In 2016, when a woman has risen to the very top of a major political party for the first time in this nation’s history, there is no time better than now to recognize the unbelievable achievements women have made in the business sphere. These women have raised bars, broken barriers and inspired their peers – both female and male – to face all challenges head on and conquer their goals. The National Diversity Council is proud to honor the women who exemplify the best of today’s #StateofWomen in Texas. Follow along as we explore the essence of leadership with these exceptional women.
A leader is a dealer in hope. More than direction, discipline or delegation, the most powerful element of leadership is the ability to inspire. It is vital, then, that professionals – male and female – have role models to aspire to, role models that drive them to be better because they show success by example. It is an example, however, that should inspire the next generation of leaders to forge their own unique paths. Says Catherine Schnurr, General Counsel at Spiceworks, “You’re trying to find your footing and it’s tempting to adopt methods and manners that other executives use-but you won’t be effective unless it’s your own [style]. Be open: to new ideas, new approaches, new team members, new roles.”
That openness is an ideal seemingly followed by every accomplished leader, regardless of field. Janet Bray, Chief Human Resources Officer at the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, described her leadership philosophy to Texas Diversity Magazine, explaining that her first interest is “when searching for strategic solutions, recognize and be receptive to different views.” Eileen Akerson, General Counsel, following from that, described “any good leader [treating] everyone with respect regardless of their position within a company.” Indeed, the business case for diversity rests on the proven belief that brilliant ideas can come from anywhere.
With 2016’s Most Powerful Businesswomen recognition, the National Diversity Council sought to bring forth a variety of voices – strong women who aren’t interested in their views or themselves being fit into a ‘box.’ It’s a sentiment that derives from confidence. Advice from Kimberly Ross, Chief Financial Officer, at Baker Hughes: “Stay confident in yourself… There’s a natural inclination to second guess yourself when you are trying something new. Don’t shy away from the challenge because you’re not sure you’re qualified or fit the ‘check list’. A new opportunity should never feel like the ‘perfect fit…’ If it does, you’ll never learn anything new. It should give you butterflies.”
It’s true that that first position, especially that first leadership position, can be the equivalent of diving into the deep end for the first time. It’ll give you butterflies; it’ll be a rush of adrenaline; and it’ll be hard. This is why Marie Myers, Vice President at HP, found it so important to find assistance from peers. She explained, “I had to learn quickly and I did and was lucky enough to have great mentors to help me through. That was critical in that journey – having the support of others and being prepare to look at myself hard and realize I needed to do things differently.”
In Texas, where oil & gas still reign supreme, jumping in the deep end is perhaps especially tough as a woman. Myrtle L. Jones, Senior Vice President at Halliburton, explained to Texas Diversity Magazine the dichotomy between the oil business and the expectation of women, stating, “this is a company of coveralls and hard hats. I don’t know that it would do you very much good to come across as too soft in this industry… You’re probably challenged to be seen as tough enough to handle this job. I’ve had to demonstrate that I’m just as tough as the guys, that I can handle the job as well as the men could.” And she has.
So can you. The success of these women – the success of all women – is plain proof that there is no limit to what you can achieve, no matter what category of gender you fall into. In fact, those differences you may have felt eld you back might turn out to be what set you apart. Lisa Bottle. Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Fluor laid it out as such, “Studies have shown that women have many of the same qualities as their male colleagues, such as goal-setting, but there are some differences which can add value in the work environment… Women tend to show more emotion in the workplace. Women leaders sometimes try to hide their emotions because they do not believe it will be viewed as a strength. But by doing so, they are hiding their authentic self and as a result may not be fully engaging the people who work for them. By viewing these characteristics as strengths, women leaders can achieve their best, bring out the best in their people and drive success in their organizations. Be your authentic self.”