your head that you’re no longer the youngest? Or like, it doesn’t matter anymore, that you’re the youngest and what helps you to get there?

[42:31] Andreea Popescu:

Wow, that’s a very interesting question. I cannot really say when it was that like ‘click moment’ when I said, “Okay, forget about it.” But I have to say I’ve been working for at least maybe two, three years to shake this feeling off because I would hear it all around me. And when you constantly hear that, no matter how much self-confidence you have, at one point, you start saying, “Okay, these people cannot just all be crazy. Maybe I’m not supposed to be here in the first place.” So you kind of has these thoughts. I like to believe about myself that I’m also an introspective person sometimes and you feel it, you get it inside of you. But I had as I said at that time, I was very happy to have people around me, managers, colleagues, my manager at the time who supported me in instilling this confidence, it was at that point was very difficult for me to build it internally.

[43:27] Andreea Popescu:

Normally I’m a self-motivated person. But they also showed me the mirrored parts of what I was doing right to give me the right elements and the right guidance to say no, you actually do belong at this table, you should have the same seat as everybody else does, but it was a journey. And I am very thankful that I did have that experience because I am right now in a spot where I’ve been put in several points, as a consultant, you always have these difficult discussions or especially if you go and talk to some clients, some of them are men older, and you need to present that, and maybe the status report, it doesn’t look so shiny today. The learning that I took is actually helping me today, in understanding that you can have setbacks you can have, we can have a bad day. Or it may be that a project is just not going to pick itself up and you need to do something about it. But it doesn’t define who you are as a person. It just defines the way you behave in that situation. And that was, I think, one of my key learnings. And remember when I said before, it’s very important to understand who you are, what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are, because no matter what environment you’re going to be in, nobody can take that away from you. You’re still going to be that person. I’m still going to be Andreea walking out this door. It’s the same Andreea, walk and well, maybe now a little bit more in life. But as a person is the same Andreea that came out of the flight that I took two days ago.

[45:09] Kimberly Erikson:

Yeah, and can I just add one thing to that. I’m gonna give you something very tactical that worked really well for me, especially earlier in my career because I was in that part even almost started out of college and so I think I learned this early and I don’t know how maybe by chance, but I spent time with individuals and I learned and I got to know them not just with their jobs that they’re doing but personally and so that really helped me because one was giving me information so I understood better what they were doing, understood their challenges, how they were thinking about things and approaching things. And so if I was to give you a piece of tactical advice because it is all you describe. But if I was to say just one thing that probably made one of the biggest differences is probably just that, because that even gave me the confidence because I started to get to know things better and at a deeper level rather than just coming in and thinking “Yep, I’m going to have to straighten all this out. Whatever it is I had in my mind, I don’t know.” But just leveling and kind of coming alongside and learning and asking questions was probably the most powerful thing that I did that made a difference.

[46:16] Ellen Cnudde:

And I think maybe from my end, sorry, just to quickly add. I talked to Andreea about it yesterday, this is a pressure that I sort of put on myself all the time. So this question I’ve asked myself quite often. So I’ve been listening very carefully to what you’re saying. But it is a thing and I’m still searching a little bit, this pressure, it’s self-imposed, I feel mostly. But do other people experience it the same way? Is it gender-related at all? So I would love to actually talk to all of you about this later. Okay, happy hour. Yes.

[46:53] Elaine Nowak:

Okay, well, we’ll be wrapping it up. But thank you so much for joining us here today and I say thank you to Ellen, Andreea, to Kim. Thank you, Kendall, for having us. So that was really great session and I appreciate all your insight. Ladies, thank you for coming out and being a part of this.

[0:01] Kendall: Alright, thank you, everybody, for joining today's panel discussion based on women and leadership. The moderator for this discussion is Elaine Nowak, who is the Director of Product Management and Marketing at HighRadius. Today we also have two speakers from EY (Ernst & Young), which is one of the largest professional services firms in the world. Andreea Popescu, who serves as a senior manager of digital finance transformation and Ellen Cnudde is a senior consultant and performance improvement of finance transformation at EY. We also have with us Kim Erickson, who is the owner, senior principal at Optimize Consulting. Kim has worked with the AR space for nearly 18 years. She spent 12 years at Hormel foods and held various AR positions, most notably managing the centralized Support Service Center where the HighRadius DMS cloud solution was first implemented. Now that housekeeping is out of the way, Elaine the stage is all yours. [01:00] Elaine Nowak: Thank you, Kendall. Welcome, everybody, glad you could join us today. So I'm just gonna ask a series of questions of these lovely ladies to my left. And then we're going to kind of get a little conversation going. If you'd like…

What you'll learn

  • Testimonies of breaking through the glass ceiling: straight from the horses’ mouth
  • Checklist to promote career growth for women leaders

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