MJ Tocci received the 2011 Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Award for her mentorship of other women, through both her community involvement and work as a prosecutor and later a coach for fellow attorneys at Trial Run.
Now she has co-founded what is believed to be the first program in the country to look at critical leadership skills through a negotiation lens. Applications are being accepted now for the Heinz Negotiation Academy for Women, which begins training its first cohort of women in January 2013. You can watch a brief video below in which Tocci and Academy co-founder Linda Babcock (economist and author of the groundbreaking Women Don’t Ask) talk about why these skills are especially important for women.
And further down, read an excerpt from an interview with Tocci that appeared in the 2012 ATHENA Awards Program earlier this fall. You can find photos from the academy’s preview in July on our Flickr page.
MJ Tocci and Linda Babcock on Why Negotiation Matters for Women
MJ Tocci Discusses the ATHENA Award, Mentors and Mad Men By Catherine V. Wadhwani for the ATHENA Awards 2012 program
Has winning the ATHENA Award impacted your life?
Yes, greatly. For the first time, I felt like a Pittsburgh insider. I’ve only lived here for about 18 years, so I’m still a “newcomer.” Winning was a shot of local validation from a community that I really respect.
Is community involvement important?
It’s critical. Community involvement grounds you and teaches you new skills. The hardest part is figuring out what you care about and how to channel your resources.
Did you have any special mentors?
Boyd Hines from my first professional job with a neighborhood civil rights organization. I was just out of college and he taught me the value of advocacy.
Carol Carrigan and Bill McGinnis both are now judges in California. I knew them from the DA’s office. They believed in me as a trial lawyer when some people didn’t think women could try serious cases.
Early on, it’s helpful to know that someone whose opinion you value believes in you. It anchors you. But you can’t have “reflected confidence” your whole life. You have to develop inner confidence because the challenges get harder as the stakes get higher.
Also my father. He felt that I could do anything. My mother wanted me to marry and not have a career, but eventually “My daughter the lawyer” became one word.
Who inspires you now?
Linda Babcock, who is brilliant and so caring about empowering women. My husband who is very brave and creative. He completely changed careers from being a doctor to being a film director. He is an equal partner in parenting and running our household, which makes a big difference.
My kids. 17-year-old Sam thinks I’m really smart and Zoe, who is 15, cuts me off at the knees. But when people ask Zoe what I do, she tells them I try to make the world a better place for women and girls like her.
Anything that you wish you’d realized sooner?
It’s OK to say no. My generation was sold bill of goods that we can have it all. You can, but not necessarily at the same time.
So what about “Mad Men”?
I watched the first five episodes in a fetal position. I was young in the ‘60s, but I remember that time well enough. I read an article that said flirting is essential for women’s negotiation skills, using Joan as the example. It’s bad advice.
Peggy knows what it’s like to be one of a few. She’s courageous. She formed an alliance with Don Draper and he had her back. It was brilliant when she finally left the firm because it was time for her to move on. She shows us that even though it looks hard, some risks are truly worth taking.
What advice would you give to men?
Men are part of the change process. We’ll never see gender equality without men being on board. For all of the men out there, we need you. We appreciate you. Look long and hard at the talent around you to make sure you don’t miss anyone.
And for women?
Be careful not to divide yourselves between career women and non-career women. We are all working hard.
Form alliances with men and women. There are influential people who will sponsor you when something important happens, so be purposeful about creating career-enhancing relationships. Those ahead of you can help you meet people who can help you, but you have to ask. Cultivate and manage your visibility. Just being a hard worker is not the visibility you desire. We are teaching women in the negotiation academy how to create and further a brand and how to manage visibility.
”Never allow a person to tell you ‘no’ who doesn’t have the power to say ‘yes.’ ” And, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Both by Eleanor Roosevelt.
Wadhwani is a partner in the Pittsburgh office of Fox Rothschild LLP and a member of the ATHENA Awards Program of Greater Pittsburgh Host Committee.