3 Top Business Women Offer Their Best Career Advice

Who better to turn to for career advice (aside from your own network) than three seriously successful women who were chosen to inspire others at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women?

The following three accomplished business women, who’ve climbed up the corporate ranks, know a thing or two about career success (particularly in a male-dominated environment) and just what it takes to get to the coveted corner office.

Here’s how these women made an impact on upper management and made key decisions that changed their careers forever.

Joanne Ryder

Joanne Ryder: “You have to be very resilient”

EVP and Chief Administration Officer, Beneficial Bank

“My goal is to be CEO of a company one day,” said Joanne Ryder, who’s spent 22 years in the financial industry. It didn’t take her long to swiftly advance at Beneficial Bank, where she started as director of marketing 11 years ago. She became executive vice president and chief administration officer in 2015. What does she attribute to her upward climb? Making the “decision to toughen up” in a room full of men and always keeping her eye on the prize.

Weigh your options: “Whenever I’m approached about an opportunity,” she said, “I look back through that CEO filter. If the opportunity will allow me to grow and develop skills – to achieve my mission – then I would typically take the opportunity.”

Develop a support team: If Ryder is unsure about a next career move, she approaches her own “board of directors,” she said. Quite simply, they’re a group of individuals that she’s selected personally or professionally who she goes to for advice. “They don’t let me down,” she said.

Know your worth: Ryder found out the male officers in the company (whose salaries were public) were making a lot more money than her. But she didn’t just approach her boss for a raise. She did her research and presented her accomplishments and how they affected the stakeholders in the company, then asked her boss to have HR do an executive study on her salary. Sure enough, the company found out she was “grossly underpaid,” she said, and she got a substantial raise. “I knew my worth,” she said.

Shoma Chatterjee

Shoma Chatterjee: “Success is getting results times getting known”

Principal, ghSMART

“Women don’t clear a path until were 110 percent that we’re meeting all of the specs of a job, where guys meet 20 percent, 40 percent and then say, ‘I can figure it out,’” said Shoma Chatterjee, who helps women realize their full career potential. Her executive advisory firm, ghSMART, conducted a 10-year study of more than 17,000 C-suite professionals. Previously, Chatterjee was a Senior Manager at Deloitte Consulting and has also held leadership roles at the Federal Reserve Bank and the United Nations.

Build your network: “It’s very important to have three types of networks: The first is an operational network – people who help you get your work done, who fill in the blanks for you; the second is a strategic network – people who stretch you, who will tell you things you wouldn’t otherwise encounter, who expand your horizons, introduce you to different people; and the third is a developmental or psychosocial network – people who you cry with, who can help rebuild you. We all need it.”

Consider career moves carefully: “Ask yourself, ‘What do my sponsors and mentors say?’ There’s risk involved If you’re going to move, so the first thing you want to ask yourself is: ‘How is this going to add to my story?’ Lateral moves are great, but it has to add to your story. Ask yourself, ‘What am I gaining that I don’t already have?’ Second is: ‘Is this problem fixable? What is the scorecard that they’ve going to measure me by? Can I do it? Are they asking the impossible? Do I have the resources that I need?’”


Cindy Eckert

Cindy Eckert: “Treat your career like a jungle gym … swing toward the opportunities”

CEO, The Pink Ceiling (and ‘female Viagra’ founder)

Over a distinguished 24-year career in healthcare, in only the last 10 she Eckert began her healthcare career with pharma giant Merck, before moving on to work with smaller, specialty pharmaceutical companies Dura and Elan. She went on to start two pharma businesses, First Slate Pharmaceuticals and Sprout Pharmaceuticals, which launched Addyi (dubbed the first “female Viagra”). Three years ago, Eckert sold Sprout for $1 billion.

Sidestep the career ladder: “Don’t treat your career like a ladder. Treat it like a jungle gym and swing toward the opportunities that are going to truly stretch you and you will get to exactly where you want to go.”

Break down barriers: “In a room full of men, you’re going to be underestimated. When you walk into the boardroom or when you go in and ask for the promotion, they’re underestimating you. That is the way it is. So you’re going to make a choice: You’re either going to let that sit with you and let it push you back or use it as an opportunity to move forward.”

As these women attest, you can’t rely solely on your organization to create a pipeline for your ascent to the C-suite. You have to willing to make some bold moves to advance your career to the highest level.