When I began my career more than 30 years ago, I was keenly aware of the challenges women faced in the work force. As the first female sales rep for Dow’s Building and Construction business, I knew few women I could look up to as mentors, leaders and innovators in my industry. Like law, medicine and many other careers at that time, the engineering and sales professions were dominated by men and diversification was not a top priority.
Today, women have a much greater opportunity for achievement as companies have welcomed the potential found within the female work force and have recognized that they are at a competitive disadvantage without it. Being a woman who has experienced a rewarding and successful career, I am compelled to harness the lessons I’ve learned along the way and to share them with future leaders.
It is my philosophy that leaders must be visible and accessible role models and coaches and that people development is one of our most important roles. As corporate vice president for human resources and diversity and inclusion, I see this as a key part of my job description today, but it is also something I have always considered to be a very important personal responsibility.
In light of this, the most critical pieces of advice I offer to young people are to think, act and work outside the bounds of your job description. I’ve found that the people who are most successful are those who extend their responsibilities beyond what is expected of them. Leadership does not require a senior level title, a large corner office or a six-figure paycheck. Leadership requires helping others, building pride in our organizations, being candid, truthful and trustworthy, showing people we care and, ultimately, doing our best to enable business success.
But to be a leader, you must first discover your unique qualities. Our individual talents are what set us apart and solidify our value within a company. They are what gives us the confidence to take initiative, motivate others and gain respect from our colleagues. So to all the future leaders out there, I urge you to discover, embrace and apply the qualities that make you great. I guarantee you will be positioned for a successful and rewarding career.