Leadership at a Time of Economic Crisis: the Role of Women*
Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Chair, Carlson and Author of How We Lead Matters
Beth A. Brooke, Global Vice Chair, Public Policy, Ernst & Young
Joanna Barsh, Director, McKinsey & Company
Melanne Verveer, US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues

World Bank | Washington, DC | May 4, 2009

*Reprinted with permission from the
World Bank Groups' Private Sector Leaders Forum's website

Close to 200 people came out on a stormy Washington, DC evening to hear a power panel speak about women's leadership at the World Bank's headquarters. Marilyn Carlson Nelson (Chair, Carlson), Beth Brooke (Global Vice Chair, Public Policy, Ernst & Young) and Joanna Barsh (Director, McKinsey & Company) and Melanne Verveer (US Ambassador at-large for Global Women's Issues) were in the panel.

Otaviano Canuto, the World Bank's new Vice President and Head of Network Poverty Reduction and Economic Management, made the opening remarks. The panelists shared both professional and personal experiences to engage greater numbers of women in the workplace and create an environment for both women and men to thrive in. Beth Brooke spoke about Ernst & Young's Whitepaper 'Groundbreakers." Launched at Davos in 2008, the report collates existing research that makes the business case for promoting women as key economic agents at the time of economic crisis.

"My best friend told me I had a global platform, and that what I was doing to promote women wasn't enough. That was a real wake-up call," Beth said. Beth has been named by Forbes magazine as one the world's Top 100 most powerful women and she has taken seriously the call to lead change for women.

Joanna Barsh shared the innovative work that she has been leading at McKinsey & Company on a new approach to leadership that could help women become more self-confident and effective business leaders. Based on hundreds of interviews from around the world, Joanna's team at McKinsey has come up with five dimensions of leadership that complement women's strengths, sommarized in their report "How We Lead Matters." She called for women to "sponsor" other women, to go beyond mentoring and to actively help open doors for those women they know well and believe in.

Marilyn Carlson Nelson inspired the audience with stories from her rich and pioneering career in finance and later in top management, including as CEO of Carlson Companies. She wrote her new book "How We Lead Matters" so that her grandchildren would know and remember her life's work at blazing the path for women in the workplace. Her efforts have paid off. Today forty percent of Carlson's senior management are women, and the company supports the family life of its employees with flexible working arrangements and parental leave. It was recently named as one of the "Best Adoption-Friendly" companies in America.

In making concluding remarks, Melanne Verveer, the first ever U.S. Ambassador at-large for Global Women's Issues, underscored the importance of gender equality as smart economics and collaborative efforts to promote women's empowerment.

To learn more about the Forum's members' efforts to empower women, visit:


The event was organized in partnership with the World Bank Groups' Private Sector Leaders Forum


Otaviano Canuto, Vice President and Head of Network Poverty Reduction and Economic Management at the World Bank

Amanda Ellis, Lead Specialist, Gender & Development at World Bank Group

Melanne Verveer, US Ambassador at-large for Global Women's Issues

Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Chair of Carlson and author of How We Lead Matters

Joanna Barsh, a Director at McKinsey & Company

Beth Brooke, Global Vice Chair of Public Policy at Ernst & Young

The audience during Melanne Verveer's remarks

Jill Merrick of the World Bank

A participant during the Q&A

The panel, including WFPG President Patricia Ellis, who moderated the Q&A