From the housewife to the secretary, to the teacher and nurse, women have broken numerous barriers over the past century, including winning the right to vote. Despite these advances, women still earn just 77 cents to every dollar a man earns according to the U.S. Census. Additionally, women may have to work several years longer to gain the identical position attained by male counterparts.
Harrison College and Dress for Success Indianapolis recently hosted a forum titled “Success Behind the Suit” featuring Indiana Secretary of State, Connie Lawson.
“This isn’t something I’m necessarily proud of, but I am not a college graduate,” stated Lawson who began her career as a county clerk. “I wish I was but I also think the message is, if you believe in yourself, be confident and work hard, it still can be done.”
Among Lawson was Jeronna Bolden, owner of ICON LLC., and Kelly Mead, vice president of human resources at FitzMark to share their success stories and offer career advice for women.
While Mead shared her story of earning a undergraduate and master’s degree as a nontraditional student, Bolden focused on the importance of building a professional brand.
“It’s so important to know who you are and what talents, skills and weaknesses you have. Once you’ve decided and assessed who you are, take note of how you’re putting yourself out there on social media. What are your habits and how do they coincide with your personal brand,” said Bolden. “You hold the power to your success.”
Mead said when it came to personal development, her biggest barrier was herself. She began working at the Better Business Bureau in her early 20s as executive assistant to the CEO and after being promoted several times and working for the company for 10 years, Mead felt as if she hit a wall and desired a change.
“I felt like a kid from a small town who wanted to get out to the big city, but I found I couldn’t make a lateral move without a degree,” stated Mead who decided to pursue a college education at the age of 35. “I kept making all of these excuses about why I couldn’t go back to school. There were times I thought ‘what am I doing? I gave up such a good job to go back to school and now I’m broke and in school all day with 20-year-olds.’”
When asked what advice Lawson had for women looking to begin or advance their careers, she said confidence and humility are key.
“I never thought I would be secretary of state, but when Mitch Daniels called me, I decided I would. You have to be ready when the time comes,” she said. “For young women, confidence is everything but humility is important too. If you’re in a position and there is something you want to do that takes other people’s approval, don’t ever be afraid to let people know you want to pursue something.”
Lawson recommends the book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg.
The trio also recommended women take a look at their current talents, assess the position they are seeking and discover a way to build missing skills.