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Shaping a Plan for Women in Business

When the maestro pulled the vice president and head of operations for JPMorgan Chase from her chair and asked her to take the podium and conduct his orchestra, she looked dubious.

Nandita Chakravartti was not an orchestra master and until this moment, on a Friday afternoon in August, she had been a spectator, seated contentedly in the Neilson Library Browsing Room near the orchestra's first violin section. With her were the 52 other executives attending the Smith College Consortium final session -- The Music Paradigm, a business-training seminar that uses a symphony orchestra as a metaphor for a large organization.

With borrowed baton in her fingers, and with maestro Roger Nierenberg's hands-on coaching, Chakravartti did manage to direct the musicians through a passage from Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings in C Major, op. 48 and was rewarded with her peers' resounding applause. Her debut was part of The Music Paradigm, which was created by Nierenberg to provide business executives with a new way to look at building teamwork, becoming better leaders, and gaining an awareness of the importance of "working in concert." He uses the role of conductor as a metaphor for leadership.

"The higher you are in the organization, the more your work resembles using a (conductor's) baton," said Nierenberg, who is also music director of the Stamford (Connecticut) Symphony Orchestra. "Rule of the baton: when you are holding the baton, you can no longer act only for yourself alone because everyone is looking to the baton for direction."

The Music Paradigm reflects Smith's holistic approach to executive learning, which stresses the growth of authenticity, self-confidence, personal empowerment and emotional intelligence in women leaders. Indeed, enabling women to realize their full potential in leadership roles is one of the founding principals of Smith's executive education business trainings for women. "At Smith, we take the challenge of developing business leaders very seriously," says Director Barbara Reinhold.
"And in a world where the leadership ranks of companies increasingly reflect the diversity of their customers and marketplaces, we focus exclusively on helping companies develop women leaders -- women with world-class leadership, management and technical competencies."

Likewise, at the heart of Smith's financial literacy and leadership training programs for undergraduates is the desire to build leaders. "The grand plan," notes Rein­hold, "is that when people think of women as leaders, they will think of Smith."
SEE offers four customized programs to high-potential women from sponsoring organizations at four levels, from senior and upper-middle executives to emerging managers and specialists. Each is targeted at women with different leadership development needs and priorities, or designed with the unique business, organizational or strategic needs of a sponsoring corporation in mind. All four programs are "critical to Smith's general effort of reaching out to women in business," says Reinhold. They are:

Smith-Tuck Global Leaders Program for Women, a collaborative venture of Smith and the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, was launched in 2003 on the Tuck campus and caters to senior corporate women, primarily worldwide vice presidents and above, from such sponsoring organizations as Johnson & Johnson, Hewlett Packard and Vetter Pharma from Germany. It is designed to be of particular value to women who hold, or are preparing to assume, job assignments in global business environments.

Smith College Consortium, in its 10th year, is tailored to upper-middle-management women.

Custom Programs are developed by Smith to offer leadership development training for emerging managers at the headquarters of the client company. Programs are typically developed together with the company human resources team, senior executives, internal consultants and others.

From Specialist to Strategist: Business Excellence for Women in Science, Technology and Engineering is an intensive five-day leadership program to be held for the first time June 5-10, 2005. The curriculum is geared toward providing women in the sciences and technology, who are five to 10 years into their careers, with the tools to make the transition from technical career paths to senior management. The keynote speaker, nationally recognized management and leadership guru Tom Peters, will discuss "Women Leaders: Our Best Hope."

This last program is particularly essential, since, according to Jeffrey Willens, a consultant with Albert International, Inc., an executive education firm assisting with planning the 2005 program, technical and scientific firms are traditionally "male-dominated bastions."

"If our country is going to remain competitive in these [technological and engineering] fields," Willens added, "our best resource is female leadership. It's a largely untapped resource." -- JME

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