By Gayathri Selvaraj
Megan Nelson and I got the opportunity to visit a very inspiring event in Portland on April 25, 2014. It was the Portland Business Journal’s 2014 Women of Influence Awards. The ceremony is about honoring female executives with special awards for their leadership. These leaders are some of the most highly successful women in their respective fields. Portland State University School of Business Administration, KeyBank, Comcast Business, Mass Mutual Financial Group, and Regence were the main sponsors for the event.
The award ceremony started with a welcome speech from our very own Erica L. Wagner, associate dean of Undergraduate Business Programs at PSU. After the welcome speech, there was the orchid awards ceremony, which was presented to women leaders from various organizations such as Umqua Bank, Daimler Trucks North America LLC, and Salt & Straw.
The next program that followed was honoring the women executives of the year. There were four award categories presented: Nonprofit, Small/Medium Company, Entrepreneur of the Year, and Large Company. The women executive of the year for the category Large Company was awarded to Wendy Collie, the new CEO of New Seasons Market. Wendy also served as a senior vice president at Starbucks before taking the new position as CEO of New Seasons Market, where she manages nearly 2,600 employees. The other women executives that were honored include Laura K. Lee Dellinger, Metropolitan Group, in the Small/Medium Company category; Nancy Stueber, OMSI, in the Nonprofit category; and Tara Kramer, Ri Ky Roofing & Sheet Metal LLC, in the Entrepreneurs category.
Following the award ceremony was a panel discussion, which in my opinion was the most interesting part of the program. We got to hear from four amazing women leaders about their career, family, and valuable advice for women who aspire to be future leaders. It was very inspiring to learn how strong they had to be when there were challenges in their way and what they did to overcome such barriers. For example, Tara Kramer is a single mom who got involved in the construction business in 2007. Even in 2007, for a woman to be in the construction industry was not seen very positively, but she fought against all the odds and emerged as a successful businesswoman.
In addition to managing their successful careers, these women also manage their time with their families and engage in social work, which is very striking. Some of the most important advice that was offered by these leaders was: 1. Be yourself no matter what. 2. Never give up even when everyone else says “you can’t.” 3. Do what inspires you the most. 4. It is not always about profits and self-interests. Social good matters too.