Lessons learned from women leaders

by | Jul 11, 2018 | Alumni Note, Summer 2018 | 0 comments

Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to observe and work with some amazing female leaders. These women embraced diversity of thought and a collaborative style that habitually resulted in positive outcomes in areas ranging from simple problem solving within technical teams to determining the strategic direction of a business. 

By observing and working with these leaders I learned several leadership lessons, including:  

  • To lead is to serve. Regardless of title, everyone can be, or rather, is, a leader.
  • Be authentic. Don’t change your style to fit a stereotype. To do so will compromise your effectiveness.
  • Know the individual. Take time to learn what motivates the people around you. This will enable you to inspire them and help them realize their full potential.
  • Lead within your entire sphere of influence. Leading should not be confined to direct reports. We can guide our leaders and colleagues through authentic actions, personal attention and compassion.

While these leadership lessons apply to both women and men, research shows women also bring a number of contributions to an effective workplace. According to Krishna Reddy’s article “Top 12 advantages women bring to the workplace” on the talent sourcing website Wisestep, “When it comes to accomplishing goals or building solid workplace relationships, the feminine touch and skills like empathy, intuition and optimism of women work toward the benefit of the company.”

These lessons also apply to the importance of having women representation in STEM fields. Women in STEM have introduced changes that have made a difference in product safety, such as airbag design changes to include protection for smaller builds and children. Women like Google’s first woman engineer, Marissa Mayer, who had an instrumental role in the development of Google Maps, Google Earth and Street View, have made significant advancements in how we use technology. Mines’ Aerospace Interest Group recently hosted an event with guest speaker Dr. Christine Darden, a career mathematician, aeronautical engineer and NASA researcher whose 40-year career at NASA led her to become one of the world’s experts on sonic boom prediction, sonic boom minimization and supersonic wing design.

Women in leadership and STEM continue to pave the way for the future, and it’s incumbent on us to increase diversity by placing more women in leadership roles. We must seek opportunities to mentor and develop the next wave of leaders to achieve this attainable goal.

Melanie Westergaard ’87

Alumni Chair, Women of Mines Interest Group