Beth Brooke-Marcinaik is the Global Vice Chair of Ernst & Young. She is responsible for shaping EY’s positions on public policy. She engages with regulators, policy makers, business leaders, investors and other stakeholders around the world to address the critical issues facing our profession and global capital markets. She is also the global sponsor of EY’s diversity and inclusiveness efforts and a prominent advocate for the benefits of inclusive leadership. She is a member of the inaugural class of the Henry Crown Fellows of The Aspen Institute, which seeks to develop the next generation of community-spirited leaders, and a member of the Committee of 200, which fosters, celebrates and advances women’s leadership in business.
Beth also serves on the Women’s Advisory Board of the World Economic Forum, Vital Voices, and The Conference Board, and is the Co-Chair of the Board of WEConnect International. Beth is also the Co-Chair of the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership, now at Georgetown, founded by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She is regularly named by Forbes magazine as one of the world’s 100 most powerful women.
My Definition Of Success | My dad had an enormous influence on how I view success.He would always tell me, “Girl, you’ve been given gifts. Use them.”And I knew what he meant was: “Don’t just be successful. Use that success and the platform and resources that come with success to make a positive difference in the world. Do something significant. For success is fleeting, while significance endures.”For me, that’s what success means. Not as an end in itself, but as a platform to do things in the world that make a positive difference for others.
I am Driven By | I am determined to have the sense of making a positive difference, every day. I want to do more than my very best – and to do it in a way that moves mountains for others. For example, I went from mentoring a large number of individual women to focusing on using my platform to catalyze a movement to economically empower women more broadly. I committed myself to taking things to a whole new level.
My Highlights | On a personal level, I know that I have been a really good daughter for my two wonderful parents, who sacrificed everything for me. They were the absolute highlight of my life.I’m proud to be a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute, which supports my commitment to values-based leadership. And I’m also proud of coming out as a gay executive – even though I did so later in my career. Since 2011, I have shared my story globally in an effort to eliminate workplace barriers for LGBT people and to empower others to recognize the value their differences can bring to business and the world. During the past year, I have visited EY offices all around the world, stressing the importance and value of the LGBT community, both inside and outside of EY.
The Difference Between Good And Great | I think that people who are great at what they do have passion and the willingness to follow as well as to lead. They also know the difference. Authenticity is another characteristic of people who are exceptional at what they do. And I’ve found that sharing my own differences and vulnerabilities and admitting that I don’t know I everything I think I should know helps unlock one’s own creativity.
A Key Talent | In one word: listening: Nobody can have all the answers in this complex and ambiguous world. The ability to hold judgment and evaluate all inputs, however diverse they may be, has always stood me in good stead.
And the ability to listen – as opposed to merely hearing – is key in addressing one of what I think is a major hidden obstacle to effective leadership: unconscious bias Unconscious preference gets in the way of us truly listening to one another, because when you are in that “top who all look and act alike,” it is incredibly hard to see or feel your own bias. Because every day your echo chamber confirms your world view. Nobody is challenging it or causing you to think differently. Everything is designed to conform to your way of thinking.
Here’s an example from my own experiences of this unconscious bias – and how the ability to listen was a vital component of addressing it. About 10 years ago, I was in a meeting with five people – three women and two men, one of whom was our then-CEO. The discussion was lively and punchy. The other man in the meeting spoke last – agreeing with us in his understanding of the situation. “Great,” I thought “we’ve convinced him!” But as he finished, our CEO nodded and then gave the credit to the man. Our CEO had heard the women, but he listened to the man – an incredibly frustrating situation, and one so very common for women in business.
Our former CEO hadn’t ignored us on purpose. In fact, he had no idea that he’d done it at all – but he had an unconscious bias to take a male point of view more seriously. As a result, he wasn’t listening to what was actually being said.
Later, in a private moment, the other women and I played the experience back to him. We made it respectfully clear that it was not an uncommon experience for all three of us in meetings, and everywhere we went. He listened to us. As a result, he shares this “aha moment” today about his unconscious bias publicly, and is a true champion of inclusive leadership.
The Characteristics Of Success | My experience as a college basketball player embedded confidence and resilience in everything I do. It also reinforced a personal approach that failure is never an option. If things don’t go exactly as planned, it’s really all about how you pick yourself up and continue that is most important. Coping with a loss, learning from it, and going on to play another game – those same lessons apply to success in business. And I know that I learned 10 times more when we lost than when we won.
Succeeding in sports embedded leadership skills that I have been leveraging ever since my days on the court. And we see examples of a woman’s success in sport correlating with her success in business all the time.
Recent EY research shows that participation in sports plays a crucial role in developing leadership and team-building skills for women and in giving them confidence. According to the study, 94% of senior women business executives played sports and more than half of those women in the C-suite played at the university level.
When comparing C-suite female respondents to other female managers, a far higher proportion participated in sports at a higher level, especially at university or as a working adult. For example, 55% of the C-suite women had played sports at a university level, compared with 39% of other female managers.
When I think about what these figures mean to me, it’s that there is no better training ground for success in business than success in sport. Discipline, focus, preparation, teamwork, being coachable, playing by the rules (like them or not) – all things needed for business success get baked into your DNA as a highly competitive athlete. As an athlete, losing is just feedback. These are key ingredients for resilient business leaders in their fearless and constant quest for perfection. And athletes work with and maximize diverse skills and perspectives to execute and win. It’s also how we get innovation and long-term success in business.
That is why I am so proud that EY has created the Women Athletes Business Network (WABN) with the goal is to create an environment that supports elite female athletes who seek to develop their leadership potential and to use what they have learned through sport to succeed beyond their sporting careers.
Again, in one word: communications. And, to reinforce my previous comment, it’s about authenticity in communications. It’s a powerful change agent.
I was recently in Taiwan where we held a panel discussion with many customers and clients about the idea that “Difference Matters” and exactly how LGBT inclusion matters to the bottom. We focused specifically on the benefits of LGBT inclusion and the challenges LGBT talent faces. Taking advantage of the general respect for seniority in Asia, we were able to talk openly about not only the business case for including talent filled with differences but also about the personal challenges we had in being closeted over the course of our careers, our experience in coming out and what allies can do to be helpful in helping LGBT talent achieve their full potential.
Later that same week, our EY Chairman and CEO reinforced the importance of our messaging about inclusion. All of this tied into the release of an groundbreaking piece of EY thought leadership featuring eight recommendations to advance global LGBT inclusion (Making it real – globally: a practical guide for advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender diversity and inclusion across global companies).
This effective and coordinated communication of global clarity and local touch that is sensitive to different cultures constitutes a recipe for change. It takes time. It takes commitment. While we cannot control the legal environment or the social norms in any given environment, we can control our organization’s culture and hold fast to our universal principles of inclusion, respect, and tolerance. And we can communicate it authentically.
Lessons I Have Learnt | Be yourself. You can’t be anything but that at the end of the day. It’s what makes you valuable – and feel free to ignore the world if and when it tries to tell you otherwise.
In 2011, the EY LGBT leadership participated in the “It Gets Better” video project, sharing stories for the benefit of at-risk LGBT youth. I proudly agreed to participate in the project but, though I considered myself to be authentic in every aspect of my leadership, there was one aspect on which I deferred authenticity: I’m a lesbian and I was in the closet.
Up to that point, my own experience of being “different” had been multi-faceted. I was a woman and I was an introvert, with politics that tend to differ from my peers’ in a profession dominated by male, extroverted professionals. I knew that these differences contributed to my natural propensity to be an inclusive leader, since I had experienced the minority position in many dimensions. But faced with the possibility of sharing hope with at-risk LGBT youth, I suddenly knew that I could not do anything but share my truth, my story.
So now, I like to remind everyone that nobody cares as much about your life as you do. So just live it as yourself!
Performing At My Peak |This gets back to the importance of sports in my life. I find that the discipline of a daily workout clears my mind. It creates the space I need to think and focus – and provides much-needed energy to recharge.