By Lindsay Andrews
We’ve heard it from so many PA Chamber and PA Chamber Insurance members – it’s been a difficult two years. Shutdowns, economic uncertainties, health scares, illness, juggling work and personal obligations have led to so many struggles that it’s doubtful anyone thinks about them with a feeling of positivity. But take a deep breath and another moment … one of reflection. Think about the lessons you’ve learned. The ones that can only come from the struggle. What words appear in your mind now? Strength. Resilience. Determination. Spirit. Grit.
Interestingly, as we celebrate Women’s History Month this March, these words align with many of the terms I’d use to describe the female colleagues that I now have the pleasure of greeting again in the halls of the PA Chamber’s Harrisburg office with more regularity. We’ve had a lot of meetings behind Zoom screens these last 24 months, hearing dogs barking and kids yelling in the background as we continued to work on behalf of our PA Chamber and PCI members. Now that COVID vaccines and treatments and a drop in case counts have afforded us a bit of return to normalcy and a pause for reflection, I’m able to view positive takeaways from the tumultuous times we’ve experienced.
When I think of the women that I’m fortunate to work with, I’m glad to have gotten to know more about them as individuals, and I feel grateful that through the blurred work-and-home life lens we’ve been able to see more humanity in one another. We learned that we’re all sometimes trying to hold things together as best we can; understanding that it truly “takes a team” to get the job done and that we need to lean on each other when the daycare is closed, or someone’s spouse is sick, or distance learning requires some flexibility. Simply put, we’re a stronger team than we were when we departed the office for a “two-week hiatus” in mid-March 2020 – but we’ve always have been a strong group of female leaders.
In the spirit of Women’s History Month, in what we’ve been through these last two years and what we know we’ll be able to handle going forward, I’ll let some of the women on the PA Chamber/PCI team share their leadership advice with you in this special blog post.
Lindsay Andrews, Director of Member Communications, PA Chamber: Becoming a female leader means taking the time to recognize, master and build upon your strengths; never stop embracing opportunities to learn new things; celebrate other women along their journeys; know and own your professional voice; and take the time to be a “servant leader” by giving back to your community. In the workplace I aim to be someone that women can come to for help, advice, and casual conversation! My version of leadership is allowing women of all walks of life to see me for “me” and realize that we’re really all the same – a masterpiece and work in progress at the exact same time.
Carissa Burgett, Assistant to the President and Board Administrator, PA Chamber: In terms of female leadership, it’s women who set the example – women who show up, work hard and strive to be inclusive. It’s women who don’t let their egos get the best of them, and when they notice the “table” isn’t big enough for even themselves to have a seat, they choose to build a bigger table and invite everyone to have a seat. In day-to-day work life, people underestimate the power of empathy and compassion! As a leader, it feels like sometimes there is pressure to be authoritative and aggressive. By leading with passion, drive, grit, and kindness, I can show I am a leader without having to say I am one.
Jane Filippelli, Senior Client Service Specialist, PA Chamber Insurance: I am proud to work for an organization with many outstanding females in leadership roles, and it’s inspiring to see opportunities within our organization to lead and grow. I lead by example and am fortunate to have the leaders in our organization do the same. If you expect hard work and quality results, you need to be prepared to put in the same work you are asking of others.
Leslie Gervasio, Director of Public Affairs, PA Chamber: When I think back on my career, the female leaders who influenced me the most balance empathy, compassion, and humility with their ambition. Female leadership means bringing out the best in other women and giving them their moments to shine. Women cannot be afraid of each other on the path to success. There is plenty of room at the top of the career chain to support other women – and we need to make more room for each other. Leadership in my work life means moving out of my comfort zone. It also means being a support system for other female colleagues.
Sue Smith, Educational Services Executive, PA Chamber: Female leaders, for the most part, are more willing to sit down and work as a team, negotiate, are extremely hard workers, pay attention to the details, and show empathy. They bring a unique perspective that is teamwork-focused, coaching employees instead of criticizing, getting parties with different viewpoints to sit down and talk with each other for the best solution, and more. Female leaders are the ones who excel at these skills needed for the Future of Work. I believe in the servant leadership style. Leading starts with leading yourself – showing integrity and compassion, and passing this on to others. When I lead others, I want them to have the resources and tools they need to succeed, and I want them to succeed. It’s a win-win for everyone and is the best culture a company can have.
Deb Steffey, Member Relations Associate, PA Chamber: Female leadership in the workplace means being a role model for today’s working women at work and at home; having a broader impact on pay equity and perhaps finally achieving equal pay for equal work; attracting a more diverse work environment; achieving the possibility of bringing more empathy, a clearer line of communication and transparency to the workplace. And for me, personally, I try to bring that leadership to the office by mastering my job; listening and learning from others; speaking up and sharing ideas; embracing new ideas for performing job responsibilities; and encouraging colleagues.
Jill Wilson, Senior Business Analyst, PA Chamber: Someone who inspires me through female leadership would be honest and engaged with everyone, not just with who they want to impress. It would be someone not afraid to remove their mask; someone we would be inspired to follow and see, know and relate to. I work to lead by showing up every day with gratitude and kindness. And by admitting that I may not have the answer, but I will do my best to find it, or at least get us in the right direction. To me, true leadership is never giving up.
This blog post is dedicated to the memory of Kris Nieves, a true female leader in our workplace. May her spirit continue to burn bright in all those who knew her.
Lindsay Andrews is Director of Member Communications for the PA Chamber.