I grew up in a small town. During freshman year of high school, my dad told me if I did not complete my application to work at our local nursing home, he would “help” me. Needless to say, I finished it that day. While I was angry at my dad then, the memory is a great reflection as I have grown older.
I met many great people at the nurs- ing home who were dedicated to what they do. That experience, and many others, taught me to appreciate two things: People who work hard and personal responsibility. It also taught me about courage—the courage to do something you may first be resistant to, but once it happens, the lessons learned and changes you experience are worth that initial step. I continue to carry those lessons with me every day, and they are helpful in many situations because they’re so deeply rooted in me.
I was recently discussing challenging issues facing Union Pacific with two individuals I consider not just coworkers but also great friends. We were disappointed about things other leaders were doing wrong, until we realized we were the leaders. We were in positions that should be making a difference—we should be leading by example and changing the status quo. This situation has occurred many times over the course of my career. I’ve learned that it takes hard work, personal responsibility, and courage to truly “be the change.”
We must truly live these words, and encourage others to do so. I not only encourage my teams to do so, I also expect them to consider change as a factor in their work. I also expect my teams and others to have fun, because life is much too short not to have fun.
Has discrimination affected you as a woman in the workplace? How did you deal with it?
I would not use the word discrimination—I would de- scribe it instead as habit, the sta- tus quo, and a slowly adapting model of change, which I also describe as a lack of self-aware- ness by others. I was fortunate that many great women at Union Pacific held jobs before me that broke the status quo and such habits. For me, I deal with un- comfortable situations that might be born of old habits or others’ lack of self-awareness by work- ing to bring awareness to the situation, showing my worth, or in some cases, with a very direct conversation to the offender. It is just like any other leadership challenge—you assess the situ- ation and determine what will motivate people to change in the most effective ways.