Men don’t think through everything, while women sometimes think too much. Babies don’t always come at just the right time in your life. If you want to be a leader in your profession, be the person who takes on any challenge. If you support and promote other women in your profession, it will come back to you.
Six of Louisville’s most influential female business leaders from a wide variety of careers and life experiences talked about those issues and more April 17 at the Women in Leadership Forum at the University of Louisville College of Business. All are members of the college’s board of advisors and several have served on the university’s board of trustees, as well as the board of the foundation.
Margaret Handmaker, who earned her law degree at UofL in 1978, noted that when she was in law school, she could not have a credit card in her own name. Later, her law income couldn’t count toward the mortgage.
“It wasn’t a century ago,” said Handmaker, who is president of Ellico, a consulting firm, had a 30-year career with Mercer, and served as Kentucky secretary of revenue and Louisville’s chief of economic development. “Don’t take it for granted.”
The other panelists were Diane Medley, COB alumnus and managing partner and co-founder of accounting firm Mountjoy Chilton Medley LLP, the largest CPA firm in the region; Nikki Jackson, regional executive and senior vice president of the Louisville branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and a 2017 Business First “Woman of Influence;” entrepreneur Dana Bowers, founder of Venminder and iPay Technologies; Divya Cantor, MD, who earned three degrees at UofL and is regional vice president and senior clinical officer of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kentucky; and Camilla Schroeder, UofL COB alumnus and president of Advance Ready Mix Concrete.
In discussing barriers to success, Schroeder cited balancing a career and children. “In my experience, you have to have a great support network for (children),” said Schroeder.
Cantor, who is an OB/GYN, said that babies don’t always arrive at the most convenient times. “It’s part of our lives to make it happen and make it work,” she said.
Medley said the conversation about women and work/life balance should focus on figuring out “how to do it all. Why do you have to choose?” Handmaker quickly added that women “don’t have to do it all at the same time. You can do some things consecutively,” and suggested options such as working three days a week when a woman has children.
When asked how they stave off health problems and burnout, Cantor cited her exercise routine, which she called her “sacred time.”
Schroeder also emphasized the importance of exercise and said she has been working with an executive coach. But she cautioned: “Some curveballs you can never prepare yourself for.”
Handmaker’s recommendation was to “take time for friendships. Friends take the pressure off everything.”
In a discussion about best and worst decisions, Jackson said her best decision was agreeing to join the first Beshear administration as secretary of the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet, even though she felt she was “arguably ill-prepared.” With a laughing nod to heat and tarantulas, she said her worst decision was leaving Kentucky to take a job in Arizona.
Later she said women do a disservice to themselves by not speaking publicly and honestly about their anxieties and imperfections. She also advised that women “watch what we breathe life into,” cautioning against turning small points into big issues.
Bowers told the audience not to be afraid to take on challenges and make mistakes along the way. “Just own it and fix it,” she added, saying women need to position themselves to be leaders. Make sure there isn’t any job you ask someone else to do that you wouldn’t do yourself, she said.
COB Dean Todd Mooradian closed the hour-long discussion in the college’s PNC Horn Auditorium, saying the college is focused on embracing, nurturing and investing in the success of all students.
The forum, sponsored by the student chapter of the Association of Women MBAs, was moderated by COB professors Beth Davis-Sramek and Kristen Lucas. The association plans to hold a similar program annually.