Chair’s Corner: Reach out to those you admire

Greetings Women’s Network Members:

Plenty of opportunities continue to evolve in Women’s Network with applications recently closing for ATHENA and ATHENA Young Professional, and now being accepted for the Carrie D. Francke Memorial Scholarship, the Debin Benish Outstanding Businesswoman Award, as well as the 2018-2019 Leadership Roles for Committee Co-Chairs, Steering and Officers. All of these remind me of the outstanding women who have held leadership roles, past, present and will do so in the future continuing to make our organization strong. Chambers and other programs throughout the country look at our organization as a model on how to successfully network and together lift one another up in the common cause of personal and professional growth.

As we plan for our future I couldn’t help but think of those leaders who had the vision to step up and create our organization, and the countless number of women they have cleared a path for along their way, just two of them being Carrie Franke and Debin Benish. I was not lucky enough to know Carrie, other than to witness headlines of her early career in public service, but Debin Benish was one of the first female business leaders I was introduced to as I was beginning my career in Columbia. She mastered her male-dominated trade, owning and operating her local Computer IT Firm. Finding myself in a career where I was the only female in my office and working with contractors who were my senior, I was thankful for the time I could spend with her. She was a thoughtful teacher with a joyful disposition (her laugh was contagious), she would cut away to important phone calls as we visited and I would witness her as a tough negotiator and empathetic leader in those moments. I quickly identified her as not only a strong female role model but a strong role model period. Although she was taken from her family and community too soon, I will never forget her kindness and generosity to a young woman in the beginning stage of her career.

I found Debin, as well as other women I admired at an early age, on my mind a lot this month. Maybe it was sitting through the Women’s Network Mentoring Committee’s feedback sessions, where the committee takes great time and effort to match mentees with mentors who will not only help them accomplish their goals through the program, but who will also leave lasting impressions on them as Debin and many others have done for me.

I also was provided a bit of a second chance this month with an extraordinary person I admire. I first met her when I was attending the University of Missouri but I didn’t take the time to really get to know her, so when an opportunity arose that I could sit down and talk to her last month I was smart enough to recognize it as a gift. An outstanding woman with many “firsts” on her list for women in our community, university and country! She literally shattered glass ceilings through her career, not afraid to step up and challenge injustice, and making the way easier for those who would follow, and at 77 years old, she is still doing it today. We visited about many things, one being the female advantage to leadership. Interestingly, as accomplished as she is today, she felt that the “balancing act” we all are taught to strive for never got easier; but optimistically, she also felt it led to much of her success. She recounted how home life was an asset, and family development and organization development have similar cycles, which allow women to have a different approach on leading. According to the book “The Female Advantage: Women’s Way of Leadership” by Sally Helgesen, women are far more likely to lead through a networked web, to nurture and to respect co-workers and subordinates as whole people. More unafraid to “do the right thing” and to address societal or business wrongs forthrightly, even at some personal peril. In fact, many corporate cultures are now stressing the importance of leading with empathy to our male counterparts.

In conclusion, this month I encourage you to reach out to those you admire, successful leaders are more approachable then you would ever imagine, and eager to share information and their networks. Next, look in the mirror, that intelligent person looking at you is a mentor. Whether you are young or “seasoned,” in the beginning of your career or at the top, you are making an impact on others. So take time to share your gifts and make everyday positive in your own lives as well as others.

All my best,

Michele Batye

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