April 20, 2023
In March, Theresa Allen and Parker Suddeth, two representatives of Dix & Eaton, attended the 2023 Northern Ohio Women in Leadership Symposium, hosted by the National Diversity Council. This year’s symposium theme was “Rising in Resilience: Achieving Empowerment through Advancement & Adaptability,” and the event featured presentations from four women in northern Ohio who hold executive positions. This blog post includes the reflections and takeaways of our attendees.
Theresa Allen, Controller
When I walked into the 2023 Northern Ohio Women in Leadership Symposium, I saw a diverse group of women of various nationalities, as well as a few men (including Parker). My goals in attending were seeking new ideas for advancing our DEIB initiatives at Dix & Eaton and connecting with others on a similar journey. The symposium was a panel presentation format where four executive women in Northern Ohio shared their experiences and views on “Breaking the Glass Ceiling,” “Out of Bounds,” “Challenging Social Norms,” “Diversity of Womanhood” and “Learning & Unlearning: The Narrative of Social and Personal Growth.” I walked out of the symposium with more than expected and left feeling empowered but knowing that I had some self-reflection to do. Here are three takeaways that I found most impactful.
1. Believe in Yourself
When walking into the symposium, I felt like I was not worthy or deserving of my job title, which is Controller. This lack of confidence is very common among people of color. One of the panelists, Margarita Diaz, Director of Inclusion, Diversity, and Health Equity at The MetroHealth System, directly addressed this topic and reinforced the importance of being confident and believing in ourselves. I do deserve this title. I worked hard and deserve to be where I am in life at this moment in time, and I can stop trying to prove myself. This is one of my goals – to honor my worth and believe in myself, and trust that I am exactly where I need to be.
2. Setting Boundaries
Susan Kuznik, Dean of Carmel Boyer School of Business at Baldwin Wallace University, said, “Don’t say yes when you want to say no and don’t say no when you want to say yes.” That statement really resonated. Admittedly, I have a difficult time with saying no, especially when it comes to work-related tasks. Learning to set boundaries and say no in both my personal and professional life is a worthy goal. Women of color are conditioned to accept that we have to work four times as hard as everyone else to get to the same exact place as our white peers. So, because of that deeply ingrained lesson, rarely do I say no. As a result, my plate becomes incredibly full, I feel overwhelmed and on the verge of a breakdown, but still manage to smile through it all. I need to learn that it’s ok to say no sometimes.
3. Unrealistic Expectations
It was a relief to know that I am not the only one who sets unrealistic expectations for myself, and that I wasn’t alone. Tamra Billinghurst-Black, Corporate Vice President, Human Resources at New York Life Insurance, talked about how she, too, had unrealistic expectations for herself. Tamra stated that no one is perfect and challenged everyone in attendance to unlearn setting those unrealistic expectations to prevent themselves from burnout. I sat there realizing that unrealistic expectations are the result of my desire to be everything to everyone in order to engage in perfectionism. The reality is that I can’t be everywhere to everyone at once. What good am I to anyone if I am burnt out? I have to take off my cape and realize that I am not a superwoman. I can be the best controller, mother, daughter, sister, and friend that I can – just not all at the same time, and that’s OK.
Parker Suddeth, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Advisor
Upon walking into the room, I immediately realized I was one of very few men in attendance. My immediate thought was, “I wish more men were here to have the opportunity to listen to the wisdom and depth the panelists brought as they shared the insights they’ve gleaned throughout their careers.” The symposium reaffirmed for me the need for men to continue to advocate for equity and the advancement of women within the workplace. Each of the panelists spoke at length about the stereotypes, barriers, and biases they’ve overcome and continue to navigate.
Throughout the discussion, the panelists spoke about the importance of recognition for their work by their male counterparts. Their insights lead me to suggest that in the workplace, recognition should be given to acknowledge the contributions of women, and to foster opportunities for mobility within the organization. We need to also call out and challenge the status quo when striving for equity to ensure that expectations are uniform.