Cracking the Glass Ceiling: Insights from BYP’s Top Female Executives

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Breaking through the glass ceiling in corporate America can be a daunting task, but it’s not impossible. During the BYP US Summit 2023, two top female executives shared their insights on how they achieved success. They both provided valuable advice on navigating the corporate world and ascending to top positions. 

Rhonda Scales-Thacker’s Insights on Career Advancement

To Rhonda, being at the top is a very subjective position. It won’t feel the same for everyone and we each define what it means for ourselves. Its meaning will also evolve throughout your career. For her, as opposed to earlier in her career when being at the top meant being surrounded by mentors willing to teach her, right now being at the top means having a really strong team, with a comfortable and strong corporate culture. 

Here are Rhonda’s top 3 tips for making the most of the opportunities that lie ahead:

1. Be open – don’t close the door! There will be projects you don’t want to do, but do them anyway—you’ll learn something you never imagined or expected.

2. Be hungry – keep learning, and don’t just read articles about things you’re struggling with—listen to TED talks about those topics as well. Be willing to explore new ideas and ways of thinking about things.

3. Keep pulling people along with you — be that mentor for a college student or introduce others to careers they never thought of! Be a mentor for someone; it goes a long way.

Marlene Pelage’s Journey to CFO and Advice for Women in Finance

When Marlene Pelage was 17, she left her home in Martinique to study business in France. She had no idea that this would be the first step of a journey that would see her leave Martinique for good; nor did she know that this would be just one of many journeys she would make throughout her career as a finance executive.

After graduating from business school, Pelage worked on Wall Street and in Hong Kong before returning to the United States and working at Charles Swabb Corporation as its first female CEO. During the pandemic, she uprooted her family once more and set her sights on the media and advertising world—where she joined MediaBrands as CFO.

In our conversation with Pelage, we talked about how she found success despite being an immigrant in a male-dominated industry; what it takes to build a successful career in finance; how diversity impacts performance; and how companies can best attract and retain talented women leaders.

Panel Discussion: Strategies for Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling

It’s a work in progress. That’s the biggest thing Rhonda learned over the last few years: that achieving executive presence is always a work in progress, no matter how far along you are in your career. We all have our struggles with imposter syndrome, but we need to be able to let go of the idea that we are not enough and instead focus on showing up for ourselves and our communities. 

Rhonda and Marlene also added that it’s important to balance pursuing your career with family life—there’s no such thing as balance; only compromises. Each day brings something new, and those days will be different for everyone involved. You’ll feel like a terrible mother one day, then like the best mother ever the next day. There’s no balance here—just compromises, which means you’ll have to put your career on hold sometimes so you can spend time with your family, or vice versa. But no matter what happens, surround yourself with trusted friends and a community who will help each other out when they can’t get through it alone.

Watch the Talk

Keynote Speakers

Rhonda Scales-Thacker GVP, Enterprise Technology and Architecture at Gartner

This accomplished Technology leader has a track record of delivering outstanding results through transformational leadership. With expertise in large-scale project execution, application development, operations management, and architecture design, Rhonda has successfully guided initiatives across all business functions. She has excelled in leading ERP conversion, Financial application consolidation, and platform initiatives for the Cloud Center of Excellence. Beyond her technical prowess, Rhonda is deeply committed to fostering Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion within their teams. She prioritizes team building and talent development to create strong global teams that consistently deliver high-quality performance.

Marlene Pelage Global CFO Officer of MediaBrands

Marlene Pelage is the Global CFO Officer of MediaBrands, bringing with her a successful 15-year career at Charles Schwab, where she ultimately held the position of CFO at Charles Schwab Bank. Originally from Martinique, Marlene pursued her business studies in Paris. 

During her tenure at Charles Schwab Bank, Marlene oversaw assets totalling $280 billion. She held key positions in marketing, data and financial research, and client solutions strategies within the global financial institution. Marlene’s career commenced at Credit Lyonnais in New York before she joined WI Carr, the Asian equities brokerage of Credit Agricole Indosuez in Hong Kong.

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