Lessons Learned from Women at the Top

written by Lauren Ramsey, founder of Betsy Bash, LLC.

It is often assumed that the CEO of a company is a male and statistically, that is primarily the case. In 2016, only 4% of the CEOs on the Fortune 500 list are female.

The Chicago AMA organized a panel of women in the C-Suite to share their journey to the top, how they navigated roadblocks and their advice for young women with similar aspirations. The event was cleverly called the She-Suite and included:

  • Dorri McWhorter, CEO, YWCA Metro Chicago
  • Lisa Petrilli, Chief Operating, Marketing & Strategy Officer, The Thread
  • Sandra Wilson, COO, Wheels Inc.
  • Toni Irving, Executive Director, Get In Chicago
  • Wendy DuBoe, President, CEO, United Way of Metro Chicago
  • Moderated bySusan Rosenstein, President, Susan Rosenstein Executive Search Limited

The evening included questions on topics such as the details on how each woman reached their role and who helped them along the way, the common theme that a pivot was necessary and what their thoughts were on the subject, how to handle setbacks, thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg and work-life balance, and how to manage your career to achieve your goals.

A few quotes from the evening that stood out:

On transparency and setbacks:

“We are defined by so much more than our setbacks; just like we aren’t defined by the things that go really well. “ – Sandra Wilson

“I don’t make mistakes (in regards to life experience). I have lots of unplanned learning experiences. I don’t use the word mistake or failure in regards to life.” – Dorri McWhorter

“Once you’ve made a mistake, move quickly to correct it—it’s amazing how quickly it will go away once you do that.” – Wendy DuBoe

On building your career:

“It doesn’t matter who is in the room. It’s up to you to own it.” – Toni Irving

“Have a sense of self-confidence. Tell yourself you can do something, even if on paper it doesn’t say you can.” – Sandra Wilson

On work-life balance:

“Look within before you lean in. Spend the time to know who you are, and be less of who you are not.” – Lisa Petrilli

“We have 24 allotments in every day to find ways to be joyous. It’s all life—even at work, you’re living your life. Think about how you spend your time instead. I’m fully engaged in the art of living.” – Dorri McWhorter

“There’s a way to find a balance. You have to know what is important first, then you can find the balance.” – Wendy DeBoe

On navigating your career:

“Sometimes the path isn’t straight up. And sometimes, you have to be confident and fly without a net.” – Sandra Wilson

“We live in a big community, try to find a way to help others and connect with others. A handwritten note is like a unicorn these days.” – Toni Irving

The ladies on the panel shared their stories with honesty, humor and compassion. They were approachable and humble despite their long list of accolades. Toni works for the President of the United States, Wendy created a recycling program that was recognized by the United Nations in Geneva, Dorri was listed among the top 100 Innovators in Chicago by the Chicago Tribune’s Blue Sky Innovation, Lisa was named in the Top 20 Social CMOs by Forbes, and Sandra is the COO of one of the largest privately held businesses in the United States. During the event, the audience cheered, laughed and gasped in wonder and awe at their accomplishments and stories, and many rushed to greet them at the close of the event. It was certainly an evening with a panel of experts and one that the Chicago AMA community thoroughly enjoyed.

Lauren Ramsey is the founder of Betsy Bash, LLC, a creative social media agency inspired by her grandmother’s sense of formal etiquette and sassy wit.  She invites you to join her online book club for creative women in business that love to listen to audio books, you can find it on Facebook as Betsy’s Book Club.

Twitter: @LaurenIgnited, @TweetsByBetsy
Web: www.LaurenIgnited.com www.BetsyBash.com

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