As we enter Women's History Month and celebrate International Women's Day on March 8th, Engineered Advisory is proud to recognize the many phenomenal women who are part of our community. As a predominantly women-led organization, we value diversity in leadership. From executives to team members, we firmly believe that a diverse leadership team fosters better decision making and a more innovative workplace.
This article features interviews with several accomplished women leaders at Engineered Advisory. Through their own experiences, they share stories of triumphs over adversity and the valuable lessons they've learned along the way. In doing so, they offer insightful advice for women who aspire to become successful leaders themselves.
Challenges and Triumphs
For example, Chris Camara, current Managing Editor at INSIDE Public Accounting Monthly, had to overcome age and gender bias in her previous role as a reporter. She also faced challenges associated with working while pregnant. Some of her colleagues made overly personal comments about her pregnancy, but she knew that speaking up could get her labeled as “some kind of hormonal basket case.” These obstacles forced her to work harder to prove herself, but she ultimately triumphed over them.
Lynn Prange, our Learning Management System Program Manager, shared that she once struggled to advocate for herself and show her worth to her team. Recognizing the importance of taking charge to bring about positive change, Lynn refused to let her insecurities get the better of her. Instead, she became a more confident and assertive leader who could effectively guide her team.
Wendy Whiteford, ABLE’s Director of Product, spent much of her early career in the male-dominated tech industry. At the time, some people felt that women could not have adequate technical skills or the drive required to be effective leaders. But she didn’t let these incorrect assumptions hold her back. Wendy worked hard to grow her expertise, which ultimately enabled her to create an industry-leading software that is currently being used in over three million surgical procedures every year.
Amanda Garner, who is now the Principal of Marketing Services, had trouble finding leadership opportunities before she joined The Growth Partnership. She also observed that, in many organizations, women’s career and leadership opportunities became limited once they started families. Fortunately, Amanda didn’t settle for a career that limited her potential. She is now incredibly appreciative of the “home where [she] is valued and supported as [she] makes [her] career and [her] family” that she has found at The Growth Partnership.
Tess Honan, Chief Operating Officer of the Engineered Advisory family of companies, previously worked in a legacy-dominated field where she struggled to gain respect from those older than her. However, by learning to connect with people in a genuine way and take a gentle yet authoritative approach, she became a more empathetic and effective leader who could handle high-stress situations with ease. These challenges also made her a better communicator and relationship-builder, which are essential skills in leadership.
Heidi Henderson, Engineered Advisory’s Executive Client Development Director, struggled with being stereotyped early on in her career. Some colleagues made judgements based on her outward appearance, and they did not always take her seriously. Because of this, she committed herself to becoming an expert in her field so that she could “prove [herself] and earn [her] clients’ respect as a competent advisor.” By cultivating expertise, Heidi became a well-known and well-respected leader.
It's important to note that not every woman has the same experience with gender bias. For example, Carol Stano, Senior Finance Controller of Engineered Advisory and its subsidiaries, has “never believed that women in today’s world are held back due to their gender.” Instead, she believes it is the choices women make and the reasons for those decisions that determine their success. While Carol's views may differ from those of other women leaders, her perspective adds nuance to the discussion on women in leadership positions. Her emphasis on personal choices and balance in life can also provide useful insights for those striving to become successful leaders.
Women don’t always receive the recognition they deserve for their leadership skills. In fact, they can sometimes even be punished for showing initiative. Chris previously experienced work environments where “assertive women got punished while assertive men got promotions.” Fortunately, her experience at Engineered Advisory has been nothing but supportive.
Lynn also feels appreciated by the Engineered Advisory community. She finds that “our team is great at providing uplifting feedback and verbal recognition.” Likewise, Wendy and Tess feel that they receive much more recognition at Engineered Advisory than they did at other workplaces. Amanda celebrates the fact that her opinions and contributions are rewarded here, but she also acknowledges that not all organizations are equal in the way they recognize women's contributions.
Heidi believes “the best recognition is in results rather than words.” She feels most fulfilled when she sees our community members evolve and grow into new positions as their skills are identified and honed. Similarly, Carol isn’t particularly concerned with receiving verbal recognition. Her work ethic comes from an inner push to do well in the endeavors she sets out to pursue, and her reward is a happy life that is rich with “faith, family, friends, work and fun.”
Qualities of a Good Leader
Strong leadership skills are crucial for women in leadership positions. Successful leaders possess a range of qualities that enable them to excel. Firstly, they should have empathy and the ability to understand and listen to the people they work with, as noted by Chris. Additionally, Carol emphasizes the importance of playing to one's natural strengths, including empathy, when in a leadership position.
Lynn believes that leaders should have excellent communication skills to ensure that everyone feels heard and valued. Leaders should encourage their teammates to bring anything to them, be open to feedback and take accountability for their actions—even when this means owning up to mistakes. They should be emotionally intelligent, capable of maintaining composure in sensitive situations and adaptable enough to work well with different personality types.
Wendy suggests that a good leader should have empathy, trust and vision. Leaders should be willing to learn and listen. Likewise, a good leader should recognize that each team member has different needs, motivations and experiences. Amanda adds that leaders should be able to capitalize on what each individual brings to the table. She finds that being curious, embracing failure as an opportunity to learn and focusing on empowering others can help leaders thrive.
A good leader should be humble, servant-oriented and empowering, according to Heidi. Leaders should encourage those around them to step out of their comfort zones, allowing them to grow. It's also essential for leaders to understand people on a wholistic level, recognizing that each individual has their own unique circumstances. Good leaders listen to others, are empathetic and create solutions that work for everyone, as noted by Tess. Leaders should focus on empowering others, be open to feedback and create solutions that work for everyone.
Advice to Future Leaders
Aspiring women leaders face a unique set of challenges that require resilience and determination. Fortunately, there is much to learn from others who have successfully navigated the path to leadership.
Chris emphasizes the importance of finding a mentor who can offer guidance and support. Additionally, she advises women not to apologize too much or be too self-deprecating, as confidence is key when it comes to leadership.
Lynn encourages women to actively work toward leadership positions rather than just waiting for them to materialize. She advises aspiring leaders to “take control of their fate and work hard for what they want.” However, Wendy cautions against rushing into leadership positions too quickly. She emphasizes the importance of building expertise and working with those who will challenge you to develop your own leadership style.
Wendy also notes that the experience of gradually working your way up to a leadership position may seem like a waste of time, but the knowledge you gain along the way is invaluable. Amanda adds that if you feel you are hitting a ceiling in your current organization, it may be time to consider finding a new workplace that values and rewards your expertise.
Tess advises women to demonstrate confidence, be intentional with relationships and not let hurt feelings get in the way of accepting critical feedback.
Heidi recommends that women recognize that fear, uncertainty and nerves are normal. She advises taking a deep breath and taking a leap of faith, asking for what you want and seeking real feedback to keep moving forward.
It’s not always easy for women to receive recognition for their leadership skills. However, at Engineered Advisory, women are celebrated for their many contributions to the community. Having qualities such as empathy, excellent communication skills, emotional intelligence, adaptability and curiosity enables our leaders to achieve success. Women aspiring to leadership positions can learn much from these experienced professionals.
Engineered Advisory remains committed to recognizing the unique skills of every member of our community, and we are proud to celebrate women in leadership today and every day.