Recently, in honor of Columbus Young Professionals Week, YES! Columbus hosted a special Leading with Empathy Panel event featuring a diverse array of prominent Columbus women across different sectors. The powerful panel of guest speakers shared some thoughts on a wide variety of topics from leadership style, gender equality, unconscious bias and many others. What followed was an authentic, at times belly-laugh raising and inspired conversation about how we show up within our lives and our work. See more about some of our incredible speakers below.
Elizabeth Brown, Columbus City Councilmember
Elizabeth was elected to Columbus City Council in 2015, reelected in 2019, and holds the office of President Pro Tempore. In addition to this office, Brown is the Executive Director of the Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network. She has prior experience in economic development, nonprofit service, and state government. Brown has also worked as an economic development manager to the City of Columbus, taught middle school students as a City Year Americorps member, and has been published in New York Magazine and on WOSU Public Radio.
Nichole Barnes Marshall, Vice President and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at L Brands
Nichole serves as Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at L Brands. Prior to joining L Brands in 2017, Nichole served as global head of diversity and inclusion for Aon. She also held positions at W.W. Grainger, Inc., Tribune Company and IBM Global Services. Prior to arriving in Columbus, Nichole had been actively engaged in the Chicago-area community and played a leadership role in several important civic and professional organizations, including Leadership Greater Chicago, The Executives’ Club of Chicago, The Chicago Sinfonietta, The Museum of Science and Industry – Black Creativity Advisory Committee, The National Association of African Americans in Human Resources and Chicago United.
Sara Djubek, Director of Happiness at Aunt Flow
Sarah serves as the Director of Happiness at Aunt Flow, ensuring that everyone has equal access to menstrual products. Prior to her current role, Sara has a long and tenured career in sales and business development across industries. She received her dual Bachelor of Arts in Communications and the History of Art from The Ohio State University.
Stephanie Hightower, President & CEO at The Columbus Urban League
Stephanie Hightower is the 8th President and CEO (and first female President and CEO) of the Columbus Urban League (CUL). Prior to taking the lead at the Columbus Urban League, Ms. Hightower served as Vice President for Institutional Advancement for the Columbus College Art & Design (CCAD), one of the country’s premier art and design institutions. A strong advocate for quality education, Ms. Hightower was elected twice to the Columbus Board of Education beginning in 2000, overseeing the largest school district in the state of Ohio.
Under her leadership as Board President from 2001-2005, the Board improved fiscal
management and oversight of the district’s $700 million budget and pushed for district-wide
gains in academic performance.
Sandy Doyle-Ahern, President at EMH&T (founder of The Edge Sisters)
As a kid, Sandy Doyle-Ahern cared about the natural community around her. That’s what set her on her path to environmental science. After earning a biology degree from the University of Delaware, Doyle-Ahern set out toward a career in environmental compliance. Thanks to multiple internships with a large Philadelphia-area consulting firm, though, she solidified her path to consulting.
She earned a master’s degree in environmental science from Miami University, a school she chose for its varied curriculum. “It exposed me to the broad interdisciplinary nature of what I could do with that background,” she says. “I enjoy problem solving. My personality is not meant for a lab. A graduate school internship brought her to Columbus, and in 1997, she landed a role at EMH&T, initially to get the firm’s environmental division off the ground, which she did for about eight years. She never left—she became the firm’s first woman president in 2012.
Molly Brewer (moderator), Anchor and Multimedia Reporter at WBNS
Molly graduated from Loyola University Chicago and took a position as the western Kansas bureau chief reporter for Wichita’s KSNW (NBC) where she worked as the sole reporter, photographer, editor and writer for the station’s Garden City bureau, covering 20+ counties, four hours from the main hub.
After just six months she was asked to join the main KSNW team in Wichita and quickly rose to the position of lead reporter for the station’s #1 newscast, Kansas Today. Today, she is an Anchor and Multimedia Reporter at WBNS and pillar within her community, making regular appearances at community events and sitting as a chair member for the local chapter of the American Lung Association, participating in local races such as the Nationwide Children’s Columbus Half Marathon and the Girls on the Run 5k, and serving as an acting advisor for the women of Alpha Sigma Alpha, Theta Tau at Capital University.
Each one of the panelists lent their own unique and individual insight and experiences moving through male-dominated spaces, juggling a work-life-balance, leading with empathy and showing up as their authentic selves within the workplace . We chose a few of those tidbits to share with you below.
On Gender Equality
When asked about how gender equality affects them within the workplace, each woman had a different perspective. Sandy believes it varies across sectors, but what’s unique about this moment in time is that there’s important conversation happening and there are now opportunities for women to make strides. Her advice? Take stock of where it is they want to be career-wise and then go for it.
On Empathy Within the Workplace
Rather than leading with sympathy, empathy allows us to connect authentically with those we interact with in our day to day. That authenticity is key to making those effective connections and fostering relationships and an environment of trust and understanding. In her own day-to-day life, Elizabeth relies on a healthy dose of humility in taking time to understand what others are saying and in hearing the needs of the communities she serves before rushing to her own conclusions.
For some mentorship is a key tool in their empowerment and promotion within the workplace, while others trailblaze their path independently. For those struggling to identify whether or not having a mentor might add value to their own journey, Stephanie has this advice, “understand your leadership styles and recognize whether they’re compatible.” Just because someone appeals to what you want for yourself professionally, may not necessarily mean they’re the best fit to mentor you. Nicole also recommends coming to the table prepared with a plan as to what you want to get out of the mentorship. Once you’ve identified your mentor, the journey doesn’t end there, it’s important to have someone willing to advocate for you as well. Because, as Nicole shares, “Women are over-mentored and under-sponsored.”
“Women are over-mentored and under-sponsored.”
– Nichole Barnes Marshall
On Leadership Styles
To Stephanie’s note on identifying leadership styles, the women also acknowledged how important it is to acknowledge and understand your own leadership style. Sara notes staying true to her own values and providing solutions that truly benefit her customers has determined her professional success This not only influences how you lead with empathy and show up for your peers, but how you identify your strengths and the unique value you bring by showing up as your authentic self.
The discussion folded into some even more stirring discussion during our Cocktails and Conversations portion of the evening. We’re hoping to continue ongoing dialogue and provide spaces for these important conversations and continue to foster community for like-minded young professionals within Columbus.
Ready to start leading with empathy or building on one of the above themes? Join us at our upcoming headshot event. On September 2, 2021, we will be on-site at Flat 51 offering professional headshots by Autumn Theodore Photography.