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Ehrhardt on “Latinas in IT” at Hispanic IT Executive Council

15-Mar-2013 Miami, FL - With all the buzz stemming from Sheryl Sandberg's new book, "Lean In", the leaders of the Hispanic IT Executive Council (HITEC) presented a panel of Hispanic Women Executives to discuss the challenges of being a leader in the technology field and being an Hispanic woman. The panel was moderated by Ileana Rivera, Director of IT, Cisco Systems, on the second day of the IT Leadership Summit. Ms. Rivera guided discussions with Marilyn Ehrhardt, CEO of Sabianet, Inc. and Myrna Soto, Senior Vice President, Comcast, while providing her own insights as well. The session was lively, interactive, and informative with many questions coming from the executives present, both male and female.

Marilyn Ehrhardt, Myrna Soto
Marilyn Ehrhardt(L), Myrna Soto(R)

The following summarizes some of the topics and responses that Marilyn Ehrhardt contributed to the panel:

Can growth and comfort co-exist if you want your career to grow?

Absolutely not. True career growth is attained by stretching out of your comfort zone which means constant growing pains. Many sacrifices must be made by both the family and you, personally. The "corporate ladder" is not a clear path, it is more like an obstacle course where endurance, exploration, risk-taking and skills take you to the finish line.

Regarding "Leaning In," what have been your most remarkable "Lean In" moments?

For me, "leaning forward" is more applicable than "leaning in." My greatest "lean forward" moment was when I had the courage to jump out of the Corporate America safety net. At that time, I was a Regional Vice President at Oracle Corporation which had prestige, a lucrative compensation package and great potential for the future. I made the decision and left Oracle to become an entrepreneur with my own brand where I could take ideas and develop them into companies. I launched my business in 2004 and have taken on many challenges in the area of Health IT and Telecommunications.

What work place changes can companies make to help women?

I would say continue to meet the normal needs, such as maternity leave and the like, but I do not agree with gender entitlements. We must take a position whether we want to be treated as equals or not. We cannot take advantage of both positions. If we want to be treated as equal with men, we must be as confident as men, we must not seek the approval of others to feel good about ourselves. We must be able to take risks and be willing to fall down without a lot of drama and continuously invest in our knowledge base and network. The game is the game and the rules of the game are the same for men and women if we want to be equal. We have to play by the same rules. However, I challenge women. We must not take a step-down position to be equal to men. We are not the same, in fact women are in the most honorable position in this world; we have the exclusive privilege to give birth to men and women and in this role we can train and influence the future men and women in the business world. We control the strongest diversity program on Earth. Women have choices, career or family. Men for the most part do not have that choice--at least not culturally accepted by society. If we make the choice of career, we need to make absolutely sure that we have a husband that is completely engaged and supportive of our career choice. This is the most important success factor which includes from changing diapers to staying at home in the evenings with the kids while we go on business trips. If we choose career, we must be able to balance our agendas and to know what is good enough for the business and the family and not try to be a perfectionist on both sides of the equation.

How do you feel about the role of Women in Latin America?

I managed the Latin American Region while I was in my 30’s, 40’s and 50's and my experience in Latin America has been positive. Latino men appreciate the feminine qualities of women such as caring, and mothering and have been very supportive in my career. Most of my sponsors came from the Latin American Region. On the other hand, you will have excellent results no matter what part of the world you are working in as long as you have strong skills, competencies, and are a savvy business woman and know how to leverage your seat at the table. What I have found as most important is that your reward comes from your ability to add value to your team, to your company and to the people you encounter in your life.

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