Women as Influencers and Innovators

Recently Lucy came up to my neighborhood in Westchester County, New York. While we have met frequently this past year, much of our work and interaction occur over email, so I was excited about showing her around my neighborhood.
I met Lucy at the White Plains train station, a 35-minute express ride from Grand Central. She was more animated than usual because the train had passed through Scarsdale, where her father spent his childhood. (Read Lucy’s January 10th blog for more about her trip down memory lane.)
Our first meeting was with the Westchester County Association’s President, Bill Mooney, and Dorothy Forcina, Managing Director of Program Management. Prior to joining the Association, Dorothy was the Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Information Technology Services for Fleet Securities.
Westchester County Association (WCA) is a business-based, public interest organization committed to addressing public policy issues with respect to business advocacy and economic development on behalf of the region’s corporate and not-for-profit organizations. A highly influential organization, WCA is a tremendous resource to both small and Fortune 500 companies as well as to political leaders ranging from former Presidents to state and local politicians who often partner with WCA to pilot new economic initiatives and programs.
We met with Bill and Dorothy to discuss putting together a technology conference in Westchester. The topic we suggested could be a continuation of the World Flatteners Thomas Friedman lists in his book, The World is Flat. Given the concentration of consumer companies in Westchester – including Fuji, PepsiCo, Starwood, IBM, Avon, Pepsi Bottling, MBIA, MasterCard, and the newest company, Lenovo – we thought a focus on the female consumer could be a draw. World Flattener #11: The Female Consumer (and the impact she is having on global innovation and competitiveness.)
Bill and Dorothy were very receptive to our proposal to bring together local executives from some of the world’s most innovative companies to discuss why more women are needed in IT. I knew that Dorothy, with her technology background, would get it immediately. I was not so certain if Bill would see the connection this issue has on the County’s economy.
But not only did he get it, he blew us away with his insight and ideas. At one point, he mentioned that he felt this topic was as critical to Westchester as the issue of Healthcare. Anyone who knows Bill knows how hard he has worked to address the Healthcare issues in the County. Needless to say, this was a major endorsement from him.
Our next step with WCA is to further develop the topic of The Female Consumer’s impact on innovative technology. Bill suggested creating an advisory board of key executives and academics, such as Ruth Ann Marshall, MasterCard’s President of the Americas and Dr. Susan Merritt, the Dean at Pace University’s School of Computer Science and Information Systems (CSIS.) Pace recently received a $15MM gift from Ivan G. Seidenberg, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Verizon Communications Inc.
Lucy and I very much appreciate the time with Bill and Dorothy and look forward to further collaboration on this critical topic.

Kay Cioffi is President of TexZen Partners, an enterprise development and strategic marketing group.

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