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Women’s Equality Day: What Makes a Great Leader?

On August 26, 1920, the U.S. Secretary of State signed the papers necessary to turn the 19th Amendment into law. After seventy-two years of lobbying, protesting and writing to Congress, women now had the right to vote in the United States.

To commemorate the event, in 1971 Congress designated August 26 of each year “Women’s Equality Day.” It’s a day to celebrate the contributions of the women who fought for equal rights, a day to reflect on the contributions that women have made — and will continue to make — to the United States.

To recognize Women’s Equality Day, we asked six women in leadership roles here at Aerotek what they’ve learned over the years about life, leadership and the road to success.

Womens Equality Day Blog Image

What have you learned about leadership over the course of your career, both from watching others and from your own experience as a leader?

“Leadership is a journey and it takes time. Over the years, I have recognized that leadership encompasses three important facets: (1) taking ownership and being accountable for your actions, (2) learning from mistakes and (3) giving and receiving feedback.

Nothing is perfect and leadership requires doing some things that don’t work, but allowing yourself to learn from them and having the humility to admit when you were wrong. Surround yourself with people who will give you real and honest feedback, and in turn, give the same feedback to others even when it is difficult. Constantly strive to do the best you can in every situation.”

- Tessa Lawrence, Director of Field Support

Have you seen the role of women in business change? What, in your experience, has made the biggest difference? Are there things that haven’t changed that you’d like to see begin to shift?

“Women today are shifting the perception of what being a woman in a leadership role looks like, and we are redefining success. We acknowledge and share our struggles and work to find alternative solutions that enable personal AND professional fulfillment in a way that looks different than ever before. In today’s work environment, I see women supporting each other more than ever.”

- Rousana Sandoval, Director of Implementation Services

“I see more women in leadership roles at the director or manager level — which is great — but I want to see more women in the C-suite and in executive positions. In my opinion, those who have ‘made it’ to those positions have strength, confidence and conviction in their voice, opinions and ideas. We need to teach, coach and develop the next generation to achieve their goals in this way.”

- Kim Sneeder, Director of Business Operations

How would you characterize your leadership style? What do you think makes it successful? Are there any aspects of that style that potentially create challenges?

“I have extremely high expectations and ask for the best from my team. I am very fortunate to work for a company that places our core values and guiding principles at the forefront of our business. At times it can be challenging because we lead in a feedback-rich environment — we constantly strive to give constructive feedback to push us to be the best version of ourselves. As a leader, I encourage my team to continue to build relationships with each other, understand each other’s motivators and ultimately make those around you successful.”

- Jodi Nuttall, Director of Business Operations

“I lead by sharing stories of success and failure — both have helped me grow in my own career, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. Being open minded to learning has been imperative to my career growth, so I ask the same of others. I always challenge my team to be curious, ask questions and set clear expectations and goals. It can be challenging to make sure we do not lose sight of these goals. As a leader, it’s important to celebrate the little wins that lead to the expected outcomes. To simplify, lead by example!”

- Michele Cook, Director of Divisional Operations, Scientific

What advice do you have for young women today? Specifically, what’s the one thing they should be sure to do? And what’s the one thing they should avoid doing?

“Be action-oriented and focus on the solution, or the means to the solution, not the problem. Seek help and advice from others to problem solve and drive change. When people harbor negativity or focus on obstacles rather than solutions, they do nothing for themselves or their company. Be a trailblazer!

For me, I was raised in a household where my dad always said, ‘nothing great comes easy.’ Male or female you have to work really hard to be successful. There has never been an easy day for me, but I know I have been given the tools and have been empowered to be a leader.”

- Estelle Izuno, Director of Business Operations

Is there anything else you’d like to have the opportunity to say about your career, women in leadership, or business in general?

“Tackle this crazy thing we call life with conviction and determination. The will to win needs to be vibrant — alive each and every day. Don’t accept the roadblocks that are put in front of you. We all have them, but don’t let them defeat you! It will make your arrival at the pinnacle of success that much better. The journey defines your character, and while it might be challenging, you will be stronger in the end. Conquer each day with the belief that nothing will be put in front of you that you can’t handle. Dare to achieve what others think to be impossible. And then invest in others and bring them with you!”

- Kim Sneeder, Director of Business Operations