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“Strive for excellence in everything that you’re doing because compromises discredit you,” renowned businesswoman Janet Hill told the woman assembled for Women Connect, a networking event featuring conversations with women leaders in the business world.

While the event focused on the challenges that women face in diversifying the workplace, Hill emphasized, “By the way, I would say the very same thing to men, and most of the time, I’m talking to men.”

The Oct. 3 event was hosted by Pond Lehocky Stern Giordano and co-sponsored by Esquire Bank. Keynote speaker Hill discussed the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and how women can ensure everyone has an opportunity to advance.

And Hill has significant wisdom to impart. She has been a board member for 12 corporations and currently serves on the boards of directors of the Carlyle Group, Dean Foods and Esquire Bank. She is a trustee of Duke University and was appointed by President Barack Obama to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Hill is also the wife of former NFL running back Calvin Hill and mother of former NBA player Grant Hill.

During her trailblazing career, she has often been the only woman board member and has been frequently tasked with diversifying the workplace. She offered advice for succeeding in the business world. She explained that women should not be held back from advancing in business by fear of missing out on family matters.

“What you’re doing is for them. There’s a direct linkage there,” Hill said. “So, I don’t believe in guilt for women, or men…That helps, because a lot of us are held back by feelings of guilt.”

She also stressed the importance for leaders to carry out the mission of spreading diversity and inclusion, explaining how each generation must do better than the one before it.

“Change comes from the top down,” she said.

Hill said that when she is asked for help with running a business, the condition that she puts on her assistance is that they must treat women as equals.

“I will put my reputation on the line and help you, but you have to be better at managing companies and managing people than the previous generation was,” she explained.

The event also offered breakout sessions with industry leaders Catherine Carlson and Holly DePalma. Carlson is Senior Vice President, Revenue and Strategy, with the Philadelphia Eagles. Prior to that, she spent 11 years as Senior Vice President of Corporate Partnerships and Premium Activation with the Orlando Magic. DePalma is a business consultant who specializes in helping organizations optimize their talent using The Predictive Index, which utilizes psychometric testing to understand what motivates employees and drives their performance.

Carlson’s session focused on 10 things she learned while surviving and thriving in the sports and entertainment industry. She focused on the need for women to have passion for their work, persevere and take risks to pursue opportunities. She stressed the need to network, continue learning about your industry and pay it forward to ensure others have opportunities.

Furthermore, Carlson emphasized the difficulty of preserving a work-life balance.

“So many people truly believe you can have it all,” she said. “I do believe you can have it all, just not all at once.”

Carlson also discussed how diversity of thought is critical to any business, noting how differing perspectives and viewpoints strengthen a company.

DePalma’s session focused on the power of self-awareness, the most important competency for leaders to develop. She addressed how to identify your behavioral style and understand how it influences your workplace performance.

Using the Predictive index can also foster diversity and inclusion because it helps employers focus on employees’ skillsets and personalities, allowing them to best interact with and motivate workers across the spectrum.

Hosting the event is the latest in Pond Lehocky’s initiative to support gender diversity in the workplace. The firm has made it a mission to diversify the legal industry, not only to meet a moral obligation, but because it understands that inclusion is good for business. Getting diverse input and fresh insights allows Pond Lehocky to better connect with its clients, who come from all walks of life, and helps the firm deliver innovative legal solutions to clients’ most pressing problems.

In addition, Pond Lehocky has recently added an employment law department that handles gender discrimination matters. Thus, the firm understands that it must practice what it preaches.

So far, the firm has made great strides in embracing gender diversity. More than two-thirds of its staff, 58 percent of its managers and 45 percent of its attorneys are women. In addition, three-fifths of Pond Lehocky’s executive team are women.

Pond Lehocky acknowledges that there is still a long way to go in the fight for gender equality. But the firm hopes events like this will support women in their efforts to break the glass ceiling.

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