Teresa V-F Weintraub is President of the International Women’s Forum and Managing Director of a new financial division of Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. Previously, she was President and CEO of Fiduciary Trust International of the South, a trust and investment management company, and a member of the Executive Committee of Fiduciary Trust Company International, the parent company. She has served in executive positions with the Northern Trust Bank of Florida and the University of Miami. Her last position at the University of Miami was as Executive Director of Development. She began her career in 1979 as a Tax Attorney with Exxon Corporation in New York City. Weintraub has lectured extensively in the areas of trusts, estates and charitable gift planning.
I love what I do. I love going to work and building something successful. One of my earliest professional lessons was how essential it is to prioritize your personal and professional goals. I think it’s crucial to your level of success and to your level of life satisfaction. For me, those goals included significant time for my family, my friends and my community. In January, I became the 19th President of the International Women’s Forum (IWF) and in the same month I joined Merrill Lynch as Managing Director of a newly formed business unit. I could not have told you at age 26 that this is where I would be spending my time and energy. Once again, I am redefining what is important. However, the one thing that has remained constant across my life is a determination to be an active participant in creating a better world.
The most recent studies show that women hold 5% of the Fortune 500 CEO roles, 22% of executive positions reporting into the CEO and 17% of Fortune 500 Director seats. As of 2015, 19 women served as Head of State and 14 served as Head of Government. The statistics are improving but as a mother of three (one boy and two girls), I know too well, those grades will get you grounded.
My daughters are 30 and 28. They are bright, capable and building lives of their own brick-by-brick. When they were young girls, I told them that they could be whatever they wanted to be. I told them life requires hard work but it also offers great rewards. I told them to dream big and to fight for the things they believe in most. I never told them to expect less pay, less opportunity or that their gender demanded a harder road or a smaller life.
Here’s the thing, as women and as leaders, we should understand our history, our current and historical struggles, and we should know the statistics but never accept them. I count myself as extremely fortunate to be part of a network of extraordinary women who defy the odds on a daily basis. Collectively, IWF members are united in changing the face of global leadership and to cultivating the next generation of women leaders.
The focus of IWF is to advance global leadership by building better leaders. We are a global organization of 6,200+ high-achieving, dynamic women in 35 countries and on six continents. We are executives, heads-of-state, political leaders, religious leaders, engineers, generals, authors, artists and so much more, and we believe our mission isn’t just a woman’s issue.
• We believe better leadership delivers stronger economies, equitable policies and practices and greater freedoms for everyone.
• We believe that regardless of sector, boundary or border, it is imperative to increase the number of women in leadership and decision-making roles, and the freedom and power they are able to exercise within those positions.
• We believe that leaders, both women and men, bear the responsibility of their own empowerment. This requires that leaders at all levels be informed, engaged, and active participants in changing the status quo.
• And, we believe that IWF is uniquely positioned to be an important part of the change needed.
To lead and to live big. As IWF prepares women for the many ways leaders must navigate twenty-first century transitions, we ask that more of us lead big in the workplace as we gain opportunities and grow our voice. We ask that more of us begin to live big, with greater intention, working towards the professional and personal goals we truly want. This isn’t a conversation about having it all, leaning in or opting out, but about seeking and obtaining the things that matter most to each of us as individuals. To lead and live big always requires a focus on the impact and outcomes of our choices. And importantly, I believe it requires that we bring other women along on the journey. A rising tide lifts all boats – that is a matter of fact. Once we are fully engaged, fully informed and leading with intention, we are better equipped to bear the responsibility of our empowerment.
To that end, we invite you to get to know our organization and our members. This blog is the first in a series of posts that will focus monthly on the leadership journeys, lessons, advice, critical information and calls-to-action from some of the world’s greatest thought-leaders.
We know there are thousands of organizations, websites, blogs, tweets and voices focused on women’s leadership and for that fact we are grateful. It is evidence in itself that change is occurring. We have something to say and we know you do too. This is the beginning of a conversation. We believe your leadership choices can make a difference and we hope to be part of inspiring you to find your next step.