Women’s panel talks leadership

On International Women’s Day, the Women Staff Leadership Development Institute (WSLDI) hosted its tenth anniversary professional development event. The event consisted of various discussion panels and a keynote address focusing on women’s leadership.

The WSLDI began in 2008 as a year-long development program available to women staff members. The program has 12 participants each year, and has graduated 79 women.

Operating out of the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women, WSLDI exists to “provide a university-based resource and support system for women professional staff seeking to further their professional skills,” according to their website. These skills include “better communication, more collaboration and the development of trust across university units.”

The event echoed these goals, and President Barbara Snyder presented the welcoming remarks.

“We have to make sure that we do the right things to develop people who have the leadership potential,” Snyder said. “The [WSLDI] plays a critical role in doing just that.”

The first panel focused on risk-taking in careers, and panelists included local business women in leadership positions. Mentorship, resilience and cultivating professional networks were stressed.

One panelist was Alexandria Johnson Boone, the chairwoman and founder of the Women of Color Foundation, as well as owner of GAP Communications Group.

Boone discussed her personal experience of being a professional as a woman of color. She specifically talked about behavioral changes which she felt were necessary to be taken seriously in the context of business.

“You don’t cry at work,” Boone said. “Well, you can cry in the bathroom, you can cry in someone’s car, [but you don’t cry at work].”

When asked for adjectives that describe her career experience as a self-proclaimed “big, black bodacious” woman, Boone had three words: “scary, scary and scary.”

Marsha A. Mockabee, the president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Cleveland, was also included in the panel. She said that the day before the event, she lost her voice. While debating whether or not to cancel on the panel, she saw this as an analogy to her professional career.

“You know what, this is like how my career has been. It’s like the facts don’t count,” Mockabee said. “I believe that I can do anything that I’m supposed to do. I just gotta go through the steps.”

After the panel, the keynote address was presented by FedEx Custom Critical President Virginia C. Addicott. Addicott joined the company in 1986 and worked her way through the ranks.

“The main message is owning your skill set,” Addicott said. “[It’s] owning your career and making sure that [you have the necessary skills] in today’s world. And the other thing is to really be passionate about the possibilities going forward.”

Reflecting on herself as a young professional, Addicott stressed the importance of interpersonal connections in professional careers.

“Really understand and value building relationships and the network, and how to appropriately use that network and those relationships,” Addicott said. “It’s really about building relationships. The relationships you build are what help you get the job done.”

The WSLDI is an ongoing annual program which plans to continue its ten-year tenure of training female staff leaders for years to come.