Tag Archives: TEDx Omaha

Women Mentoring Women

November 21, 2018 by
Photography by Contributed

According to a 2016 study done by the Women’s Fund of Omaha, women make up only 19 percent of the board members at S&P 500 companies, and 25 percent of executive or senior level positions at those same companies.

That same study found that 42 percent of women in Nebraska work in management, a better figure yet. And one method of increasing those numbers may be for women to mentor other women in the workplace.

In this abridged roundtable discussion, B2B talks about mentorship with four businesswomen from Omaha—Anne Branigan, senior vice president of Innovative Services at Greater Omaha Chamber; Melissa Farris, marketing manager at Boystown; Sharon Robino-West, community employment coordinator at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Omaha; and Dr. Maria Vazquez, vice president for Student Affairs at Metropolitan Community College.

B2B: As a female mentor, what do you bring young women that benefits them as younger women in the workplace?

Vasquez: I am just in awe of the young women I mentor. They are dynamic, further along than I was at that age.

Farris: I’m open to being OK to saying “I don’t know.” I want you to be able to collaborate. I want you to find the answer to better the team.

Robino-West: To be able to say I am weak in this area and I need your help.

Branigan: The younger women have been able to adapt to technology so well. The acceptance of that new technology, to me, is something else.

Farris: We have grown up with technology. There is an expectation that this is going to work.

B2B: What do you gain from being a mentor to young women?

Vasquez: I like to see them having the confidence to do things, and if they make a mistake they own up to it. I want young women to be their authentic selves. Accepting who they are and what they can contribute to the workplace.

Robino-West: Last year, there was a Girl Scout who has risen through the ranks, and I asked her what she wanted to do after college. She looked right at Fran [Marshall, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska] and said, “I want your job.” That was so empowering.

Branigan: I really enjoy learning from them. You think of mentoring, and you think it’s one way. But I always appreciate someone making me think, or learn something, or showing me a new way to do something.

Farris: I’ve been on the receiving end. I’m still close to one of my mentors from college [Dr. Eileen Wirth of Creighton University]. One thing that always stuck out to me was her availability. The fact that I maintain that relationship 12 years later is a success.

B2B: Can you give us an example of a great experience with mentoring?

Robino-West: I did a TEDx Talk last year, and I partly did it to challenge myself. I didn’t think I’d get picked. It was about healing by writing. I got done, and I got in the elevator, and there was someone right there, wanting to know if I could speak to a different group. Rita [Paskowitz, a TEDx Omaha coach] “get ready, you’ll be asked to speak on a regular basis.” so I could see him paying it forward and spoke out. I thought “Wow—you just never know what kind of an impact you will make.”

Vasquez: About 10 years ago, I was contacted by someone [Amanda Ponce] to speak in a Latina sorority. We stay in contact, and now she works at MCC. Her growth has been quite dynamic. We’ve always collaborated informally, but now we can do so formally as colleagues. That has been rewarding.


This article was printed in the December 2018/January 2019 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

From left: Dr. Maria Vasquez, Melissa Farris, Anne Branigan, Sharon Robino-West

Wicked Problems

October 27, 2015 by

Two intractable sides battling back and forth.

“How can you be so heartless? Where is your sense of compassion?”

“Why do you foster weakness? Where is your respect for authority?”

The sides play themselves out on the issues of the day: 

Against capitalism: It exploits labor by preying on the powerless. 

For capitalism: It depends on hard work and creates prosperity. 

For gay marriage: Love and partnership is acceptable for heterosexuals and homosexuals alike. 

Against gay marriage: A union between a man and woman is the only marriage sanctioned by God and the church.

Against capital punishment: We need to address the root causes of violence.

For capital punishment: Extreme penalties are needed to deter crime.

Like Perry Mason and Hamilton Burger in a courtroom drama striving to win by showing that one is right and the other is wrong, each side fights for superiority.

Policies about capitalism, gay marriage, and capital punishment are the kinds of issues that can’t be solved by getting more facts.

These are issues that are much more difficult to solve because the sides are shaped by disparate, deeply held world views, visions, and values. And these are what Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber described in a 1973 treatise as “Wicked Problems.”

Jon Haidt, one of the premiere social scientists of our day, identifies, names, and addresses Wicked Problems in his compelling TED talk, “Three Stories About Capitalism.” It’s a must-see, as are all of his TED talks.

A grand thinker, Haidt recognizes two very important points.

First, Wicked Problems are polarizing. We tend to be judgmental about people on the other side. We demonize, castigate, and criticize anyone who holds the opposing view. When this happens, it is hard to arrive at acceptable solutions.

Second, assuming we want to build a stable, flourishing society, perhaps we should refrain from picking one side over the other. We could find a way to “go between the horns of the issue” and find some middle ground. For Wicked Problems, the middle ground can be established by finding a way to include both perspectives into one “supervalue.”

When it comes to the debate about capitalism, Haidt proposes “dynamism with decency.” This is somewhat like the “Conscience Capitalism” recommendation from John Mackey, the Whole Foods CEO. It is a way to bring together the two sides by joining the fundamental values for each into one supervalue.

This might be a good solution to the capitalism debate. By uniting values from each side, we may find a way to stabilize discussion and continue to move towards the betterment of all.

What about gay marriage or capital punishment? What is the supervalue that can help us solve these Wicked Problems? I’d love to learn what Haidt thinks. And I might be able to, since he is coming to town in October for the Business Ethics Alliance Annual Trustees Meeting.

But I fear that supervalues cannot solve gay marriage and capital punishment public policy issues. Not to make light, but these public policy issues are akin to couples’ disagreements. In any relationship there are two or three issues for which values, desires, or beliefs cannot be merged. Love or disdain for sports, yearning for or disinterest in travel, desire or not for kids…one person’s values win and the other losses. Someone ultimately has to give in and let the other side’s values reign.

Unraveling such public policy issues as gay marriage or capital punishment might not be about finding a supervalue. It may be about intentions.

A loving couple’s relationship succeeds because, through thick and thin, they live out their intentions to stay together no matter what. So, too, our Wicked Problems may never be “solved” in any true sense. But by not giving up, by coming back again and again, we co-create a society that has what it takes for longterm success.

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is the executive director of Business Ethics Alliance, and the Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics & Society at Creighton University.

Beverly Kracher, Ph.D., is the executive director of Business Ethics Alliance, and the Daugherty Chair in Business Ethics & Society at Creighton University.