In celebration of Women’s History Month and in recognition of our supportive family culture, we brought together a few of our incredible women in leadership to share their insight on personal and professional growth. Within this conversation, you’ll hear from Paper Mart leaders:
On Being A Woman In Leadership & Success
What is the most challenging part about being a woman in a leadership position and what has helped you succeed?
Allison: When I was starting out, I didn’t have strong female business leaders to model my career after. Many were overcompensating by being tough or competitive. As I moved into leadership positions, it was important for me to be a good example to my female employees.
A great legacy is to set up the next generation of female leaders for success. By supporting and nurturing their talents, we’re teaching them they can succeed and be themselves at the same time.
Jennifer: Early on in my leadership career, it took quite some time for me to gain respect from men in the same or a higher position than myself. I overcame this adversity by working hard and letting my work ethic and confidence show how much of an asset I can be to the team.
Julia: I think the most challenging part is not to continually criticize yourself, but accept what you can change and the difference that you can make. I believe what has helped my success is resilience – the ability to stand up for what is the right thing to do while it isn’t always popular but knowing it is the right thing.
Also, picking the right battles. You can’t fight them all. Choosing them carefully is an art and knowing you are going to win some and you are going to lose some is important.
Linda: IT is a highly male dominated profession, Paper Mart looked beyond my gender and saw the skills that I had to offer.
Sherie: Personally, success has and continues to be a collaborative effort with my team, my colleagues and, of course, my family. I feel you cannot truly be successful without the support of them all.
What advice do you have for those striving to achieve a leadership role?
Linda: Set your goals and work hard toward them. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.
Julia: Listen and observe, don’t be afraid to stand up for what you know is right and don’t be afraid to fail. That is how we learn and grow.
Allison: Being a good leader takes time. Empowering your team and helping them thrive in their environment requires keen observation and listening. Finding out what motivates each individual and knowing how to challenge them without overwhelming them will provide the greatest results.
It’s also important to bring your authentic self to work. My Dad instilled in me from an early age to act as if everything I did would be known by all. Throughout my career, I would feel pressure to be someone I wasn’t, but at the end of my career, I will be proud of my decisions and accomplishments because they were done with my values.
Jennifer: The most important skill I learned is to actively listen to your colleagues and employees. Listening shows engagement, that you are open to new ideas and constructive criticism and want to build relationships. Listening is the best way to encourage stronger communication between you and your team!
Sherie: You have to be willing to work as a team, be open to others and their suggestions or advice. Stand by what you believe in and trust your gut.
On Role Models, Personal Growth, & Paper Mart
Are there women or role models that have opened doors for your career or personal growth?
Jennifer: Until Paper Mart, I did not know a lot of women in executive positions that I was able to look up to. I do however have to thank my Mom for all that she did for me as I was growing up. She is a single mother that worked hard every day for her family. She showed me that with hard work and dedication, you can achieve your dreams.
Allison: Early on I had a boss that coached me to speak up and share my ideas and accomplishments with my colleagues. I made the mistake of assuming everyone was noticing my good work and I would seem boastful if I shared.
Over the years, I’ve found that women will often keep quiet and not speak up like their male counterparts, and this can ultimately hold you back in your career.
Linda: My Mother. She never let anyone tell her she couldn’t achieve her goals.
Julia: I have had some pretty amazing women who I have worked with and it would be difficult to select just one or two.
What do you like about working at Paper Mart and specifically working with other women on the team?
Sherie: Currently my team consists of all women. I feel we all work well together whether we are in agreement or have differences of opinions.
My hope is that my team trusts me and feels comfortable discussing with me any and all concerns they may have.
I also feel Paper Mart allows women to have an active voice. I do not feel stifled or limited by being a woman in any way.
Linda: I love the comradery. Everyone is always willing to help each other.
Jennifer: I am inspired each day by the women on the executive team and am constantly learning from them. They all bring a different perspective and new ideas that contribute to the ever changing and amazing company that Paper Mart is today.
Julia: Paper Mart is probably the best company I have worked for. This is the one place that I feel I can offer suggestions or ideas and we aren’t afraid to try them.
The women on our team are also amazing – we have a respect for each other in our chosen fields. We also laugh a lot. I think you really have to keep your sense of humor.
I also know that we are always there for each other when we need a listening ear.