July 13, 2024

How Women Achieve ‘Authentic Success’

More than 2.2 million women have left the workplace as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shannon Katulich, president of the Chesapeake Chapter of Women in Defense (WID), told attendees of a webinar sponsored by WID and The Patuxent Partnership.

The panel, convened in recognition of Women’s History Month, also included Emily Harman, founder, Onward Movement, SES (ret), Department of Navy; Christina Johannsen, President, St. Mary’s Young Professionals; and Theresa Shafer, PhD, Director of Engineering Education and Research Partnerships, Strategic Education Office, NAWCAD.

“How do we stay connected and spend time on what matters professionally and personally?” was the title of the webinar, which panel host Bonnie Green, executive director of The Patuxent Partnership, opened by remarking upon both the loss of women in the workforce as well as their upcoming struggle of reentry. “How do we stay connected?” she asked.

One remarkably specific recommendation emerged from all of the panelists: Be active on LinkedIn, the online employment-oriented service designed for professional networking, job postings, and job searches. If you haven’t updated your profile this quarter, suggested Ms. Johannsen, it is time to do so.

“Use it as a tool. Don’t use it as a one-way transit,” she said. “Comment, leave a note, people crave that interaction … don’t be scared to reach out.”

Networking, panelists emphasized, is the primary route to personally satisfying, professional growth. Mentors and advocates you find along the way are imperative to this growth as well.

“Seek mentors,” Ms. Johannsen said. “If you don’t see a mentor, be one.”

Leverage the now familiar remote-work tools and technology of the pandemic, Ms. Johannsen further suggested, expand your network, seek mentors and advocates from other states. “Throw off the yoke of geography.”

Be intentional in your choices so you spend time on what matters to you. For “authentic success,” Ms. Harman advised, “create the life you love. … Don’t wait for people or circumstances to change. Don’t hold yourself back.”

“Give yourself credit for the work you do,” added Ms. Katulich. “You are always your best advocate. Get comfortable with how competent you are. Make a list, track what you’re doing. You know best all you’re doing. Give yourself that recognition.” And have others praise you, she said. Find out who will do that for you. “Most of your career is decided behind closed door conversations.”

In addition to mentors, Ms. Katulich said, “friend-tors” are needed so equals can encourage one another. Also necessary, she said, are male allies. “It’s sometimes hard to find women in positions you want to be in.”

In addition to LinkedIn, she encouraged involvement with networking organizations such as Women in Defense and The Patuxent Partnership as great sources of mentors, friend-tors, champions, and advocates. “It is imperative to support women right now,” Ms. Katulich said. And encourage them to try engineering. “I am thankful,” she said, “to the many people who said, ‘You can.’”

Supporting networks are imperative, concurred Ms. Shafer. “We hesitate to ask for help. [But] alone we can do little, together we can do much.”

She cautioned that networking via tele-measures is less efficient. “We’re less likely to speak up. But don’t hesitate. Especially virtually. Turn on your videos and mikes and contribute. You have what it takes.” The most difficult decision is to act, she said, and referenced a quote from Amelia Earhart:

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”

The top regret of the dying, warned Ms. Harman, is having not lived the life of their dreams. Consider 2021 the Year of the Pivot, she suggested, and take quiet time to assess your life. Ask, “What would I love? Don’t ask how to achieve it. Shut down your inner critic.” Consider, she said, “everything is possible.”

Panel members and their organizations can be reached at the links listed below:

Emily Harman – [email protected]; EmilyHarman.com; join the Onward Movement here

Christina Johannsen[email protected] ; St. Mary’s County Young Professionals Facebook page

Shannon Katulich[email protected] ; For more info on WID, email [email protected]

Dr. Theresa Shafer[email protected]

Book recommendations:

  • “Playing Big” by Tara Mohr
  • “The Confidence Code: The science and art of self-assurance – what women should know”  by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

About The Patuxent Partnership

The Patuxent Partnership is a nonprofit member organization that fosters collaboration between government, industry, and academia to advance education through STEM-based initiatives; to advance technology through speaker programs, forums, and networking; to advance science and technology transfer through the exchange of ideas, information, and data related to technologies; and to increase workforce development through an array of initiatives.

To learn more about The Patuxent Partnership and its programs, visit its Leader member page.

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