As Women’s History Month comes to a close, I thought I would share what I learned from a panel discussion of women leaders from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Research Institute for a panel discussion called “Trailblazing Women at CHOP.” I was fortunate enough to sit alongside three women who talked career paths, the challenges we’ve faced as women leaders, how we balance work and family, and much more. My fellow panelists shared some advice that I think is relevant to all women, and I’d like to share some of their insights with you.

Follow Your Own Path

Being a trailblazer means taking chances, letting go of others’ expectations and having the confidence to make the choices that are best for you. When describing some of the choices she made in her own career, Lisa Biggs, M.D. said, “At each place along the way I took a step that was not consistent with what was expected of me.” She also offered this advice, “You need to do what your life tells you to do.”

Find Your Champions

We often speak about the importance of mentoring, but it’s equally important to have champions – friends, family members and colleagues who encourage you and want you to succeed. Champions are a bit different than mentors, they help to open doors for you and become your cheering section on the sidelines. “You have to have people in your life who believe in you,” said Angela Ellison, M.D. “I take the good people in my life and surround myself with them, because they are going to be my champions.” To find your champions, she added, it’s important to trust your instinct: “You’re born with an instinct, and as you get older, that instinct gets better. Use that.”

When People Believe in You, Believe Them

Sometimes very accomplished people have a hard time owning their achievements, and feel that they don’t deserve the accolades they’ve received. Beverly Davidson, PhD, encouraged women in this situation to look at things from a different perspective: “You were asked to that meeting because your expertise and qualities are required, and people believe in you…And if they believe in you, then you can, too.” We also discussed how men and women are perceived in the workplace: Women leaders are often thought of as collaborative and mission driven, for example, while men are seen as more directive. In reality, of course, no style or trait is exclusive to a particular gender – and an approach that works in one situation may not work in another. What’s most important is that we recognize and honor the unique qualities each person brings to our team.

Women will strike on March 8 for “A Day Without a Woman”

Women will strike on March 8 for “A Day Without a Woman”

Amy Bell Hou is a writer, early childhood educator and mother living in Oakland. She is a co-founder of Drop Leaf Press, a women-operated poetry press based in San Francisco.

March 8 is International Women’s Day.

It’s also a day that multiple organizations for the advancement of women are calling for a women’s general labor strike. They’re calling it “A Day Without a Woman.”

The purpose of the strike is to shine a spotlight on “the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system–while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity.”

Women are a vital, often undervalued sector of the labor force in the world. At our paid jobs, women typically earn less than men in the same roles and suffer career setbacks if they decide to have children. Women also typically take the lion’s share of domestic work, like cooking, cleaning, and child care. Such unpaid labor is vital to a functioning economy and ought to be recognized as such, yet motherhood remains the number one predictor of poverty.

At Heels of Success, we endeavor to support all women as they balance careers, partnerships, children, and their own growth as individuals. We hope our posts can help bring more women into positions of leadership, because we believe the goal of widespread gender parity in the American workplace — nothing less than a major cultural shift — is only going to come when women have an equal number of seats at the table where decisions are made.

As such, we stand in solidarity with women, trans people and their allies for A Day Without a Woman.

While many women, particularly those in the fields of healthcare, childcare, and elderly care may not be able to strike, there are still ways for women and their partners to show solidarity.

The Women’s March organizers have set up a good FAQ and resources page, which will guide you through ways to show your support. Read the full International Women’s Strike platform here.

Summary:

  • Avoid shopping on that day, unless the business is local or women-owned.
  • Can’t strike? Wear red to show your support.
  • Men can participate by bringing up equal pay and paid family leave with decision-makers at work, leaning into housework and care work for children, and reflecting on their own expectations of women co-workers.

We’d love to hear your thoughts.

A Heels of Success Story

So often, I receive heartfelt messages from readers of this blog either thanking me for writing or telling me about a particular post they enjoyed. Recently, I heard from a CHOP employee, Julia Wicoff, who told me about how reading my blog lead her to advocate on behalf of herself. It meant so much to me to hear from her. She kindly agreed to give a testimonial with me to share with you. I hope this inspires you to take page out of Julia’s book!

“When I first heard that CHOP’s CEO, Madeline Bell, was writing a blog about elevating women in the workplace, I was interested and decided to take a look. Quickly, Heels of Success became part of my regular reading material. I feel like each post is written just for me. The topics that Madeline covers relate directly to what I am feeling and experiencing. As a result of reading the blog, I was inspired to approach the leadership in our department to indicate my commitment to a future in our organization. That conversation helped spur a promotion just a few months later. There is no doubt that without Heels of Success I wouldn’t have had the confidence to express my feelings and take the next step in my career!”

Julia Wicoff is the Director of Cause Marketing and the Children’s Miracle Network at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Prior to that, she served as the Associate Director of Events Fundraising and Community Partnerships, also at CHOP. Before CHOP, she worked for organizations such as The American Cancer Society and The Philadelphia Eagles. 

 

The Female Future: Part 2

The Female Future: Part 2

This is the second of a two-part guest blog post by Heels of Success collaborator, Kaitlin Cleary. She interviewed young professional women asking the following questions:

  1. Are you optimistic about the next generation of female leaders?
  2. Where do you get your motivation and drive to succeed?
  3. What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Amy Bell Hou is a 32-year-old writer, preschool teacher and mother living in Oakland, CA. She co-founded an independent poetry press in 2014. She is a collaborator on this blog.  

  1. I am optimistic. Women have come too far to go backwards, and I think we will prove ourselves as one great element of the resistance against greed, autocracy and division that the incoming president represents. But we also have to remember that 53% of white women voted for Trump. Female internalization of longstanding patriarchal values is real and needs to be addressed in our support networks and peer interactions. As women gain managerial and financial responsibilities within their organizations, we can’t forget what it felt like to be powerless. Someone has to speak for the people who are struggling under our current system; I have hope that our generation is up to the task.
  2. My motivation comes from families. I work in Early Child Development, a profession which has struggled to gain respect from policy makers but that is absolutely vital to healthy, successful, educated communities. Most families are struggling to pay for childcare; a huge portion of their income goes to centers and daycares whose staff are underpaid and struggling themselves. Creating a better landscape of care for young children and communicating their unique developmental challenges to the wider public is my goal.
  3. I’m most proud of my daughter. She’s not even two but I can still say that, right? I’m proud of the self-reflective emotional work I’ve done to be able to care for her and for the children in my classroom well. Having my daughter taught me what caregiving actually means. It is a not a series of selfless acts for another person; rather, it is a process of recognizing another’s individuality in equal measure with one’s own. It is being able to support that individuality for no other purpose than to allow that person to grow.

Kristen Knese is a 31-year-old Senior Marketing Manager at OLIN, a global landscape architecture and urban design studio. She lives in Philadelphia with her fiancé and two insane cats. 

  1. This generation of women has already overcome graduating into a recession and coming of age in a time of war. We’re the generation that elected our first Black President, we helped advocate for huge gains in LGBTQ rights, and, despite the electoral outcome, we secured the popular vote victory for the first woman presidential candidate of a major political party. We’ve proven that we have the grit to persevere and to fight for a better future.
  2. I was raised in a blended family with two brothers, a stepfather with military roots, a mother who worked full-time to rise from a nurse to hospital administrator, a father with a jet-setting career, and many other amazing role models, male and female. As a kid, I never thought there was anything I couldn’t do because I was female. In our house, there was no excuse not to give 110% on everything you set your mind to.
  3. In my first performance review at OLIN I wrote in my five-year plan that I would be head of the marketing department. My boss at the time snickered at that – that I, at 24 years old, would rise through the ranks so fast. But in 2014, at age 29, I was asked to step into the role of Senior Marketing Manger, leading our department. So I’ll say to every woman – every person – out there: writing down your goals works!

Sarah Bellamy is 32-years-old with a background in fashion retail and sales, and is an avid traveler and adventure seeker. She lives in Fishtown, Philadelphia. 

  1. The sense of support I’ve seen among females in my generation (especially after this election) has been amazingly awe-inspiring and I am hopeful for the tiny ladies that get to grow up with these powerful examples of what it means to be a woman today!
  2. My motivation comes from a sense of adventure and my desire to be a “YES” woman. I try to say yes to everything I can and love to experience new things. If it’s something that could potentially lead me to interesting people and new experiences – count me in!
  3. I’m most proud of moving to a new city alone. I really had to dig within myself and be brave to find my place in a sometimes harsh city. I had to build a support group and a new group of friends. I was able to put myself out there to meet people despite my anxieties. Stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things on my own, has given me a sense of pride and accomplishment

Lauren Moreno is 31 years old and is Co-Founder of Team 624 Communications, LLC a Social Media and Digital Branding agency in Philadelphia. She lives in South Philadelphia with her boyfriend and their dog, Duke.

  1. I do feel like recent events have shown us that we as women are not quite as far along as we may think. I feel a personal responsibility to be a better feminist and to support other women in their professional and personal journeys. So yes, I’m optimistic of the future of female leaders because I’ve been forced to re-examine the kind of leader I am and where I need to fight harder.
  2. I’ve always known myself and what I want. I think it’s important to accept that you’re not always going to be liked or fit in. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be uncomfortable, and to trust myself and block out voices and messages that are not helpful in achieving my goals. I’ve also always somehow ended up working for women who inspired me, even in high school.
  3. I’m most proud of starting my own business. I’ve wanted to be my own boss for a long time, and it’s easy to be held back from making that kind of leap. There’s always a reason not to, so ignoring those reasons and by trusting that I can be successful and help other be successful through my work makes me feel like I’m being true to myself.

Kate Dooley is 30 years old, lives in Philadelphia, and is a Marketing Manager at Offit Kurman, a law firm in downtown Philadelphia.

  1. Generation after generation, women continue to persevere through hardships, achieve the unachievable and attain the impossible. In a time when we expected to break through the ultimate glass ceiling, and subsequently did not, it is more important than ever to be optimistic and confident in the next generation of female leaders to continue the path of growth, equality, success, and greatness.
  2. What really motivates me is camaraderie and a little friendly competition. When the people I respect most achieve great success it truly inspires me and ignites my own motivation to succeed. Luckily I have always surrounded myself with pretty remarkable people.
  3. Obtaining a Master of Arts in Communication while starting and thriving in a new full-time position has been my greatest accomplishment to date. As I finished grad school class by class, credit by credit, project by project, I thought to myself “that wasn’t that hard.” As I started a new job in marketing and learned my role, and made my value to the firm known I thought “that also wasn’t that hard.” When I finished my degree and soon after received a promotion at work, I thought to myself, “you know what, that was that hard and I am damn proud of myself.”

Kristen Miller is 29-year-old music and food lover that lives in Fishtown, Philadelphia. She is a Senior Tax Associate at Savran Benson, LLP and an MBA student at Temple University. 

  1. Even though our society has a long way to go in overcoming gender inequality, especially in the workplace, I am optimistic. So many women I know are either excelling in leadership positions, are filled with the courage to start their own business and are parents to the most terrific children.
  2. My peers are my role models. The strong women around me – family members, friends, colleagues, classmates, clients, members of my yoga studio and community – are a constant source of empowerment for me to continuously force myself out of my comfort zone in work, school, travel, and life.
  3. I am very proud to be financially independent enough to have purchased my first home this year. I’m also proud of my recent decision to go to grad school while working full time, which has (really!) forced myself out of my comfort zone. In my first semester, I’ve achieved a 4.0 and conquered my fear of public speaking.
The Female Future: Guest Blog by Kaitlin Cleary

The Female Future: Guest Blog by Kaitlin Cleary

Kaitlin Cleary is Co-Founder of Team 624 Communications, a Digital Branding & Social Media Agency. She is 31 years old & lives in Philadelphia with her husband Michael and their dog, Chooch.

It’s an interesting time to be a 30-something woman. This election has left me, like many others, worried over the progress we’ve made in terms of gender equality (equality in general, really). I was raised to be a feminist, though I don’t think the word was ever used to describe it. Instead, my parents led by example; showing me that mom always had 50% of the decision-making power and dad was expected to (more than that, he WANTED) a 50% role in child-rearing and household duties. In graduate school, my consciousness around issues like power structures, patriarchy and symbolism evolved and I felt a new calling to try and spread that awareness. As I’ve navigated a career path, I’ve often turned to Madeline Bell, my CEO mother-in-law, for mentorship and perspective on female experience in the workplace. Through collaborating on her blog I’ve felt both frustration and motivation; frustration at recognizing the scenarios that still exist for so many of us (I own my own business but am still greeted by some male CEO’s as “kid”), and motivation through her never-ending quest to rise higher and bring other women along with her.

So where does that leave us? I have found within my network of female friends, there is a supportiveness, a level of consciousness and ambition that doesn’t leave much room for anything other than optimism about the future. My greatest source of motivation and inspiration are my female peers that are fearless in their pursuit of success and equality. I decided to ask some of them 3 questions, in hopes that what you’ll read below will spread the optimism I so strongly feel. This will be a 2-part series, with the rest coming next week.

Are you optimistic about the next generation of female leaders?

Where do you get your motivation and drive to succeed?

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

 

Jessica McCarthy is a Senior Project Manager at David Stark Design and Production. She is 31 years old and lives in Brooklyn, NY.

  1. Yes, but I think generational divides are less important today. I’m optimistic for women of all ages, ethnicities and nationalities. Through technology we can seek amazing change with access to one another’s shared struggles, dreams, and successes that would have been impossible less than 30 years ago. I have hope that this ability to share will empower women in unprecedented ways and that we’ll be strongest and loudest together.
  2. My ambition comes from a desire to be at peace with myself, knowing that if I’ve given 110% and enjoyed the journey, I think (and hope) I will be satisfied with any outcome in work, and in life.
  3. I’m most proud of paving my own way, by rules I had to make up as I went along. My choice to pursue work in the events industry was surprising to my family and friends. I had always said I wanted to be a lawyer or work in foreign service, but I took a chance on doing something that inspired and excited me. My mother always said to do what you love to do, be the best you can be at it and success will find you. I believe her!

Christine Davison is 35 years old and is the Associate Director for Human Subjects Protection at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA.  She holds a Master of Bioethics degree from the University of Pennsylvania and is a Certified IRB Professional (CIP).

  1. I’m optimistic about the next generation of female leaders, but I’m pessimistic about society. The structural inequalities and societal expectations that have prevented many women from reaching the highest levels of leadership continue to exist. Without concrete laws and policies in place to keep women from being discriminated against in the workplace, I fear that it will be difficult for women to reach their full potential as leaders. I’m hopeful that as more and more women obtain leadership roles at their companies and institutions (including in government), these obstacles will begin to break down.
  2. I think my drive comes from my desire for continuous improvement, whether I’m improving my own skill set or making a process at the office more efficient. It’s very difficult for me to accept the status quo (no matter what the setting) when it can always be improved upon.
  3. In October I completed an Ironman triathlon, which I’m very proud of, but I’m even more proud of learning how to swim. Although it’s a physical challenge to complete an Ironman, the mental challenge of training was the most difficult part, particularly when it came to swimming. It’s a total cliché, but it really wasn’t about the race for me, but the hours and hours of training time I’d put in to gain the endurance (physical and mental) necessary to complete the race. I’m already signed up for another Ironman race next year!

KC Sledd is 30 years old and is a Senior Manager of Strategy at Atlantic Media Strategies, the digital consultancy of The Atlantic. She holds a Master’s degree in PR & Corporate Communications from Georgetown University. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and two cats.

  1. It’s sometimes so tough to feel optimistic about gender parity in the workforce when you see the statistics of women in senior-level positions. But I look around at the women I work with, went to school with and who I am friends with, and I think that there is absolutely zero chance of stopping them from achieving their goals. It’s when it gets personal that I know we can defy the statistics that say “you can’t.”
  2. Even with a few crushing moments of doubt, I’ve never questioned that I can succeed. I’m a Capricorn, and I’ve internalized that I will keep climbing to the top of whatever challenge I’m looking to overcome. If you tell yourself you can’t fail enough times, you will make it your inner dialogue and it will come true. Fake it ’til you make it is so real.
  3. In one day this summer I interviewed Diane von Furstenberg in the morning and won the Washington Women in Public Relations’ Emerging Leaders Award that night. It’s going to be hard to top that.

Caitlin Campbell is 26 years old and a Senior Marketing Communications Coordinator at EMC Outdoor. She currently lives in Philadelphia, PA.

  1. I am very optimistic about the next generation of females. I believe that women encouraging other women to achieve their dreams is more prevalent than ever. Books, podcasts, blogs, peer-to-peer mentoring are all instances where I see women leaders providing a support system to foster the upcoming generations of women in almost all industries.
  2. My mother is the root of my ambition, drive and motivation to succeed. She is one of the most brilliant, hardworking, capable, strategic, caring, driven, resourceful and determined people I have ever met. She not only reached the top of her company, but did it while caring for two daughters and making it to every single extracurricular activity. I also believe my choice to attend an all-women’s college played a large role in my desire to succeed. I attended Stephens College in the heart of Missouri. In my freshman year I joined Kappa Delta Sorority and had a senior tell me she thought I would be wonderful for a VP role in the next election. It was just what I needed! I ran and became a member of Council as freshman. Success and encouragement in this role led to me earning the role of President the following year. With just a few words from a woman I respected, my outlook on what I could achieve changed dramatically.
  3. I am most proud of a very recent accomplishment at work, where I was asked to join the Operations Leadership Team; a group of forward-thinking, strategic individuals who meet to discuss how to make our company better. I’m proud that my opinion is respected enough to make top-line decisions that will steer our company toward a brighter future.

Rhea Woods is 31 years old, lives in Brooklyn, NY and is the Director of Talent Procurement at Thuzio.

  1. Yes, now more than ever women have the role models and support systems in place to dream big and achieve big as well.
  2. My mom runs a small business (a law firm) and I think having a mother who has run a successful business for her entire adult life had a huge impression on me. I’ve always known I would be self-sufficient and work hard to create the life I want through pushing myself towards success.
  3. I’m incredibly proud of a charitable event I worked on back in 2014. It all came together in three weeks and I was tasked with procuring multiple big name celebrities to attend/perform – what a crazy, amazing experience. More recently, I promised myself that in 2016 I would book a celebrity for a major commercial and I’m glad to say it’s filming today, just 3 weeks shy of my self-imposed year-end deadline.

Cassie Corey is a 32-year​-​old teacher at Mastery Charter School in South Philadelphia and ​mother ​to ​a tremendous and ferocious one-year-old daughter. 

  1. I look at my daughter and feel incredibly optimistic. I know my child will encounter obstacles because of her gender, but she’ll have much more language with which to combat it than we did and I bet she’ll have the courage to make waves. These things don’t change rapidly, but I’ve seen a difference in our time, and that’s very exciting.
  2. M​oney, status​ and ​power are non-motivators for me. Love has always propelled my biggest life choices. You don’t need to look far to find people who are marginalized and those are the people who get me out of bed each day, either to help them outright, or to raise a child who will one day be solving problems.
  3. I am most proud of my years teaching. I cared ceaselessly, and my students knew it. Our kids take anonymous surveys in which they are asked to honestly answer questions about how much they believe their individual teachers care about them. ​ My results were consistently stellar​, and that always made me damn proud. ​

 

An Important Milestone

An Important Milestone

[Photo: kcesledd]

Philadelphia, a place of many firsts, will provide the backdrop for yet another important milestone – the first Presidential nomination of a woman by a major party. At a time when women still experience pay disparity and serious lack of representation at the CEO and Board levels, this event supersedes politics – it’s an historic time.

England has a new Prime Minister, Theresa May, and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is noted as not just one of the most powerful women in the world, but one of the most powerful people. These strides give me hope.

Having a female Presidential nominee brings to light important conversations. Though there have been legitimate concerns raised against Clinton’s candidacy, there have also been arguments that carry notes of the lasting sexism in our society. What I believe her candidacy has done, in part, is allowed our country to become more conscious of how we view female leaders, what qualities we praise in them and those that we criticize. Are they different than how we assess and measure male candidates? We now have a national stage for which to examine these issues.

Hillary Clinton herself has noted that she is not the most traditionally charismatic candidate, but is that because she is a woman?  She is often criticized for being out of touch, overly strategic in her presentation, and inauthentic. I can’t help but wonder, how much of this criticism is due to ingrained expectations for how women “should” be, while Clinton simply embodies what many male candidates have before her – political savviness and leadership. Regardless of one’s political leanings, it’s important that we take a hard look at how we react to a woman who  rises to the level of a Presidential nominee. What message are we sending young women through the tone of how she is judged and measured as a candidate? We must make sure it’s equal, fair and comparable to how we assess the male Presidential candidates.

Will the nomination of Hillary Clinton continue to help girls born today see leadership as a possibility without question? Let’s hope that it will. I look forward to participating in many of the exciting events taking place in Philadelphia during the DNC next week, and to sharing my reflections with all of you. What questions has this election raised for you about women’s roles in politics and leadership in general? Are you feeling optimistic or concerned? I would love to hear your thoughts.