Women in Leadership Award Winner Among Forbes' Top 100 Women
Ernst & Young's Beth Brooke offers inspiration and tips for career success.
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The 2006-07 Women in Leadership Award ceremony was held in the Michigan Union's stately Pendleton Room, which is lined with portraits of University of Michigan forefathers who seemed to smile on the proceedings honoring Beth Brooke, Ernst & Young’s first female vice chairperson.
Dean Robert J. Dolan of the Ross School of Business and representatives of the Michigan Business Women and Women's Initiative presented Brooke with a crystal vase commemorating the honor on March 6 before welcoming her to the podium to address the evenly split male and female audience.
As Global Vice Chair of Strategy and Regulatory Affairs for Ernst & Young, Brooke plays a leading role in setting the strategic direction of the organization around the world and in shaping its position on critical matters of public policy. She is most passionate about her role as an advocate for the accounting profession's public responsibility to financial markets around the world.
Recently listed No. 41 on Forbes magazine's "100 Most Powerful Women," her comments centered on career fulfillment and leadership, and included stories of her personal triumph over adversity.
Speak Up, Speak Out
At age 13, Brooke underwent surgery after being told she had a degenerative hip condition that would not allow her to walk again. After intervention by a caring family physician, a second surgery was done to repair an initial botched attempt, but doctors held out little hope for her future mobility.
"I remember thinking that I would show them all that I would not only walk again, but I would be the best athlete they'd ever seen,” said Brooke, who worked hard at rehabilitating herself and went on to play basketball for Purdue University.
"The lesson is, don't be afraid to ask 'Why not?' Don't be afraid of hard work and discipline. Another lesson is to speak up when you know that something is not right. If my family physician hadn't snuck into the hospital and looked at my x-rays, I wouldn't have had the second surgery and might not have walked again."
Find the Passion
She encouraged the students in the audience to find what they are passionate about---and connect with a firm or organization that meshes with their core values---in order to have a fulfilling career.
"I'm lucky to be able to do what I do for a living," Brooke said. "In fact, what I do outside my day job looks a lot like what I do at Ernst & Young. I try to bring attention to the benefits of public service."
Ernst & Young's policy is to encourage its best and brightest to take time away from the firm to work around the world in political arenas and service roles, she said.
"My worlds blend," she said. "I'm fortunate that I'm passionate about what I do for a living."
Maintain a Solid Reputation
Brooke stressed the importance of a good reputation in the business world.
"I work in a field that is all about reputation. Our integrity, our quality of work and the quality of the judgments we make all add up. Our reputation is based on the thousands of interactions we have every day with people," she said.
Though the accounting profession has come under fire in recent years, Brooke said that the scrutiny has served it well. She called it a "gut check" and said that it has ramped up daily efforts to instill a culture of integrity and quality in its people.
"A hot issue right now is U.S. competitiveness. The world is asking if we are losing our edge as China and India grow stronger. As a profession, we need to get the facts on the table," Brooke said. "We are at a point where America might not be the economic power of the world. This represents a significant transition that we might not be ready for."
Brooke's Five Tips for Career Success
1. Never forget that your integrity is the most important thing you have to offer.
2. Be passionate about what you are doing, and do it well. Take risks.
3. Follow your dreams and dream big. Don't fear course correction.
4. Never forget who you are. Be authentic. It's what makes you interesting.
5. Make a difference with your co-workers, clients, community and country.
Regarding the role of women in business, Brooke said, "Women in the corporate world are on a journey. Progress has been made but progress still needs to be made in order for women to continue to rise through the ranks in business."
The forefathers on the walls of the Pendleton Room seemed to nod in agreement.
A native of Kokomo, Ind., Brooke earned her bachelor's degree from Purdue University and holds CPA and FLMI distinctions. In addition to the Forbes 100, Accounting Today listed her among the Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting. A former adviser to the Clinton Administration, she worked in the U.S. Department of Treasury on policy issues before serving as Ernst & Young's national director of Tax Advisory Services.
Based in Washington, D.C, Brooke is involved in many civic and business organizations and serves on the boards of TechnoServe, The White House Project, the Atlantic Council of the United States, the Partnership for Public Service, the Advisory Council for Open Compliance and Ethics Group and the National Women's Leadership Hall of Fame Advisory Council.
Written by Nancy Davis
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