Last Thursday night at the Junior League of Houston’s 2014 Leadership Institute Event, Gabriela Gerhart, Founder and President of The Motherhood Center, Susan M. Distefano, CEO Children’s Memorial Hermann, Tammie Kahn, Executive Director of the Children’s Museum, and Mary Beth Staine, Executive Director at Bo’s Place, shared their views on how women are transforming the workplace. Courtney Perna, Junior League member and Great Day Houston Reporter moderated the event. Each panelist gave a unique perspective on what it means to be transformative and shared their insights on leadership skills and managing professional and personal lives. The keynote speakers, including Moderator Courtney Perna, all had a wide variety of personal backgrounds and experiences that lead them to where they are today.
Susan M. Distefano, CEO of Children’s Memorial Hermann said, “Making the leap into a new career path should feel scary enough that it excites you, to where you question if you have the guts to do it and then thinking, maybe I can.” She said this feeling of scary/excitement, transfers into the energy to perform.
An audience member asked the panelists if they thought taking a career break to be a stay-at-home-mom was a mistake. Their response was no, not to fear it, that even Sandra Day O’Connor (the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court) was a stay-at-home-mom for a period of time. Mary Beth Staine, Executive Director at Bo’s Place, said, “You have to do what is right for your family and be confident in your decisions.”
Mary Beth also said it is easier for women to make transitions than men, using the example of her husband having the same job throughout the years while she made several career switches. Mary Beth advised to look for opportunities to use your strengths and when a change is good you will sense it, the idea of that change will energize you.
The panelist also advised to be selective in how many emotional words you use, that men in the workplace rarely use “feeling” words. Also using the terms “I just (fill in blank)” or “I’m sorry” are examples of things women say that can minimize their presence in a room. Gabriela Gerhart, Founder and President of the Motherhood Center said often times when women are given a compliment they do not accept it. She used the example of a dress, for instance, someone compliments your dress and you may say, “it is old”, or “I bought it at a discount.” She said, “When you receive a compliment, own it. Say thank you!”
Tammie Kahn, Executive Director of the Children’s Museum, expressed that the workplace today is more open to transformation now than it has been in the past. She said to look at your skill set, follow your passion and challenge yourself for great achievement.
All four women did say their success is driven by their passion. They genuinely love their work.