By Ken DeLaat
Women are powerful agents of change, and the far-reaching benefits of diversity and gender parity in leadership and decision-making are increasingly recognized in all spheres.
The quote above can be found in many articles discussing women in leadership roles and the words came to mind as I covered a local event.
Last Wednesday the Center for Hope and Healing was host to the second annual event honoring the women of our area who are making a difference in our communities and beyond. The Influential Women in Leadership Luncheon drew a large group of attendees to the building once known as Leighton Hall, a suitable venue to be sure. After all, its transformation into an facility designed to provide a wide variety of services to children and families was spearheaded by Newaygo County Prevention of Child Abuse and Open Arms Child Advocacy Center.
Two organizations led by women.
I contacted Rachel Porter who handles community relations for the River Country Chamber and managed to wangle an invite to the gig. With many women I know being nominated there was a strong interest in the doings and it looked to be good material for an article.
And, (full disclosure) I have to add that after seeing that Two Hot Tamales was going to be doing the catering my desire to attend was elevated by several notches.
The event was well organized and beyond those I knew who were up for awards many other familiar folks were in attendance as well. I found the roster of candidates for the three separate honors to be a solid group and while I was not familiar with all the names, those I have known in one capacity or another are more than deserving. While looking over the names I found myself simultaneously impressed with the array of excellence that graced the program pages while also relieved to not be part of what must have been a really tough selection process.
And while 3 were chosen to receive the accolades of the day, each of the 14 have inspired their colleagues, coworkers and/or collaborators enough to make the effort of putting their names forward.
There is a rich history of influential women in our area who paved the way for an event such as this. Women who displayed the kind of courage and resilience necessary to make themselves heard during times when most roles of leadership were filled by men.
Having the advantage of membership in the septuagenarian segment of our society it is easy for me to recall when the glass ceiling was considerably lower than it is today. When the opinion of women often took a back seat whether in a boardroom or a barroom. I recall being at meetings and witnessing valid viewpoints dismissed when they came from someone who lacked credibility solely because of their gender.
And while we are hopefully better people than we were then, there still exist pockets of that unfortunate past in our midst.
The group of women honored at this luncheon represent a small segment of the legion of competent, caring, and creative female leaders found throughout our county. Some may be more visible than others but each is doing their part to make this slice of our bipeninsular paradise a better place to work, play and live. They are leaders in our community who take to their roles with the confidence and drive to overcome occasional archaic attitudes about gender.
And they will not be silenced when it comes to their opinion nor ignored when putting forth an idea.
Leadership is an elusive trait. I have found there are far more people who believe themselves to be leaders than there are those who possess the attributes necessary to truly lead. There are bosses and supervisors everywhere but leadership is a different realm altogether.
Personally, while I have encountered a great deal of bosses and supervisors throughout my working career I have been privileged to work with two people who I would argue possessed the qualities that define a true leader.
Coincidentally (or perhaps not) they were both women.
"We need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women's voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored."- Sheryl Sandberg
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