Interview with Cathy Allen WISC Women & Money 2017 Speaker
Join us for the final workshop, Planning for Your Career and Life on Saturday, July 8, at 9am at Homewise with Catherine A. Allen.
We asked Cathy some questions about her successes, life, and work.
As a business leader, how do you foster a cohesive team?
I like to pair up people that have complimentary skill sets. It is really important that people learn and appreciate different skill sets from the ones that they themselves possess. We tend to like people that are like us. Teams where CEOs are able to choose people that are different from them are more successful. Respecting each other’s talents, and really making sure that people learn and appreciate the different skill sets that others bring.
What are the most common challenges in workplaces for women?
Still a glass ceiling. It can seem subtle, but it is still there. It may be that women are talked over in a meeting. Exclusion from conversations. There are still lots of ways the old boys club can stay ahead. Finding women and male mentors to help you learn what’s really important to move forward.
What if someone doesn't have mentors in their home? How can we identify and learn from mentors out in the world? You will need mentors for different things. It is like a board of directors for you. Sometimes it is a teacher, or a community member. Ask questions to people that you think are successful in ways that you’d like to be successful. How did you get to where you are? How did you deal with challenges? How did they develop confidence? How do they assess risk? How do they negotiate? Sometimes you outgrow your mentors. That’s when you give back—and you can show gratitude by mentoring others.
What tips do you have for people who don't know exactly what they want or want to do?
1. One thing is doing some self-evaluation, and I’ll be giving workshop participants some self-diagnosis activities about skill sets and goal setting. It tries to get into your passions. Self-analysis might also come from reading books.
2. Secondly, informational interviews are really helpful. Interview and have conversations with people working in various fields. If you think you’d like to be an artist. Go spend a day with them. Ask them questions. This will help you see some possibilities.
3. Third, an internship or career start. Think of your career as a journey—learn skills applicable for the next thing. It doesn’t always matter what type of job you do, it matters that you develop skills and meet people. Explore the thing that you think you want to do. People think they have to make the RIGHT choice…. Take classes and try to get experiential knowledge. You are really trying to find where your passion and experience align. Another option is to find a job that pays the bills, and allows you to pursue a passion. You might have to change careers many times, due to life circumstances.
How do you set goals, or work towards having clearer or more specific goals?
It is important to set goals in different facets of your life—not just career goals.
Next, thinking about on-the-ground actions associated with those goals.
You can’t reach a goal that you don’t articulate. When you write down something and if you tell someone else you are more likely to do it.
“Bucket” lists are helpful. Even if the goal isn’t totally realistic in the NOW, you can still work towards the goal and feel like you are doing something to reach it.
What do you wish you knew at 25, and 40, that you know now but didn't know then?
25: It was just opening up for women to be in business and have more opportunities. I wish I had had more guts and gumption and less fear.
40: I wish I had been even more confident about what I was meant to do in life. I still felt like I was fighting. At 50, I hit my stride. Pure pleasure. And I’ve been more successful from 50-70. I gained enough confidence and wisdom that I found how to go with the flow to get things done instead of fighting each time. Understanding human behavior, maturity, not feeling like you have to be perfect or do everything yourself.
What is your best advice for recovering from a setback or failure?
Resilience is a key thing to develop. You have to fake it sometimes. You learn the best from your failures. Things are meant to be sometimes--things that seem like setbacks are not really setbacks.
What are you reading right now?
Mississippi Blood the third in a trilogy by Gray Iles. I ordered Margaret Atwood’s newest book. I tend to like historical fiction and biographies and some history. I just got back from Stockholm for the International Women’s Forum. I’m also always reading in my field.
How do you know when it is time to make a change? (How do you know whether to persevere or bail?)
- Stress level. If you are stressed, your body will show you stress. (Illness, weight loss or gain, etc.)
- Objectively evaluate the situation: talk to therapist, maybe a trusted friend or confidante, look to wise objective others
- Give yourself permission: women hang in there because they think they are supposed to. You have to make the decision and EXECUTE. It takes confidence and courage. If you stay in a toxic situation, you lose confidence, you second guess yourself…it really wears on you. The longer you stay in, the longer it will take to recover.
Share three passions:
Get more women on corporate boards.
Get more women in senior executive positions.
Get more women in public policy.