Today I had the honor of serving on a panel with incredible women from Hilton Worldwide as well as a few women in “high gear.” The lovely and talented Mearl Purvis from Fox 13 Memphis was on hand to facilitate and entertain and as usual–she did a fabulous job and I promise you Mearl gets more gorgeous every time I see her! As the room filled with women from Hilton’s Women’s Team Member Resource Group, we took our seats and introductions were made. In honor of “Women in History” Hilton’s theme today was “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment.” Program leaders, Denise Carpenter and Sherry Smith made introductions and soon we were underway talking about key issues women face in business. Tweets were flying as well with a hashtag for the discussion: #HWWCelebratingWomen (you can see some of the tweets there).
Key messages for the panel included the importance of finding mentors as well as avoiding the “chip on the shoulder” attitude. One of my favorite messages of the day came from Roquita Coleman, Solutions Manager, CN Railroad who said that “instead of trying to be smarter than everyone and trying to prove it…often it is better to try and get along with other co-workers in order to get things done.” She described a tough lesson she had to learn the hard way and that added so much value to the discussion. Without the problems and challenges, we cannot learn and grow.
I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Kathy Beiser, EVP, Hilton Worldwide Corporate Communications who is definitely in “high gear” and told the group that sometimes in a career you have to make hard, deliberate choices and sometimes that means really having to “gut it out and work hard” to get ahead. I loved her remark about never wanting to be the mom that baked cookies for her kids’ school. I totally relate to this and appreciate her tough-minded, high gear will and iron clad belief in herself. Another favorite comment she made was that women shouldn’t tell men things like “I have to go run the carpool but I’ll be back…we give them too much information sometimes that isn’t necessary.” Very good advice from someone in the executive suite!
Another Hilton Worldwide executive on the panel is a fellow Texan named Judy Christa-Cathey, VP Hampton & Hilton Garden Inn Brand Marketing. Judy is an inspiration and example of a woman in high gear who has been given a real red cape for her superpowers in the corporate world. Today she gave that red cape to a woman in the audience who commented on the difficulty and pressure on working women to be all to everyone and do it all. A very awesome moment and I need someone from Hilton to email me that photo so I can add it to this blog! Judy is someone I will be following up with and hope to get to know better. Plus, she’s from Texas and likes cowboy boots!
Finally, it was awesome to see my friend Felicia Suzanne Willett, chef and owner of Felicia Suzanne’s Restaurant who trained with Emeril Lagasse–a fact I had once known but forgotten! Felicia told us she knew she wanted to be a chef by the time she was 7 years old and would read food magazines and cookbooks as a teenager. Her passion for cooking and her depth of experience is reflected in her wonderful food and what I find even more exciting is her ability to continuously re-invent herself and her restaurant. She told me she has just re-vamped the patio to include farm tables in front of the fountain to accommodate family style dining or groups of 10 and 12. Not only has Felicia become a famous chef, but a savvy restaurateur. Congrats on your high gear journey Felicia!
Thank you Hilton Worldwide for supporting women, celebrating success and commitment and for hosting such an important panel discussion. I also appreciate the purchase of our book, “Women in High Gear” for those who attended and hope I have the opportunity to celebrate with you all again soon! Cheers to your high gear journey!