My path to leadership has been about people. I have never set my eyes on climbing the career ladder specifically, but on taking the next opportunity to make a difference in workplace health and safety and being able to positively affect more employees in my organization. Being true to my belief in worker protection and being genuine to who I am have been key to my success. Being genuine has given me the confidence to take a strong stance when necessary, speak my mind, and set high expectations for myself and others.
As a health, safety, and environmental professional in the business sector, I learned quickly that influence, leadership, and people are the necessary elements to make change in an organization, no matter the size. To lead others along, you must know where you are going. Setting a clear vision for your organization, or even for your team, is important for successful change. That is one of the most important things I have learned over the years. A former employee once told me that the most important thing I taught him was that a clear vision, strategy, and a bit of structure can transcend furious activity.
I have been lucky to have two great managers who supported me in my first managerial role. They taught me the importance of actively participating in the development of my team, setting expectations, and holding the team accountable. Most importantly, they taught me through example that you could be strong and successful in business by doing the right thing, focusing on people, and acting with integrity. They also created a supportive environment, which allowed me to take on an even bigger role—mother to two small children—while growing in my professional role at work. While it has never been easy to juggle these roles, support for work/life balance is one thing I hope to pay forward to others in our organization.
Has discrimination affected you as a woman in the workplace? How did you deal with it?
I have certainly dealt with harassment, especially early in my career as a consultant to the construction industry, but I do not feel discrimination has affected my career or position with any company. At five feet tall, any discrimination I have dealt with has tended to be a belief that my height somehow relates to my years of experience. When I have encountered it, I have listened for the underlying assumptions the person is making about me based on my age, height, or sex. I then have tailored my approach and communication to directly confront those assumptions. It might be to highlight my length or breadth of experience with management or to be able to talk about machining with the tooling personnel on the shop floor.