Expect Leadership

I wanted to share an email that I wrote to my close friends and family this morning. I got enough positive feedback on it, that I wanted to share it here in hopes to help with the Movement. These times make me reflect on one of my favorite leaders with some wise words from Abraham Lincoln. #BlackLivesMatter

Hi friends and family,

These are challenging times across our country.  I hope that this email finds you healthy and happy.  

Many of you may have seen my facebook or LinkedIn post, but if not, I wanted to communicate to you directly this way.  I know that this message finds us all at different points in our lives, with different points of view.  I believe that part of our role in society is to learn more than ever about all sides of the issues in front of us.  Through educating ourselves, and remaining vulnerable and open-minded, I believe we can all make change.  I know so many of you for the good that you do in the world, and am hoping that this set of content can only help you to do more good, your way.  I don’t intend to offend you, nor assume that you haven’t seen nor read any of these items.  My goal is only to play an active role in a conversation that matters.  

First, the Facebook post I posted this last weekend said this… “As the world has spun out of control around us in the last few months, I have worked hard to focus on doing what I can do to help.  Whether it be at work, at home, for my family, for my mental health or for others.  The last two weeks simultaneously deepened my sadness, anger and despair for the realities that we live in, for the lack of equality for our Black brothers and sisters, and provided me hope that THIS IS THE MOMENT that we ALL begin to act to start the movement to fix systemic racism in our country.  We all must stand up, use our voices, learn the realities of the big and the small acts of discrimination that are pervasive in this country for our Black friends. AND, make change happen.  Don’t just learn, ACT.   #BlackLivesMatter”

Here are a few things that I hope that you will read or listen to on a quest to learn or in hopes that you have seen them before.  If you have unique articles and perspectives that you are consuming to help you understand, please share back with me.  

The original videos  or compilations of the specific horrible acts over the last 3-4 months:

  • Ahmaud Arbery video plus Wikipedia page regarding the incident  
  • Amy Cooper video plus Wikipedia page regarding the incident.  
  • George Floyd investigation video plus Wikipedia page regarding the incident.
  • Article on COVID-19 Impact on Black Community (you will need a free login from National Geographic for this, but it is worth it

A few videos and articles discussing the issues:

  • Trevor Noah video trying to help us understand.
  • FOX news article about George Bush response.  Most of you know I am not a FOX news reader normally, nor a GWB fan.  But, I appreciate his leadership on this issue.
  • The article by General Mattis in the Atlantic.  
  • And a short video on the blind spots that we all have (implicit bias).  Business has done a good amount of content on implicit bias if you want to learn more.  

I know that we may never agree on politics, but my perspective, as a leader in business, is that leaders need to pull people together for a common cause.  Our job is to motivate action.  To me, the most important cause for all of us as leaders is affording all humans (race aside) equal human rights.  Our Black brothers and sisters don’t have this privilege.  Jon and I are on vacation this week, and we were driving through a beautiful lake-side country club area yesterday.  We decided to pull in, and walk down to the water to capture the view even though we weren’t supposed to be there.  We did so without fear.  It struck us that even that small act may be scary for a Black couple who feel the daily biases built by our history (either conscious or unconscious).  We must change this. 

We can control how we behave:  the words we choose, the actions we take and where we put our money.  We can control what we teach others, especially our children, but also what learning happens in our circles through table-talk, and at our business and community/religious institutions through the topics we take on.  And, just as important or more, we can control what leaders we follow and what we expect from them (political, religious, social, community, business).  If they fail the cause, we can control how we vote both locally and nationally, how we support businesses/organizations based on their leaders.  

So, it is BOTH personal and political.  Even if your local or political leaders have other things you agree with, please consider that this issue is MORE important than any issue that you may be aligned on as you prepare for the voting season ahead.  Please consider supporting businesses and community organizations that have leaders who meet these expectations.  Do your research, don’t assume based on what you see on Facebook, or in the media.  

This cause is more important than all others because without basic human rights, we have neither a stable society nor one where the other political issues matter.

#BlackLivesMatter

With respect,

Leslie 

Reflections on COVID-19: Humanity, not Politics

I sit here tonight, after watching some of the the One World: Together At Home broadcast (which was an awesome representation of good people), and after reading a few Facebook posts (which makes me sad), and I feel perplexed.  I want to be able to stand on the top of a mountain and yell to everyone that this is a crisis about humanity, not politics.

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This COVID-19 crisis is a struggle to do what is right around the world.  It is about making the best choices possible to help the most people knowing that every choice made will hurt someone.  It isn’t, and shouldn’t be about political positioning, or making a name for yourself.

In these times we see the best and the worst of people.  And, unfortunately social media is an amplifier of those characteristics.  I even found myself commenting back today on someone’s Facebook post that wasn’t worth it.  This is a humanitarian crisis.  Every decision has a downside, but we all have to do the best we can to help our country and the world get through this.

A few stats that will make you cringe:

  • As of today over 150,000 people have died in the world from COVID-19.  In the United States this number is nearing 39,000. The first US death occurred on 2/29, a mere seven weeks ago.
  • To help put this in perspective, let’s compare to three tragedies that most all of us can all agree were horrible events in the world:
    • Over 400,000 American lives were lost in WW2 over a long six year, world changing tragedy.  The US lives lost were dwarfed by the 75 million estimated dead around the world.
    • Almost 60,000 American lives were lost in Vietnam.  The global death count was again much more severe, but losing almost 60,000 American lives remains one of the largest tragedies in our history.
    • 9/11/2001 had over 3,500 lives lost in the day.  We also put brave soldiers in harm’s way as follow up to this terrorist attack.  We all remember where we were the day of this horrific tragedy.
  • Currently, estimates of American deaths by the end of August 2020 (just six months after the first death) range from 60 – 100K.  This will make the COVID-19 crisis surpass Vietnam in its impact on our people.  Not to mention all of those around the world.

Everyone is sacrificing right now in order to help to minimize the global impact of this crisis.  There are people out of work, without food, with “elective” healthcare procedures that they can’t get completed even though tumor removal doesn’t sound elective when the tumor is growing in your body.  There are situations where families are housebound with an abusive adult in the home, there are mental health challenges developing.  And, it sucks.  It is bullshit.  But, so is 60,000+ projected American lives lost from a Coronavirus.

My call to action for all of us is to do is to do our best every day, to be human, to not politicize this crisis, and to support each other however we can by offering help to those in need.  And to STAY HOME and socially distanced as long as the CDC recommends.  Trust scientists and help the crisis be as short as possible for humanity.

Lessons for Women in Leadership from ‘Hamilton’ the Musical

I finally had the opportunity to see Hamilton the musical a this spring at the amazing Eccles Theater in Salt Lake City. After all of the hype, I was worried that I would be let down….but the show didn’t disappoint. From the opening scene, where the characters were introduced through the opening song “Alexander Hamilton,” to the closing scene where Eliza Hamilton sang about telling her husband’s story in “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?,” I was captivated.

Since seeing the show, we have listened the songs on repeat with our children, and have had many a discussion about what it means to “not throw away your shot” at something, and why the King of England sings funny songs about coming back to him. But, more than that, what I have reflected on within the music are the lessons that are present for women in leadership. On this July 4th, I thought it only fitting to “tell my story.”

Don’t Throw Away Your Shot

This theme (and song lyrics) are present throughout the story. Early in the show, Hamilton commits to not throw away his shot through one of my favorite songs of the show. His commitment is to make a difference and to shape the future of our country. This motivates him to make the decisions that ultimately lead to his death in a duel with Aaron Burr.

The lesson for women in leadership (or for everyone in leadership) is to take the shot. As I work with up-and-coming people within my team, I often see women who are highly skilled not raise their hand for new opportunities, whether it be new projects or promotions. I also coach managers about how to have the conversations that they are having with both their male and female talent about opportunities. They need to sound different. Research from Bain & Company and LinkedIn in early 2017 shows, via a survey of 8,400 professionals, that “women are less likely than men to seek out an opportunity if they knows their supervisor might not be fully supportive.” In other words, women aren’t willing to take the risk at the new opportunity for fear of failure or upsetting the apple cart.

“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.” – Sheryl Sandberg

This is particularly important early in life/career. Jack Zenger, an inspiring author and researcher, and CEO of Zenger Folkman (who I happened to meet via a board where we were both helping advance women in leadership), comments that this confidence gap early in a career is particularly stark between men and women, and thus early opportunities for growth may be missed by women not “taking their shot.”

Credit: ZFCO research

Hamilton would advise differently to women in their careers. His advice would be to take your shot when you have it. He stayed true to his advice through the entire musical except at the very end where his shot (literally) could have saved his life.

Talk Less, Smile More

In the song “Aaron Burr, Sir”, Aaron Burr gives Hamilton the advice “to talk less, smile more.” He proceeds to say “don’t let them know what you are against or what you are for.” Hamilton won’t have it. This perspective couldn’t be more opposite of his belief to take a stand. As their relationship continues, Burr’s philosophy ultimately drives Hamilton to support Jefferson for President (despite their disagreements) versus supporting Burr, who he believes stands for nothing.

Although smiling (and listening more) is a good lesson especially as it enables you to gain perspective from others, I am with Hamilton here. It is critical to take a stand for what you believe in. More often than not, I see women in business struggling to bring their unique perspective to the table. I have particularly seen this as I have moved up in my career. Women, myself included, see role models for success in business around us (mostly men). Although learning from others’ successes and failures is important, it is critical to maintain your unique perspective and approach. This is a fine line, learn from others, but be yourself.

Diversity of perspective is critical in decision making. In order for organizations to make the best decisions, differing perspectives need to be valued and encouraged. If I could write the lesson in leadership, it would be “talk less, listen more, but take a stand.”

There is Room for All

Aaron Burr sings in “The World Was Wide Enough” about his duel with Hamilton. The song begins with an emotion-fueled countdown to the shot, and Burr closes with a somber ballad about how he “should’ve known the world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.” In Lin-Manuel Miranda’s visionary scene, you feel the emotion in Burr’s voice. Fear first, regret second.

As I think about becoming an executive leader, I remember moments long ago in my career where I felt like it was either me getting the opportunity or someone else, and I found myself thinking of it competitively. Often this created internal storytelling, me thinking about it as “her/him” OR “me”. This competitive energy, although good when it comes to business challenges, is ineffective when directed towards people. The storytelling got particularly bad when it was two women vying for the same opportunity. I had a feeling that only one of us would be allowed at the table, as our styles and perspective were so different from what was “valued.” I have learned over time how ridiculous this was, as it not only hurt my effectiveness, but also limited bringing diverse perspective to the table in so many teams.

There is so much room. Instead of being competitive, my job is to support and help strong, confident, smart, resilient women (and men) up the ladder with me. No fear, no regrets.

Thank you Alexander Hamilton, and Lin-Manuel Miranda for these leadership lessons. Happy birthday America.

Get Off The Sidelines

I haven’t been posting for quite some time with the excuse that life (work and family) has gotten in my way. What I realized after some reflection this week is that I miss writing about things that matter to me. This blog has been an outlet to make that happen, so here we go again. No promises of my frequency, but you will know, if I am writing here I am probably a bit more balanced than if I am not as it means I am creating the time to reflect (and write). So, I am getting off the sidelines and back in the game.

Over the last week, I have had the fortunate opportunity to attend two separate events that are motivating me to get off the sidelines in a number of ways. The first event was the first ever Utah Wonder Women Summit. The Utah Wonder Women is a group of influential women leaders in Utah working to help each other succeed. The day long summit was an opportunity to convene with a focus on building the visibility of female leadership in Utah. This event was followed by SUREFIRE girls, an event for teenage girls in Utah to help them see the magnitude of opportunities available to them. A big shout out to Jacki Zehner, the original Utah Wonder Women, for her relentless dedication, drive and initiative to make these two events happen.

So much inspiration at these events. This photo is a picture of the SUREFIRE ambassadors, ranging from junior high through seniors in high school, on stage talking about what they are hoping to learn from the SUREFIRE event. I was struck how powerful it was for these teenagers to see a room of 100+ female leaders in the audience focused on helping each other, developing our skills, aspiring to help Utah be a better place for female leadership tomorrow than it is today. But, what made me even more amazed was the energy that I took from these ladies reminding me of my role to get of the sidelines and dedicate even more time and energy to making the community, the state, our business environment and the country a better place for these ladies than it is today.

In case I wasn’t inspired enough leaving the UWW Summit, I headed this week to FORTUNE magazine’s Most Powerful Women Next Generation conference. It was an honor to be able to attend this. I guess you can call it part two of a reinforcement to get off the sidelines. With all of the stories recently about sexual harassment and assault, much of the event had a theme of being vocal. Stories of both a pursuit for gender and race equality as well as the recent #MeToo social movement came from all sides of the room. Business leaders, athletes and entertainers spoke of their own experiences with a call to action to be vocal and through our voices ensure that equality and respect are what we expect. Hope Solo, former goalie of the US Women’s National Soccer team, spoke candidly of her pursuit for pay equality in US Soccer, and her own personal experience with harassment. She also shared her clear belief that she was fired for being vocal.

One of my favorite speakers across these two events was Pat Mitchell. Pat is known for her leadership in the media industry as a CEO, producer and curator. She has used her position of influence and leadership as a force for social change. Among other great accomplishments, she is the host and curator of the global TEDWomen conference. Her talk was on power, and how we need to own it and use it to lead and drive change. Her eloquent speech was calm, reassuring and enabled me to center myself. We often perceive power to be masculine, but it isn’t. The definition of power is the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events. Nothing masculine about that. One of the quotes she shared was from Bella Abzug, a lawyer, member of the US House of Representatives, and social activist and leader of the Women’s movement.

“Women will change the nature of power, rather than power changing the nature of women.” – Bella Abzug

Both of these events came at a great time for me. I have been working very hard lately and am probably off balance with how I am spending my time. I am still home for my family in the evenings at a reasonable time, working out a few times a week and trying my best to be a great spouse. So, it isn’t about work-life balance. That said, I am relentlessly moving when I am gone, pushing myself to always keep taking a step forward on the issues that matter every day in my work. There is a lot of good in this (especially for our business).

What I recognized after this week is that by dedicating so much energy here, I may be missing some of the things that I need to be doing to fulfill my purpose. I need to get off the sidelines, but not in a way that drives more “movement” at the office, or more stress. Instead, getting off the sidelines is about choosing to channel my “movement” to more effectively influence positive change for women in business, media and policy. So, thanks Pat for the advice. I am planning on owning my power and using it to drive change.

Thank You Hillary…#ImWithHer

I find myself at a loss of words after this monumental week.

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Katharine was beyond excited to stay up to watch Hillary Clinton accept the presidential nomination.  As was I.  I found myself moved almost to tears by Chelsea’s introduction (however not comfortable Chelsea looked), by Hilary’s deliberate recognition of the power of the moment, by her humble acknowledgement of both her strengths (work horse) and her weaknesses (show horse), but most notably by Katharine’s excitement about the evening.

For her it was just about the experience, about learning and understanding how this election thing works, about being able to stay up late, about seeing daughter introduce her mother for something exciting, and about the fascination with the role of our President.  And, it was of course cool that it was a girl.  She asked me if I was ever going to have her introduce me for something like that.  She wondered if the whole world was like America.

For me it was about making history, about hard work, about perseverance, about striving for something despite all odds, and about creating opportunity for all of the little girls that  were watching.  And, it was of course because it was a girl.  I had hoped for this day for a long time.  It made me proud of America.

I know that my politics haven’t always lined up with Hillary, and I am certain that I don’t agree with everything that she is advocating for, but #ImWithHer because of the lesson that she can teach America and the world.  She is showing us that hard work, perseverance, dedication to a cause, and belief in equality can change the world.  She is helping all of the little girls see what they can be.

There Should Be More Girls

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Tonight when putting Katharine (6 1/2) to bed and talking about her day, she asked me an important and hard to answer question.  “Mom, why aren’t there more girls in my mountain biking camp?”  First of all, mountain biking camp!  I know, only in Park City does a 6 1/2 year old have a bike nicer than I did at age 25, and get to go to a camp to learn to ride trails that I only got brave enough to take on 15 years ago.

She proceeded to say, “Having more girls would be more fun.  Plus mom, we can do anything that boys can do.”  Proud mommy moment.  After a few minutes, I realized that I had never answered her question.  Why aren’t there more girls?  I proceeded to tell her that at my work, I often times am the only girl so I know how she feels.  I shared with her that it would be more fun if there were more of us (not stated to her…and more productive, and more diverse in opinions, and better for business).  I told her that the good news is that I work with a ton of girls.  In fact, at my company, there are more girls than boys (we are over 60% female).  She gave me a bright-eyed smile.  I told her that in my office there are actually about 600 girls.  She proceeded to ask me if there were only a few boys because that would be “cool”, to which I said nope, about 500.  She was pretty jazzed that at my work the girls outnumbered the boys.  We talked about it more and I told her that it was actually really great that there were all kinds of people at my work…boys, girls, young people, old people, white people, black people (I know in Utah!).  She thought that it would be “better if in her mountain biking class there could be all kinds of people too.”

But, I never answered her question.  Why aren’t there more girls?  I want to protect her from some of the truths that are probably behind that question.  Maybe more parents believe their boys should be mountain bikers than girls?  Maybe society teaches little girls to choose ballet camp instead (trust me Katharine wants to do that too, and Matthew has never asked).  I avoided the question, hoped to teach her that girls can do anything boys can do, and vice versa, and hoped that what she remembers is that having all kinds of people in all things makes everything better.

Starting My 40th Year

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Yesterday, I turned 39.  Today, people asked me what it is like to begin my 40th year.  In all honesty, today felt a lot like yesterday with a little less fanfare, and for certain less cake.  As I begin to think about what this 40th year will be like, it has made me reflect on how far I have come in a decade.   Today, I am a confident (at least half of the time), humble (most all of the time), professional, mother and wife.  I like to believe that I have helped more people in my 30’s than I have hurt, unlike my 20’s, and that I will help even more in the next decade.

One of the most vivid memories I have of turning 30 was celebrating that I could say “I am in my 30’s” at work.  For some reason, I felt like being 30 would instantly give me the respect that I craved at work, and it would help my coworkers (mostly men, 15 – 20 years my senior) to respect me.  At 30, I had been working in a corporate setting for almost ten years.  I came out of college young into an amazing job, and continued taking on progressively more responsibility from Procter and Gamble to Pepsi.  In 2006, I was working as a Marketing Director for Mrs. Fields Cookies in Salt Lake City.

I was enjoying the work.  It was challenging, both intellectually and organizationally.  I continued to work hard and stay committed to success.  Despite my positive performance feedback, and my commitment to the company, and me asking for them, my bosses and co-workers wouldn’t give me larger assignments or the nod to lead stretch projects.  I truly believed that they didn’t respect all that I could deliver.

So, in my immature mind, turning 30 was the answer!  I somehow convinced myself that this milestone would bring me confidence and help them to recognize that I wasn’t a “little girl who just graduated from college.”  Wow – was I wrong.  Sure, for several months, I found a new confidence based on this belief, but I quickly realized that nothing changed around me.  I was still the same person the day after I turned 30 that I was the day before.  My work relationships were still the same work relationships.  My feeling of “lack of respect” still existed.  I felt like I didn’t get taken seriously for what I had to offer.  I decided to just put my head down and work harder than anyone around me.  My last ditch effort to earn the respect I felt that I deserved.

As I reflect now, I can see how foolish this all seemed.  What was my problem?  Why did I worry about what now seems so trivial?  I know today that this feeling of self-doubt had nothing to do with how my bosses and co-workers were treating me, but had everything to do with my own self confidence.  Instead of believing in myself, I looked outward for affirmation.

Almost a decade later, I believe that living through this challenge in my life shaped how I live today.  So, I am not celebrating the start of my 40th year nor lamenting it.  Today, I am a professional, a leader, an athlete, a wife and a mother.  I still struggle at times with a feeling of “lack of respect”, but I try hard to celebrate what I have accomplished myself versus looking for someone to affirm my contributions.  I try act with respect for myself and for others, and to be humble about what I know and what I don’t.  I work everyday to value each person on my team and in my life, knowing that each person brings a unique value.  As I lead people, I listen and try help people find their inner confidence and encourage them to respect themselves.

So with 39 in the rear view mirror, and 40 around the corner, I don’t start this 40th year with any grand hopes that being “in my forties” will change much.  What I am celebrating is that I have learned a lot in the last decade and hope to learn as much as I head toward the next one.

What Advice Would I Give My 24-Year Old Self?

Today I was doing an interview with someone about being a female leader in marketing and in the staffing industry and was asked an interesting question….what advice today would you give your 24-year old self?

Oh my.  Lot’s of advice, much of which is not mentionable on a blog titled “Marketing Meets Motherhood.”  As I reflected for a moment on this, I thought a lot about Joe Haynes.  Joe was my first boss at Procter & Gamble.  He was a Finance Manager when I was a Cost Analyst.  Joe taught me a lot, and in reflection was a very influential person in my own journey as a leader.

So, what was the advice I would give 24-year old self?  It was one of the lessons that Joe taught me – to be authentic and inquisitive.  Joe lived a life of authenticity.  From the day that I met him, he was who he was with no apologies.  He told me early on to be comfortable in what I know, ask questions about what I don’t, and always be good with either.  I wish at many points in my early career that I would have listened to him more.  When I finally learned that I should and I could do this, I became more comfortable in my own skin.

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It is a lesson that I wish that learned earlier, and often one that I need to remind myself of today.  Each time I either succeed or fail at being an authentic leader, and trust me there are both, I think of Joe.  We are rarely in touch today, but I imagine Joe, retired from P&G, living a life of authenticity.  He may not ever know how influential this was for me, or even that he said it.  Joe, I hope that our paths cross again.

Commitments: Leading Change Within My Organization

So often in my career, I have seen the best ideas get sidelined, smart risks not taken, and current organizational inertia stop the momentum of truly important business initiatives.  I sit here wondering what makes this happen, in hopes to prevent it in my current organization.

A story tells way more than me pontificating on the philosophy of change.  When I worked at Procter & Gamble, in our Cosmetics division, being a brand manager required a heavy dose of analytics and core business strength.  I had recently moved over from a finance background, so this played to my strengths.  Several months into the job, as I was learning more about the business, and felt more comfortable about understanding my new job, I realized that the sales trend in one of our product lines was dismal.  Given the complexity of our business, this wasn’t an obvious conclusion.  We had been shipping in product to our retailers, and sell-thru was horrible.  The product had been on the market for about a year, and we needed an intervention, and quickly.  The great thing about being a marketer is that it is my job was to figure out and recommend how to fix it, in partnership with my sales peers.  I knew it would be an uphill battle to invest more behind the product, but despite that we came up with a strong marketing plan with general advertising, retail promotion and a sampling plan.  And, after proposing a relative affordable and conservative plan to our executive leadership, we got the fastest no that I had ever experienced.

Why?  I am sure there was a lot to the “no” that I couldn’t see, but as I reflect on it, much of it had to do with organizational inertia.  We did not make investment decisions lightly as a company.  The degree of analytical rigor needed to gain alignment, and proof in return-on-investment, made most initiatives get stopped in their tracks.  Our then president, had built a number of systems and process stage-gates that decisions must move through.  In the process, needed change didn’t often happen.  The organization was brilliant at change management, but in an effort to “manage” the change, great decisions were getting left behind.

It is so easy to fall in this trap as a leader.  Sometimes we want to control things versus empowering ideas.  The more I am in my current job, the more I find myself spending my free time thinking about how to unleash ideas.  My organization is built to deliver results, and sometimes we hold ourselves a little too accountable, with a little too much rigor, and thus miss the creativity and the idea flow needed to drive future success.

At this stage in my career and my job, I recognize both the strength in the “change management” skill but also the need for “change leadership.”  John Kotter, the resident expert in the topic, describes the difference in these two skills in an article that i read years ago.  One of my favorite quotes in the article is about change leadership as an engine.

“Change leadership is much more associated with putting an engine on the whole change process, and making it go faster, smarter, more efficiently.”   – John Kotter

As leaders, if we think of our role in change leadership as finding the right change, and adding the engine through our people, we will accomplish so much for our teams and our companies.  With this will come failure, and lots of learning, but hopefully a lot more success.  So, my commitment for this evening is to lead change within my organization.

Commitments: Help Utah Female Professionals Succeed

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Recently, my friend pointed me toward an article in the recent Utah Business magazine that gave the facts on the employment of women and men in Utah and their current wages.  The data was sourced to the U.S. Census Bureau 2008 – 2012 American Community Survey.  And, it made me sad.  Out of just over 1.2 million employed, civilian workers females made up 44.4% of the workforce and earned a median $20,053 per year (compared to males at $39,880).

In doing some follow up research, I got a lot more sad at the current state of affairs in Utah for female professionals.  It ultimately makes me worried for my daughter, wanting to figure out a way to help her lean to navigate the workforce reality.  USA Today stated in a recent article that Utah is the #1 worst state for women.  The methodology for their rating looks at wage gap, women in private company leadership, women in state legislature, poverty rate and infant mortality rate.  The article even noted that in Utah, women are holding less than 1 in 3 management positions.

I have been a resident of Utah for about 10 of the last 13 years.  I never thought I would live in Utah.  I met Jon at a wedding in Ohio, and I vividly remember him telling me he lived in Utah.  Utah?  I knew California, Las Vegas, Yellowstone and the Colorado rockies, but Utah?  Weren’t people from Utah either Mormon or ski bums?  Jon didn’t seem like either when I met him, so I went with it.  I was simply a love-struck 20 something, wondering more about where our next date weekend would be than the state of the workforce for female professionals.  I ultimately moved here, have fallen in love with the place, and have led about half of my 16 year career in the state.

Now, I consider myself a Utah local, a professional woman, and one of the apparently few female company executives in the state. I sit here thinking about how my role as a female executive can help drive change.  It is ironic to think this way, because I rarely, if ever, think about being a woman at work.  Over the years, I have come to work, tried my hardest to succeed every day, looked for opportunities to stretch myself, learned a lot, and ultimately tried not to take no for an answer.  By not defining myself using my gender, I have never seen professional boundaries.  This boundary-less world view has by its definition opened up my eyes to opportunities that I would otherwise never have seen.

I want to help, and take a purposeful role in making the future better in Utah for women.  But, I feel stuck.  Due to the fact that I am a working mother of two, and have the job that I have, I have little time to give to anything beyond my family and my job.  I feel guilty and sad to see this state of affairs and not be able to give more to help change it.  That said, this reality I live in of having to forcefully prioritize the time that I have, has been one of the things that has made me successful over the years.  So, my game plan is to help in the way my schedule and life allow.  I figured writing down a few commitments would help me to remember to stay accountable.

  • Raising strong-willed, independent children with Jon who see professional women as the norm;
  • Helping people in my team succeed as female professionals (in particular working moms);
  • Continue building a culture at CHG Healthcare where it is possible to be a successful working mom and a working dad;
  • Mentor people whenever I can find a spare moment helping to guide them through the choices that they need to make;
  • And, most importantly, never give up on my own dreams.  Shape them to be what I want them to be, not what others think is the right answer.

A short but important list that will hopefully help make a difference.