Advice, success stories abound at Women in Leadership panel program

BUIES CREEK, North Carolina – Each a respected leader in their field and each with a Campbell connection, five women shared insights to their success and offered career social advice to more than 100 students at Monday night’s Women in Leadership panel hosted by the University’s Student Government Association.

The panel — N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Ann Marie Calabria (’83 Law), School of Engineering Dean Jenna Carpenter, School of Nursing Director Nancy Duffy, N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (’82 Law) and N.C. Independent Colleges & Universities President Hope Williams — took questions from SGA Vice President and 2016 Miss Campbell Sue Ann Forrest, talking of the obstacles they faced in their career climb and the qualities they possess that make them solid leaders. Their audience consisted of mostly young women — with a few men scattered about — and many of their answers served as guidance for those who’ll one day go on to positions of authority.

“Value your goals as a leader, but value the tasks those you lead have to do to achieve those goals,” said Duffy, who took over Campbell’s new nursing program in 2013. “You have to be an advocate and speak up for both yourself and your staff.”

Duffy shared the story of her first month at Campbell when she was tasked with completing a 276-page application for Campbell’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in 23 days. That application included course descriptions and syllabi for 16 courses, a curriculum and letters from clinical agencies Duffy had never met when she took over. Her leadership skills were put to the test, she said.

“It was really the people around me who gave me a groundswell of support,” she said. “There were many late nights, early mornings and breakfasts, lunches and dinners eaten [in my office].”

Carpenter, a national speaker on the need for more women in STEM careers and the biases that keep many women out of those fields, spoke of the challenge for young women to overcome implicit bias — attitudes or stereotypes that affect one’s understanding, actions or decisions in an unconscious manner. They’re often shaped by societal views, and while women have come a long way in leadership, they’re still underrepresented at the highest levels of the career ladder. According to the Center for American Progress, women make up 52 percent of all professional-level jobs in the U.S., yet make up just 15 percent of all executive officers, 8 percent of top earners and under 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.

“The biases women face in our culture are at odds of what we expect from our leaders,” Carpenter said. “We fight this by educating ourselves and by not taking it personally. By doing a better job of managing around it.”

Each speaker shared personal stories that led directly or indirectly to their success. Marshall said she entered the office of Secretary of State at a time of controversy and low morale in the department. In addition to learning the position, she had to convince those left over from the prior administration that things would be different, that their jobs mattered in contributing to the state’s economy.

Her big advice? No matter the position, keep a level head and remember where you came from.

“Don’t let your head get filled with delusions of grandeur,” she said. “Keep your feet on the ground. And always connect with people … it’s a great way to get them motivated.”

– Story and photo by Billy Liggett