What is the top challenge facing women leaders today?
Leadership experts Brandi Stankovic and Stacey Hanke approach that question from different angles in advance of their presentations during the Women’s Leadership Workshop at the America’s Credit Union Conference.
Drawing from the new hit superhero movie, Stankovic—managing partner at Mitchell Stankovic and Associates—explores what it takes to be a credit union "Wonder Woman."
“Women in leadership today have multidimensional duties and responsibilities,” she says. “Many of these are activities that just need to get done, crossed off the list. Others are priorities that require balance, life adjustments to ensure success at all levels. Where do purpose and passion fit in?
“As a woman leader, purpose is fundamental to self-satisfaction when achieving goals,” adds Stankovic, who will lead a session titled The Strategic MVP: How Women Cultivate Greatness. “The pace of the day is often distracting, cluttered with noise that leaves a sense of disappointment or desire to give up while asking the question: ‘Why am I doing this? Why am I working so hard?’ It takes a brawny revisit of your strategic purpose. Know why you are fighting this fight; be diligent about your purpose.
“Women leaders must be relentless in their passion for leadership, pushing past any obstacles, and inspiring others to share a vision for success,” she adds. “They must look for sponsors, not just mentors, with an active commitment to moving them forward and increasing strategic influence. And they must advocate for one another. We are stronger, together.
“Up to 70% of the credit union workforce is women but women lead only 15% of credit unions with $1 billion or more in assets,” Stankovic says. “With a passionate sense of purpose, women can change these statistics, be at the table, confident in their ability to lead. The Women's Leadership Workshop is another step in this journey.”
Hanke, a leadership and communication expert, says women leaders across all industries continue to face a perception issue, and too often they fuel a negative perception.
Women must commit to establishing a confident, secure presence in the workplace, demonstrating that you belong in the conversation, advises Hanke. That includes using better nonverbal cues, and honing conversation skills with the mindset that efficient equals effective.
“There’s a disconnect between the reality of how listeners see us versus how we feel,” she says. “We don’t practice brevity, clarity—we feel like we need to say more to explain ourselves. There’s a mistaken view that the more I speak, the smarter I look. But no matter how intelligent you are, you need to follow some practical how-tos on getting to the point, and making sure what you’re saying resonates.
“I often hear from women leaders, ‘I keep getting interrupted in meetings. Well, if you’re all over the place and you frustrate listeners, that’s when people start to interrupt you. It’s not about stand-up presenting—it’s about how you present yourself every day, says Hanke, who will lead the session Be the Leader You Were Meant to Be, Monday through Monday®.
“And women should think about walking into the room like they own it,” she adds. “Look around you at a meeting—the majority of women sit very closed, while men let it out and own the real estate. Command the room.”
Also at the two-day workshop, CUNA Chief Engagement & Transformation Officer Mollie Bell will speak to the need to lead authentically, and CUNA Chief Marketing & Technology Officer Amy Nigrelli will help attendees create action steps to energize their leadership career path.