Pride & Success Redefined
Some of the most powerful women in business gathered recently at the beautiful Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta, this time hosted by Yvette Thomas-Henry, the only black female general manager in the chain’s 115 upscale hotels. In the fireplace-lit glow of the private Savannah Hall, guests enjoyed dinner, a signature pink cocktail, and discussion among likeminded women.
“In the ‘60s there was no gathering like this,” said conversation facilitator Susan Hitchcock, thanks to Turknett Leadership Group. “When I graduated from Agnes Scott College, I saw zero women in senior management roles.”
Northwestern Mutual Advisor Susan Freeman sponsored the affair. These intimate dinners bring high powered women together to build deep relationships among women business leaders. Often these leaders are the only women in senior-level roles in their organization. An exception to this is Cox Enterprises, which boasts 13 women in senior-level roles. Cox Enterprise’s highest ranking woman, EVP Jill Campbell shared her story and her call to action for women to support one another in the workplace, including the next generation:
“If somebody has the nerve to ask for 15 minutes of your time to talk about their career, are you really gonna say no? When you have a percentage of power, it makes a difference. Will you use it for good or evil?”
Cox leaders joining the dinner included Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President Sujata Gosalia, Cox Automotive Chief People Officer Janet Barnard, Chief Compliance Officer Robin Sangston, Head of Org Development Cathy Hague and General Counsel and Corporate Legal Secretary Juliette Pryor. Kudos to Cox for having so many women leaders! Also in attendance were Intimacy founder Susan Nethero, Atlanta Federal Reserve SVP Mary Kepler and Stacy Tank, head of External Affairs for The Home Depot, one of just four women who report directly to the CEO.
While women make up nearly half the labor force, only 5.2 percent of S&P 500 companies have a woman CEO. Only 11 percent of the top earners are women. Women hold just 21 percent of board seats and fill 26.5 percent of first/mid-level management roles according to Catalyst. “We have a lot of work to do,” says PINK CEO Cynthia Good.
When the conversation turned to success secrets, the attendees testified their success is not just about money and a title. It is about empowering the next generation, opening their office doors to employees who want to talk about their careers. It is also about being authentic – bringing your full self to work, not hiding who you are as a mom or where you are from, focusing on the work and what you bring to the table in lieu of what you’re wearing. This can be accomplished in an environment where everyone is treated equally, from the eighteen-year-old in the mailroom to the CEO herself. Every idea can be the next big idea, no matter who it comes from.
They talked about the price of success. One guest said she gave up sleep to get everything done over the years. In this way she extended her day to make time for family and friends. Another was chastised for having too many priorities. In hindsight, she is happy she refused to give anything up. Zaxby’s franchise owner Mary Harrison’s method is to decide what is and is not “Mission Critical.” Another said her best advice is to “Surround yourself with people who believe in you. And make sure to care for yourself first so you can care for your family and work colleagues.”
The women continued to talk about what makes them most proud. Award-winning playwright and storyteller Janece Shaffer says she is most proud of the chance to have Friday lunches with her 92-year-old father. Hitchcock says she is most proud of being a “Xanna” to her four grandchildren.
These powerhouse leaders shared invaluable wisdom with candor, humor and vulnerability, and had the chance to develop new connections and genuine friendships. The evening ended on a note of hope and optimism for the future of women in business.
Hitchcock adds, “In this room, there is proof of everything I hoped would happen. We have made it. And we have really just begun.”
“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.” Eleanor Roosevelt
P.S. You can join the next PINK event! Be part of the movement to push the needle to advance your own career and help the women around you. Spring Into Action to operate at your highest performance – not just in the job, but in every way – body, mind and spirit.
Get Tickets HERE.
By Cynthia Good & Jessica Wise
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