Women Presidents Organization
Women who have built very large, successful businesses recognize that asking others for insights, advice and referrals is pivotal to taking their companies and their careers to the next level.
Why is supporting women business leaders so important to you?
The more women there are in leadership positions, the more we level the playing field everywhere. I love supporting women in their companies — helping them grow, employ more people and make a positive impact on their communities — and raising the visibility of women who are running big, successful companies. It’s gratifying to watch the trajectory of women who have come into our organization and know that the relationships they’ve built at WPO play a big part in their growth and success.
What lessons learned from the many women presidents you’ve worked with over the years would you share with other female business leaders?
Women who have built very large, successful businesses have two things in common: First, they make connections and build relationships through organizations like WPO. Second, they recognize that asking others for insights, advice and referrals is pivotal to taking their companies and their careers to the next level.
Sometimes entrepreneurs are so laser-focused on their companies that they think they don’t have time to make these connections, but if you don’t take the time to build these relationships and work on your own leadership, you will eventually get stuck. There are plenty of leaders who are going through, or have gone through, what you’re experiencing. That “lonely at the top” feeling is very real, but you don’t have to do this alone.
How did these lessons influence your approach to taking the reins of WPO, an organization that had for so many years been run by its founder?
I took over WPO right before the pandemic. Accepting support began with allowing myself to be vulnerable by letting people know where I was struggling. I was grateful to have a network I could reach out to for support, advice and conversations that helped me chart WPO’s course during such a difficult time for the organization and our members.
The World Economic Forum shed light on economic inequities when its 2020 Gender Gap Report predicted it will take 257 years to close the gender pay gap. Do you have a salary negotiation story or advice that can help women close the gender pay gap?
Entrepreneurship is the pay equalizer. If you’re paying yourself, you control what you get paid. If you’re not, then you need to understand what you bring to the organization and ask for what you deserve. I’ve had times in my life where I felt I was underpaid, but I found myself not asking for enough or even wondering if I deserved that much. With encouragement from other women, I found my confidence, asked for more and got more.
Negotiation is a skill that doesn’t always come naturally. How do you structure the negotiation? What’s the best way to ask? How much should you ask for? The negotiation course I took when I got my MBA was the best class I ever took. The mock negotiations were tremendously helpful. It’s worth taking the time to learn this skill, whether through books, online research, a formal class or a mentor.
How do you continue to grow personally and professionally at this point in your career?
I’m one of those people who’s always looking to grow — even just to be a happier, calmer person. When it comes to my professional growth, I rely on mentors. I’ve been very lucky to be surrounded by, and to continually meet, women with diverse areas of expertise and knowledge. And I know how important it is to keep building new relationships. The people who were able to support you 10 years ago may not be the same people who can support you where you are today. When I became CEO, for example, it was a was a big life change for me. I was fortunate to have many, many mentors and role models to help me through that process.
Growing as a leader and a person means finding people whose qualities and character you look up to. When I see someone speak and think Wow, they’re really impressive, I try to reach out and build a relationship with them. That’s helped me grow more than anything else.