WiSE: Senior Women Supporting Strategic Projects

Mary Simpkins, VP of Global Marketing at IPS LearningThis post is sponsored by IPS Learning
Sometimes, the best ideas are born out of a chance conversation. Mary Simpkins’ chance conversation last year was what launched her journey to create WiSE: Women in Strategic Execution.
The first Strategic Execution Conference was held last year. Next month, senior and rising leaders will gather in Silicon Valley to attend the 2014 event. The Stanford Advanced Project Management program hosts the conference. It brings together executives with 10-20 year experience to discuss the latest Stanford research and how to help teams understand and execute strategy.
Projects are key to transforming strategy into reality for many businesses. This conference attracts top-ranking executives in portfolio, program, and project management. Most of them are from technology companies, as it is held in Silicon Valley, California. Most of them are men.
Mary Simpkins, VP Global Marketing for IPS Learning, which offers the Stanford Advanced Project Management program to companies, says that “we were talking about women who participate in tech networking groups.” Mary noticed a difference in the existing “women’s in technology” networking groups, which were targeted at women at the beginning of their careers, and the women on her courses, who were usually senior managers. She realized that there was a need for a group that could also meet the needs of these women.
She says that “the number of women in tech industry project management is small” and that there is a smaller leadership group. These are women who are moving beyond project and program management, engineering, and technology to become leaders. They see the big picture, and their role it is to execute against that and take action.
Future leaders and leaders being targeted
Although it may be small, it is a strong and passionate leadership group, as Mary discovered. She was able to start discussing her ideas and found that many companies were willing to support her.
Mary says that she had lunch with the President at PepsiCo. “We spoke about young adults and young ladies in particular, who are dazzled at the idea of working for companies like Apple or Google. Too often, we overlook more traditional companies like PepsiCo which are often just as innovative but in different ways. He wants to change this. PepsiCo, as a business, is becoming more involved with potential employees of all levels.” She also discusses discussions with Nationwide, HP, and other companies that are hiring: they all want rock stars, and to increase diversity in senior positions. Mary states that she is pleasantly surprised by the support she has received.
WiSE’s launch pad is the 2014 Strategic Execution conference. Mary will host a lunch for female speakers and delegates to introduce the network. Next, women from HP and Cisco will share their experiences.
Mary has two groups in mind. First, senior female leaders who have experience in delivering strategic projects and are mature in their careers. Mary says that they understand strategic goals and how to make them happen through alignment, projects and teams. They may not always be able to sit at the top of the organization when it comes time to create the strategy, but they can influence the strategy and help others connect the dots.
Mary also wants WiSE to work alongside emerging leaders. She says, “They are hungry to learn more.” “They might be entrepreneurial, but they want to learn how businesses work so they can become senior leaders in the next generation.”
A group that gives back
WiSE strives to be an equal platform for learning and networking that is collaborative and inclusive. The i is free to use