Shattering the Glass Ceiling Requires Tenacity, Self-confidence
May 01, 2017 08:20AM ● Published by Jennifer Monahan
Sister Candace Introcaso, CDP, Ph.D., president of La Roche College
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Sister Candace Introcaso, CDP, Ph.D. President of La Roche College
Sister Candace came to Pittsburgh in 1977 to enter the Sisters of Divine Providence, her religious community for the last 40 years. She worked in higher education throughout her career, earning a master’s degree and doctoral degree along the way. After serving with increasing levels of responsibility, including a stint as vice president for planning and assessment at Barry University in Miami, FL, she accepted the position as president of La Roche College in 2004.
She is quick to credit her predecessors with blazing the trail for female college presidents. “The pioneers were the Sisters who headed the Catholic colleges and universities founded by their religious orders,” she said.
She had mentors along the way, one of whom challenged her with an uncomfortable conversation.
“When I started graduate school, I thought everyone else was smarter than I was,” she explained. “She told me I was selling myself short; that I needed to develop my voice and find my passion. She encouraged me to take academic and professional risks, and she saw something in me that I didn’t necessarily see in myself at the time.”
Sister Candace said mentoring is something women tend to do well, and she encourages aspiring leaders to seek out mentors who will challenge them to develop their gifts.
She added that determination and having a thick skin are characteristics that are key to successful leadership. She also advised potential leaders to prepare well by getting the right credentials or experience.
“I didn’t become president the first week out of graduate school,” Sister Candace said. “Being patient, being willing to take risks, being willing to put in the time to learn and gain experience—and then to reflect on what you’re learning—is important.”
Ultimately, she advises aspiring leaders to find their passion. She said, “I love La Roche. I love our students. I love what I do.”
President of Gatesman
Shannon Baker was named president of prominent marketing and communications firm Gatesman in October 2016. She joined the agency in 2008, earned the title of partner within the year, and swiftly built the agency into one of the nation’s top independent public relations (PR) firms. Her professional career started in journalism and she served in senior positions at other leading PR agencies before CEO John Gatesman contacted her about joining his agency.
While Baker said she never specifically set out to be president of an agency, she has a track record of achievement both professionally and as a student athlete who played college basketball. She credits her parents for instilling in her both confidence and a strong work ethic.
Baker’s approach to leadership is grounded to some extent in her athletic experience. “I’m committed to making myself better as well as the teams I’m on,” she explained. “I’ve learned that you’ve got to do the work, you’ve got to lead by example and that means being the best you can be every time and every day, and never settling for anything less.”
Baker acknowledged that women often face distinctive challenges in business and that the glass ceiling is real.
“Antiquated stereotypes, gender-bias and resentment all come into play,” Baker explained. “It is undoubtedly harder to lead as a strong woman in business—both with female and male counterparts.”
She added that handling those issues requires mental toughness; without it, self-doubt and “Imposter Syndrome” sneak in.
“Traits that make a man ‘likeable’ as a leader are often the exact same traits that make women ‘unlikeable,’” she said. “Not everyone will like you, but leaders have to work hard to make sure people respect them.”
Drive, passion, curiosity, a measure of humility and a willingness to “get into the trenches” and do the hard work are key characteristics of effective leaders, she said, adding that for women, it is also important to persevere and to take credit for their successes, both big and small.
She concluded, “Know who you are and the value you bring, and don’t second-guess it.”
President and CEO of Allegheny Health Network
Cynthia Hundorfean began her career as a court reporter at the age of 20, but didn’t love it. Her first position in the health care field was as a dialysis technician at the age of 21. Two years later, she took a job at the Cleveland Clinic managing 35 professionals in the organization’s otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) and communicative disorders program.
“It was challenging for the first couple of years,” Hundorfean laughed. Though many of her employees were significantly older, she earned their respect through her relentless work ethic, establishing relationships and a willingness to understand their jobs—in a very practical way. When someone took a sick day or went on vacation, she filled in.
“Taking time to learn what people do and why that job is important to the organization was invaluable,” Hundorfean explained, adding that the experience enabled her to make smarter, faster decisions as an administrator because she understood the impact it would have.
She continued this practice throughout her 36 years at the Cleveland Clinic, stepping in periodically to do patient registration and other tasks vital to the administrative functions of a hospital even as she rose through the ranks to become Cleveland Clinic’s chief administrative officer.
Hundorfean accepted the position as president and CEO of Allegheny Health Network in 2016.
Being a woman in the C-suites demands a unique set of skills, Hundorfean acknowledged. As one of a few female leaders in the predominantly male environment at Cleveland Clinic, she said she learned to become tougher and more confident.
“I had to find my voice and to realize that they were paying me to have an opinion,” she said. That opinion had value because Hundorfean brought both her experience and the courage to tell the truth, rather than saying what people might want to hear.
Leaders have to have courage, do their homework and be prepared, tell the truth and deliver on their promises, Hundorfean said. She also stressed the importance of having mentors and sponsors, saying that she benefitted from their help and takes seriously the responsibility to pay that debt forward.
Senior Vice President for AAA East Central
Terri Petrick had been in health care administration for over 30 years when she accepted a new leadership role as senior vice president for AAA East Central. While her academic success, a supportive family and encouraging mentors contributed to Petrick’s advance through the leadership ranks, one defining negative experience was a formative influence on her career path.
Shortly after graduating from college, Petrick sat through an interview for graduate school where a male administrator suggested that her academic success might be attributed to her charm rather than her intelligence, and he questioned her commitment to a career. He added that he would rather invest in a man for the position.
Instead of allowing that experience to turn her away from her intended path, Petrick got angry, and channeled that anger into a drive to succeed. “In the long run, it was positive because I was so tenacious and determined to prove him wrong,” she explained.
Petrick said the ability to build relationships is important for all leaders, particularly for women, and that having mentors and sponsors higher up within the organization is another boon. She added that she benefitted from sponsors who believed in her and helped to open doors, and she tries to do the same for others.
Petrick encourages aspiring leaders to step outside their comfort zone, be willing to learn new things and to challenge themselves with new experiences. While she would share that advice with anyone who wants to advance in a chosen career, she said the path for women can present particular challenges.
“I think women sometimes experience more of a glass cage than a glass ceiling,” she explained. “It takes a lot for women to trust their own abilities, to know that they can balance work with the rest of their lives. It’s a confidence problem, often self-imposed.”
The key for a woman to overcome that obstacle is to believe in herself, said Petrick. “You’ve got to believe in the value of what you have to offer if you want others to believe in it.”