Do you believe it is easier or tougher being a women leader in today’s business climate vs. even a couple of years ago? Why? What is the greatest challenge in the work environment today?
I believe women in the business world are trying to break down barriers. The overall climate is improving, but the greatest barrier that we face is ourselves. We can make the most impact as leaders by gaining self-confidence to view ourselves not only as women leaders, but as the leaders in our homes, our communities, and in our workplaces. Only then will the climate and our work environment change to catch up to what we already know, that women ARE leaders. This doesn’t mean we can’t influence the climate or make strides to change the work environment, but these changes take time. There are many variables we don’t control, and sometimes it is like turning a huge ship.
Is there anything you have had to change your perspective around to help you with the self-confidence piece?
Growing up, females were viewed as the weaker sex. My generation was conditioned to not believe in themselves. When we don’t feel self-confident, we tend to be competitive and we are less likely to help others. Which is the key to being an inspiring leader. I had to make a shift in my mindset and make small changes daily to build my self-confidence. Things like speaking up when I have an idea, encouraging others when I start to feel competitive, and giving myself credit for the little things I am doing. With every intentional interaction, you gain more confidence.
In three sentences or less how would you sum up your career story?
Aviation has always been my passion and fulfilled my childhood dream to be a pilot. In college, I worked in airport customer service and then became a pilot for an organization that transported patients to medical appointments. This led to a 28+year career with Whirlpool as part of their flight crew. When I became a mother to a beautiful little girl, I transitioned into my current role in community relations and corporate social responsibility. For the past 4-5 years, and it has become a secondary passion of mine. I love what I do.
What obstacles or challenges have you faced, or even having your education in a space that I assume is fairly male-dominated?
As a kid, and wanting to be a pilot, I had many people, including family, try to lead me into choosing careers that are traditionally for females. Fortunately, my mother encouraged me to do what I wanted; she supported me during that tough time. Despite the people that doubted me, my inner dialogue was that I was good enough to do this, and I repeated the mantra I can do this!
It sounds like your mom was a terrific role model who was also instrumental in your career.
Yes, I went to a private boarding high school that had an airport and flight program. I had a great male role model who took me under his wing and taught me everything I needed to know about flight: the mechanics, how a pilot’s brain works, how to fly. As a role model, he was someone who truly believed in me and pushed me, even though there were many times I reverted to self-doubt.
What else made him a strong role model?
As a kid I grew up in New York City which is a different culture., so I showed up as a tough kid with an attitude. He had the kind of personality to see deeply within me, but tough enough to finesse my rough edges. He took the time to listen, giving me space to channel my “energy”, allowing me to just grow up and feed my passion for flying airplanes.
Now that you are in community relations and social responsibility roles, how has some of your personal passion helped you drive your interest in this?
My upbringing focused on helping others. It is central to the teachings of my church. My mother encouraged volunteerism, and helping others gave me greater purpose in life. Jumping from aviation to community relations was seamless…I really wanted to explore what I could do in this space, and how I could be a driver of change in our community and our world. It has given me a platform to do that on a bigger scale than I ever imagined.
How important is it for young women to find careers that are anchored in something they are personally passionate around?
One of the biggest things to do is find your purpose early on, and identify something that gives you that sense of self-worth and feeds your soul. When you feed your soul, it generates a passion for what you do… you will put your heart into it, and that’s when big things happen in your life. Thinking and working toward a purpose is really what keeps you motivated and keeps you moving forward.
As you have worked on building your career, how did you know when it was the right time to switch it up and make a change?
Life is predictably unpredictable. You can plan your life, go to college, have your career, have goals like marriage and kids, but life will always throw you unexpected curveballs. And this is when that purpose is super important… to have that end goal in sight and when life gets messy you just look to your horizon and see many paths that lead to your end goal. Even if you have to take a detour, you can still get there via a different route.
What would be one or two greatest lessons or pieces of advice you would tell your younger self?
None of us are immune to life’s challenges. We all need to learn how to work through any emotional pains sustained from these challenges. These same emotional hurt can affect your self-confidence. I’d tell myself you will survive, face these emotional hurts, make peace with them quickly, be kind to yourself. You will be able to reach your purpose a lot faster if you don’t carry these for any longer than you have to.
What is your perspective on the differences women and men display when handling or expressing our emotions?
Having grown up in New York City, you quickly learn how to be tough and resilient. This attitude serves its purpose at the time. As strong women, we tend to stuff feelings down rather than face them, but if you push that stuff down long enough it will surface at some point and affect every aspect of your life. We have so much pressure put on us: homes to maintain, families to hold together, the pressures of work, but the effects of ignoring those feelings will be crippling. Men have their own challenges as well, but they do seem to face their stuff and move from the feelings quickly. As a strong woman who is career-focused, it is sometimes tough to be kind to yourself and take the time to heal from whatever is going on.
What would be some suggestions for other women to be kind to themselves? Is there anything you do in particular as a way to give back to yourself?
As you look around your space, notice other women and see/hear their challenges. Every person is facing disappointments and struggles. I find that being vulnerable, showing empathy and offering support is empowering. Living by the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” and working through life together is more cathartic for you than for them.
Being a minority woman, are there any additional pressures you would like to speak to, and do you have any advice for other women?
I am part of our employee resource group for the Hispanic and Latino Network for our organization. ERGs started mostly as a social groups of like people. I have made it my personal goal to drive changes, where we influence business decisions with all the beauty of multi-cultural teams. Do not be afraid to bring cultural perspectives to any work project. Think about how you can empower under-represented groups? How will small changes resonate with those groups? Bring your authentic self to everything you do without apology. We all have rich cultures and experiences to draw upon which can only make our world better.
If you were to give advice to an organization that is just forming an employee resource group, what one piece of advice would you give them based on your learnings?
Listen first, put yourself in other’s shoes and explore possibilities together. Stay open to what you hear as you may learn something incredible that will impact your workplace goals.
What has been your greatest lesson you have learned from a women senior to you in your career?
A female colleague of mine, is known for being a skilled and intelligent leader. She has always been an inspiration to me. Skills can be learned, but what truly inspires me about her is how she carries herself with grace, always has a kind word, gives constructive feedback, and makes it a point to recognize her colleagues. Grace will never fail you. Taking that time to pull someone upward… that is what sets great leaders apart.
As you reflect upon My Career Matters, where does the greatest power of women supporting women come from for you?
My mother empowered so many women. She was a constant force of inspiration to build self-confidence but also to give that helping hand to others. As women, we are fortunate we have a lot of resources for women. I was very inspired by your company, Paragon Leadership, having a conversation with one of your coaches, Dyan. Knowing I’m not the only one facing struggles every day… and sometimes not being heard. It gives me actionable steps to take in my career and in my personal life. I think as women, we still haven’t unleashed the full power of working with each other. It’s my personal mission to be there for others, so together we can bring a change that we just haven’t experienced before.
Other than keynote speakers, are there any books or videos, or You Tube blogs you follow that have had an impact on you recently?
I listen to Joyce Meyer on You Tube; she builds me up. Jo Miller, author of Women of Influence and was a keynote speaker for us was extremely motivating. A favorite section of her book, Tiny Acts of Leadership empowered me with daily baby steps to be a better leader. Katrina McGee Loving on Me website encourages self-love and tackles the challenges that face women in business with blogs and articles on how to navigate them.. Lisa Nichols is a motivational speaker with a great example on someone who stared fear in the face and became a leader in her life. She motivates me daily.
How do you personally stay motivated?
When I lack motivation, it is a good sign I need to invest in my self-growth, like going back to school or researching a personal or work-related challenge in my life. Maybe it’s just reading an inspirational book or writing one! Currently, I’m writing a book on healing from the emotional wounds that keep you from being a leader in your life. Those wounds hold us back from experiencing joy and success.
What is your greatest inspiration from being a parent, and what has your daughter provided for you and your own learning?
I always wanted a child, and she has taught me a lot about patience. I see the same self-doubts in her and remember how I felt as a kid… going through school is a challenge. Peers can be tough on you, and she is facing the same challenges I did. I teach her to work through each challenge…give her the space to feel the hurt and cry it out if she needs to, but then Empowering her to not stay in her feelings for too long and start being proactive on resolutions. I don’t want these hurts to follow her the rest of her life. Some 50 year olds still struggle with a simple comment made when they were 6 years old. It’s crazy to think we carry all this stuff around with us. We must deal with those hurts, cry through them, and quickly move on from them and take the learning. Fears and negative self-talk keep us from our biggest breakthroughs in life. I do not want fear to keep her from her life’s breakthroughs.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Choosing an aviation career led to my greatest life lessons. My mom used to drive me to the airport to watch airplanes take off. I was always so fascinated by it… it is so exciting to me even to this day. During the flight program at my boarding school, my parents came to visit, so I took them to the airport to observe one of my lessons. Surprisingly, my instructor told me I was going to have my first solo flight. Nothing prepares you for that moment, and I wasn’t expecting it. As I was taxiing to the end of the runway, I was terrified! My mind filled with negative self-talk saying I can’t do this and questioning if I had learned enough to do this alone. At the end of the runway, during the do or die moment, I cleared my head, took a deep breath, and took off… I reached that dream of being a pilot. Even with tears in my eyes, I noticed everything around me; the mountains seemed more beautiful than ever before. I felt this peace come over me. Similarly, when a huge breakthrough happens in your life, you are filled with terror, self-doubt, negative talk, and excitement all at once…but right before you take off you take a deep breath and take that leap of faith. Waiting on the other side is something that will change your life, so don’t be afraid to take that leap.