2009 Women to Watch: Martha VinasPosted On: Dec. 6, 2009 12:00 AM CST
Senior Vp, Director of Client Advocacy, Human Capital Practice
Willis North America
Starting with an early interest in health services and administration and the insurance brokerage industry, Martha Vinas held several leadership positions at Hilb Rogal & Hobbs Co., now Willis North America. Her responsibilities evolved from the facilitation and integration of the employee benefits practice during Willis' acquisition of HRH to leading account management for Willis North America's employee benefits business in Florida. She also oversees recruiting, staffing and client and carrier management. Always aware of attitudes toward gender in business, Ms. Vinas advocates initiatives that help women remain true to their natural qualities and comfortable in male-dominated industries like insurance. To that end, she developed the Women's Golf 101 program open to all women professionals. Ms. Vinas also is a fundraiser for the March of Dimes Foundation.
Your professional role model: My father. He was a great business person, a great professional, a great human being, really cared about people, and an exceptional person in every way. Some people say that you are a reflection of the people around you, and I do think that I am definitely a reflection of the people that I interact with and that are close to me professionally and personally. A lot of people have influenced me.
Best professional advice you've received: My father's advice: You need to be able to play with the men but act like a lady. I think that is very important for women. Men and women are still different in some ways, and you have to respect that. It's a dance that you do, being a woman in business, and trying to be a professional and be just enough with the men, but always still knowing that there's a difference.
Advice for women entering the field: Own your career. Don't wait for other people to put opportunities in front of you. Have a very broad, open mind. A lot of the positions I have been in are not the ones that people would have probably taken. I've been in several roles in 14 years. Almost every single role was one that didn't exist before I got there. A lot of times they're not the most glamorous, and then you get in there and you really make the position what you want it to be.
What you wanted to be professionally while growing up: I wanted to be a teacher. It's a wonderful profession. The great thing is I've been able to apply my love of teaching to my insurance career by consulting, mentoring and helping others. I work hard to identify and facilitate opportunities for growth, professional development and training in my role as a leader and as a consultant.
The best book you've read recently: "Career Warfare: 10 Rules for Building a Successful Personal Brand and Fighting to Keep It" by David F. D'Alessandro.
Phone or e-mail and why: It depends on the circumstances. My instinct, because of time, is always e-mail. But I prefer, and I think I should do more, phone.