Listen. Learn. Lead.
In concert with the launch of ABD’s DE&I Program last year, our first Employee Resource Group – ABDher – was founded. Since then, I have had to opportunity to work closely and determinedly with ABDher co-leads Cristina Varner and Sarah Schwartz to create opportunities for women at ABD to realize their full potential – at ABD and in their professional lives in general, while we work together to create a community where women can succeed together in an equitable and inclusive environment.
Inspired by ABD’s 2020 theme of ELEVATE, and amidst the crises presented by 2020, we pondered how best to lift our entire ERG and realize our mission – now from our kitchen tables, home offices, and perhaps even with pets or children in our laps. So, for the last several months, ABDher presented the LeadHER Speaker Series, with guests from our organization and our networks. We have connected virtually to listen and learn to better lead — as women and through times of tumult.
We have heard – and learned – from these four amazing women:
Kate recently joined ABD’s Board of Directors. She shared with us the story of her career and how she came to be ABD’s first female BOD member – as well as the vision she has for helping to shape ABD’s future success. She advised women to be bold and NOT to fall prey to the Impostor Syndrome that plagues so many professional women: do not let fear of failure prevent you from taking a chance to succeed. She also shared that when working in a culture where she did not feel supported as a woman and where she wasn’t able to make change, she, “voted with her feet.” Kate expressed her excitement to be a part of ABD’s efforts to create a lasting inclusive and psychologically safe culture.
Coleen is ABD’s SVP of P&C Operations. Coleen talked about how her career has progressed over a time of significant change for women professionals. As a strong believer in building teams and focusing on what is best for an entire organization, she also cited her strength at balancing strategy and tactics. Her advice to women in business includes owning mistakes, but not to ruminate; others don’t – so fix it, learn from it, let it go, and move on to the next challenge. As an Executive woman and a mother, Coleen expressed that your children won’t miss the lunches you didn’t make if you have a rich, fulfilling, and happy professional life. Make choices that make you happy, and your family will benefit.
Deanne is a Managing Director at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and has spent years in the finance and investment industry. Deanne is a wonderful storyteller and spoke of various influences that have impacted her success. (She also credited luck!) Deanne advised that crises present opportunities for people to step up and advance their careers. Focus on creating value, ask to do more, and be visible. Deanne built her first career around the 2008 Financial Crises and looks now to build her “next career” around the current crises. In alignment with her passion for DE&I, Deanne looks to create accessibility and inclusivity within the financial service industry by providing more women and people of color financial advice – and careers – to create a greater impact. Finally, Deanne embraced the importance of psychological safety, particularly for women, in creating success. She suggested creating your own, personal Board of Directors, to sponsor and advocate for your value across any organization.
Linda has enjoyed an amazing career in retail and currently advises and consults while also speaking about authenticity. She shared that her shelter-in-place staple is currently her Kindle – she’s reading avidly to “explore” and believes that preparation brings you luck. Linda also shared that to think like an entrepreneur (as if the business is yours) prepares you to act like a leader (rather than responding or reacting). Realizing that delegation is critical to leadership was a hugely important lesson for her. Her mantra is to “delegate everything.” If you do not, you will hold up people in the progress they need to make, as well as your own. You must delegate to be successful in leadership roles – and to help new leaders move in their trajectories. Most profound, Linda imparted the importance of authenticity—to be fully yourself, even if you’re the “only” in a room. To be authentic is to foster a culture of inclusion, innovation, and positive change.
From each of these impressive leaders, we were given seeds (“nuggets” as our ABDhers would call them) of wisdom that with our own unique perspectives and practice will certainly become a wealth of leadership prowess. We are grateful for their time, energy, and inspiration. Women like Kate, Coleen, DeAnne, and Linda demonstrate the community we need to realize our highest potential and we welcome them as part of ours.