Celebrating Women’s History Month
This month, as my team and I reflect on the meaning of Women’s History Month and how we, as an organization, might celebrate, I thought back to my own career. I reflected on my early days, naive and inexperienced, accepting a management position at the age of 26, I found myself in very unfamiliar territory with not many other women to turn to for advice. I moved up and slowly gained more responsibility and more direct reports. At the age of 31, I moved my family across the country and started over in a role that would shape and hone my leadership skills as well as grow my awareness of the world outside of what I knew. For the first time, I reported to a college president and began learning about the intricacies of an organization — operations, people management, infrastructure, finances. At each juncture of my career, my sphere of awareness swelled. I got exposed to more and more decision-making opportunities, including a wide array of challenges and crises. This exposure was both difficult and rewarding almost every single day.
So what words could I offer my fellow workers and Generation graduates as they navigate the intricacies of the workplace and begin to define their career path or reinvent themselves? What’s the light on the other side of leadership?
- It’s ok to feel out your “management style.” I knew I had one but it didn’t quite fit the jargony type answers I found on Google U. I discovered you can define one for yourself. There’s success in fostering other people’s careers while creating lifelong relationships with your teams and colleagues like those I’ve had the privilege to work with across the country.
- When she talks, listen to that inner voice. Those morals you stuck to like being a responsible steward of an organization’s resources or honoring and making choices for the right reasons instead of the easy reasons — I promise you’ll feel pride in the end for sticking to your guns.
- You are uniquely you. It’s totally ok to be yourself. Whatever it is that defines you as an employee, a colleague, a leader, an individual — it’s what makes you uniquely you. We all bring this to the proverbial table; we formulate ideas and inspire others from our shared experiences. So, are you quirky, reserved, or outgoing? Or maybe some combination? Show up as her and lead by example — authenticity is the 21st-century briefcase.
Jessica Rood is the CMCO for Generation USA. With more than 17 years of experience in education and non-profit sector marketing and communications, Jessica has worked for four universities and colleges, both public and private, in a variety of roles — from managing the creative to leading full teams of marketing and communications professionals and earning more than 20 awards for leadership and creativity.
In the spirit of celebrating women leaders throughout history, we felt it apt to ask Generation USA’s eight female C-suite leaders, this very question.
What’s the light on the other side of leadership?
Jee Yon Pae Chief Development Officer Remember what it felt like to have a good boss– and become that boss to help others reach their potential! It’s also important to remember what it felt like to have a bad boss– not to be resentful but to use that experience to gain more wisdom on how you treat others. Someone that I admire once said: Don’t let success get to your head, and don’t let failure get to your heart.
Carolina Marazzi-Cardani Chief Enrollment & Admissions OfficerAs women, we are juggling many roles and so I want to try and share thoughts on the other side of leadership from that lens: voicing advice that is applicable across the many facets of life which we lead.
- It’s okay to say no. We tend to want to take everything on with our “Wonder Woman” capes and often, we find ourselves saying yes to everything. Knowing priorities and how to balance those is super important. Feel empowered and safe to say no to overcommitments. And, if you do take something on, consider how full your plate is already and recognize that adding to it likely means there’s something that needs to come off in order to be truly effective. And, most importantly, keep your sanity!
- Communicate your needs to your manager, spouse, partner, family. When we’re balancing so much, we might feel this obligation to “power through” or put on the brave face. It’s okay to call for a timeout or a much-needed break. Knowing when to pause — whether for a 10-minute break or a vacation — is as vital as drinking water. Keep communication lines open and let others around you know when you need time and space.
- Recognize your network of supports or the tribes that lift you up. …and allow yourself to leverage those people and networks when you need them. Along with this is knowing no one person will be able to support you in every single way. Diversify resources and networks. And, it’s just as important as knowing when to tap into them. Create an arsenal of subject matter experts and you’ll not only feel supported but realize you’re not alone on the journey.
Morgan Watson Chief Of Staff So much has changed between the last Women’s History Month in March 2020 to now. The last year has threatened to undo tremendous gains women have made in the workplace over the last few decades. From the COVID-19 pandemic, to a global acknowledgement of the problematic systemic racism in the US, to a contentious election, the last year has thrown so much our way. In times of difficulty, tension and conflict, we realize what leadership truly means. The light on the other side of leadership is not about glory but it is about:
- The opportunity to trailblaze pathways, so that although you may be the first, you will not be the last
- The freedom to show up as your authentic self, giving space for others to do the same
- The ability to choose the just path even when it’s the harder path
Sienna Daniel Chief Growth & Impact Officer You may find yourself as the first female in your role, the first female on the team, and possibly the first female in the organization. And there’s a good chance you’ve never had a female mentor or leader — someone that looks like you — to guide you and show you the way. No matter how large the obstacle or how treacherous the road, stay humble and strong; the next generation needs you and sees you. And know that other female leaders out there, all over the world, are rooting for you.
Tameka M. Logan Chief Learner Experience Officer From the beginning of time, women have made a great impact in various sectors and spaces in our world. I am so grateful to be a part of that heritage. As a woman, for me, the light on the other side of leadership is the ability to make an impact. Impact on the target audience I am serving and impact on individuals that work alongside me to accomplish the larger mission and vision of my heart’s work.
I am eternally grateful for the lasting imprint women have made in the world and the imprint we continue to make. In this season, I am excited to have the opportunity to contribute in my own way with other amazing women who work intentionally to “change the game” for themselves and others daily.
Jeannie Guzman Chief People Officer I’m incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by compassionate and determined women—all with their own unique ways to lead and impact the lives of others. On the other side of leadership is an ability to bring women along the journey to shine their light in their own authentic ways. The journey will have highs and lows—and through all of those experiences remain true to self, listen to your inner voice, remain humble, have fun, and be willing to learn alongside others.