Executive Director, CWLI
What is your favorite aspect of being a leader?
Watching people transform in order to reach their fullest potential. Observing them trying new things that will challenge their ideas about what they think they are capable of accomplishing.
What advice do you have for women aspiring to be leaders in their field?
Always remember there are two parts to communication, sending and receiving. Make sure you effectively articulate what needs to be said in a way that will be received for your intended outcome. It’s not about winning, it’s about progressing the issue forward toward the right outcome.
Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
I can name several but I have to credit my mother with modeling leadership that focused on including everyone in the final product. She was a teambuilder who made others know their value and rigorously pushed them toward reaching their full potential. There were no easy outs. She set high expectations and always believed everyone could rise to those expectations.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing female leaders today?
People often assign motive or limits to females that turn into barriers to success. I speak to a lot of women who have encountered stereotyping and dismissiveness by their superiors, coworkers or potential employers. Female leaders are more often confronting misperceptions about their abilities. We are overcoming limited ideas about our capabilities because those ideas persisted before we even began to speak. Therefore, we have to effectively communicate the message we intended to communicate when we walked through the door. We have to focus on the priority at hand and not allow our identity to be defined for us. For example, I once interviewed for a job to work with underserved children in an afterschool program. I was told by the search committee that they were looking for a male to fill the position [because they assumed a female could not adequately relate to the children we served]. Even though I was initially offended and the conversation could have ended there, I navigated the discussion toward the many ways in which I could relate to the children and their families. Most of the children we worked with were being raised exclusively by single mothers or grandmothers. I reminded them of this unique aspect of the organization and that in order to realize the progress we wanted to see in the children, we would need to work closely with these families in addition to the children. I underscored that I was uniquely qualified for that aspect of the job because I am a woman and a mother. The all-male committee saw the situation through new eyes for the first time. I landed the job and we experienced a great deal of success with the families associated to the organization and built relationships that last even to today. I enjoy watching many of those children growing up on social media and enjoy seeing what they are accomplishing. Most women I speak with have a similar story to share of how limits were placed on them before they even got started. Female leaders have to be especially adept at handling these situations and piloting them toward the best possible outcome.
Approximately how many years have you been involved with CWLI and in what committees do you participate?
I worked with CWLI for a year and a half serving on the Development Committee before becoming ED.
What initiatives are you excited to tackle with CWLI?
I want to see us improve our rigor with our offerings. We want to dive deep into the issues facing female leaders today and give them tangible ways to address those issues. We want to see women improving our collaborations and paying forward the best practices for females to achieve the highest levels of success. We want to offer certifications that are relevant to existing and emerging companies so that we can recruit and retain the best talent to Chattanooga. We also want to model creative solutions for bringing female leadership back into the workforce. In today’s world, women should have better access to a work-life blend. We are seeing too much talent leaving the workforce because women don’t feel they have options that will accommodate all the roles they play. We must model that it is possible to be an effective worker, mother, daughter and sister at the same time.
What changes do you hope to see in the organization as it grows?
I would like to see us pilot several new programs and eventually replicate our success into other communities. I will feel successful when women feel they are connected to something that effectively equips them, celebrates their value, and then mobilizes that connectivity to advance female leadership. We are better together and I hope to demonstrate that to the Chattanooga area.
What strides do you think members can take to make more of a difference in women’s leadership issues in the local community?
Speak up and get involved. Our leadership wants to create a process that energizes our substantial membership to participate in identifying relevant issues and working together to formulate a high-quality response to those issues that will have a long term impact on our community.
How would you best describe the benefit found in joining this organization?
Having grown up in my career without the benefit of an organization like CWLI, I can say I made a lot of missteps that could have been avoided in advancing my career if I had had access to the types of resources CWLI can offer. I had a lot of trial and error in learning to communicate effectively. I wish I had had workshops and a Women Mentoring Women program to help guide me. I wish I had had a network of women with whom to counsel when I encountered conflict in the workplace. I think it is easy for us to take for granted the resource that CWLI is to our community. When you experience a community without it, you quickly appreciate the impact CWLI has in Chattanooga.
Want to get to know Kim? Read her feature here.