February 8, 2018

Wisdom for Women in the Workplace


Wisdom for Women in the Workplace

Last year I was honored with an invitation to speak at the MGM Resorts Women’s Leadership Conference alongside other engaging and inspiring speakers. The conference showcased a vast wealth of wisdom for women in the workplace. As I walked into the private reception on the eve of my speaking engagement, I spent some time catching up with Carla Harris, Vice Chairman, Wealth Management, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley. It was a humbling experience. You see, many years earlier when I was fresh out of college in 1993, I remember being introduced to Carla when I was a first year investment banking financial analyst in New York City. I recall the more experienced women in my “bullpen” as we so affectionately coined our work area in those days recounting Carla as a confident, hard-working, fearless, take no excuses kind of woman. We all knew that Carla was well respected and would rise to the top. She just had the tenacious, fighting spirit emanating from within. So, there I am hugging Carla again after more than thirty years since my Morgan Stanley days ended. Carla has excelled in the business world, she is an incredible gospel singer, she is an inspirational and motivational speaker in business, civic, and women’s issues across the world – and… I told her that I hope she will agree to be my mentor! Carla often speaks about Carla’s Pearls from her book, “Expect to Win.” Her snippets of wisdom are applicable in any situation and for anyone, but particularly powerful for women. Among the many points of wisdom for women in the workplace that Carla makes, a few hit me like a brick and I found so poignant to my journey thus far and moving forward as I reinvent myself.

Carla’s Wisdom for Women in the Workplace

  1. Perception is the co-pilot to reality that directly impacts how people will deal with you. As I have had time to reflect on the actions and behavior that led to my indictment, I recognize that I had certain perceptions about other people and certain situations. But, others also had perceptions about me that absolutely affected how they interacted and engaged in business with me. I did not pay attention to how the perception that I am an Indian minority, female, solo-practitioner, mother and wife, were just a few of the factors that led to my involvement with a client with whom I was ultimately charged.
  2. Understand you can’t do it alone – you must utilize your relationships to maximize potential. Specifically, Carla speaks about “sponsor relationships.” Likewise, I believe in the power of investing in others. In my life experience, it is these sponsor relationships and mentors, along with incredible family and friends, who provided the basis of support and positive energy that I needed during the last five years. But, as I examine the actions that I engaged in during 2007-2009, I recognize that I did not utilize my relationships when I needed it the most. I did not seek out my mentors (top lawyers in the Miami community) and give them all the details of my client and the specific transactions nor did I seek valuable advice on what I should do. As Carla so aptly states, I needed to make the most of my relationships to seek support and mentoring – and I did not. And I ultimately landed in a federal prison for the wrongs that I allowed to continue.
  3. Have tenacity, perseverance, grit, and resilience to embrace risks. Those that know me can attest that throughout this journey, I have stood resolved and maintained a tenacious spirit like my grandfather, a freedom fighter with Mahatma Gandhi during the Quit India Movement in India. Honored to share my story with so many across the country, I have persevered through likely one of the most difficult times that I will experience in my life. Through grit and resilience, I have risked being vulnerable and gained strength from the raw moments of sharing. I believe in transparency, accountability, and practicing ethical vigilance in every moment.

Carla’s pearls of wisdom for women in the workplace set a foundation that will make a huge difference in your career and personal life. Carla represents a woman who has overcome the many workplace challenges that women face in all industries, but especially the financial services sector. Wall Street no less. When I was a practicing real estate lawyer, I was a solo-practitioner with two small children, pounding the pavement to bring in the business. I was the major bread-winner in my family and felt sincere pressure to achieve and make my community proud of me. Since my ex-husband was a firefighter, most of the kids’ planning and daily life activities were my responsibility, as is often the case in families. In my next blog, I will evaluate the specific workplace challenges that women face, especially ethical decision-making and the factors that influence women daily.


Rashmi Airan‘s mission is to share the need for ethical vigilance and to inspire you to make good ethical choices in all areas of your life. Rashmi is an ethics speaker and consultant fighting to create a culture of conversation and bring ethical issues in business to light, to promote integrity, to enhance commitment to fiduciary duty, to build ethical leadership, and to shift the paradigm of ethics standards through ethics training.

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