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5 Female Executive Leaders Who Are Making Waves In The Workplace

5 Female Executive Leaders Who Are Making Waves In The Workplace
Anya Kahn

Anya Kahn is the CEO of White Gold LLC and a chairperson on the board for ELLE UK Group. As she and her team explained when chatting with The She-Suite, connecting with people is top priority, and her personal identity and name pronunciation hold a special level of significance for her and her sense of purpose. Anya is an entrepreneur with an ability to identify and create visionary fit-for-purpose solutions for society’s needs while always aiming to exceed expectations.

Kahn’s entrepreneurial spirit has always been present and continues to help her thrive as a leader to this very day. As she explained, “From a very young age, I had a tendency to step up and lead in whatever situation I was in, despite others in the room possibly having seniority in knowledge, or experience, or even age. Over the years, this compulsion has mellowed and matured to some extent and been replaced with a desire to observe how others face the challenges—albeit there is still the instinctive urge to ‘take charge and drive the solution!’” This drive likely stems from being one of nine siblings all with strong characters—and an entrepreneur father to match.

However, no matter where the passion stems from, the results are clear and highly inspiring for other women leaders looking to stand tall and make a difference. One of the biggest elements to this continual success is Kahn’s ability to accept her identity and constantly advance and improve her brand, network, and business achievements. As she describes it, “I believe in continuous improvement, and never feel I have achieved the best I can. So, I continue to seek insight to hone my leadership abilities, to encourage more empowerment in others, to champion self-accountability, and to build an environment in both my professional and personal life which cultivates visionary thinking and a ‘can do’ culture.”

Part of this sense of purpose and drive to build a visionary environment is what led Kahn to also turn something dark into a vision of light and hope during the pandemic. As COVID-19 significantly affected her eCommerce business operations, she and her team chose to pivot and develop masks that could benefit the masses. These masks are continually being developed and transformed to be more effective for first responders. They’re also expanding this technology, and developing a range of patent pending anti-viral hospitality and healthcare linens, as well as cleaning solutions.

Kahn’s ability to pivot with purpose has benefitted plus size women as well by celebrating their inner and outer beauty through the development of her Ms. Shape hosiery line. “If we as women can see the beauty in ourselves in whatever shape or color we are, I think it’s a great foundation for the confidence to realize our visions—and, for some, to break glass ceilings—to take our rightful place alongside our male counterparts as equals, without compromise.”

As a determined business leader, Anya continues to strive for the development of unique and perfected products. Seeking and making progress is something she is very familiar with and attributes to her success as an entrepreneur and product development lead.

But through it all, she says she never forgets to practice self-care to define her sense of purpose, once more allowing her to stay focused and motivated, “Horse riding, hiking, being a part of nature—that is my decompression method, my motivation, and my inspiration for the way I live my life, to play my part to the fullest. It’s at those times when I see the beauty in humanity, when creativity tends to flow better, and I can ‘reset’ and block out the noise.”

Elizabeth Adefioye

Elizabeth Adefioye is the Chief People Officer at Emerson. When asked what she wants this article to say about her and her accomplishments, she humbly stated, “We did it together!” That headline encompasses for me the essence of great leadership—it brings people together to accomplish what none of us can do alone.”

As a Chief People Officer, Adefioye sees the transition to an increasingly diverse industry and it’s something she believes will lead to more women in leadership positions than ever before, “What I hope I and other leaders who embody more diverse perspectives and lived experiences are doing, is helping others see that you don’t have to ‘role play’ someone else’s definition of leadership—you can lead with authenticity and generosity being unapologetically yourself and creating a space for others to do the same. This is what I tell the women I have the privilege of supporting and mentoring.”

For Adefioye, this diverse future is ideal as it furthers her sense of purpose which she explains, “For me, purpose is irreplaceable as a motivation for leadership. Purpose is what gives me buoyancy and resilience in the face of big challenges and profound disappointments. Purpose spurs me to learn and to adapt, and it keeps me focused on what really matters. Purpose enables a life of meaning and impact, which frankly, is the definition of success that we all should aspire to achieve…It’s not about “having it all,” it’s about living a life of purpose that makes the world better and enabling others to do the same, starting with our own children.”

When asked about what inspires her and keeps her pushing forward as a leader even in the face of adversity and setbacks, Adefioye explained, “When faced with a daunting challenge I don’t know how to overcome, I remember the power of “yet.” I may not know how to address the challenge—yet. But with a growth mindset and bringing together others with grit, perseverance, and care, even what seems insurmountable may be overcome.” Now, Adefioye is focused on perpetuating true DEI initiatives, “DEI at its best is not just about representation, it’s about building a much richer, fuller, and more nuanced understanding of what it means to be human—including what it means to be female and a leader.”

Monica Hammond

Monica Hammond is the Vice President of Tech and Specialty Support for Verizon Consumer Group. She specializes in customer experience (CX) and creating a sense of organization and intuitiveness for consumers and her team.

Hammond has won awards from the National Association of Female Executives for her work as a community champion and was the recipient of the Verizon Credo Award, which is one of the highest recognitions you can get at Verizon. On top of her accomplishments, Hammond states that her confidence as a leader and fashion-forward executive has helped her to connect with others on a more down-to-earth level, “People often comment on my fashion style, and I try to just have fun with it! I let my clothes reflect my style and my mood.”

As a leader in CX, Hammond also explained which companies and leaders will succeed in the future and, unsurprisingly, CX was at the forefront of this conversation, “I think companies that seek to close the gap and adopt new CX business processes as well as modern technology will remain relevant and competitive. It’s a completely competitive environment, so delivering on an excellent customer experience at this point is table stakes. It’s really what is needed, and I would say it’s table stakes for success in particular in this digital age. Customers are looking for that digital-first experience and most businesses are going digital first.”

When it comes to courage and perseverance, Hammond believes it’s all about overcoming your fears, “Contrary to popular belief, courage isn’t the absence of fear. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have fears. Instead, it’s taking action and proceeding in spite of fear. Some have said, and I’ve read where it’s said, that courage is conscious fear and action coming together. I would say it’s just about having a bit of grit, perseverance, and passion. In addition, when you stretch and strive for new experiences outside of your comfort zone, you tend to be happier and more fulfilled.”

Hammond also left us with one of the most important pieces of advice she believes will help women succeed, “One of the biggest pieces of advice that I would give my younger self is not just to lean in but to leap in. Take every opportunity that comes your way and run with it. I had a tendency to talk myself out of opportunities, so when you come to that fork in the road, be brave and take the harder road and it’ll pay off in the long run.”

Wendy John

Wendy John is the head of global diversity and inclusion for Fidelity Investments, where she oversees the enterprise-wide strategy to make Fidelity a more diverse and inclusive workplace. In this capacity, she taps into the power of individual differences to develop and retain talent, create a culture of inclusion, and showcase Fidelity’s reputation and brand as an inclusive employer and service provider. Since her appointment in 2020, Wendy has achieved multiple milestones, including the release of Fidelity’s very first Diversity and Inclusion report and the establishment of multiple affinity groups with more than 28,000 global members. A 25-year Fidelity veteran, Wendy has held a variety of key leadership positions across relationship management, client services, operations, workforce strategy, program management, implementation and benefits consulting. She previously served as the Chief Administrative Officer of Fidelity Charitable, where she was responsible for overall risk, compliance, external communications, legislative policy, government relations, and associate engagement.

“My leadership style is a bit of a hybrid. I strive for equal parts servant, leader, and player-coach. I have a sincere desire to help people achieve more than they ever thought they could. So, when I see potential in my colleagues and team members, it’s my nature to do my best to nurture it. Along the way, that manifests into this player-coach relationship where I engage in the work alongside them, while leading and demonstrating by example. At the same time, I hold my team accountable for delivering high quality results.”

This intentionally thoughtful leader believes in the concept of ‘better’ rather than ‘perfect’ and strives to help those around her embrace a similar approach on a daily basis. “I always explore the possibilities—in myself and others—and I live by an ‘even-better-if’ mantra that is never singularly focused on achieving the destination but enjoys the journey and the learning that comes from the pursuit of improvement. I apply that thinking to most everything—people, processes, experiences—you name it. And that’s not because I think things or people are always in need of improvement. It is because constant curiosity begets creativity, and creativity inspires solutions.”

John also embraces living a life of wonder, a concept she learned as a child growing up in the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. During those formative years, her father would drive the family around the island on Sunday afternoon ‘adventures’ with the goal of surprising his children with something new to see or do. That anticipation and excitement gave John an unshakable appreciation for pursuing things that piqued her interest and challenged her to grow beyond the things she knew. “Living a life of wonder is about embracing how much you can learn and grow when you look at the world through a lens of genuine curiosity.”

John continues to use that sense of curiosity and is excited to inspire and uplift others as she furthers diversity and inclusion initiatives at Fidelity Investments. She is currently focused on broadening inclusion efforts to drive awareness about the powerful ways embracing neurodiversity can elevate solutioning and create an even more inclusive workplace.

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April Ervin

April Ervin is the Managing Partner and “Chief Peace Officer” of Sustainable Leadership, LLC. As a consultant tasked with the crucial role of battling burnout, instilling peace, and encouraging resilience, Ervin understands all too well how important self-acceptance, communication, and drive are for success and empowerment as a company or a leader. As Ervin states, “There are specific strategies we can implement to have greater balance in our lives and improve our overall mental, emotional, and physical well-being. However, to sustain those strategies, we must take time for introspection to understand how we got to a place of prolonged stress, anxiety, and exhaustion. We must first know why we pushed ourselves beyond our limits to determine how to overcome this issue in the future.”

Ervin proudly refers to herself as an ‘encourager and epitome of resilience.’ When looking at her background and successes, it’s no secret why. This strong and inspiring leader has faced life challenges with grace and uses her journey of transformation to transform the lives of others.

However, even Ervin isn’t immune to burnout—and this is why she recommends prioritizing your own mental, emotional, and physical health in order to succeed and not lose yourself in the process, “To ‘practice what I preach,’ I periodically do what I guide my clients to do. I take a ‘strategic pause.’ I utilize The Burnout FactorTM Burnout Prevention Strategy: Stop, Rest, Reflect, and Recalibrate…I take a few weeks to stop the overdoing and overscheduling. I take time for rest and reflection. I am then able to recalibrate my personal and professional life from a place of clarity. Core to doing this is being willing to ask for help and allowing others to do for me so that I can focus on my own mental, emotional, and physical well-being.”

Ervin believes this is the key to real sustainability in the professional and personal lives of women. As she explains, “As women, we are innate caregivers at home and at work. I always say what we do personally we do professionally, and what we do professionally we do personally. We are superwomen, super multi-taskers, and often carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. This is often modeled in the workplace as the ideal for career achievement. But as I always say, ‘Superwoman is a myth. She does not exist.’ We must realize we do not need to push ourselves beyond our limits for the sake of success. We must prioritize our own mental, emotional, and physical well-being and support our teams in doing the same. That will allow us to have real sustainability in our professional and personal lives.”

For now, Ervin is focused primarily on the launch of her signature online executive coaching program: “7-Weeks to Greater Peace.” According to her, “While I truly enjoy my one-on-one executive coaching, this program allows many more women to benefit from working with me on their journey towards greater peace and balance in their lives.”

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Lisa M. Buckingham