‘Surviving and thriving’: Chamber holds annual Women in Leadership lunch

“Are women thriving? The answer is yes and no.”

These were the words of Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick, a Chancellor’s Professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at IUPUC, as she spoke at the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Women in Leadership event.

The luncheon was Wednesday at The Commons, with attendees hearing from the three 2022 honorees: Julie Del Genio, Shen Macheel and Mary Stroh.

The event began with a keynote address from Goodspeed-Chadwick, who spoke on the 2022 theme: “Surviving and Thriving in the Workplace.”

The professor highlighted talented women in history, including Sylvia Plath, who struggled as working mothers despite their professional achievements. She also spoke of her own mother’s lack of equal opportunity and inability to reenter the workforce after having children, due to a lack of affordable child care.

“When we compare our lives and accessibility of our world to our mothers or grandmothers, we must acknowledge that yes, this is a different world in many respects,” said Goodspeed-Chadwick. “Thanks to Title IX, which turns 50 this year, women are protected in many respects in educational settings. … However, that landmark law is only 50 years old, and women are still battling under pay gaps, segregation into pink-collar work, sexual harassment, sexual assault and gender violence, which are at epidemic proportions today.”

She added that the COVID-19 pandemic put strains on mothers and revealed existing inequities that need to be addressed. She then highlighted strategies for better treatment of working mothers and the need for more inclusive and welcoming work environments.

Following Goodspeed-Chadwick’s address, each honoree spoke on her own experiences and advice regarding leadership and success.

Stroh, a local attorney, noted that listening and paying attention to others is essential for effective leadership. It was a lesson she learned from being the captain of her high school soccer team.

“While we may all be here today, we all took different paths to get here, and it is important to acknowledge others — the impact that they’re making and also any of the struggles that they have had along the way to be here,” she said.

Del Genio, who is a human resources leader at Enkei America, emphasized that good leaders take care of the people within their organizations, developing their talents and giving them a voice.

“Leaders need to do more than fill a seat,” she said. “Be a leader that inspires others. Challenge people to work more, to do more, to excel, because it matters.”

She also encouraged her audience to pick the right leaders by exercising their ability to vote and spoke of the need to protect personal rights, taking off her jacket to reveal a “Pro Roe” T-shirt.

Macheel, vice president/partner/director of government programs at LER TechForce, spoke on two principles that have defined her life: starting with the end in mind, and moving outside of one’s comfort zone.

She noted that, in her own life, her parents had set the goal for her to become a concert pianist. While she pushed herself and fulfilled that expectation, she felt that it wasn’t the end she had in mind for herself. She later chose to return to school and earn her MBA. Despite the challenges of entering an entirely new field, she was able to succeed, thanks in part to the support of others.

In concluding her speech, Macheel reminded the audience, “Begin with the end in mind so you can push outside of your comfort zone with a plan and a purpose.”