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We interviewed seven inspiring women about how they’re resetting the standard

We interviewed seven inspiring women about how they’re resetting the standard.
Leah Fair

USA Bobsled and Skeleton Athlete
United States Olympic

As a track star, Leah Fair was one of the fastest athletes in the nation and had high hopes of becoming an Olympic competitor. But when injury struck, she had to improvise or lose her chance at being an Olympian. Her secret to adapting to life’s curveballs? Keeping an open mind. “One-way thinking, in my case, would not have been beneficial to receive all the blessings that were declared to be mine. It’s not easy …

When I first became injured, I went into a very deep depression. I couldn’t walk for eight months, I watched my teammates make the Olympics games from TV at home on the couch, and I sat in my misery for a while.” She was down and out, but something told Leah not to give up. “Every day I became stronger and realized that it is in our lowest moments when we get broken down that lead us to our greatest breakthroughs. I realized for so long I was adamant about strengthening my physical body, but I neglected my brain.” She shares an invaluable piece of advice for women facing adversity: “Adversity will happen. You can not escape it; the way you respond and grow from the adversity will groom you into the person you were created to be — your best and highest self.”

Drawing inspiration from women athletes such as Alyson Felix, Marion Jones, Florence Joyner, and Carmelita Jeter — athletes who were “fearless, beautiful, and owned the room” — Leah Fair transformed a dark situation into a tool to achieve her goals and prove that setbacks are nothing more than opportunities waiting to be taken. For now, Fair is in a season of transition to hone the small details of her craft in order to yield a remarkable performance in the future.

Emily Chang

McCann Worldgroup, China

Emily Chang is no stranger to creating a social legacy and aligning calling with community. Her book, The Spare Room, has helped women professionals create room for their purpose amongst their careers and responsibilities. “The Spare Room is a euphemism … it stands for what I believe everyone is uniquely positioned to contribute to our world. Each of us has something unique to offer. For me and my family, it was the combination of a physical spare room + a love of hospitality + a stable family unit that enabled us to smoothly welcome and embrace people in our little circle. … So, the intersection of our Offer and Offense is our Social Legacy. And while I first called it my Spare Room, I soon realized it was more than that.”

While Chang’s ‘Offer’ can be found in the way she welcomes people into her Spare Room, she uses her calling molded by her ‘Offense’ to create her social legacy as well. This materializes in the form of social justice initiatives that she combines with her career to create a legacy that lives on and positively affects women in the workplace along the way. “I think every person possesses power in social justice initiatives, and certainly, that includes women. Whether it’s because of gender, ethnicity, or other factors, the majority of people have faced some sort of inequality. And actually, that inequality marks us in a useful way – it imparts upon us the all-important empathy.” Chang advises against silence when faced with inequality — “If we hadn’t gone through the fire to emerge stronger than before and sharpened with focus, then what a shame to have gone through the fire at all.”

Currently, Emily is flourishing in her day-to-day home life with her family: “Everyone is thriving because we have embraced the messy middle of professional-personal integration.”

Sherrie Beckstead

Liljenquist & Beckstead, Lenkersdorfer Fine Jewelers

When asked what work and career means to her, executive, philanthropist, and leader Sherrie Beckstead replied, “I view both [work and career] through a lens that sets a standard; to demonstrate excellence and humility in all. (From) charitable work, philanthropy, corporate leadership, restoring historic structures, and designing new pieces with my team to gardening. My purpose is derived from each and everything that I touch, and that purpose begins with the sunrise each morning.”

Her mentorship and fearlessness in the face of inequality continue to influence the way women are perceived in executive positions, especially BIPOC women. “I see, hear, and also experience salary inequity, microaggression/bullying, nepotism, and ‘othering’ in the workplace … Only 4% of Women of Color are in the C-Suite, and women continue to rise as strong leaders; however, their work is still not being recognized. My mission and my vision remain to proactively take bold steps forward and have a zero-tolerance policy that must be enforced. Anything less should never be tolerated in the workplace. My ongoing mentorship remains an honor.” Beckstead agrees that we are beginning to see the “silver linings” of the COVID-19 pandemic, evidenced by the paradigm shift in the workplace — especially for women.

We asked Beckstead to share her most impactful work. She described the struggle she faced when her husband passed in 2020: “I learned so much about myself during this period; I never thought of myself as a caregiver … Today, I call it the most important work that I have ever done.” Beckstead went on to create a cause-branded jewelry line, The Lockkeepers Collection, to raise thousands for breast cancer research and make a difference through philanthropy.

And when we asked what every successful woman should know? Fake it ‘til you make it! “Confidence [is] a must! … Every woman needs to be her finest advocate.”

Antonia Hock

Global Head
The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center

As the Global head of the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, Antonia Hock believes women have always been powerhouses when it comes to their individual career journeys, but is overjoyed to see more and more women exploring the reaches of their potential at work and in life.

Hock believes that the way we overcome our roadblocks is crucial to daily growth. While reflecting on her life, Hock shared her insights into perseverance as a woman in the workplace: “No bad day, big roadblock, or crazy scenario is going to unseat me. I’m going to look at it and think about what I can learn … Action is required to make change — so think carefully, plan, and then act. Fear has killed more dreams than failure ever will.”

When she isn’t in the workplace, Hock finds value in her passions: rock climbing and mountain climbing. She strongly advocates that having passions outside of the workplace is essential for success. “I see a lot of women struggle to make space for their personal passion. As such, they let their worlds get small and it hurts their hearts, their spirit, and their energy. There is nothing wrong with being selfish … If you are happy and striving, you will amplify that into the rest of your life.”

Hock believes that the way we overcome our roadblocks is crucial to daily growth. While reflecting on her life, Hock shared her insights into perseverance as a woman in the workplace: “No bad day, big roadblock, or crazy scenario is going to unseat me. I’m going to look at it and think about what I can learn….Action is required to make change — so think carefully, plan, and then act. Fear has killed more dreams than failure ever will.

Lisa LeCointe- Cephas

Senior Vice President and Chief Compliance & Ethics Officer

Lisa LeCointe-Cephas, SVP and Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer at Merck, has always embraced the concept of inspiration, understanding how essential it is to personal success. “While I admire many women in the public sphere, to truly be inspired by someone .. you need to see them at their highs and their lows and know that they always show up as the best versions of themselves despite the challenges. So, cliché as it may be, my mother is my greatest inspiration. … She taught me the value of hard work, determination, and resilience.”

LeCointe-Cephas is deeply connected with her immigrant parents and the sacrifices her family made that led her to become who she is today. “All my actions are deeply rooted in a strong sense of self. That sense developed from a mind-body connection with my past, and a commitment to values that were established during my childhood. … I watched my parents work multiple jobs just to make ends meet as I was growing up. I followed that model by working in college all while running track, studying hard, and trying to establish friendships and build networks. This experience prepared me for the constant juggling that is required of working parents.”

Watching her parents experience adversity head-on taught Lisa the value of being open — of trying new things, listening to others, and asking questions — in all aspects of her life. Lisa’s openness led her to seek out a career that aligned with her purpose and value proposition, not the other way around. But she finds great, lasting value in her role as a mentor: “The ability to lift as I rise and shape the careers of others is the greatest gift of the position I am in.”

Her advice to today’s woman professional: Be goal-oriented, yet kind to yourself. “Keep your eyes on the prize and practice grace and self-kindness. … Forgive yourself for moments where you feel like you are more attentive to one space versus another. It all evens out in the long run.”

Edwige Robinson

Senior Vice President

Edwige Robinson is the Senior Vice President for T-Mobile, referring to herself as a STEM warrior as she builds a more diverse and inclusive tech world. While her introduction to the tech world was admittedly a matter of making money while going to school in the United States as an African immigrant, Robinson now serves as a “triple minority” in the tech industry, leading the way for more women like her. She has worked with countless high-ranking executives, led, built, and transformed T-Mobile’s 5G network, and helped create initiatives for T-Mobile to encourage more young adults to work in STEM fields.

While Robinson’s determination to succeed has always been deeply ingrained, she notes that being an alumna of the She Suite Brand Leadership Institute helped her develop stronger interpersonal skills and success strategies as well.

“The Brand Leadership Institute revived me with tangible tools to smooth my rough edges and helped me to harness my values. I learned to utilize my uniqueness as an asset and flaunt it with pride. Early on in the program, I noticed a change in how my peers communicated with me and how I was assessing situations. It was uplifting to see results so early in the progress and it encouraged me to keep going through the modules. I felt empowered and respected.”

When asked about her industry influence, Robinson stated, “As a BIPOC Leader, it is my duty to not only educate and care for myself but to support others in my network and community. … I believe in moving through this earth with optimism and true impact to define my legacy. I accomplish this through my community service, serving as the Executive sponsor for diversity ERGs at T-Mobile, and most importantly, walking daily in my heart-centered leadership approach to business and those I serve.” Now, Robinson continues her impactful work with T-Mobile with the Changemaker Challenge, and leading T-Mobile’s student Cybersecurity & Tech Career fest to motivate students to pursue careers in STEM.

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Emily M. Dickens

Corporate Secretary, Chief of Staff, Head of Government Affairs
Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM)

Emily M. Dickens, SHRM’s Corporate Secretary, Chief of Staff, and Head of Government Affairs, embodies professionalism and drive in the workforce and beyond. When she isn’t creating valuable connections for herself and her company, Dickens is an advocate for higher education and education equity.

Today, she’s focused on supporting better workplaces for all, through egalitarian and ethical practices. When asked about the standard for women in the workplace, Dickens said, “Let’s stop having separate standards for everyone. Each individual has their own standards. I think we all should strive for a standard of excellence that allows one to do their best work, hold their colleagues and leaders accountable and continually invest in themselves so that when a workplace no longer works for their purpose, they can easily take their talents elsewhere.”

As a leader and influential member of her industry, Dickens recognizes the power of strong connections and support systems. “When you meet someone new and something about them, their career, their life, or even their conversation resonates with you, keep the connection open. … We weren’t meant to travel this road alone.” She also recognizes her own support system as a tool that helped shape her success and ability to blend work and life seamlessly. “I have lots of help. I have a very supportive spouse who will put the brakes on when I’m doing too much. I have a boss who is laser-focused on work/life integration and sets an example of how you do it well. … The most important thing to understand is you can’t do it all by yourself. You have to delegate and you have to ask for help.”

Emily Dickens’s upbringing, purpose pathing, and career path have taught her that determination trumps all. “You should never count yourself out because you don’t have the resources or connections. When you’re determined, there is always a way.”

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