Northwest Arkansas is home to some of the smartest and most inspiring entrepreneurs. We’re proud to feature a few of our female clients who are leading the way in business. We asked them to talk about the importance of being a woman in leadership in today’s climate. They each tell their stories of overcoming obstacles, hopes for the future and give advice for younger women coming up in the ranks.
President & CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi X
As a woman, it’s more important than ever that we lean into our strengths as empathetic, courageous and vulnerable leaders. We have a workforce who has experienced significant change over the course of the last two years, and it’s leading to burnout, apathy, and a heightened desire to explore other career options. To be truly empathetic, we must listen and build connections with our employees and model empathetic behavior to other leaders. Employees can’t just feel like you are “checking in” – they need to feel like you truly care about their well-being both in the work and in their lives. Courage requires you ask tough questions around how someone is feeling either in their role and contributions, about their future, or personally. At times, the answer may be difficult to hear; however, it will help you understand their needs in a much deeper way. Finally, vulnerability is critical to let people see you are struggling with balancing time at home and how to transition back to the office. If you are having an off day or week, talk about it openly and share how you are getting through the tough moments. By being vulnerable, you show you are human, fallible and create a safe space for others to share their needs. I believe the strengths of empathy, courage and vulnerability come more easily to female leaders, and we should embrace those strengths in the workplace to guide our teams through difficult days, weeks or years.
The biggest obstacles I’ve had to overcome are my own perceived expectations around balancing a senior leadership role and raising a young family. We often assume there is limited flexibility regarding balancing our personal and professional lives as we increase responsibilities. When we decided to start a family, I ensured clear boundaries around travel and being there for important events with my children. I won’t travel more than two nights away unless it’s absolutely necessary, and I won’t miss a birthday, anniversary or an event for my kids. I know those moments are precious, and I truly won’t be able to get them back. Sometimes this may mean I’m not included in something professionally, but if it’s important enough for me to participate, I’ve found this incredibly liberating when determining boundaries and being clear with my expectations. It also ensures we are modeling behavior for others and encourages them to create and share their own.
My hopes for women in the future are that they continue to lead the path in empathetic and vulnerable leadership as our workforce continues to evolve. With many professionals choosing flexible working environments and roles, women leaders can disproportionally lean in to support those who want or need to have flexibility. By supporting flexibility and transparency of needs – both for the person and employer – we can create a career path and experience to benefit both.
Be passionate about what you do and celebrate your unique talents and skills. If you are amazing at speaking and networking, ask your manager how you can do more speaking and networking. And always, always speak up when you have a great idea or see something that needs to be changed. Don’t ever assume it’s already been considered and just didn’t make its way to the next stage. Fresh thinking and ideas are what fuel our business, communities and culture!