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Director Emeritus at McKinsey & Company Joanna Barsh led an interactive dialogue focused on the idea of "Centered Leadership", challenging students to think about ways to develop themselves as leaders.

Despite the obstacles that some women face when trying to become leaders in the workplace, others are taking the initiative to train women to help women rise to the top of the workplace.

On Tuesday, the Women in Leadership Series hosted Director Emeritus at McKinsey & Company Joanna Barsh. At Penn, Barsh was an English major and fine arts minor. After college, she was a production assistant folding scarves at Bloomingdale’s and then at Macy’s, which is where she realized she wanted to go into Business School.

Throughout Barsh’s decades in business, she gained an awareness of the obstacles for women in leadership, starting with a lack of trust and acceptance. “When identifying incongruence in others, we must have it too,” she said. “Many women can fall short on this. Girls talk incessantly and judge each other. But really we are talking about ourselves.”

Instead, Barsh called on women to embrace criticism. “If you find that your critic is loud and holding you back, don’t stop listening to the critic,” she said. “The key is to hear other voices too, and put them all on loudspeaker.”

Interested in what enables some women to become leaders in their businesses over others, Barsh launched the “Centered Leadership” program in 2008 at McKinsey, an international consulting firm. The program was designed to help women better cultivate the skills and mindsets needed to become strong leaders.

Now, Barsh is retired and is traveling around the world giving talks about her work — mostly to older women — to see what is holding them back.

“I love hearing women say, ‘I am a good mother, I am a CEO and I feel good about it,’” she said. “Most of these women are strong and bold and entrepreneurial. They just need that five-degree shift in order to change the world.”

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