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NEW YORK, NY, July 22 – For the eighth year in a row, "Black Women on Wall Street" showcased inspirational profiles of successful women of color with the authenticity and high-energy that has marked the event since its inception. The highly-anticipated leadership event hosted by The Executive Leadership Council® (The Council) featured women of color leaders from finance, services and sports who told the audience of 200 how to persevere and prosper in today's challenging economy. 

Geri Thomas, Global Diversity and Inclusion Executive for Bank of America, and a new member of The Executive Leadership Council, said, "We can learn from their stories of exemplary success and professional growth in a year where we have all seen a number of changes. We are able to hear how they broke through adversity, grew their careers and showed leadership in tough times."

Westina Matthews Shatteen, Managing Director, Community Business Development at Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, an Executive Leadership Council board member, and the architect of the event, said, "These women of color executives will tell how not only to survive – but how to thrive – in the world today. It's a new era, and the times demand a new you." 
The audience included aspiring executives as well as Fortune 500 decision makers who had attended the Black Women's Leadership Summit immediately preceding the panel and are within three reporting levels of the CEO. 

Carl Brooks, President & Chief Executive Officer of The Executive Leadership Council and The Executive Leadership Foundation, reinforced The Council's commitment to the professional development of African American women. "One third of our membership of 500 is women, representing more than 380 companies," he said. There is a waiting list of 170 professionals who would like to join The Council, he noted. 

Jessica C. Isaacs, Senior Vice President, AIU Personal Lines, and incoming Chair of The Executive Leadership Council, shared the excited feedback from the five young women selected as the 2008-2009 Ann Fudge Scholars who traveled to South Africa as part of their scholarship. Named in honor of the former CEO of Young & Rubicam Brands and the first woman chair of The Council, the Ann Fudge Scholarship has awarded $5,000 each to a total of 18 deserving undergraduate and graduate students over the last five years. 

Westina Matthews Shatteen, a chaperone and organizer of the South African trip, served again as mistress of ceremonies for Black Women on Wall Street and led a lively and timely discussion covering a variety of topics with the panel: 

Kerry Chandler, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, National Basketball Association

Amy Ellis-Simon, Managing Director, Head Middle Markets and Multi - Product Sales, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch and an ELC member

Carla Harris, Managing Director, Morgan Stanley, and an ELC Member

Nicole Lewis, Vice President, Global Marketing, Kelly Services Inc., an ELC member and a co-chair for the 2009 symposium

Here are some highlights: 

What makes a great leader:

"Someone who can make a decision," said Kerry Chandler. "Employees look to us to steer the ship. It's also important to gather input from a circle of individuals whom you trust. Good leaders assemble a team of smart, subject matter experts and are not intimidated by them." 

Carla Harris said, "Provide air cover for your employees. If they know that you will cover their back, they will follow you. You also have to be honest with your feedback. Be generous with your 'Attaboys and attagirls' so that they can take the hard messages. Then you have to give it to them 'straight – no chaser.'" 

On finding a mentor:

Carla Harris has coined the difference between a mentor and a sponsor: "A mentor is a person to whom you can tell the good, the bad and the ugly – someone who you trust who will give you advice that is tailored to you and your aspirations. A sponsor has to be someone who has a seat at the table in your organization. This is the person who carries your papers into the room where all the crucial decisions about you are made – the hiring, promotions and compensation. Sponsors must be willing to use THEIR political and social capital on your behalf." 

Kerry Chandler added. "Sometimes you may not know that someone is sponsoring you – they make a decision to sponsor you based on your performance. But your mentor must be someone who really knows you. When you ask someone to be a mentor, be aware that a meaningful mentoring relationship is a significant time commitment." 

Westina Matthews Shatteen pointed out that "A good sponsor will block a bad move that you are about to make because he or she knows what is going to happen at the company but can't tell you what it is. If an executive says 'Stop by my office,' you need to stop by." 

On Work/Life balance: 

Nicole Lewis shared that "When I had a small child, I asked myself 'Can I do this closer to the grandparents?' and the answer was 'Yes.' Now that my children are older it doesn't matter as much that Grandma is only seven and one-half minutes away, but it does allow me to have some free time. I also rely on my ELC colleagues for their friendship and perspective." 

Any Ellis-Simon added, "My family helps me put my life at work in perspective. It's about finding the time, making the time and putting yourself first on occasion. It's critical to have friends and colleagues who understand that struggle."

Kerry Chandler commented for the "single ladies" in the room: "Work/life balance is complicated – and it means different things to different people. If you can establish that you have a high work ethic – if you can build credibility for yourself – they will cut you some slack. You don't want your job to become your life."

On getting constructive feedback on the job:

Carla Harris said, "We have to create a safe space for your managers in giving feedback. Don't go in ready for combat. Instead, use your power to participate in the direction of the meeting: one third of the conversation should be about last year, and two-thirds should be about what you want to be doing prospectively."

Nicole Lewis pointed out that recent research from the Council's Institute for Leadership Development & Research on African American women executives showed that taking managerial feedback was a difficult area for women of color "That is why it is so important to get the feedback from your own personal board of directors," she said. "I had to go to people around me who really knew me to get the feedback I needed to grow." 

On getting an MBA:

The panel was unanimous that an MBA positions a young executive for success now and well into her future. 

Amy Ellis-Simon, who attained the Managing Director title at Merrill Lynch at a relatively young age – and did not get the advanced degree – still advised the audience to attain one. "Plan ahead for when you are in your 40's, 50's and 60's. If you don't, your road will be more difficult."

Nicole Lewis added, "I took some time off to see the world before I got my MBA" so that an executive has context for what she learns there. "But today you need a second or third language – that is the key to all the big jobs." 

The Executive Leadership Council is an independent, non-profit 501(c)(6) corporation, founded in 1986 by 19 African-American corporate executives dedicated to a bold mission - to provide African-American executives of Fortune 500 companies with a network and leadership forum that adds perspective and direction to the achievement of excellence in business, economic and public policies for the African-American community, their corporations and the community at large. For more information visit 

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