Recently, I helped initiate a female leaders program at a national advertising trade association. I sent them a letter shortly after I published my book asking them to support the female leaders who comprise a significant part of their membership. Like me, these women run small to mid-size ad agencies in a field long dominated by men.

Last month, after a year of planning, we had an all day session in NYC. We brought in a speaker to teach us all how to network more effectively, and then we discussed other issues that were on our minds as female CEOs.

Our industry is quite challenging these days with audiences and media options changing rapidly. In order to stay relevant and continue to grow, effective networking as a part of a business development strategy is key. As seasoned CEO’s, the women in this group were challenged with how to continue to grow and leverage their network since this business is based on referrals. Here’s what we reviewed that day:

  • Networking – women have to take a different approach to networking then men in finding the connective tissue that gains additional meetings and an opportunity to pitch business. “The male-centeredness of networking means that making connections to get ahead continues to be an issue for many women seeking to progress their careers,” says Athena Vongalis-Macrow in an HBR article, Two ways women can network more effectively, based on research 
  • Negotiating – this area seems to hit a universal nerve among women leaders. Whether being involved with negotiations for a piece of business, or negotiating for an office lease, somehow women don’t feel as empowered as men to get what they want. “Women are perceived negatively if they adopt the aggressive tactics employed by some male negotiators,” says Marilyn August in an Entrepreneur magazine article, Is there a women’s way to negotiate? 
  • Succession – most of these women were 50+ and wanted to put a plan in place for when they wanted to retire or move on. While not necessarily a woman only issue, this was a key topic for this group.
  • Female owned business organizations – Groups like WBENC, NWBOC, and WBE were discussed and questioned as to their value for a service business like advertising. While some ad agency clients require this type of affiliation, most of these women were on the fence about the value these groups bring.

My colleagues and I at the trade association were happy with the outcome of this first meeting. At the end of the meeting, we all agreed to make it an annual event. It was quite rewarding to see this meeting come to fruition. Since many of the attendees at this first session came from the east coast, the plan is to hold a mid-west/west coast meeting in the fall. I hope the next meeting proves as good as this one.