We recently wrapped up the 2018 Comerica Bank Women's Business Symposium: Detroit, one of our annual networking events specifically for women striving to reach new heights in the business world. The event featured a variety of speakers, discussions and networking sessions. During this time, we were able to sit down and have a direct conversation with three of our presenters. Here's a look at what they had to say:
Hailing from Puerto Rico, Ivette Mayo came to the U.S. as a six-year old with a significant language barrier: she could not speak English. As part of a military family, she moved around frequently and had to constantly cope with change in her life. Because of this, she developed skills in adapting to different life situations and cultures, giving her a willingness to ask questions, get help, and constantly learn. These skills have paid off throughout her career as an entrepreneur. She is an author, consultant, business coach and parent.
During our conversation, Mayo emphasized that, throughout childhood, many women are not trained to lead. The cultural expectations in many parts of society place men in traditional leadership roles, contributing to a perception among many women that they aren't able to fulfill these positions. The truth is that women are not only fully capable of leading but can also look to many other women as role models.
It's time to break the glass ceiling and rupture the barrier that stops women from embracing opportunities and supporting one another and pushes them to default to cultural norms. Furthermore, the perception of the glass ceiling can create fear and hold women back. Mayo emphasized the importance of being able to handle change as women strive for greatness.
"One of the things that we have to do to create change and innovation in the workplace is that we have to challenge traditional mindsets," said Mayo. "As we grow as a community, as technology becomes a variable in our industries … We have to be willing to change. Our culture has to fit the people we serve."
Dr. Shawne Duperon
As the founder of Project: Forgive, a 6-time Emmy winner, a media trainer, and a research and communications consultant, Dr. Shawne Duperon has ample experience leading organizations and tackling cultural and gender issues in the workplace. In fact, she's moved beyond many of the longstanding issues that often come up in "women in business" types of conversations.
When speaking with her, she mentioned that key topics, such as women specifically supporting women, are no longer relevant in her circles because practices have simply evolved. The leaders she engages with have come to understand the importance of diversity in the workplace and created an environment in which the culture is simply people supporting people.
We asked Duperon about the kind of advice she would give women striving to advance their careers, and she quickly highlighted one of her major personal philosophies: forgiveness. Duperon mentioned that many women can carry around guilt as they try to balance the expectations they have for themselves with the pressures from society, family and similar sources. Letting go of that guilt and forgiving oneself is critical to moving forward. It is also vital, according to Duperon, to not hold on to past harms and wait for an apology. Instead, learn to accept the apology you will never receive.
"To me, [forgiveness] is everything [in leadership]. As leaders, we take risks. Especially now, [business is] so disruptive, so agile … you have to take some risks to see what will work or what won't work," said Duperon. "What worked three months ago is not working now. The ability to take risks takes a strong ability to not only forgive yourself, but to also forgive your team. If you don't have that forgiveness in that realm of risk-taking, you're not going to go for it. You're not going to really step out in those realms of disruption, and that's what it's really all about right now - disruption."