Female leadership: four women tell us about taking their seat at the top table

By Tempus | 20 Jan 2021 | Leaders

As the United States welcomes Kamala Harris as its first female Vice President, we speak to four women about their tips for business success

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* American Vice President Kamala Harris has become the first woman to hold the office

On 20 January 2021, Kamala Harris will make American history. As Joe Biden in inaugurated as the United States’ 46th president, it is his vice president Harris who will represent the first of three important milestones – she will be the first female vice president, and the first vice president of both African American and South Asian descent. 

In her first speech as vice president-elect in November last year, Harris acknowledged the historic nature of her success, and gave a call to action to encourage young people to strive for the same. "While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last," she said. "Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities, and to the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not, simply because they've never seen it before. But know that we will applaud you every step of the way.”

But while ambition and conviction are crucial to those in positions of leadership, what are the other lessons that women at the top can impart? Tempus spoke to four women across fields of hospitality, champagne and communications about what they have learnt so far. 

 

CAROLINE MOULTRIE, MANAGING DIRECTOR 
MMGY HILLS BALFOUR UK & EMEA

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What has been the greatest lesson you’ve learnt?
As I have climbed the career ladder, I think the greatest lesson I have learnt so far is to always push yourself out of your comfort zone. It is so important to travel, talk and meet as many people as you can, experience as much as you can and do all you can to educate yourself about people, cultures and traditions - broaden your horizons. It can feel uncomfortable and awkward, but this is where the real education happens. Each time I force myself to step outside my box, it has always been an enriching experience. For me, meeting people from different countries, diverse cultures, and class systems not only changed my perspective but has also made me more confident, be more empathetic, and ultimately a stronger leader. In stepping out of my comfort zone, I have also learnt it is important for women to stop preparing the table and instead to start taking their rightful seat. We can only effect change if we are part of the decision-making process and for that we need to be at the table.

What has been the biggest professional challenge you have faced and how did you overcome it?
Show empathy at all times, especially when you have to make tough decisions! When I look back on my career, the struggles have made me who I am today. For one, having the grit to persevere through challenges does make a person stronger, however there are some challenges that even with grit, are super tough. The biggest challenge by far I have experienced, has been over the last 12 months, navigating through the new world of running a business remotely. 

On the one hand dealing with the heartbreak of declining revenues (during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic) and on the other hand, the unavoidable outcome of that, which is cutting team members. Ultimately, as an MD, the health of the business comes before everything so tough decisions need to be made, however my advice to anyone dealing with redundancies or losing staff is to enter into the process with empathy, being as open and as transparent as you can be with every single person and treating people with dignity, respect and honesty even when you have to deliver bad news. Challenges are always going to exist, the trick is to try to look beyond the fear, loss and disappointment and focus on the outcome, whilst practicing gratitude, patience, and empathy.

 What makes you hopeful for the future? 
The next generation. I have a son and daughter and I am so proud of how they have adapted to the challenges of the past year and the resilience they have shown. They have really come together to overcome difficulties and it has been amazing to watch their relationship grow. As we work to ensure that there are more women in leadership positions, I think it is important not to leave boys behind in the conversation. From a young age, we need to teach both boys and girls how to support and learn from each other in order to be strong leaders. I hope my husband and I lead by example showing them that it is possible to balance a successful career and home life. There is still a lot to be done but I am increasingly positive about the future.

 

KIM BOGANEY, DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC ART 
SCOTTSDALE ARTS, ARIZONA

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Kim Boganey is responsible for the vision of Scottsdale, Arizona’s nationally recognised public art programme, which serves as a leader in defining art in the public realm through creative place-making, signature events, exhibitions, and installations, all which contribute to the community’s creative, cultural, and economic vitality. 

What has been the greatest lesson you’ve learnt?
My greatest lesson to date has been one that I would hear from my father when I was a child but didn’t take seriously until now. ‘Tomorrow is not promised’, he would say. I really didn’t understand what this meant until experiencing 2020. Between global catastrophes (think: the Amazon rainforest fires and Covid-19), racial and social upheaval in the United States, and personal losses (my father died after a long battle with Alzheimer’s and my two-year-old granddaughter was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma), I have realized that we need to enjoy each day as it comes. This is equally important in a professional context. It's pointless trying to reach the top of your profession if you're not truly passionate about what you do. In order to be innovative and lead successfully, you have to really enjoy coming into work each morning to appreciate the highs and face the lows. Be grateful for every day that you live, and extend love to your family and friends, even if it is virtually.    

What has been the biggest professional challenge you have faced and how did you overcome it? 
When I first began working with Scottsdale Arts in 2017, I was tasked with growing a locally recognisable four-day public art event, Canal Convergence, into a 10-day destination opportunity for the city of Scottsdale in November, normally considered a quiet month with not a lot of tourist activity. I honestly had never coordinated anything close to a festival before, so it was daunting, to say the least. What I realized is that when you surround yourself with the people and organizations that can help you accomplish your goals, then you can focus on the vision and strategy. Working collaboratively allowed me to learn from others and benefit from their expertise. Great leadership is about listening to the opinions of others and incorporating their feedback while staying true to your vision. As a result, our attendance numbers tripled; hotels, restaurants, and businesses benefited tremendously from the influx of patrons; and now November in Scottsdale has become a destination month. 

 What makes you hopeful for the future? 
I prefer this not be a political response, but sometimes you have to address the elephant in the room. I am hopeful that the United States will be able to correct the trauma of the last four years with a new leader and administration in place. As an African American woman, it has been difficult to see myself reflected in the faces that has previously led our country. Additionally, the United States needs to get back into sync with global efforts, including but not limited to Covid-19, climate change, war, and poverty. This is my hope. It may take a while to achieve, but this must happen.

 

FRANCOISE PERETTI FOUNDER OF PERETTI COMMUNICATIONS
AND DIRECTOR OF CHAMPAGNE BUREAU UK   

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What has been the greatest lesson you’ve learnt?
Nothing stands still and moving on is the only way. And timing is everything! I experienced it all my life, starting with my getting hired by the Champagne Bureau in New York in the late 1980s. It was a classic case study in good fortune and timing. After moving to NYC from Paris with no job prospect but with a green card, jobless and quasi-homeless, I was called one evening by a friend of mine who had overheard in an Upper East Side bar that someone mentioning the Champagne Bureau was hiring. My agile-thinking friend promptly got the details, called the director of the Bureau and got me an interview, to which I replied I knew nothing about Champagne nor PR and that I wouldn’t go. Thankfully, my friend convinced me and I got the job. I came very close to be the stupid woman who turned down Champagne… Fortunately, Champagne was meant to be! A real NY story.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced and how did you overcome it? 
Definitely Covid-19 and its successive lockdowns and international restrictions, which created a year like no other forcing us all to retreat away from social interactions. But I’m very proud that with resilience, unflinching optimism, a dash of luck and a little help from science, we’re well on our way to overcome this unparalleled adversity. I have great trust in the future and, most of all, my great team, who kept going and delivered stellar results in Covid-19’s darkest days… And a few glasses of Champagne, of course!

What is your biggest hope for the future? 
The younger generations. They are our future, and I’m hopeful they will force us and governments to make changes that will improve the world and our everyday lives. Already, every day in my personal and professional lives I see  welcome changes taking place. And the speed is accelerating. Take Champagne where I have been travelling for over 25 years. I am now meeting 3rd, sometimes 4thgenerations of producers totally committed to their land and dedicated to embracing new, innovative and effective sustainable viticultural and vinicultural methods. It stems from their belief that to be achieved, excellence must be caring. I’m massively optimistic about the future.

 

FRANKA HOLTMANN, GENERAL MANAGER 
LE MEURICE, PARIS

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What has been your greatest lesson so far?  
Nothing can be taken for granted: when you think you have achieved something, it is exactly the moment when you have to keep moving, otherwise you fade away. We have to be very attentive about what we think we don’t need to change: life is an eternal beginning.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced and how did you overcome it?
Tapping into your inner resources is a challenge in itself: it moves you forward, makes you learn and improve, be creative and unusual. The biggest challenge is to never slow down or be resigned. If you know how to pick yourself up in difficult situations, you can overcome every challenge. It is precisely what strengthens your character. If you try to get around the problem, it will always remain a problem and never become a challenge. We only deal with obstacles by breaking them down into manageable pieces and by digging deep to find our grit, determination and perseverance.

What is your biggest hope for the future?
My biggest hope for the future is that things get back to normal, even if the word ‘normality’ doesn’t mean the same things as it once did in the pre-Covid-19 world. We have to question ourselves about what the crisis taught us, and how we can be braver and focus on what is crucial. What I hope the most is that human relationships will take again a central place, at a time when they have been replaced by virtual and digital. 

We enrich ourselves with the contact of the others, by valuing family, friendships and coworkers. Relationships are imperative for many different reasons such as improving our emotional well-being, creating stability, having someone to count on and trust in times of need, and someone to vent to when we face challenges. We have to keep on building relationships which bring us something and make us better. As much as we connect with each other, we cannot lose sight of the value in what we do. I love this quote: “No one has become poor by giving”.