Why we need to share women’s stories of career success

Mar 1, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. ET
Image: Creative Expansions Inc.

Something happens when two or more women come together and speak honestly with the intent of creating change. When we are transparent, talking not only about our successes but also our challenges, it can be electric and inspire the whole room to push on — to feel like whatever has been getting in our way doesn’t have to.

More: 5 inspirational black female entrepreneurs who have made a big impact

That’s what led me to create Women of Impact: Inspiring Action and Change, our new video series featuring candid conversations with smart, courageous women leaders. Despite the odds, all of these women found the strength to move past obstacles and make a difference. I know when I sat down for the filming with these empowered individuals, it reestablished my own faith that we can move the needle.

My first interview is with Rose Stuckey Kirk, chief corporate social responsibility officer at Verizon. When asked about what it’s like working in a male-dominated industry, she said, "I'm not naive. I know that sexism exists. I know that racism exists... I grew up a little black girl in Arkansas... I certainly have seen and felt and been victimized to some degree by it. But I can't allow that to stop me from continuing to move forward."

She certainly has not been deterred. Despite a family setback about four years ago (her husband had a stroke, and she had to change jobs to be more accessible), Kirk is passionate about her new role. Among her responsibilities, she is the president of the Verizon Foundation. “We build a whole range of programs that put underserved individuals — women, little girls and people of color — on the path toward having amazing careers in science, technology, engineering and math,” she says.

More: In the 1920s, my great-grandmother was a leading fashion designer in the Midwest

Eileen McDonnell, chairman and CEO of Penn Mutual, is the subject of our second Women of Impact video (release date: April 1, 2016). She's a single mother who, in 2008, inspired senior managers to focus on the growth of the company rather than the perils of the recession. Under her leadership, Penn Mutual has doubled in size, and McDonnell went from chief marketing officer to CEO. (Truth be told, though, the CEO of her house is her beloved 11-year-old daughter.)

Another Woman of Impact I'm looking forward to interviewing soon is Deb Bubb, vice president and director of global leadership and learning at Intel. We chatted briefly recently, and I was impressed by her authenticity and desire to take on new challenges, despite her fears.

What can we learn from these amazing women?

  • Never give up on something we believe in, even if people are discouraging us to continue.
  • By taking risks and stepping out of your comfort zone, you can make a difference, even though you're scared. (When McDonnell addressed her colleagues in 2008, no one saw her knees shaking under the table!)
  • Don't be unreasonable with ourselves, and do acknowledge all we do. When I asked Kirk what she would tell her younger self knowing what she knows now, she said, "I would tell her that she is enough.

The time for change is now, and every woman can be inspired by their stories to step up, take action and not be deterred by negative influences. We may not all achieve the highest heights, but every one of us can impact change in our own way — with our families, at work and in our communities.

More: How the impact movement holds corporations to their mission of social giving

Join Helene at 4PM ET March 1st for a Women of Impact Twitter chat @womenworking and make sure to check her out on Facebook.