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Alum helps build women's forum in global business

Bobbi Bartolomeo
January 24, 2014

As West regional operations manager with the global real estate and investment management firm Jones Lang LaSalle, Bobbi Bartolomeo works mostly from her home office in Ahwatukee, Ariz., and spends her days connecting virtually with colleagues and clients on the Bank of America account – in Southern California, the Pacific Northwest, Nevada and Arizona. But Bartolomeo also enjoys a high level of connectivity that has been strengthened by a formal Women’s Network within Jones Lang LaSalle, which she’s played a part in growing.

“In addition to the corporate-level forum, each account has its own chapter,” she explains, “and I helped jump start the women’s forum for Bank of America.”

Bartolomeo puts together the group’s monthly and quarterly sessions – which usually take the form of live web meetings, often with a tele-presence at one of the bank locations.

“People can choose to see each other on-screen or listen in on a conference line,” she says, “and a Sharepoint website is used to initiate leads for agenda topics or to suggest presenters.”

The agenda for each forum is targeted to issues of interest to women in the organization and might attract anywhere from 50 to several hundred participants. Examples of recent speakers include a local architect who owns her own business, a health professional addressing a women’s medical issue and an expert on women’s fashion in the workplace and how it can affect perception.  

“The forums open up dialogue on a broad array of topics,” continues Bartolomeo. “You get a big picture of other women’s roles in the company, as well as extending your contacts. Through the forum, I now have colleagues I know I can reach out to in Chicago, where Jones Lang LaSalle is headquartered.“

While often informational, the forums are also a place where women can just let go, she says: “Not necessarily a venting session, but a relaxed, comfortable environment where you can just be honest and say, ‘I had this experience and it didn’t turn out so well, but here’s what happened,’ whether it be rejection for a promotion or an issue with a colleague or client.”

The initiative has received nice recognition within the company, Bartolomeo notes, and has led to the formation of other diversity and inclusion groups.

“The women’s forum was one of the first within the Bank of America Account – now there are LGBT forums, Latino forums ... it’s been really rewarding work,” she emphasizes. “Jones LaSalle has been named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for six years in a row, and the forums are demonstrative of the respect the company has for employees and the communities in which we operate.”

Like many School of Social Transformation majors, Bartolomeo decided to pick up a second major after taking an introductory course in the school. The psychology major’s interest in the field of women's studies was ignited in Michelle McGibbney Vlahoulis’s section of “Women, Gender and Society.” After graduating from ASU in spring of 2006 with dual majors in women and gender studies and psychology, she started an MBA at the University of Phoenix the next fall and completed it in fall 2008, focusing her electives on project management.

“Of all my college coursework, it’s still the women’s studies courses that stand out, and where I can remember every professor,” she reflects. “In Mary Rothschild’s utopian course we had to interview people in different types of communities,” Bartolomeo says. “I did a five-hour interview with Carolyn Jessop, formerly of the Colorado City polygamist community. I’ve ended up staying in touch with her and the work that she does.

“Women and gender studies is very much an integral part of not only my work, but who I am today.” 

The School of Social Transformation is an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.