Three accomplished female leaders shared their experiences and advice with more than 100 students at the University of Georgia’s second annual Women’s Leadership Forum on March 28.
Susan Boyd, an entrepreneur and search consultant who founded S. Boyd Holdings LLC; Julie Brehm, senior vice president human resources for Georgia-Pacific; and Joni Taylor, head coach of UGA’s women’s basketball team, discussed their experiences and answered students’ questions about overcoming career challenges, effectively managing people and striking a work-life balance.
The event was sponsored by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost and AT&T and is part of the campus-wide Women’s Leadership Initiative that was launched in 2015.
“Gender diversity is increasingly being viewed as a priority in both higher education and the business world, and while we have undoubtedly made progress in both, there’s still room for improvement” said Provost Pamela Whitten. “The good news is that we don’t have to look far to find some remarkable and inspiring women who can serve as role models, like the three panelists who have joined us this evening.”
Boyd discussed the importance of building trust with co-workers and those she leads by treating everyone in the workplace with respect.
“I think all leadership is based on trust. It all comes back to how you treat them [the people you lead],” Boyd said. “You can have the highest of expectations, but as long as they know you’ve got their back and their best interests at heart, they’ll run through the wall for you.”
Brehm discussed the value of sharing diverse backgrounds and experiences in a business setting and advised students to embrace what makes them different and to use their unique point of view to initiate change.
“Just be yourself and be proud that you’re a female,” she said. “Be proud of what you bring to the table, because you bring something different. You bring a perspective that a room of guys do not. You have something unique about you because you have a different point of view.”
Taylor discussed fighting self-doubt and overcoming fear in taking risks. She urged students to have confidence in their abilities, to avoid putting limits or ceilings on themselves and to pursue any and every experience they aspire to have.
“Trust your gut. We, as women, a lot of times want to see the finished product before we’re willing to take the risk. You cannot do that,” she said. “You have got to just step out on faith over fear. Take it one day at a time and look at it day by day instead of worrying over ‘where am I going to be five years from now or two years from now or at the end of the year.’”
Since its inception in 2015, UGA’s ongoing Women’s Leadership Initiative has produced new leadership development programming for faculty, staff and students. It also has fostered best practices in areas such as recruitment, hiring and work-life balance.