How Women Rise: Self-determination, Allies, Mentors and Sponsors
By Cerrina Jensen
THIS IS THE SIXTH and final installment of a multi-part series which has featured a Q&A format based on the book “How Women Rise,” by Marshall Goldsmith and Sally Helgesen, with responses from some of the speakers slated to present at the 2nd CAHU Women’s Leadership Summit, now rescheduled for April 7-9, 2021, at the Green Valley Ranch Resort just outside Las Vegas.
As a reminder, while our focal point has been female leadership and the habits covered in the book that can hamper success, it’s meant to shed light on these issues for not just women but the men we work, live and play alongside.
This final question, compliments of Amy Evans, is, “Some of us have built our careers through sheer self-determination, without any external support. Others have had the benefit of allies, mentors or sponsors who have helped us to navigate our career paths. Many of us have found success and look beyond ourselves to support other women in our industry. How can we be good advocates for each other and provide meaningful support and opportunities? How can we help other women find success? Has there been someone in your career who has advocated for you?”
Our responses this month come from Lisa Hutcherson and Leilani Quiray, both of whom have contributed to multiple installments of this series.
“This question calls me to reflect deeply on the women who gave me their time and attention along this career journey. Many times they reminded me that my open doors were symbolic of laying bricks that would build bridges for other women to cross. That my walk in this industry and life would be one of change, tearing down walls and advocating for those who have not yet found their truth. It has been said to me often from women who entered this space long before me, ‘whenever you are invited to the table (board room, business meeting, golf outing) make sure that you show up.’ These are words that I live by today both personally and in business. I am reminded daily that as an African American woman who has experienced abundant levels of success in the insurance industry.
The following actions must be an intentional part of my daily drive:
- Pay it forward by helping others navigate through the systemic stereotypes and bias
- Edify and encourage one another
Provide coaching, direction and a sounding board for strategic conversations
- Sponsor others by making recommendations and introductions for career opportunities when I have a seat at the table.
“This is how I have been able to advocate, support and bring possible opportunities to women. There have been many women in my career that have walked alongside and who have sometimes carried me on this career journey. Coaching me on how to keep my skills sharp and relevant. Encouraging me during difficult seasons by reminding me of who I am and the quiet strength that lies within. Pushing me to move forward sometimes with caution and other times with great confidence and certainty. When it’s all said and done, what matters most is my ability to look beyond myself, knowing that I have a unique opportunity to impact the lives of other women and the communities and households they serve. This is my big picture thinking.”
“A few years ago when I started my business I reached out to people on LinkedIn and asked them to coffee or lunch. I would write to them something like, ‘I’m not a weirdo. I’m not trying to sell you anything. I’m honestly looking to make my LinkedIn connections a real-life connection.’ Also, I didn’t use the LinkedIn tools they provide. I was writing this myself.
“Why did I do this? Because a person had commented, asking if I knew “so and so” and I didn’t.
“Results? I met the most influential, nicest, supportive people in my community and beyond.
“So here’s what I do now—no matter who the person is or where they are in their career (or even if they do not have one)—I say YES to meeting with them. And when I do, I am sure to uplift them, encourage them, tell them my story (life and business) and offer my support as they rise. We all have to help each other along our life paths to do great things and care for each other!”
“I want to personally thank each of the amazing colleagues who contributed to this series, starting with Amy Evans who envisioned the idea and formulated six intriguing questions for us to ponder and articulate. Special thanks to Lisa Hutcherson as well, who responded to all six calls for input…nothing short of amazing, if you ask me! I greatly appreciate Emma Fox, Stephanie Berger, Leilani Quiray and Amira Alvarez for their great insights as well. It’s been an honor to work on this for the last six months, particularly given the strange times we’re living through in the age of COVID-19. I’ve learned so much. Hope you have, too!”