Leverage your unique gifts to get ahead, give younger generations a chance and realize the pandemic-caused Great Resignation means women are choosing to work for employers with cultures that align to their personal values.
All were pieces of advice bestowed by panelists Melissa Masingill of CARTI, Anna Beth Gorman with the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas and Arnessa Bennett of the North Little Rock Mayor’s Office at the 2022 Soirée Women’s Leadership Symposium in Little Rock.
The event was categorized into three tracks, with sessions geared toward executives, entrepreneurs and those seeking leadership training.
The panel was one of four executive track sessions, with the other three being led by Gina Radke, CEO of Galley Support Innovations; Denise Thomas, CEO of World Trade Center Arkansas; and Victoria Ramirez, executive director of the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts.
Masingill kicked off the panel, the first session of the track.
“It's paramount that you understand what is important to your organization, the values of your organization, where the organization is going,” she said. “You have to understand, also, what your unique gifts are. We all have them. Your gifts are unique to you, and it's what you do exceptionally well, what makes you stand out.”
She said a working woman’s gifts are a combination of hard and soft skills and can be identified by asking people they’re close to what they do well.
Once those gifts are identified, women must figure out how their gifts can be utilized to benefit their employers, then they’ll have a seat at the table, Masingill said.
Her seat at CARTI, where three-fourths of the C-level suite positions are held by women, is as chief business development officer. That position was created in 2021, when Masingill was appointed to it.
Bennett is also a first, the first Black woman to serve in any North Little Rock mayor’s cabinet, she said. Bennett is director of special projects and diversity, equity and inclusion for the mayor’s office.
She said she surrounds herself with Generation Z and Millennial coworkers because they’re the future and have new, out-of-the-box ideas.
“If you do not know how to use a computer, it's time for you to retire. If you're not continually trying to re-educate yourself on what is going on, it's time to give someone else an opportunity,” Bennett said. “We must share information … Give them opportunities to make mistakes. We all make mistakes. Give them an opportunity to learn and to shine.”
During her comments, third panelist Gorman said her gift is making a business case for gender equity in the workplace. “They need us more than we need them,” she said about men, noting that women make up more than half of the workforce and can bring innovation as well as others like themselves to the table.
Gorman also encouraged employers to use her foundation’s self-assessment tool, its Gender Equity Scorecard, to continually improve their cultures. Post-pandemic, a culture that aligns with their personal values is what will attract women talent to a business, she said.
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Radke, in her session titled “Creating Male Allies,” said women need men to be allies because 62% of managers are men, as are 95% of CEOs across the globe.
She said professional women should be asking trusted coworkers, supervisors and colleagues to be allies and the first step is asking thought-provoking questions, such as “Do you ever wonder if you are going to be the only male in the room?” or “Do [people] look at you for validation of the information I [a woman] gave?”
These questions make men aware of a woman’s experience, she said, and that’s important.
She also discouraged women from saying they're different from other women because it is counterproductive to improving gender equity in the workplace.
In her session, Thomas said blaming, shaming and complaining are indicators of poor leadership.
Instead, women should look for the good in people and situations, savor that for 20 seconds or more, then move on, she suggested. Thomas also said women should try to have three positive thoughts for every negative thought.
In addition, one woman being her best self has the ripple effect of allowing the next woman to be herself and so on, she said.
During her session, Ramirez spoke about leading during a transition, as she’s done while the AFMA has been building its new home before and throughout the pandemic. She stressed the importance of pivoting as necessary, keeping your “eye on the prize” and encouraging all team members to contribute ideas.